For some time, I was looking around for the best hard drive media player to plug into my TV, and I scoured the web and harassed my friends to get some good pointers. And, finally, I found just what I needed!
Basically, just to describe my needs: I wanted a product with a hard drive to save all my movies on; be it ripped DVDs, downloaded movies or any other kind. The idea was to completely move the computer out of the equation, so anyone in the family (basically, the people aren’t tech freaks like me) could use it just by using a remote.
As I saw it, it came down to two options, and I thought I’d do a basic comparison of them here for you:
Apple recently released Apple TV, and everybody was going crazy for it. So, let’s take a quick look at specs:
- 40 GB hard drive.
- Option to stream video to it from the computer.
- Only supports iTunes for transfers.
- Only supports movies in two formats, H.264 and MPEG-4, which basically means items bought from the iTunes store, or converting your existing movies.
My take on it is that the hard drive is completely insufficient; 40 GB is almost nothing, less than some iPods, for Pete’s sake. Streaming is not an option for me, because in that case I’d rather just put my MacBook Pro next to the TV instead; the idea was to become independent from the computer. And, being limited to iTunes for transferring is not a desirable situation.
But, the biggest flaw of them all, a giant one, is the lack of supported video formats. Also, in many countries in Europe where it’s released, you can’t even buy movies from the local iTunes store. When it comes to getting around the ridiculous limitations that Apple have built-in, to learn more you can go to Apple TV Hacks and How-To: play DivX and Xvid on your Apple TV.
But, to me, I’m not interested in paying for a product which so many drawbacks and limitations, and is far from ready for the prime time market.
Verdict: Just like Front Row, Apple TV looks great and is completely useless. Shame on you, Apple.
For about the same price (around $299), a couple of months ago I bought a TViX HD M-4000P, which has meet all of my needs.
The specifications are:
- 250 GB hard drive.
- Almost no video format limitation at all. Supports wmv9, WMV, HD, .avi, .mpg, .vob, .asf, .tp, .tr, IFO, ISO. Codecs: MPEG 1 / 2, XVID.
- Subtitle support: smi,sub,srt,aqt,utf,lrc / Image Subtitle : sub (with idx).
- File transfers just any way you like, exactly as with any external drive.
- Can act as a FTP server.
- You can insert any hard drive you want to, and also connect external hard drives through USB.
And that’s pretty much all I want. It is definitely not as good looking as the Apple TV, but instead it has a real remote, and, at the top of it all: It. Just. Works.
The only two downsides is that it doesn’t support wireless connections, so you need to connect to it via a USB cable, and that it can be just a little bit too noisy. However, with five different fan speed settings available, they are most likely to satisfy your needs (with two small children at home, I can’t have the volume too loud, so maybe that’s why I can hear the TViX at all; a friend who has the same model says he can’t her his’ when watching something).
Tip for Mac users: Use the Disk Utility to format the hard drive you use to the MS-DOS File System. This is necessary for the TViX to work and for you to be able to read and write files.
My recommendation is that if you look for his kind of product, TViX is definitely the way to go, since it won’t hold you back in anyway. There are also a number of different models available, so just see which one is the right for you!