Media Streamer VS, Media Player VS, HTPC

Media Streamer VS Media Player VS, HTPC

media streamer vs htpc 

Media Streamers VS Media Players VS HTPC's - Find Which Device is Best for Cutting Cable TV.

Hulu, Vudu, Netflix, Roku
Media Streamers - Less Technical to Setup
Media Streamers like the current AppleTV, Roku or WD TV Live are compact add-on devices that attach directly to your television, typically with an HDMI cable. They also connect to the Internet using either a wireless connection or by an Ethernet cable attached to a wireless router. Media streamers let you watch content either streamed from your computer or directly from Internet sites like *YouTube, Hulu, Netflix or other similar services. Roku, one the of the most popular media streamers currently has over 1000 different Channels.
Be sure to check out our Roku Channel List to see the large list of mostly Free channels available for Roku.

Apple TV Series 2, Apple TV Series 2, 1080p HD

Media Streamers also play downloaded files directly from your PC or Mac, Network Attached Hard Drive (NAS) or dedicated Media Server. This a great way to watch your content on TV instead of only on your computer. *Please note: The official YouTube channel is no longer available on current Roku devices, it may be found on older devices that enabled the channel before Roku decided to no longer pay Google's licensing fee. Here are a few alternative methods for watching YouTube content on Roku.

Media Players - More Technical to Setup
A Media Player is almost the same as a Media Streamer although it offers the ability to play files from either an internal hard drive or from an attached external drive. The original AppleTV comes to mind as an early media player as it could stream content from the internet, or by installing a different operating system such as CrystalBuntu Linux it could play files directly from it's internal Hard Drive. A few other examples are the excellent WD TV Live Hub,  Dune HD Max or a Popcorn Hour C200 which lets you install a Blue-ray Disc player along side a Hard Drive. Media players require a little more networking knowledge and are a little more difficult to get setup.

Some can even be modded with custom firmware to add even more features and options. Media players with their large internal hard drives also give you an extra place to back up files and photos.

1st generation Apple TV

HTPC - Most Technical to Setup
The acronym for a Home Theater Personal Computer is HTPC. Much like a personal computer an HTPC gives you much more control over choosing your own software to play your media content. It also supports all video formats. Many people like to assemble and build their own HTPC from custom off the shelf PC components. Fully assembled HTPCs are also available from companies like Assassin, Acer or ASRock.

Most people use either a version of Windows which contains Windows Media Center software as their operating system for an HTPC. Alternative choices are Linux OS with XBMC Media Center or Plex. The downside of an HTPC is they do take much more time to setup. They also require a bit more maintenance to keep their anti-virus and Operating System updated. HTPC's are still very popular as they give you the ability to pretty much play any music or video file. They also give the user more flexibility with the software that can be installed. Many people primarily love their HTPC's for this reason. While they are usually larger, recently many manufactures have shrunk down the size of HTPCs to footprint that compares in size to some media players.

Another big advantage to an HTPC is you can turn it into an HD DVR without monthly fees by adding an internal or external TV Tuner. This let's you record clear Cable TV or Free terrestrial TV with an HD antenna.

File Compatibility
Unlike an HTPC, not every Media Streamer or Media Player plays every file format perfectly in HD 1080p. This is where you carefully need to study the specs to be sure it plays everything you need. The most common video formats are .mkv (Matroska) and.avi (Audio Video Interleave) which are often found in video files downloaded from the internet. It is really important that the Streamer or Media Player you buy, will play these files perfectly with out stutters. Also, look at any additional features to make sure the device has the capabilities to get Netflix, YouTube or other important features like connecting to the Internet via Wireless, or it has an Ethernet port if you do not have a wireless router.

Prices can vary greatly, from as low as $50 for a simple Media Streamer all the way up to $1200 or more, for a fully decked out Quad Core i7 HTPC.

For less tech minded family members, a simple to use and intuitive interface that is easy to navigate is much more appreciated. Anything that needs too much fiddling and they will soon lose interest and start begging you to go back to cable. This is where the AppleTV, Roku and Boxee shine. Although most people can easily navigate XBMC or Plex software on an HTPC. For a low cost and simple to use interface, you can't beat the plug and play experience many newer Media Streamers and Media Players offer.

Take our Media Streamer, Media Player or HTPC Quiz
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