Looking for a Streaming Media Player

Hi guys,
I'm looking to get a media player, and was hoping someone could give me some suggestions.
I have a lot of content on my network drive/computers that I want to play through the TV. My current solution is to plug in my laptop, but that's just a pain in the neck and it's too hard for my wife.
I'd also like something that will work with Netflix. I don't currently subscribe, but am seriously considering it.

Ideally I'd like:

  • USB playback of all the standard formats for images, music and video.
  • Playback of files from NAS or computers on my network.
  • The ability to access Netflix.
  • Easy for my wife to use (with a remote) as it's mainly so she can watch stuff online without me around.
  • Bonus: access to SBS on demand and/or ABC iView

I tried a Chromecast, but that was too difficult to control. Sure it did what it was supposed to well, but pausing, etc was too much work.
If it replaced the DVD player and/or the HDD recorder too, I wouldn't complain! ;-) I think that's unlikely though without a full HTPC.

What are my options? Anything that would meet the above?

EDIT: to clarify about the Chromecast, my wife doesn't currently have a phone that can handle the app. And Plex was too complicated for her to use. I don't want something I have to control with my phone/PC-i want it to be self contained.

Edit 2: windows/android family, but phones are cheapo and have run out of room for more apps.

Comments

  • I use a Roku Streaming stick and an Apple TV3 with the DNS settings set at the router (To access the U.S stuff), however I only stream Hulu and Netflix.

    You could try one of the new Mini PC's such as https://www.ozbargain.com.au/node/190993 or https://www.ozbargain.com.au/node/192034

    To control the device you could use a wireless USB air mouse such as this

    Or an app that will let you control the mouse with your phone.

  • I'm not sure why the Chromecast was hard? I take it you weren't using it with a smartphone? If I'm using it with an app on my phone there's a pause button right on my lockscreen. Using Plex, you can stream all your local content too (and control it with your phone). You still need a computer to act as a server for that though.

    • How to control PLEX using iphone? any particular app for that?

      Thanks,

      • There's a Plex app for iPhone. You need to pay a few bucks to get the full functionality ($5-10) but that's the only money you need to pay. Most people don't need the Plex Pass subscription and the Plex server itself is free.

    • Several reasons. I was using it with a nexus 7, but I don't remember seeing a pause button if I switched app. Maybe that's a more recent update? I'm tech savvy and I remember it wasn't easy!
      Also, I take the tablet with me to work and my wife doesn't have a phone that will work with the Chromecast. I tried Plex, but it would have been too complicated for her to use without me around.
      I'll edit to clarify above.

      • +2

        What's complicated about plex? It's a very simple interface

      • If the app is controlling a video, there's controls on the lock screen and the notification shade (which you can pull down while in any app).

        I have a HTPC running Plex connected to my TV and I control it with a normal Logitech remote (I think the IR receiver for the HTPC cost $15 on eBay).

        • +1

          I've considered the htpc route, but am somewhat time-poor at the moment and, although I am a geek and normally enjoy these things, the idea of setting it up along with the Plex server, setting up the library etc doesn't appeal right now. I'd rather get something that's all ready to roll, and will just deal with everything my wife would throw at it.

        • +1

          @therog1:

          Long term htpc is best

          Media players don't yet support newer codecs like hevc
          So u will need to buy again later on

    • His wife prefers an actual remote according to OP

  • +5

    WDTV Streaming (not the current model, but the streaming with Netflix can be found) - about $150. Has a full remote, inbuilt wifi, and very easy for the Mrs to just pick up a remote and use.

    • +1

      That sounds like what I'm after. Any ideas where I can pick one up?

      • +1

        Did some hunting, gonna have to come from the States unless you check local Gumtree listings:
        http://www.amazon.com/Western-Digital-WDBGXT0000NBK-Recertif...

        Yes it's recertified, and you'll need a plug adapter.

