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Internet TV Streaming Media Player Boxes Compared

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Internet Streaming Media Player Boxes Comparison - Internet TV

How to watch Internet Movies and Video on your TV without a PC

Your TV needs a source of content for you to watch anything. Local TV over-the-air broadcasts came first, with just a few choices, CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS. Then cable TV with more channels using a coaxial cable into your home, and then satellite TV, plus we had movies on VHS tapes in the 1980s and 1990s. Then DVD arrived in the late 1990s using an optical disc to store video and audio. Netflix mailed out your DVD movie which was nice but still not the best solution. You had to mail your DVD back to Netflix. The Internet arrived in 1995 but only after the turn of the new century did the internet allow new providers such as Netflix, to stream movies and video content directly to your home.

More advantages of internet streaming media:

When you viewed broadcast, cable or satellite TV, it was always on the TV network's schedule, not your own schedule. The VCR changed that with timed recordings. The DVR also allows the same "watch when you prefer", schedule. 

What if you want your movie right away, without leaving home or waiting for the mail to arrive? What if you want other information or entertainment right away, no waiting required? Today we have moved to the internet to gain instant access to whatever information or entertainment we want.

What you have to do is get the internet content on your TV for a big-screen experience. One of the best things about streaming internet movies or other video content is the ability to choose what you want to watch and when, as well as to pause, fast-forward or rewind that content. But beware of the hoops you will have to jump thru to get setup and the inconsistencies of the technologies.

Getting internet content means paying for internet service, unless you can access free wi-fi service at home where the big-screen TV resides, but this still requires a computer. What if you are not computer savvy? Well, today it seems there is a solution for almost everything. Enter the streaming internet media box or player.

Known by other names such as IPTV or media streamers or network media players or internet TV players, these small boxes connect to your TV and the internet thru your internet service provider and your home network (router and modem) to bring you movies and music, sports, news and other TV entertainment. Some see these boxes as the future of TV viewing and have dropped their cable TV service in favor of a more custom tailored viewing experience.

In 2009 we saw the HDTV market adding internet capability to select TVs. The content was limited to just a few sites and no browser. In 2010 we saw several innovators offering a way to get internet content on a TV without connecting via a computer (desktop or laptop). In 2011 there has been a refinement of these new internet media player boxes. Some are in their second, third or fourth generation with wireless 802.11n, onboard storage, HDMI and better user interfaces.

So what internet media players are available and which boxes are best. Remember you need high-speed internet service to use these boxes and also a router (wired/wireless) and modem at home. The media box connects to your router and then to the TV.

Note: Requires High-Speed Internet Service Broadband speed of at least 2.5 Mbps recommended (10 Mbps or more for HD video). Content may require fees. Wireless connectivity requires an 802.11 home network LAN (802.11n recommended).

Diagram - Internet streaming media player to home network and HDTV

If you do not have an HDTV, don't worry. Some streaming media players do have the capability to connect to older analog TV sets. Using an RF modulator, you can even connect a TV set with only an RF coaxial input. There are always converters, adapters and connectors to hookup a TV.

So many companies are offering these internet media boxes that a complete list would be almost impossible. Each company offers a different box but there are many similarities. Apple, ROKU, Western Digital, Sony, Boxee box by D-Link, Seagate, are some of the brand names of these internet media players. Most allow you to get Netflix movies and connect wirelessly to your router and to your HDTV with an HDMI cable. Some will allow connection to an older TV set with analog composite video cables. Most have a surround sound optical output port to allow external loudspeakers.

The internet sites offered on the players for movies and TV are Netflix, Vudu, Hulu plus, Amazon video, Blockbuster, YouTube and for music, Pandora, iTunes and more. Each box has limitations on content or connections so check out the specifications carefully. For example, if you have only an older tube CRT TV, then the Apple TV box is not for you because it only has an HDMI connection for the newer HDTVs. Only a laptop or desktop PC will be able to access ANY internet site. Connecting the computer to the TV can be done also. See laptop to TV for more information.

