Blu-Ray player manufacturers realized last year that the Internet Age consumers want more from their purchase than just dumb playback of optical disks. The latest players from the top tier companies such as LG and Samsung provide support for VOD (Netflix, YouTube etc.) and streaming of media from the local network, while also adding USB ports to support playback of local media.

The LG BD390 is almost universally accepted as the best Blu-Ray player / media streamer combo. It is noted for its inbuilt Wi-Fi capabilities, and provides support for NTFS drives connected to its USB port. It utilizes the Mediatek MT8520 SOC for the core media streamer functions. The host processor is an ARM1176 core running at 500 MHz. The SOC also integrates  Ethernet MAC, 2 USB 2.0 and 2 SATA II ports with a HDMI 1.3 transmitter. Hardware acceleration is supported for decode of high definition H264, VC1, MPEG2 and DivX videos. All varieties of Dolby and DTS soundtracks are also supported. With an inbuilt hardware cryptography engine (really, a pre-requisite for any chip trying to get into the Blu-Ray market), handling DRM content on Blu-Ray disks is the main duty of this player. The operational power consumption for this player is 21W.

Now that the specs are out of the way, let us take a look at how this player holds up to the rigors of usage as a media streamer. LG issues frequent firmware updates, and almost all VOD services have been enabled (except for Amazon Video on Demand). Since the MT8520 happens to be Mediatek's first SOC geared towards the HD market, software support for the product hasn't matured yet. As of December 2009, the unit is unable to play MP4 files even though the internal codec is supported. There are also reports of sluggish picture playback, possibly due to the fact that JPEG decode is not hardware accelerated. Many of these issues may be resolved by future firmware updates. Another Blu-Ray player based on the same SOC is the Oppo BDP-83. Media streaming capability wise, it fares similar to the LG BD-390, albeit at a higher price point. While the Oppo version sells for US $500, the LG player can be obtained for less than US $250 as of June 2010.

The MT8520 Rebadged as an Oppo OP8521G
[ Picture Courtesy : User oppohellas at ]

The Mediatek SOC offering in this arena seems promising and its full capabilities may surface down the road with future firmware upgrades. Mediatek's future roadmap in terms of updates to the MT8520 SOC itself also merits a watch. Broadcom has already released a few generations of SOCs targeted towards the Blu Ray market (most Samsung Blu-Ray players use Broadcom chips), but they haven't made their mark yet with capabilities necessary for the media streaming market.

HTPC Based Platforms Pure Internet Service Media Streamers
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  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - link


    WTV and DVR-MS are already in our test suite.

    We will make sure the following is in our reviews:

    (1) Support for WTV and DVR-MS containers
  • s44 - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    The LG BD390 has been discontinued and unavailable for months now. At this point we should be looking at the LG BD570/590 or the Samsung C5500/6500.
  • Hubble70 - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    Yes please. My parent's LG590 freezes up on them and they are pissed. If you did a review maybe it would whip them into shape and deliver a decent firmware.
  • Decaff - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    Another thing I believe you should add to the list is DLNA support. It offers some neat capabilities in controlling your setup from a PC.
    Also, be sure yo check the audio and video quality, as I have heard rumors of some players not displaying a proper picture (Xbox for example).
    Furthermore, I think you should pay special attention to the interface of the media streamer, as it has to be easy to navigate, even if you have a thousand movies stored on your NAS.
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - link

    Decaff, Definitely!

    WDTV Live is DLNA 1.5 certified. So, we will definitely test similar capabilities for other media streamers that we review.

    Points to note from your comment for our reviews:

    (1) DLNA Support
    (2) Quality of User Interface
  • hughlle - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    erm, "as is its wont"

    that makes no sense to me, although granted i'm just out of bed.
  • clarkn0va - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    Does that help?
  • genzai - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    It would be very helpful to me (and i think many other readers) who have extensive libraries ripped (by for instance handbrake) into "iDevice" compatible formats, such as the appleTV, iphone etc. Though these files are essentially a form of h264 in a .m4v (quicktime?) wrapper i have found in my own limited testing that they rarely work on non "iDevices". When we are considering moving away from the appleTV or extending our iPod video library to one of these new feature rich players, it would be very good to know whether we would be looking at re-encoding our entire libraries, or if a device will support the .m4v files.
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 15, 2010 - link

    genzai, Thanks for your very good suggestion.

    We will take the following point for our reviews:

    (1) Support for M4V container
  • SlyNine - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    I use the WD Live and Twonky to host HD movies, Series, Music. Twonky does a great job of organizing my music but I wish the interface was more customizable ( and maybe it is, I haven't played around with it much).

    WD Live may not be the most powerful, But its fast enough to play 40 mbps .264/VC1 movies with DTS or DD, I also think it can support DTS HD, but TrueHD seems to be lacking. Like Twonky, the interface could use a little work, but it's plenty usable.

    I use 4 TB worth of harddrive space and for my series DVD's, I just use handbreak and reencode them ( thank god for the Core I7).

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