        Whatever you do, don't buy the new model from the stores, it doesn't have the Netflix app and will never have it. Basically if it says it can do Miracast, then it cant do Netflix.

        (For the record I own 1 of these and it works fine with Netflix, albeit plugged into a 5GHz router. If you can just plug it in to ethernet then it'll be fine)

        • Champion, thank you. I'll have a look at this.

        • +3

          @therog1: +1. I picked up the "old" model on Catch for about $85 shipped.

          The kids leave it on sometimes and for some reason it DOES lock up after a day or so when they do it, and it does actually take a while to start up for us (maybe that's why the kids leave it on???). Other than that the best streaming media player I've used by a long shot. I especially like the ethernet connection as my house is wired and I hate relying on wireless.

          I think WD have shot themselves in the foot badly removing Netflix opening the door for other competition on the new model. No idea which numpty at WD would have thought that was a good idea.

        • @Ramrunner: yeah that seems like a really bad move on the part of WD! I wonder if they'll back flip now that Netflix has been released here?

        • @therog1:

          I'm going to disagree with this, I had a WDTV Live and it was painfully slow to use, pity I didn't notice that from a bunch of online reviews before I bought it and wasted the cash. I used it for less than 6 months before pretty much throwing it away.

  • I take the easy and cheap option out in the bedroom . I use a small 200gb portable drive pre-loaded with movies, series etc permanently plugged into usb port.

    So simple

    Main TV doubles as second monitor for PC anyway, so hdmi cable was all that was needed using free Kodi and remote off google play
    Why over complicate things.

  • This one
    https://www.jbhifi.com.au/tv-home-entertainment/players-reco...

    I have an older model and it does everything you're asking. Even has a DLNA server so you can stream live or recorded TV to your phone or tablet.
    My wife loves it.

  • Sounds like you're an Apple household, in that situation, I'd get an Apple TV.

    A bit more clunky to use, but maintaining a limited number of devices (and subsequently remotes), most Blu-Ray players come with "Smart TV" functionality these days. So you could replace your existing DVD player with a Smart DVD Player.
    But the Apple TV will likely be faster and easier to use, plus you can "AirPlay" from your iPhones (and iPads).

    • Sorry I've edited to clarify-windows/android household but phones can't handle the apps.

      • My suggestions still apply.
        I thought @Edsanwong was the OP (hence my Apple household assumption)

        Roku is another good device if you don't want to go with Apple (but you'll have to import I think)

        WD TV - maybe

        Nexus Player - maybe (it's brand new, so worth reading some reviews)

        • OK thanks. So the apple TV would do all the things mentioned in my post?
          Or roku?

        • @therog1:
          Roku/WDTV/Nexus player will be better choices if you actually NEED USB playback.

          Apple TV doesn't support USB playback at all.
          But it can stream from a USB device plugged into a computer.

          EDIT:removed WDTV after reading the news in a post above that WD have removed the Netflix app!

        • +1

          @scubacoles:

          But WDtv with Netflix can still be found, so no reason to rule it out!

  • Anyone have comments on the kaiser bass smart media player or things similar? Would this do the above?

    • buy ot at office works and try it, if it doesnt do what it says return for refund.

    • I bought the Kaiser Bass smart media player (the high spec one with networking) and I've got to say it's basically just a cheap chinese device slightly modified with some basic android apps and an infrared receiver with a basic remote (less than 10 buttons).

      It will do local playback fine but network playback never worked well for me. My old PS3 can do network playback with Plex, my Wii U can do network playback with Plex, even my original wii can do 480p network playback over smb/ftp shares.

      The major selling point for me was playing netflix with a remote on a small device tucked away but it doesn't do that (it can't handle the netflix app). From memory I don't think it had the Play Store installed either.

      • Great. Just what I wanted to know. Thanks for the info, that's another one struck off the list!

  • +2

    Xbox 360 will do everything you're looking for in your "Ideally I'd like" list, will replace your DVD player if needed, will play nicely out-of-the-box with home networks, and has additional media playback functionality if you need it.