Streaming Media Providers:
There are thousands of sources or channels on the web, some content is free while others require small rental costs or monthly fees. Some of the major providers are:

Netflix - streaming only plans start at $7.99 per month. Netflix recommends that people stream its movies over a broadband connection with a speed of at least 1.5 megabits per second (1.5 Mbit/s), and that people use an Internet connection of at least 3 megabits per second to get better-looking video on par with a DVD. How many movies does Netflix offer? More than you could ever view.

Vudu - Now owned by Wal-Mart, Vudu has announced 3D-HDTV streaming content. Most movies are $4.99 for an HD rental for 24 hours. More than 17,000 movies and TV shows. If you have a fast Internet connection (and a Wireless-N router), Vudu is a great way to enjoy high quality new releases at home.

Hulu plus - $7.99 a month. There is some overlap between the content offered by Hulu Plus and Netflix, but Hulu wins for current episodes of hit TV shows.

Amazon video - Movies and TV shows are available for purchase or rental a la carte. TV episodes are sold for $1.99 each and select shows can also be rented for $1.39 an episode. New release films are $3.99 for a rental and usually $14.99 to own.
Over 200,000 TV episodes and movies, millions of songs, and hundreds of games.

Internet Streaming Media players:

Apple TV Boxee Box Roku XDS Sony SMP-N100 Western Digital TV Live HUB Seagate GoFlex TV
1080p 1080p 1080p 1080p 1080p 1080p
-- -- Composite video Composite video Composite video Composite video
Wi-Fi Wi-Fi Wi-Fi Wi-Fi Wi-Fi ready / adapter Wi-Fi ready
Ethernet Ethernet Ethernet Ethernet Ethernet Ethernet
Netflix Netflix Netflix Netflix Netflix Netflix
YouTube   HULU plus HULU plus HULU plus  
Vimeo USB play USB play     USB play

All internet media players are NOT created equal. Check carefully before you buy to ensure the player will be able to process the video and audio files you intend to use. Some players will process .MOV files, MPEG/MPG, AVCHD, FLV/F4V, VC1, xVID, DIVx video and some will not. The same applies to audio files. AAC, MP3, WMA, WAV, LPCM, OGG, the player may not be able to process all files. The Western Digital TV live HUB can process the most file types but you may only use a few file types.

The Streaming Media Players:

1. ROKU - The ROKU 3 player for 2015 is at the top of the list of streaming media players. Cost $80 to $99
2. ROKU - Roku streaming HDMI stick. Cost $40 to $50
3. APPLE - The Apple TV box will work best for Apple users. iPhone, iPad, Mac, iTunes invested people. Cost $85 to $99
4. Amazon Fire TV stick - best for Amazon content. Cost $39
5. Amazon Fire TV - Cost $85 to $99
6. Google Chromecast - HDMI stick. Must use Google browser on latest computer. Cost $30 to $35
7. Western Digital TV Media Player - best for playing local media in the home. Cost $85 to $110

ROKU player setup and info

ROKU - Four media boxes are offered for 2011-2012 from $50, $60, $80 and $100, the LT model, HD, XD and XS model. The XS model has the most capability including 1080p video max, and built-in wireless, but the LT model also has built-in wireless and 720p video max. Most people say the LT model is easy to use, easy to setup and a great value. These boxes are small and lightweight. They fit in the palm of your hand. The ROKU box has the best user interface for Netflix so if Netflix is your top application and you do not use much of any other service, get a ROKU player.

ROKU LT for 2011

ROKU LT rear

The Roku2 LT is the most basic unit offered by Roku, so many of the bells and whistles found on other Roku players are not available on the LT. For instance, the LT only supports wireless connection to your home network, it has no Ethernet port. You won't find a USB port on the LT, either, so you cannot view images or listen to MP3s on this unit like you can some of the other models.

