With the growing number of media players and streamers, it becomes difficult to select the right one for your home theater system. Before you select the right player, you need to understand your requirements. The most important question is if you want to stream music and video or watch them from a hard drive.
Although media players are commonly called media streamers, there is actually a difference between them. While the player would connect you to the home network for movies that are saved on your hard drive, the streamer would connect to online services and get streaming video data. A streamer may also play data that is saved on your hard disk.
So which media player (or streamer) should you select? Here are some considerations:
1. Streaming services: If you are getting a media system just to play Netflix and Hulu, you should get a streamer that can connect to your favorite online services. There are several services that manufacturers provide, and they keep updating their lists with each firmware update.
2. Customization features and ease of use: If you are not very tech savvy, it is best to get a media player that is easy to use and has a simple and basic remote control. However, if you are comfortable with technology, you should probably select the one that offers a lot of customization options, so that you can make small tweaks here and there.
3. Compatibility: The player you buy should be able to play the media files that are stored on your computer. Most players can play a vast range of file formats such as iTunes music, M4A, and AVI etc. Make sure you check the specs before buying a media player.
4. Storage media: If your hard disk is running out of space and you want to move some files to another location, you can go for a media player that comes with inbuilt memory storage. Also, you can connect to an external USB drive. When you copy files to the media player, you don’t need to switch on your computer to access your image, music, or video files.
5. iOS base: If you have an iPhone, iPad, or a Mac, you can consider getting the Apple TV streamer. It is easy to operate for iOS users, which is why it becomes a great choice for Apple fans. However, its online streaming is largely based on iTunes videos. If you have a device that is older than the iPad2 or the iPhone4s, you can use AirPlay to stream videos from a compatible app present on your device.
6. Standalone players: There are many “smart TVs” that are connected to Blu-ray players, and can stream online videos. You can try them to stream the videos you want.
Consider all the above points to decide if you want a media player/streamer, or a home theater component with built-in media playing abilities.