    The standard controller in the box works fine of course, but you could always pick up a universal remote for use with it, or grab one of the genuine Xbox ones.

    A high quality unit, can be picked up for a decent price, and will tick all boxes on your list.

    • Yeah it was my brother playing Netflix/DVDs so easily on his PS3 that got me motivated to join the… 2010's in the first place.
      I do all my gaming on PC though, and so I thought "surely there's a non gaming machine that would do all this too?!"

      • The trick is not to see the Xbox (or PS3, for that matter) as purely a gaming device. They're entertainment devices - and fulfil all of your needs out-of-the-box, without the need to look at some of the other far more complex solutions being offered.

        Seriously, one of your requirements was to keep it simple and easy to use. It can't get any easier than Xbox or PS.

    • Yes, id go fox xbox 360 slim - youll get a console only with power for around $60 on gumtree and You can get a Cheap remote of ebay. You can also use it as a netflix box too

  • If your TV is a smart TV and connected to your network, then just set your folder(s) on your PC to share and your TV will have access to it all.

    Setting up DLNA on Windows 7:
    http://www2.panasonic.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/vSupport...

    Setting up DLNA on Windows 8:
    http://www.topnettricks.com/windows-8-dlna-media-server/

    • +1

      Thanks for this. I don't have a smart TV (hence the need for something else), but it's useful info anyway.

  • +4

    Here are some of the solutions I have used over the time:

    Apple TV 3 + PlexConnect & Plex Media Server (on N45L Microserver)

    Even though its not made to work with a NAS, I used to use this set up for quite a while and it works well. There are good guides that help you set this up (i can post links if you need them).

    • USB playback of all the standard formats for images, music and video.
      Doesn't have USB playback, but you can put your files on your NAS to play them. Doesn't do audio very well at the moment (PlexConnect). Plays your home movies
    • Playback of files from NAS or computers on my network.
      Off NAS, yes. From your computer, yes if you set up the Plex Media Server on it (but you wouldn't if you have it on your NAS)
    • The ability to access Netflix.
      I've seen netflix work on a vpn US version, but i can't comment of the local version.
    • Easy for my wife to use (with a remote) as it's mainly so she can watch stuff online without me around.
      Apple TV is simple and easy to use
    • Bonus: access to SBS on demand and/or ABC iView
      Don't think so. Channel 10 does have catchup TV channel on it.

    XBMC/KODI using VidOn Media player

    XBMC/Kodi is one of the best online Media players out there IMO. The Vidon media player a surprisingly well made and powerful machine. Much much easier to set up than the Apple TV version, and more customisable. It runs android apps as well. If you have a android phone/tablet, YATSE has been by far the best remote for Kodi I've used.

    • USB playback of all the standard formats for images, music and video.
      Yes. Can put a USB into the back and plays everything
    • Playback of files from NAS or computers on my network.
      Yes to both. Can set up the box to search for files on folders on NAS and computer
    • The ability to access Netflix.
      Yes. Requires a app to download. Only disadvantage is that you have to exit the KODI media centre to start Netflix separately. There might be an ability to use your Netflix on Kodi but haven't seen it yet.
    • Easy for my wife to use (with a remote) as it's mainly so she can watch stuff online without me around.
      Easy to use. Comes with remote. Not as good as Apple TVs one, but still pretty good.
    • Bonus: access to SBS on demand and/or ABC iView
      Yes. Should be able to download the app to access iView. Not sure about SBS but quite possible.

    Even though i've set these up, i'm currently running one of my old mini PCs that I had running linux with XBMC/Kodi. Reinstalled Openelec (a variant of XBMC/Kodi that loads fast). If you have a spare PC lying around this might be a cheaper option, which works the same as the Android/XBMC media player

    • Your last suggestion is way better. I bought a second hand PC off eBay for $50 & using it as my HTPC. Of course it has its limitations on sound etc but it connects to TV & has access to my micro server etc so works fine for my situation.