Roku LT Streaming Player Specifications 


  • 802.11n Wi-Fi (b/g/n compatible) with WEP, WPA and WPA2 support

Video Outputs

  • 480i (over composite video)
  • 480p (over HDMI)
  • 720p (over HDMI)

Video Modes

  • 720p High Definition (HD)
  • 16:9 anamorphic
  • 4:3 standard

Audio Output

  • Analog stereo (mini-jack to left/right/composite video RCA)
  • Digital over HDMI (5.1 surround sound pass-through and stereo)

Remote Control

  • Standard Roku infrared remote control
  • Streaming player includes IR. Compatible with various universal remotes

Power Input

  • 5.2V – 1.0A power adapter


  • 3.3 x 3.3 x 0.9 inches


  • 3 ounces

ROKU XS rear 2011

ROKU XS REAR 2011 with HDMI,  A/V output and Ethernet port for wired internet connections

ROKU services 2011

In the box with the ROKU LT model

  • Remote control
  • Two AAA batteries
  • HDMI video output (for high-definition)
  • Composite A/V combo output (for standard-definition; works with included A/V cable)
  • Wireless (Wi-Fi b/g/n)
  • A/V cable (red/white/yellow)
  • Power adapter
  • Get Started guide
  • 90-day manufacturer warranty
Simply connect the unit to your TV using the provided RCA cable or an HDMI cable, and plug in the power pack.

The ROKU break-out RCA cable for older TV sets

Before you can use the player, you will need to sign up on and create your account. A Roku account gives you access to the Channel Store and lets you manage your Roku players online. You will need to supply your name, e-mail and either a credit card or PayPal information. You may need to upgrade the player's software from ROKU.

Roku automatically pushes software updates to your Roku player when it is not being used. However, because Roku pushes out software updates in batches, some users will have their Roku players updated before others. If you would like to check for available software updates manually, simply follow these instructions: 

  • Go to the Home screen by clicking on the Home button on your remote.
  • Select Settings.
  • Select Software update.
  • Select Check now.

Roku Support Services: 855-355-3898

Available: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week


Western Digital - WD TV Live HUB

western digital content

Western Digital's WD TV Live Hub is the company's fourth generation media streamer. Unlike the previous generation WD TV Live Plus, this latest iteration adds several features, including a built-in 1TB hard drive, a built-in media server to stream content to multiple rooms, and more apps than before, including the ability to download movies and TV shows from Blockbuster On Demand. Access your Netflix unlimited membership or Blockbuster On Demand and watch movies and TV episodes instantly.

The Western Digital TV Live Hub actually has a lot of value even when considering the $199 sticker price. This device is more expensive than almost all of its other competitors, but when you consider that most of them are priced around $100 but lack a 1TB HDD and quite a bit of functionality, that disparity disappears.

The price of a 1TB 2.5" HDD alone is $120 retail and adding that to any streaming device would already break $200. One unfortunate omission is the box has no built-in Wi-Fi. You have to use an adapter.

Western Digital TV Live Hub

Western Digital TV Live HUB has HDMI, USB, Ethernet, composite and component ports plus optical audio output.

File Specifications:

Videos: AVI (Xvid, AVC, MPEG1/2/4), MPG/MPEG, VOB, MKV (h.264, x.264, AVC, MPEG1/2/4, VC-1), TS/TP/M2T (MPEG1/2/4, AVC, VC-1), MP4/MOV (MPEG4, h.264), M2TS, WMV9
Playlists: PLS, M3U, WPL
Subtitles: SRT, ASS, SSA, SUB, SMI

Netgear NeoTV Streaming Player (NTV200)

NETGEAR NTV200 neo-tv

The NeoTV 550 Ultimate HD Media Player from NETGEAR is an exceptional way to play media such as audio, videos, or photos from your computer or computer gear on your TV. The NeoTV 550 connects to your router's Ethernet port (no built-in wireless) and can scan your networked and local devices for movies, music, or photos. From there, you can use the built-in HDMI or component outputs for connecting the NeoTV to your analog or digital High Definition TV. The NeoTV can play movies in full HD of 1080p and supports a wide array of video and photo formats, including Blu-ray.

