In this digital age, we are storing all our digital media collection on our computers. The size of the collection, running into many gigabytes, forbids us from burning them onto DVDs and bringing them to our home theater setup. If we have to watch them we have to huddle around the small computer screen and it isn’t exactly the best option available. The better option is to be able to watch them on your existing big screen television.
There are various options to watch the media on the television. The simplest of approach is to connect your laptop/PC to your TV using an S-Video or HDMI cable but it is awkward for a non-technical user and controlling the playback of media from the comfort of your couch in most of the cases is very difficult. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a device like DVD player, which would bring the media collection from the computers to big screen? Technical advancements have brought us that same device and they are called media players or media streamers.
What is a Media Streamer / Player?
Basically these are small boxes that connect to your TV and playback media from sources like computer, local drive, connected USB drives, NAS or stream directly from internet. The best feature of these players is that they support wide variety of video, audio and photo formats, so you don’t have to worry about converting them to compatible format. The advantage of all these is that you will need only one device plugged into your television.
Many of the media streamers also have better capabilities to stream media directly from various sites like Youtube, Last.fm, flickr etc. The advanced streamers provide very rich user interface and they allow you to browse your videos via thumbnail images of the artwork as well as they provide information about the director, actors and plot summary, if available.
See some of the recommended media streamers : Top 5 Media Streamers
Are there any alternatives to media streamer?
Yes. Buy a latest TV, which has most of the capabilities that media streamers have. However, if you are looking at a less expensive solution without having to replace your old television set, then it is best to go with media streamers.
What are the capabilities of media streamers?
- Play media (audio, video, photos) from USB drives
- Play media from internal harddisk drive
- Play media from NAS
- Play media from shared folders in the networked computers
- Connect to DLNA servers and stream compatible media
- Connect to internet services and stream compatible media
- Browse internet sites with built-in apps
- Browse the internet with full-fledged web browser (some of them have!)
How do media streamers work?
3 Simple steps to setup your own HBO:
- Have your home theater setup as you need
- Connect your media streamer to the television or home theater
- Plug in your external hard drive to the media streamer
- Connect your media streamer to the router (via ethernet or wifi)
- Setup DLNA servers in each of the networked computer sharing the media (OR)
- Share the media folder and access it as network folder from streamer