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 Now classified by Broadcom as a legacy product, this SOC has probably been superseded by the BCM7400 / BCM7400B introduced around the same time.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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wiak - Monday, June 14, 2010 - linkhello Aikouka mr lover 恋人
ganeshts - Monday, June 14, 2010 - linkAikouka,
Thanks for your feedback. We will definitely make a comparison of how much each extra feature costs (over a particular base price) in our reviews.
All said, except for ease of use and power concerns, a properly built HTPC scores over a media streamer any time.
cknobman - Monday, June 14, 2010 - linkWhy did this get no mention?
I have several media streaming devices (this, patriot, and xbox 360) and the kodak is by far the best one with the most features, smoothest interface, built in wifi N, 1080p capabilities.
ganeshts - Monday, June 14, 2010 - linkcknobman,
Yes, we are aware of the Kodak Theater HD player. In terms of features in the product spec, it doesn't seem to compare that favourably with other players in the market. [ http://www.iboum.com/pr/kodakt1.php ] ; Of course, if Kodak is interested in getting its review out, we will carry it forward. As of now, Anandtech doesn't have any plans to review this unit, but things are likely to change going forward. We will keep you updated!
johnlannock - Monday, June 14, 2010 - linkWhat a great idea for a section. A few months ago I purchased a single Patriot Box office streamer as the price point had dropped to the point where I wanted to replicate it across my home network ; cat 6e cables, NAS, mult servers, wireless etc. My main streamer is a win 7 64bit mch running win 7 ultimate. Imagine my surprise when I was informed by Patriot support that the only way to share folders across a wired LAN was to invoke "regedit" and modify my registry.
i WAS TOLD THAT WAS THE ONLY WAY THE BOX COULD SHARE WHEN USING Win7 ultimate.
Now think of the implications for Patriot if that is needed for the mass market. The margin implications are staggering for Patriot.
Please include this type of "software mod implication" in your future reviews of these boxes.
I hate this requirement as I do not want to have to maintain this regedit mod as Microsoft continues to mod Win 7. A CONSUMER BOX SHOULD NOT REQUIRE SYS PROG MODIIFCATIONS.
Needless to say I have not rolled out these boxes to my network.
Please feel free to contact me if you need more details.
NOT HAPPY in the Far North (Canada)
ganeshts - Monday, June 14, 2010 - linkjohnlannock, Thanks for your feedback.
We will include this in our future reviews:
(1) Ease of networking feature usage / Implications on host OS
pjladyfox - Monday, June 14, 2010 - linkThe biggest weakness that I've found in just about every single NMT (read: Network Media Tank) is the depth of subtitle support. Currently, right now most boxes while they say they support SRT, ASS, SSA, SUB, and SMI only spit out the subtitles if they are in ANSI format and nothing in UNICODE. Worse still they also default to this rather garish font size that either takes up a large portion of the screen or is extremely difficult to see on white backgrounds.
The other big problem is the complete lack of full softsub support by a lot of these devices. While you can get the subtitles the formatting is completely stripped or ignored. This pretty much kills the device from being able to display non-English, or hardsubbed, HD titles since they mostly come in .MKV format with softsubs.
So if you are a fan of these kinds of videos you're pretty much stuck with a HTPC which comes with it's own variety of problems and to get decent performance on HD media pretty much require a system more powerful than a Atom system since not all formats are GPU accelerated like RMVB.
If proper subtitle support could be implemented, while keeping the cost low, in these boxes the sales for these would greatly increase. Otherwise, right now it's like playing Russian roulette when you come home from the store wondering if the box you have will support the videos you watch or not. -_-
ganeshts - Monday, June 14, 2010 - linkpjladyfox, Thanks for your feedback. We will note the following point for our reviews:
(1) Support for UNICODE subtitles display
pjladyfox - Monday, June 14, 2010 - linkWould it be possible to add the following as well:
1. SSA v4.00 support
2. ASS v4.00+ support
If you require more info a good starting point would be http://wiki.multimedia.cx/index.php?title=SubStati...
A lot of boxes, like the Popcorn Hour, claim SSA/ASS support but are only really parsing the text and converting it to .SRT stripping out the style and event tags. While nobody really expects full support just having support to the point where the position and subtitles appear correctly would go a long way. ^_^
daskino - Monday, June 14, 2010 - linkHey Annadtech, finally a serious media like yours take up the sprawling market of media players. great to see i will follow it closely. for a more in depth view of the media player market. Also look at my page and blog on the digital media players. www.industryconvergence.com