Because of relatively fast internet speeds and cheap hard drives, we've never had access to a great deal digital media. Many people's music collections go to tens, or even hundreds of thousands of songs, although most methods of downloading TV shows and movies aren't exactly legal, it is possible to bet that most technologically aware consumers possess a healthy library of AVI and MPG files.
However, even though the various forms of digital media can all be viewed or played on a PC, few people elect to use a PC found in the family room. Microsoft's persistent vision of the PC as the centre of one's digital lounge has generally failed to materialize. Although it's now easier than ever to connect a flat-screen digital TV to some PC, not many of us actually want an unpleasant, noisy and usually large box inside our living spaces.
PCs were never intended as media delivery platforms, even though they now excel at that task, they can be seen in studies and bedrooms. Even though you may use a PC within your lounge, the chances are that it's tucked away in a corner, probably linked to printers as well as other peripherals, and nowhere near your TV and surround-sound amp.
There's also the problem that when you use your TV as your PC's monitor, the display will probably suck for anything besides watching video, must be horizontal resolution of 720, or if you're lucky 1080 lines, is frankly horrible for standard Windows operation. Laptops might be more suited rca hdmi cable review to connecting for your TV because they are by their very nature portable, and if there is a quite recent one, it is likely to provide an HDMI output and maybe even a Blu-Ray drive. Still, it is not one of the most elegant solution, so we'll go through what options you've for streaming your media around your house.
Hot and Bothered
A couple of years ago, before Vista's storm cloud darkened the horizon, there was clearly a flurry of enthusiasm for the so-called Entertainment PC. The concept would have been to take the PC away from its native environment, and place it next to your TV, for everyone up music, films and television, and if you had been really advanced, put it to use like a PVR, too. The thing is, regardless of how much you may spend on a small-form factor case, finished in aircraft-grade aluminium with blue LEDs plus a VFD display, it is essentially your personal computer, with all the drawbacks that suggests.
If you want to utilize it being a PVR, it should be left on Round the clock, which Windows never was made to do. Unless you, it will take a time to startup. In addition may be the noise that most PCs generate, which may ruin the ambience during quiet parts of your preferred film. In terms of PVR functionality too. The initial sort of Windows 7 Media Center seemed to be not without its problems, although the version within Vista is significantly improved. Still, you may not require to use Vista, unless you really have to? The perfect solution is then, just isn't to put your PC beside the TV, but rather get the media files out of your PC on your TV, stereo or laptop that's located in another room of the home. However, there have been devices round for a long time to get this done, many of them happen to be pretty limited.
Because the technologies have matured, things have improved significantly, and there is a helpful media streamers and media extenders to pick from. Most will need some kind of network connection, however some take advantage of internal hard disks, and have USB ports to be able to connect an external drive. We'll go through two means of streaming media, to your TV in order to another PC or laptop, and the software and hardware you'll need to get the job done.
Provide us with a Squeeze
In terms of connecting your personal computer in your TV or stereo, there are several devices that merely stream audio, while others can stream audio, video photos. Most of the best ones is going to be of the similar form key to a hi-fi separate, or DVD player, in order that they won't look out of place inside a hi-fi rack, or beneath your TV.
One of the first audio streaming devices was the Squeezebox, from Slim Devices (now part of Logitech), which used an Ethernet connection to stream audio to any hi-fi source. It were built with a basic remote and display, but simply about did the job. Squeezeboxes moved to 802.llg wireless, and can stream just about any music format from the PC, along with connect with a number of internet radio stations.
Terratec has the Noxon which does a similar job, though it has to be said, it not just looks odd, recption menus is pretty hard to use, that makes it somewhat of a chore to utilize. The most recent streamer from Slim Devices is the Squeezebox Duet, having a basics unit, and a handset, filled with color LCD display. The base unit is linked to your stereo or portable speakers, as well as the rechargeable handset is then utilized to moderate your music, in a really similar way to the method that you would control a mp3 player. The handset uses WiFi to control the server software, however it will work with Immediate access Storage devices, for example MAS drives with media server support, so that you don't even need to leave your PC to put it to use. You can even control older Squeezebox devices, should you buy the handset by itself. About $370 it isn't exactly cheap, but it does represent the greatest boy's toy with regards to music control.
