South Africa has always been a bit behind the curve when it comes to most technologies and it still amazes me that most people rely solely on satellite TV as a form of home entertainment.
In a nutshell, a media player is a small device that is capable of reading multiple types of media files (movies, pictures, music) and plays them through your home entertainment system. Typically, most modern TV’s, DVD or Blu-Ray players these days have one or multiple USB ports but they often don’t do well with a variety of media files that are a bit more complicated than the average .JPEG photo file. That’s where a media player comes in handy.
I’ve taken 3 of the most popular and commonly available media players in SA (in no particular order) and gone through buckets of popcorn to see which is best.
Apple are masters at creating beautiful pieces of technology that not only look great but they simply work. One of the best features of the Apple TV* is its plug and play ability, and it’s seamless integration with any other product in the Apple ecosystem. If you are familiar with Apple and its sometimes annoying iTunes platform, then Apple TV is pretty much a no-brainer as you can also stream the latest and greatest HD movies live from the iTunes store. You can rent HD movies for R29.99 or own them for R149.99 – not bad when comparing to the likes of DStv’s Box Office. The UI (user interface) is clean and simple (that’s Apple-speak for ‘beautiful’), and even your iPhone doubles as a really nifty remote using Apple’s free Remote app.
*Edit: The NEW Apple TV has recently just been launched in SA so I hope I can get my grubby paws on one and give you the full scoop of all the new features (like Siri) soon!
PRICE: R1,189 for the 3rd (old) Generation Apple TV or R3,499 for the 4th (new) Generation Apple TV from MyiStore
WD TV Live
Western Digital have been selling media players for years now and each new product has gotten better and better. One of the strongest selling points of the range of WD media players is the ability to plug in your own storage device and play just about whatever media file you have on your PC. You are not restricted to any specific software in order to play your downloaded movies, music or pictures. It just works, effortlessly. This particular player however, connects to your home WiFi network and like the Apple TV, you can stream TV shows or movies through various providers (apps) such as Netflix and HuluPlus. WD also have a nifty smartphone app to control your TV instead of the remote control.
I have had my WD TV Live player for about 6 months now and there is one major issue that bums me out though – it seems the device was designed to either use it solely as a streaming device, or connected to an external storage device. But definitely NOT both. After playing any video content from the hard drives for longer than 45 minutes, you end up with a frozen media player that needs to be rebooted to get it going again. Frustrating!
In short, the WD TV Live player is a great alternative to the Apple TV for streaming content but simply does not cut it as a device that competently plays media from external storage devices.
PRICE: R1,099 from Takelot
You might not have heard of Mede8er but that doesn’t mean it’s not without its merits. The locally made (and backed) media player is a great alternative to the big names (such as the above two) and has been designed for practicality, not just playing a host of varying media files. It pretty much does whatever you expect of a media player but with massive simplicity (that’s not a bad thing by the way) and ease-of-use. It also comes with a nifty neoprene travel case for those movie marathons at your mate’s house, and is sturdy enough to travel with without fear of breaking at the slightest knock. Plus, it is also the cheapest coming in at under R900 (Takealot). I have a mate who has had his Mede8er player forever and swears by it, especially since their after-sales service seems to be on-the-ball, too.
PRICE: R899 from Takealot