    • I found Kodi pretty damn complicated to set up (especially so if you wanna side load add-ons) because of the range of settings to fine tune the application. God i remember the day where I was pulling my hair because every video i played had a black screen due to software acceleration. Plex is more plug and play straight forward to use but it will cost $5.

      • $5 for a lot of hair.. bargain!

        • Lot of hair = Priceless…

  • +1

    samsung smart 3D blu-ray player model:H6500. Has built-in wifi, Netflix/Plex/ABC/SBS apps and USB playback support. It's also easy to change to multi-region DVD and as a bonus it plays blu-rays. can be had cheaper when DSE do their deals.

    • This looks like an excellent choice, and probably the direction I'm leaning at the moment.
      Thanks for the input

  • +1

    Amazon Fire TV puts at end to the home media needs

    Netflix in-built can pair Bluetooth headphones for private listening, USB media player …

  • pipox7 from gearbest for around $140, runs win8.1, has a few usb ports, wifi and ethernet, is very small, team with a wireless keyboard w/- trackpad..

  • I have been lately considering getting Mac Mini for that purpose, but it feels like an overkill for what you would need

  • +1

    I do all of what you mentioned about plus the ability to pause live tv with the Xbox one. Yes it is a little expensive but it is also future proof and simple enough for my 5yr old and wife to operate. Plus you can also play games as a bonus. You can also do Miracast to wirelessly project your phone/pc to tv.

    Trust me I have two 360s, a chromecast, an apple tv and a netgear push2tv plugged in across two tvs in the house but ever since xb1 came it's become the #1 choice for my family.

    The xb1 gets monthly updates (eg Miracast support was added this month). New rumored feature I'm looking forward to is scheduled tv recording. Another neat feature that is live in other countries but will soon come to Australia is to stream live tv to your tablet from xb1.

    ABCiview app for xb1 has been announced but is not live yet. SBS and channel 7 apps are available.

    With DLNA support you can play networked files or plug in a local hard drive to lay files of that.

    Other neat features include voice control eg Xbox on top switch on tv and Xbox.

    I can go on about the most awesome skype experience which will blow your mind when you use it for the first time but i think I'll stop for now.

    • Forgot to mention you need to get the USB tuner and xb1 media remote.
      Plus forgot to mention all this works out of box with 0 tinkering.

      • Do you need xbox live gold to use netflix?

        • Not any more. Now you only need gold for playing games online.

      • +2

        Thanks for this and the further clarifications too.
        It does sound really good, but I'm not sure I could convince the wife… 😉
        "Honey, it's for you, I swear!"

  • Thank you to everyone who's weighed in on this-much appreciated!
    It'll probably be a while before I actually buy anything, but you've ruled some things out for me, and given me n new options to consider.
    Feel free to keep adding thoughts/suggestions if there's something else worth mentioning.

  • For me:

    FireTV + Kodi (XBMC) + Plex Addon for Kodi.

    Run Plex server on NAS.

  • HiMedia for me: HiMedia

    • Where do you buy those from? and is there something that compares the features of each version in a logical way? website is pretty average.

  • I have been looking to replace my WDTV live streaming box with something I can watch iview and netflix on. I considered the Chromecast but would like to use ethernet instead of wireless. I decided on either apple TV or Roku 2. Amazon doesn't ship the Roku to Australia any more so I am considering re-sellers but will wait a couple of weeks to see what Telstra does when they release their version of the Roku 2.

    • Thought of just finding a WDTV Streaming? The one with Netflix support

      • That is what I have already. ABC iview is no longer available for it but using a VPN I can watch BBC iPlayer. It is great for playing local media files but it is a bit clunky, sometimes freezes, runs out of memory and sometimes can't read my hdd. It seems that Amazon's fire tv boxes are back in stock as well.

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