In case you are much more of an Apple fan, then you can stream your iTunes music library using AirTunes and an Airport Express adaptor, which will work with any router, and not simply Apple's. The Airport Express adaptor connects to a wall socket, then into your speakers or stereo. A possible problem using this is you either must set iTunes to just play lots of music, or else you have to control AirTunes from your PC, if you don't use a pair of speakers that enable direct power over your iTunes library. Still, if you have a laptop, it's probably easier to use AirTunes than for connecting your laptop for your hi-fi, however it is still no ideal solution.
Rather than just hear our music collections though, the majority of us want to be capable of watch downloaded video on our TVs. There are two main types of device that enable you to do that, pure streamers and units that have an inside hard disk.
Perhaps one of the best known may be the Apple TV. The Apple TV looks similar to the Apple Mini, is devoid of buttons and comes with the same dinky remote that is provided with the Apple MacBook.
The system has a hard disk (either 40 or 120GB), 802.1ln wireless and a selection of connection options for attaching for your TV and stereo. The interface is quite slick (it is the same one used in Leopard for Front Row), as well as the latest update enables you to download video directly to the internal hard disk drive, rather than the previous method where you had to download videos in your PC using iTunes, then sync with the Apple TV. Although MPEG4 video is supported, it is only in Quicktime or H.264 format, so that you won't be able to playback any DivX or XviD content. Television shows and films can now be both bought in addition to rented, although it has to be said the choice is fairly limited.
Still, it's mostly of the legal ways to download watching high-definition movies, which counts for something. Even though it pains us to say it, becoming an Apple product, it does tend to just work. However, whilst it may interest less technical users, it's got a lot of limitations to recommend to the more savvy PC user.
Dual Band Equals Win
There are numerous choices to pick from though, pick any major brand related to networking, and also the most likely the organization includes a solution. We've tested a number of them throughout the last couple of years, and contains being said that a lot of them have experienced some serious flaws, from your lack of HD outputs, to slow, or perhaps no, wireless connections.
Usability can be a key trouble with media streamers and several of the devices made by networking companies have tended to collapse about this front before. The main problem is usually the interface, it isn't uncommon for menus to get way too many levels, so just choosing a song to experience back involves several minutes of button-pushing about the remote. Furthermore, any device utilizing an 802.11g wireless connection will suffer with regards to video and you will ignore HD video entirely. Last year saw a raft of latest media streamers released, even though most have transferred to 802.lln, many are using 802.11n dual-band, which uses both 2.4 and 5GHz spectrum to offer the extra bandwidth required for HD video. You may needless to say have to have a compatible router.
When selecting a media streamer, choose a good array of outputs, including HDMI, Component, S-Video, digital audio output via coaxial or optical ports, and analogue stereo RCA plugs. File format supports is among the most significant aspects, make sure the device you select can begin to play every one of the common file types, for example DivX, XviD, H.264 encoded video, MP3, AAC, WMV audio, JPEG, GIF and BMP image formats. Because of Apple's proprietary DRM, you won't be capable of play any music in your music library that has been bought in the iTunes Music Store, although some manufactures have claimed compatibility previously.
Although some media adaptors come with their very own server software, others depend on Windows Media Center, or Windows Media Player 11. Some software program is much better than others, but the best will allow you to pick a series of folders to talk about, and the server software will monitor the folders for changes, to ensure that even though you may add new files, they may be accessible on your own media streamer. The problem is that since the software has to be attached to your computer, you should leave it on if you want your media streamer so that you can hook up to it. Some NAS devices come with a built-in media server and this is often accessed by way of a media streamer, but you will have to look into the specs to determine if this feature is supported. The main advantage of this system is that you can simply copy all of your media for the NAS, and also you do not have to keep your PC on Round the clock. Media Player 11 has a tendency to perform best when sharing between Vista machines, but tend to be used to share media along with other PCs running Or windows 7 and a few media streamers.
