Media Streamer Platforms Roundupby Ganesh T S on June 13, 2010 7:00 PM EST
- Posted in
- Home Theater
- Media Streamer
Devices such as the Vudu and the Roku boxes fall under this category. They aim to do one thing and do it well by restricting themselves to some VOD services and presenting their users with an environment similar to DVD renting, only online. Local media can't be played through them. Some of the SOC platforms which have found traction in this market include NXP STB 236 and Broadcom BCM7401. These SOCs were primarily designed for the IP set top boxes (Vudu and Roku may also be termed IP set top boxes, but at a more basic level compared to what these were originally designed for). These platforms do not support DTS audio, which is pretty much a pre-requisite nowadays for products geared towards the media streaming audience.
The Roku HD streamer introduced recently utilizes the NXP platform with a 320 MHz MIPS32 host processor. The STB 236 platform uses the PNX8336 at its core. H264 and VC1 seem to be supported codecs for hardware acceleration, while MPEG-2 seems to be only partially supported. The SOC has suitable connectivity options including USB, SATA and Ethernet. However, HDMI is not integrated in the SOC. The PNX8336 was released in April 2008. Since then, NXP has released video decoder chips targeted towards the TV and the DVR markets in December 2008 and March 2009. However, they seem to miss the mark as far as the features required for a media streamer device go. It will be interesting to see what Roku has in its roadmap, and whether they would shift suppliers for future products. The Roku HD-XR has a USB port, but it serves no discernible usefulness at present. The unit has an operational power consumption of 6W.
Vudu & Roku
Media Streamers Based on IP Set Top Box Platforms
Vudu, on the other hand, has realized that selling a restrictive IP set top box in this market is not an easy task. It is now striving to remodel itself as a service provider of sorts by integrating their software into the next generation Blu Ray players and TVs. Still, it is interesting to take a look at the platform behind their original device. It is based on Broadcom's BCM7401 (which also happens to have a 300 MHz MIPS32 host processor), which provides support for H264, VC-1 and MPEG-2 decode. Connectivity options include the standard set of USB, SATA and Ethernet. Now classified by Broadcom as a legacy product, this SOC has probably been superseded by the BCM7400 / BCM7400B introduced around the same time. It is also puzzling as to why the BCM7400B which provides support for DivX decoding wasn't used. That would have probably made the box closer to what the media streamer market needs. Vudu, unlike Roku, also provides the ability to purchase and download movies from their collection. This necessiates a hard disk inside their unit, which puts the operational power consumption much higher than Roku's at 18W.
All said and done, the days of these types of media streamers are numbered. They have to evolve themselves to different types of products in the coming years in order to survive in this market.
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ruzveh - Thursday, June 17, 2010 - linkI forgot to mention USB3 & SATA3 support along with bluetooth3 & new giga connection
batmanuel - Thursday, June 17, 2010 - linkI found the PS3 a little to easily dismissed in this discussion. Yes, the power draw is much higher than a pure media streaming product, but for me the convenience of having one device for games, Blu-Rays, Netflix, and local file streaming outweighs the extra little hit on my power bill. I've also found the PS3 Media Streamer software to greatly increase the usefulness of the PS3 for streaming, since on a reasonably up-to-date computer it can transcode just about any file format, including 1080p MKVs, into a stream the PS3 can decode.
Similarly, not mentioning the Media Center Extender capabilities of the 360 also does it a great disservice. It seems like a power drain was used as too big a criteria, when it honestly doesn't cross my mind when selecting home theater equipment. I'm fairly sure the power drain of my PS3 isn't quite that big when you compare it to the drain of the HDTV,surround receiver, and TiVo (withe external hard drive) combined.
ganeshts - Thursday, June 17, 2010 - linkBoth PS3 and XBox are good media players, and PS3 has some great features such as bitstreaming.
However, the intent of the article was not to cover all-in-one platforms in great detail.
In our gaming platform reviews, we will also touch upon the media capabilities.
ruzveh - Wednesday, June 23, 2010 - linkMy friend PS3 is good but it lacks file format support by way big margin and todays codec r suppose to accelerate power from cpu and graphics card for better smoother experience. but still PS3 has many things lacking..
I forgot to mention that media streamers can come equipped with some game emulators to play on our HDTV like this product "multimedia-mp6-player-sound-system-and-game-console" on chinavasionDotCom
balancebox - Thursday, June 17, 2010 - linkmax reframe rate for 1080p h.264/x264 mkv playback should be tested
I purchased an asus o player air recently it plays 720p fine even with 10 reframes but for 1080p it is having problems with 10 reframes, 5 reframes plays fine
its probably do to hardware memory limitation. I would like to confirm if the WD TV Live can play 1080p with 16 reframes with video "planet earth from pole to pole 1080p"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQdSLOhrVMc#t=4m19s <--- this video says it can but being youtube it isn't reliable
also WD TV have a larger linux modding community than asus o player =(
ganeshts - Thursday, June 17, 2010 - linkbalancebox,
This is definitely a part of our test suite (The 16 reframe video is one of the files). That said, almost all modern chipsets can handle 16 reframe (32 reframe for interlaced H264).
Personally, I can confirm for you that WDTV Live indeed plays the 16 reframe Planet Earth sample, but only if it is off the local hard disk connected to USB. It doesn't play well over wired ethernet.
I will include the following in our reviews:
(1) Homebrew firmware / community development support
NeBlackCat - Friday, June 18, 2010 - linkExcellent article and follow up, once again showing why AT is in a class of it's own. Really looking forward to the next instalment!
One major (imho) omission though, and it's very important to many people - the extent to which software is open and has active third party development. This keeps the bug count down and feature count up, promotes choice and innovation, makes your investment go further, and gives you a whole new way to have fun if you're a hacker. Ask Dreambox owners.
For example, you could categorise each as:
Closed: runs manufacturer software only, or perhaps semi-FLOSS (eg. Linux plus a proprietary manufacturer SDK that is closed, buggy and feature limited - are you listening Realtek/Sigma?).
Customisable: mainly closed, but has been hacked in a limited way, allowing some end user customisation (eg. NMTs and their plugins and customisable UIs)
Hackable: not fully open, but has been hacked enough to make most things possible, even complete firmware replacements.
Open: anything goes - IONs, Dreamboxes, etc.
NeBlackCat - Friday, June 18, 2010 - link> (1) Homebrew firmware / community development support
Bah, that'll teach me to not hit the post button quick enough!
Colin1497 - Saturday, June 19, 2010 - linkSeems like a pretty big oversight. I stream from my PC and Netflix on my S3 TiVo quite a lot.
scJohn - Saturday, June 19, 2010 - linkI found this site useful for audio test clips: http://www.demo-world.eu/trailers/high-definition-... . Scroll down to see the Dolby, DTD and THX sections. I used the audio clips to see what audio the WD Live would pass thru to my A/V receiver.
When testing a wired/wireless connection a lot of times a short clip (< 3-minutes) will play fine but when you try and stream a 2 hour movie all kinds of problems seem to crop up. I guess I'm recommending that your test suite have a good selection of run times.
Another area that needs to be addressed is filmware updates. Does the company have a good history on updates? Not sure how one would about assigning a grade to a company in this matter. Also, what problems, uprgades, etc. can a company do on it's own and what a company is dependent upon the chip manufacturer's SDK.