For audio, the device supports a number of formats, such as Dolby Digital, DTS surround sound, HD 7.1 surround sound, among others. The NeoTV also features an S/PDIF optical digital output port for connecting it to an audio receiver. If you want to access media from external hard drives, the NeoTV has eSATA and USB ports, and it also includes a built-in SD card slot if you want to view photos or videos from your camcorder or camera. It also ships with a remote. If you want an easy-to-use way to access media from external hard drives or your computer on your TV, then check out the NeoTV.

Plays your digital movies in full high definition 1080p and stunning Dolby Digital or DTS surround sound Automatically scans your networked and local devices, and organizes your movies, music, and photos Live Browsing provides easy and fast access to your media collection Built-in SD card slot for convenient access to personal photos and videos (AVCHD compatible) Compatible with a wide range of media file formats including Blu-ray Delivers your movie sound tracks in HD 7.1 surround sound Improved video and audio navigation using cover art instead of file names Remote with shortcuts for quick selection and ease of use

Source: Directly access your networked and local devices
Audio: On-the-fly language selection
Subtitle: Display subtitles and change appearance The NeoTV 550 Ultimate HD Media Player can accept media from the following sources:

· USB Storage devices
· eSATA storage devices
· SD memory card
· CIFS/Samba, NFS
· UPnP AV and DLNA Servers
· Windows Media Player 11 Media Sharing

Content Services

  • Netflix: No
  • Hulu: No
  • Amazon Video: No
  • YouTube: Yes

Sony - SMP-N100

Wirelessly stream movies, TV episodes, videos and music from Netflix®, YouTube™, Pandora®, Hulu Plus™ and more with the SMP-N100 streaming player with Wi-Fi. Enjoy your digital content in up to Full HD 1080p when you connect a USB drive or wirelessly stream it over your home network using your PC or other DLNA compliant device. You can even download the free Media Remote™ app to turn your iPhone®, iPod touch®, or compatible Android™ phone into a versatile remote control.

Inputs and Outputs

  • Analog Audio 2ch Output(s) (L,R) : 1
  • Component Video (Y/Pb/Pr) Output(s) : 1
  • Composite Video Output(s) : 1
  • Ethernet Port(s) : 1
  • HDMI® Output(s) : 1
  • Optical Audio Digital Output(s) : 1
  • USB Port(s) : 1- front

Format Support

  • AAC : Yes (USB)- m4a
  • AVC-HD : Yes (USB)
  • DivX : Yes (USB )- jpg, jpeg
  • DivX HD : Yes (USB and DLNA)- XviD
  • JPEG : Yes (USB and DLNA)- jpg, jpeg
  • LPCM : Yes (USB and DLNA)- wav
  • MP3 : Yes (USB and DLNA)- mp3
  • MPEG-1 : Yes (USB)- vob, vro, mpg, mpeg, m2ts, mts
  • MPEG : Yes (USB and DLNA)- vob, vro, mpg, mpeg, m2ts, mts
  • Simple MPEG : Yes - MPEG 4 AVC (USB)- mkv, mp4, m4v, m2ts, mts
  • WMA : Yes (USB and DLNA)- wma (DLNA:Basic profile only no 32kpbs or lower)
  • WMV : Yes - WMV9 (USB)- wmv, asf
Wireless LAN : Yes 802.11b/g/n

Sony smp-n100 front
SONY SMP-N100 Front View

Wireless or wired connection to router is available on the Sony media player

Sony media player remote


Sony's SMP-N200 streaming-media box supports Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant, Vudu, and Pandora. It's also DLNA-compliant, so it can stream media from your home network, including Xvid and MKV files. The external design is also improved over last year's model. The remote is smaller and simpler than last year's. The Sony SMP-N200 is 3-D capable and has all the TV connections as the SMP-N100 including HDMI, component, composite video and optical plus wireless and wired (ethernet) capability. Still using the XMB (cross media bar) for navigation, Sony is keeping their dated user interface.

