Western Digital’s WD TV Play Brings Steaming Media to Your Television For Under $100

Subject: General Tech | February 19, 2013 - 09:26 PM |
Tagged: western digital, streaming box, media player, DLNA

Western Digital may primarily be a hard drive manufacturer, but it also dabbles in media streaming boxes. Last week, a new product called the WD TV Play joined the existing lineup as a cheaper alternative to both the WD TV Live and Live Hub boxes.

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The WD TV Play measures 4.17” x 4.13” x 1.07” and is black with a blue outline. Unlike the other streaming boxes, the Play ditches the rectangular shape for one that resembles a trapezoid (where the base is wider than the top). The WD TV Play has support for a number of streaming media services, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Youtube, Spotify, and Pandora. Notably absent is Amazon Video on Demand and Vudu, but otherwise it is a decent lineup of the popular internet media sources.

Additionally, the WD TV Play can playback local media from a flash drive or from a DLNA server. It support a variety of video and audio formats, but unlike the more expensive WD TV Live it does not support MPEG-2 or DTS Audio. That is the necessary compromise in order to get an approximately $20 cheaper device.

Media Type Supported File Formats
Video AVI (Xvid, AVC, MPEG4, VC-1), MKV (h.264, x.264, AVC, MPEG4, VC-1), TS/TP/M2T/M2TS (MPEG4, AVC, VC-1), MP4/MOV (MPEG4, AVC), WMV9, FLV (AVC)
Photo JPEG, GIF, TIF/TIFF, BMP, PNG
Audio MP3, WAV/PCM/LPCM, WMA, AAC, FLAC, MKA, AIF/AIFF, OGG, Dolby TrueHD
Playlist PLS, M3U, WPL, M3U8, XML, CUE
Subtitle SRT, ASS, SSA, SUB, SMI, MKV (embedded sub)

Rear IO on the WD TV Play includes a composite video output, HDMI, Ethernet jack, and Optical audio output. The media player reportedly also supports Wi-Fi and a USB 2.0 port for loading up media files. It comes with an infrared remote control, but you can also download the WD TV app to your smartphone and control the box using your phone's touchscreen.

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In fact, the new case design and removal of certain codecs are the only real differences between the new Play and existing Live streaming box. The WD TV Play has an MSRP of $69.99 USD. For comparison, the WD TV Live is $99.99. If you do not need MPEG-2 or DTS audio, the Play can easily save you a few bucks.

More information can be found on the WD TV Play product page.

Hands On: VideoLAN Releases VLC Beta for Android App

Subject: General Tech | July 4, 2012 - 11:31 AM |
Tagged: vlc, videolan, media player, free, app, Android

VideoLAN, the developers behind the popular free and open source media player VLC have crafted an Android version that has recently reached beta status. For everyone not in North America, you can grab the free VLC application from the Google Play Store. The restriction is reportedly a result of the developers not having access to American versions of the smartphones in question. If you are in North America and would still like to test out the app, you will need to grab it from either the VideoLAN nightly build server or the Jenkins server which both compile and store the latest builds on a daily basis. Once you’ve downloaded that app, navigate to it on your Android phone and choose to open it with the Package Installer.

The build is a bit rough around the edges, and performance leaves a lot to be desired, but it is still early in the development cycle. Especially if you are running an older single core phone (or even one that has no NEON hardware acceleration), VLC will struggle with even 720p content. The team is asking everyone to run a few tests for them and to report back using this form to help them gather needed performance data and to identify bugs.

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As far as what phones will be compatible, Jenkins has complied daily builds that will work with phones using hardware as old as ARMv5 and as new as ARMv7 with NEON. VLC for Android is also compatible with Tegra 2 and Tegra 3 SoCs using the nightly builds. ExtremeTech notes that the chips with the NEON SIMD hardware includes Qualcomm Snapdragon S2/3/4, Samsung Exynos, TI OMAP 4/5, and Tegra 3 processors. If your phone does not have one of those SoCs, you should download one of the non-NEON nightly builds depending on which version of ARM it is based on. VideoLAN recommends using gsmarena.com as a reference for which chipset your phone uses but I did not have success if using it to track down the specific chipset in my Samsung Infuse. I had to turn to the search engines for help there. If you aren’t able to find the information, feel free to tell us your phone model in the comments and I’ll try to help you figure out the SoC it uses.

Hands On:

Below you will find a video showing off the latest VLC for Android build as we install it and test it with a variety of video and audio files. From my testing, the performance has gotten slightly better with the latest nightly build (#123), but the video and audio drift out of sync very quickly and the video frame rate is nowhere near as smooth as the built in Videos application. The performance /should/ improve as the app gets closer to final release, however. I’m hoping that VLC for Android will become an even better, and free, alternative to the paid-for VPlayer application that I also have on my phone for the files that the Videos app struggles with.

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VLC for Android playing back a DVD of Live Free or Die Hard (480p, H.264 MP4)

Anyway, without further adieu, let’s take a look at the latest Android VLC app.

As a reminder, here are some useful links to getting the VLC app and assisting with the development process:

Useful Links

More screenshots and details after the break.

 

Source: VideoLAN

Get most of an HTPC for under $100 with the KWorld M210 Network Media Player

Subject: Systems | May 25, 2011 - 01:45 PM |
Tagged: htpc, media player, kworld

It is hard to spot the functional difference between the KWorld M210 Network Media Player and a full on HTPC.  It sports a removable hard drive, handles YouTube, Picasa and BitTorrent downloads and can play back just about any media file.  High def is available on HDMI, component and composite outputs, USB ports and eSATA ensure removeable media is covered.  It is, as the name implies, able to connect to a network with wires and with a WiFi dongle you can have wireless as well.  The remote control will let you control the various menus, so the only real difference is that you cannot record TV.  Hardware Bistro found it almost perfect; they would have preferred built in WiFi but found no other faults.

M210_35.jpg

"If home theatre system is over budget then you may consider a media player which allows users to run certain of multimedia applications on a TV; this is even better if it is a network media player. KWorld M210 Network Media player is a newly launched network media player which costs less than 100USD with features of full 1080p HD movies, internal storage, Internet streaming programs, support multiple of video codecs & formats and so on."

Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:

HTPC