Top 3 Multimedia Players

In the recent past, DVD player manufacturers added a feature to their players that allowed users to connect their USB flash drives as an additional source for movies and music. While this popular trend changed the way people used media players, it has now grown to a different level altogether. It’s hard not to picture solid state media taking over optical discs, like it happened in the case of MP3 players.
Apart from being compact and portable, thanks to the absence of optical drives, these magic boxes are more capable than standard DVD players.

While the latter restrict the users to a 720p resolution, high-end solid state players surpass DVD-quality to offer Blu-ray video quality. This is one of the main benefits and there are more features that trounce the traditional DVD player. These all-in-one devices offer a single platform where one can store and access all the digital content. Their ease of use and support for a wide variety of file formats across file types makes these players truly irresistible. In addition to standard formats such as DivX, MP3 and JPEG, they support MKV, MOV, VOB, MP4, RMVB, WMA, FLAC, AAC, GIF, TIFF, PNG and so on. Also, in terms of storage, you neither have to hoard optical media nor worry about preventing them from being damaged. Since there are no lenses or moving parts involved, there’s very little to worry about the players too.

The two broad categories include the ones that offer internal storage and the ones that need an external source for content via a USB port. In this roundup, we’ve covered the latter. While a USB port is the primary source of connectivity across all players, some high-end ones even feature eSATA ports. Some have multiple USB ports to accommodate additional sources, like a second hard drive. If that doesn’t suffice, one can opt for a player that features network support to access files over a network. These players do not necessarily need flash-based storage. Anything detected as a mass storage device can be used, which includes standard external hard drives too. You can even insert the memory card of your digital camera to watch slide shows of your photographs.

With the increasing range of players, there’s something suited to each category of users. Someone who has a smaller LCD TV with a 1080i or 720p resolution can choose an entry-level player. One who has a large HDTV can choose a high-end player with a multitude of features to leverage on. In any case it’s best to take your TV into consideration and also note some vital features before making your purchase.
Asus O!PLAY - Rs. 7000

The most striking feature of the O!Play is that it offers full HD playback (Blu-ray quality) at merely Rs. 7,000. It supports almost all audio, video and picture formats. There are three ports for connectivity: USB, eSATA, which doubles as the second USB port and a network port. You can not only connect multiple storage devices, but also access content via a wired network. Transferring files from one local drive to another or copying from a network location are also possible.

Overall the O!Play has a simple user-interface and even the remote control is intuitive and comfortable to use. For the performance test, we played movies at different resolutions and bitrates, and the player met our expectations each time. Even at 1080p, the playback was stutter-free. There was no pixellation or freezing of frames. In addition to performance and features, it also scores high on aesthetics. Although the unit is a bit large, its stylish design makes up for it. We’d say that the O!Play will surely complement your home theatre rack.

If you're looking for a good solid-state media player at a modest price, this one's for you.

Good: Good price, performance and features.
Bad: A bit large
Rating: 4/5
WD TV Live - Rs. 10,500

Great performance, high on features, good looks and a wonderful user interface—the WD TV Live offers it all. This little device is a powerful Full HD media player that offers a good choice of features for those looking to play HD media content and music from a storage drive or the Internet directly on their HD television sets. It supports a wide variety of file formats which translates into lesser time wasted in transcoding your video bank. Streaming YouTube videos and Internet radio is also possible by configuring the player to use your home Internet connection.

The menu navigation has a very classy and user-friendly interface. Browse through your media files using thumbnails, album art or movie cover art. The build quality of the WD TV Live is excellent and the body is scratch resistant. The remote is very small in size with a good grip and though the button quality is good, the tactility and size could have been a bit better. The remote control lacks volume control buttons—so you would end up having to use the television’s remote simultaneously while watching a movie.

The WD TV Live is a feature-rich media player worth its price tag.

Good: Live internet videos and radio
Bad: No bundled HDMI cable
Rating: 4/5
Amkette Flash TV - Rs. 2995

While there are many capable players that play HD movies, none of them is as affordable as the Amkette Flash TV. This matchbox-sized player basically allows users to play movies directly from a USB pen drive/hard disk or even memory cards (SD, MMC). In this roundup, this one is the only player with memory card slot. You can not only watch movies upto 720p, but also listen to MP3 audio and see pictures stored on the memory card of your digital camera. The Flash TV boasts of a compact design along but cannot play a very wide range of media formats. The bundled remote control makes browsing through the menu a breeze. The interface is simple and has five modes to choose from. Video quality is decent and comparable with other mid-level solid-state media players. However, you can’t expect the playback quality to be as flawless as that of a standard video DVD. To keep costs down, the Amkette Flash TV misses out on connection options, networking capabilities, and an HDMI output but includes a component out that allows you to watch High Definition videos at 720p.

A good media player for its price, size and performance.

Good: Portability, price, memory card slot
Bad: Videos are a little hazy, less connection options and no networking capabilities
Rating: 3/5

Published Date: Feb 23, 2010 04:00 pm | Updated Date: Feb 23, 2010 04:00 pm