SONY SMP-N200 front 2011-2012

SONY SMP-N200 Remote

Boxee Box -

Boxee Box has an odd shape - sliced bottom

The Boxee Box uses an Intel CE4110 chip. In addition to installing the hardware and configuring the display and network, you also need to register for a Boxee account. Right now the Box supports Facebook, Twitter and Google Buzz, Netflix, and the Boxee website lets you add more. For local media playback, this is where the Boxee Box thoroughly outclasses its competitors. Boxee Box can play back any video format with a three-letter file extension. It comes with a two-sided remote control which has a QWERTY keyboard on one side and a simple remote on the other.

  • Dimensions (LxWxH): 4.5" x 4.5" x 4.6"
  • Language Support: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish
  • Network Protocol Support: IPV4, ARP, TCP, UDP, ICMP, DHCP Client, DNS Client, DDNS Client, HTTP Server, Samba Client, RTP/RTMP, VPN: PPTP, DLNA 1.5 (DMP)
  • Wireless: 802.11n/g/b
  • Ports: HDMI 1.3, 10/100 Fast Ethernet, 2x USB 2.0, Optical Audio (S/PDIF), Analog Audio (RCA L/R)
  • Memory Card Support: SD, SDHC up to 32GB, MMC
  • Audio Formats: MP3, WAV/PCM/LPCM, WMA, AIF/AIFF, AC3/AAC, OGG, FLAC, Dolby Digital/Dolby True HD
  • Video Formats: Adobe Flash 10.1, FLV/On2 VP6 (FLV/FV4/M4V), H.264 AVC (TS/AVI/MKV/MOV/M2TS/MP4), VC-1 (TS/AVI/MKV/WMV), MPEG-1 (DAT/MPG/MPEG), MPEG-2 (MPG/MPEG/VOB/TS/TP/ISO/IFO), MPEG-4 (MP4/AVI/MOV), DivX 3/4/5/6 (AVI/MKV), Xvid (AVI/MKV), WMV9 (WMV/ASF/DVR-MS)
  • Image Formats: JPEG, PNG, GIF, BMP, TIFF
  • Playlist Formats: M3U, PLS, WPL
  • Subtitle Formats: SRT, SUB, SSA, SMI, ASS
  • Supported Resolutions: H.264: 1080p at 30 fps, 1080i at 60 fps; WMV9/VC-1: 1080p at 30 fps, 1080i at 60 fps; MPEG4: 1080p at 30 fps, 1080i at 60 fps; MPEG2: 1080p at 30 fps, 1080i at 60 fps
  • Two-Sided RF Remote: with 4-way navigation and full QWERTY keypad

Apple TV -

Apple TV allows consumers to use an HDTV to view photos, play music and watch video that originates from limited Internet services or a local network. The first generation (white) had iTunes, Flickr, Mobileme/.Mac and YouTube. The second generation added Netflix. Both models support  downloading/streaming podcasts. Users can access the iTunes Store directly through Apple TV to rent movies and TV shows and stream audio and video podcasts. Apple TV pairs with some other Apple products so if you are an Apple fan, this box may be your choice. The 3rd generation Apple TV is now available (March 2012) for $99 and has 1080p video capability. Most other features remain the same. In addition to being able to view content from the iTunes Store or your own iTunes library directly on your Apple TV (2nd and 3rd generation), you also have access to content from third-party content providers, including Netflix, NHL, MLB, and the NBA.