However, we've thought it was can be notoriously fickle, often refusing connections, also it doesn't manage to update the library with any consistency whenever you add new files.
Systems that use Media Center tend to be a lot more reliable. Getting content from your PC in your TV needs a network connection, and few people are lucky enough to have network points in each and every room of their house. It really is, needless to say, easy to run network cable from area to area, but unless you're redecorating and may bury it in the wall, or run the cable under the carpet, it isn't terribly practical or attractive. While wireless has been popular in your home for quite a few years now, unless you are running an 802.11n system, viewers streaming video can be a distinctly unhappy affair, and streaming HD is virtually impossible. Even 802.11n can have trouble with HD video, if the house has thick walls, or perhaps your router can be a long distance away from your media streamer.
The most recent routers plus some media streamers use 802.1ln dual-band, the location where the extra bandwidth is used so that you can maintain a high data throughput. If you want to stream HD content, then you can want to look at these options. Some CD burning software, for example Roxio's Creator Suite, and Nero Burning ROM also provide media sharing, but we aren't great fans of such suites, since they add a large amount of bloat in your Windows install.
A Noise Annoys
If you cannot obtain a good wireless signal and Ethernet cable is impractical, then you may try powerline networking. There are a number of items available from the kind of Devolo and Netgear. These are basically plug adaptors, that you simply connect a network cable to and then plug in to a three-pin mains socket. Plug another to your router and you will make use of your house's electrical cables being an extended network.
Results could be a bit mixed, depending on how old the wiring in your house is and the way much 'noise' is on the wiring. Noise is high-frequency interference on your own wiring, and is generally created by any device which has an auto, like a vacuum cleaner, hair dryer, automatic washer or clothes dryer. Should there be plenty of noise on your own powerline network, then speeds can drop, or you may lose the bond altogether, therefore it is something you require to be aware of. Something is always that there is no single standard for powerline networking, although most devices use either standards from either the HomePlug Powerline Alliance or Universal Powerline Association.
If you are using devices from more than one manufacture, make certain they both use the same standard. An alternative choice to a networked device, is one that contains a tough drive, and which is often packed with content by connecting in your PC employing a USB cable.
We're great fans with the Tvix number of devices (www.tvixbox.co.za), since they often execute a much better job than most of the standard media streamers, and have menus which can be more intuitive and easier to use.
A favourites may be the HDM-6500A. You will have to pop a SATA hard disk drive inside, but once you are doing you receive HD output through HDMI or if you lack in a TV which has HDMI you are able to use either the Component S-Video or composite which can be provided. You can connect it in your PC using USB 2.0 and transfer files to the internal hard disk drive, plug a removable drive into one of the USB ports, or hook it up to your network having an Ethernet cable.
The server software program is basic for the extreme, because it is simply using Windows networking and Samba, but as an additional benefit, you can upload files over the network to the unit, using FTP. Tvix can be mostly of the businesses that provides regular firmware updates, to be able to add additional features to its devices. Not just that, however the HD M-6500A posseses an expansion slot, into which you'll plug an optional analogue or digital TV tuner card, as well as the unit has full PVR functionality; something that's not provided by almost any other media streamer. Better still though, the remote device has glow-in-the-dark buttons, so regardless how low you switch the lights down, you'll be able to always find the right control.
The ultimate choice is never to buy a media extender at all, since you likely have one out of your living room already. Microsoft's Xbox, Sony's Playstation 3 slim and also the Nintendo Wii, can all be used as media extenders to some extent or any other. Even if this functionality was constructed into the Xbox and also the Playstation, it's not something that was originally designed for the Wii, yet while using console's connection to the internet, it suddenly becomes possible. But regardless of how good these consoles and streamers are, it's actually your humble PC which makes it all possible.
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