Blu-Ray player manufacturers realized last year that the Internet Age consumers want more from their purchase than just dumb playback of optical disks. The latest players from the top tier companies such as LG and Samsung provide support for VOD (Netflix, YouTube etc.) and streaming of media from the local network, while also adding USB ports to support playback of local media.

The LG BD390 is almost universally accepted as the best Blu-Ray player / media streamer combo. It is noted for its inbuilt Wi-Fi capabilities, and provides support for NTFS drives connected to its USB port. It utilizes the Mediatek MT8520 SOC for the core media streamer functions. The host processor is an ARM1176 core running at 500 MHz. The SOC also integrates  Ethernet MAC, 2 USB 2.0 and 2 SATA II ports with a HDMI 1.3 transmitter. Hardware acceleration is supported for decode of high definition H264, VC1, MPEG2 and DivX videos. All varieties of Dolby and DTS soundtracks are also supported. With an inbuilt hardware cryptography engine (really, a pre-requisite for any chip trying to get into the Blu-Ray market), handling DRM content on Blu-Ray disks is the main duty of this player. The operational power consumption for this player is 21W.

Now that the specs are out of the way, let us take a look at how this player holds up to the rigors of usage as a media streamer. LG issues frequent firmware updates, and almost all VOD services have been enabled (except for Amazon Video on Demand). Since the MT8520 happens to be Mediatek's first SOC geared towards the HD market, software support for the product hasn't matured yet. As of December 2009, the unit is unable to play MP4 files even though the internal codec is supported. There are also reports of sluggish picture playback, possibly due to the fact that JPEG decode is not hardware accelerated. Many of these issues may be resolved by future firmware updates. Another Blu-Ray player based on the same SOC is the Oppo BDP-83. Media streaming capability wise, it fares similar to the LG BD-390, albeit at a higher price point. While the Oppo version sells for US $500, the LG player can be obtained for less than US $250 as of June 2010.

The MT8520 Rebadged as an Oppo OP8521G
[ Picture Courtesy : User oppohellas at ]

The Mediatek SOC offering in this arena seems promising and its full capabilities may surface down the road with future firmware upgrades. Mediatek's future roadmap in terms of updates to the MT8520 SOC itself also merits a watch. Broadcom has already released a few generations of SOCs targeted towards the Blu Ray market (most Samsung Blu-Ray players use Broadcom chips), but they haven't made their mark yet with capabilities necessary for the media streaming market.

HTPC Based Platforms Pure Internet Service Media Streamers
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  • ganeshts - Monday, June 21, 2010 - link


    Thanks for the link. We already have 2 files from that link which are L4.1 compliant H264, but fail on the WDTV as well as the WDTV Live.

    We will pick up more files from that site, as you have suggested.

    Points from your comments for our reviews:

    (1) Add long clips to test suite
    (2) Frequency of firmware updates (assign grades to company)
    (3) Difference between reference platform from chip manufacturer and the product platform ; Missing / Additional features between chip manufacturer's SDK and product platform's firmware base.
  • darkeyes909 - Sunday, June 20, 2010 - link

    Before anyone else there was Avel Link, a Philips dvd that played divx etc. and a Plextor unit that played various media files.
  • gigahertz20 - Sunday, June 20, 2010 - link

    I just want to know what product is the best for videos with high bit rates. Right now I have a Popcorn Hour A-110 and it has worked pretty good for the last year and a half or so. I've never really stressed it though with a super high bit rate movie though.
  • ganeshts - Monday, June 21, 2010 - link


    Off a local drive mounted on USB, there is probably no difference between different products based on the same chipset. As of now, both Sigma and Realtek are comparable as far as high bit rate videos are concerned (Both can play Blu Ray compliant clips easily). I think your A-110 will probably not have any trouble with high bit rate movies, and if it does have, it probably fails on current generation chipsets too.

    As long as you stay away from the Chips & Media IP products like the HDX Bone (which are mainly for PMPs), you should be fine :)
  • stormcrow216 - Sunday, June 20, 2010 - link

    Something that matters a lot to me in a streaming box and that I'm not seeing a lot about in your articles, is the ability to display web content. I don't mean youtube or netflix, I mean random web pages without video attached. Do all of these devices support this? None of them? A true HTPC would do this of course, and that's kind of my default circumstance right now. But I'd rather have something more streamlined.
  • ganeshts - Monday, June 21, 2010 - link


    This is something many people would like, but it blurs the distinction between HTPCs and media streamers. As embedded processors become more and more powerful, we will see improvements on media streamers such as Tegra 2 based Boxee TV. Right now, they are in a 'neither here - nor there' situation, as they supposedly don't support Blu Ray compliant clips and also don't have a full featured web browser. A year or so down the line, I am sure things will improve to where we want them to be right now!
  • ganeshts - Monday, June 21, 2010 - link


    Do peruse this link:

    It looks like we may get web browsing on Realtek based products in the near future (However, I am sure it is going to be severely crippled by the lack of horsepower, since all it has is a MIPS processor inside, clocked pretty low compared to the traditional HTPC).
  • daskino - Monday, June 21, 2010 - link

    Ganesh T S do you happen to have a email i can contact you on?
  • ganeshts - Monday, June 21, 2010 - link


    You can contact me at: ganeshDOTfilesATgmail
  • Modelworks - Monday, June 21, 2010 - link

    A few bits of information about the Live. WD has a new version called the WDTV Live Plus. This version uses similar hardware but uses the sigma chip with macrovision support . It was necessary to support netflix. The pricing seems to be about $120 so not much different from the earlier one.

    The WDTV Live has custom firmware available. The box runs linux and with the curstom firmware users can access it just like any other linux system. People have added torrent, web services, OSD mods, and more . You can run things in the background like torrents, ftp and more and it doesn't effect the video performance thanks to the offloading of the decoding to the hardware. On board ram is 512MB, with about 180MB for user programs. Changing firmware is as easy as using a usb flash drive and you can change it back to retail easily if you want.

    The plus version of the box does not have custom firmware yet.

    This forum has more info:

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