The Apple TV box is small enough to remain out of sight or mounted on the back of an HDTV. You must use HDMI to your HDTV or A/V receiver with HDMI.
The competing Roku 2 offers more streaming services, including Amazon Instant, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, and Pandora. And the upcoming Roku LT will offer much of the same streaming functionality for half the price. Apple TV won't work with older, pre-HD TVs.

Seagate -

Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex TV HD Media Player

SEAGATE Media Player front and rear - FreeAgent GoFlex TV HD Media Player
Customer SUPPORT

The package of Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex TV HD Media Player contains:

  • GoFlex TV HD Media Player
  • Composite A/V cable (RCA connector)
  • Component A/V cable
  • Sync software and thumbnail creator CD-ROM
  • Power supply
  • Remote control (operates on 2 AAA batteries)
  • 2 AAA batteries
  • Quick start guide
Setting up the Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex TV is easy. Connect the box to the HDTV with component video or HDMI cable (for HD-resolution video of 720p, 1080i or 1080p) or analog TV with composite video cable for SD-resolution video (and audio cable if necessary), then connect the power supply, and plug-in a USB removable mass storage with audio/video content on it.

  • Netflix*
  • YouTube
  • Pandora*
  • Paramount
  • vTuner
  • Mediafly
  • Picasa
  • Flickr
  • Video Feeds (RSS)
  • Text Feeds (RSS)
  • Finance Widget
  • Weather Widget

Plays all of your favorite file formats

  • Video: MPEG–1, MPEG–2 (VOB/ISO), MPEG–4 (Xvid), DivX Plus™ HD, Xvid HD, AVI, MOV, MKV, RMVB Real Media, FLV, AVC HD, H.264, WMV9, VC–1, M2TS, TS/TP/M2T
    • Video Resolutions: NTSC 480i/480p, PAL 576i/576p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p
    • Subtitles: SAMI (smi), SRT, SUB
  • Audio: AAC, MP3, Dolby® Digital, DTS, ASF, FLAC, WMA, WMA Pro, LPCM, ADPCM, WAV, OGG
    • Playlist: M3U, PLS
  • Photo: JPEG files (up to 20 megapixels), MJPEG, BMP, GIF, PNG, TIFF

Video Connections HDMI 1.3; Composite; Component
Audio Connections HDMI 1.3; Stereo; Optical S/PDIF
Video Formats MKV; AVI; DivX Plus™ HD; RMVB Real Media; WMV9; VC-1; MPEG-4 (Xvid); FLV; MPEG-2 (VOB/ISO); Xvid HD; MPEG-1; AVC HD; TS/TP/M2T; M2TS; H.264; MOV
Subtitles SAMI (smi); SRT; SUB
Video Resolutions PAL 576i/576p; NTSC 480i/480p; 720p; 1080p; 1080i
Audio Formats WMA Pro; WMA; Dolby® Digital; ADPCM; FLAC; AAC; ASF; DTS; LPCM; OGG; WAV; MP3
Playlist PLS; M3U
Photo Formats JPEG files (up to 20 megapixels); MJPEG; BMP; TIFF; PNG; GIF
Supported File Systems HFS+; NTFS; FAT32; FAT
Internet Sites Supported Netflix; YouTube; Pandora; Mediafly; vTuner; Picasa; Flickr; Video Feeds (RSS); Text Feeds (RSS); Weather Widget; Finance Widget
Network Connection Wi-Fi Adapter (Optional); Ethernet
Ports 2 USB
TV Systems NTSC; PAL

StarTech 6-Feet Coax High Resolution VGA Monitor Cable - HD15 M/M

Cables Unlimited PCM-2230-25B 25-Feet Male to Male SVGA Cable

*Some internet media boxes only have HDMI outputs while others have a full compliment of outputs which allow hookup to older TVs.

  See laptop to tv 

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Netgear wireless WiFi Internet Adapter

YouTube demo of Netgear WiFi Universal Adapter

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