2011 Media Streamer Roundup : Netgear NTV550, A.C.Ryan PlayOn!HD2 and the Boxee Boxby Ganesh T S on November 20, 2011 10:32 AM EST
After the initial unboxing, the consumer encounters the setup and user interface of the media streamer. It is essential that the setup process be simple and straighforward. Both the A.C.Ryan PlayOn!HD2 and the Netgear NTV550 are quite painless to setup. The Boxee Box requires an Internet connection as well as a Boxee account to complete the setup process. The general feel of the user interface and the various available options in each of the streamers are given in the three galleries below.
It is also necessary for the streamers to support jukebox capabilities for the user's media collection. Most streamers go for the local scraping option in which some PC-based scrapers (like YAMJ or Media Center Master or ID3 TAG tools) generate the metadata for the media files. The streamer accesses this metadata either during normal browsing or in a special jukebox mode. The Boxee Box handles scraping on its own. Therefore, no media library setup was necessary. The automatic scraping tool wasn't always correct in determining the correct title. However, we also have support for local NFO files. Using Ember Media Manager, it is possible to ensure that the correct titles and metadata are picked up. Unless the user specifically browses to the 'Files' section, the default browsing mode is the Cover Art mode. Some screenshots of the jukebox in action are provided along with the user interface screenshots above.
The A.C.Ryan PlayOn!HD2 and the Netgear NTV550 adopt the PC scraping strategy. A.C.Ryan relies on YAMJ for its jukebox capabilities. They carry an official user guide (PDF) for this purpose. Omertron's site also has PlayOn!HD specific directions. Unfortunately, my experience after creating a YAMJ database for a sample media library on a NAS was not as expected. Using the Jukebox option in the main menu, I navigated to the index.html, only to be presented with a blank jukebox despite all the necessary metadata files being present. This is apparently a documented bug in the official forums. However, resetting the filters to browse titles alphabetically did work. I am sure many users might have got the jukebox to work for all the titles in one screen, but, in my limited testing, it has not lived upto its promise.
The Netgear NTV 550 has a couple of jukebox solutions. One of them involves the Tag Tool supplied in the bundled software CD. There are other tag tools listed in the support site. For the purpose of this review, I used Ron Chernich's TAG Maker and Editor for the EVA and NTV devices. There is no dedicated jukebox mode in the NTV550, but, the Cover Art browsing mode works well as a replacement. Users need to press the Info button to get the full details about the video in question. This is not the greatest of jukeboxes in existence, but it actually works seamlessly with the existing user interface.