As I mentioned a couple days back, I’m looking at “replacing my living room PC with a dedicated video player”:http://www.geekfun.com/2005/12/18/too-much-juice/ in order to waste less electricity and free hardware up for other purposes.
I’ve been looking around and it seems like things have improved a bit since I looked “a year ago”:http://www.geekfun.com/2004/12/09/hauppage-mediamvp/. DLink has an interesting product called the “DSM-320”:http://www.dlink.com/products/?pid=318 that seems to be going for ~$130, after rebate that does native decoding of various MPEG4 formats like Xvid. The native MPEG4 support is cool because it means that existing content doesn’t have to be transcoded on a PC and transported over the network. As a result, I should be able to stream video off my fileserver which uses a low power ~800MHz CPU. I’m also hoping that avoiding MPEG2 will mean that I can get smooth playback over my wireless network.
The DSM has some downsides. A big one is that its wireless network card doesn’t support WPA encryption, only the useless WEP, so I guess I’ll still need to use a WRT54G in my livingroom. It also sounds like video playback has been a bit wonky, but it sounds like the newest firmare versions have corrected a lot of glitches. The UI also sounds like it leaves something to be desired, but it looks like it will work well enough for our purposes.
It requires streaming media server software, but appearantly it adheres to some sort of standard, so I’m not limited to the software they provide, which is good, because I want to run the media server off my Linux box. On the downside, the most likely candidate, “Twonkyvision”:http://www.twonkyvision.de/UPnP/index.html is 20 euros, adding significantly to the cost of the setup. It looks like at least part of the firmware for this thing is GPLed, so maybe someone will release support for playing media directly off a Samba share.
Another shortcoming is that the device doesn’t play AAC encoded audio (which I have a lot of since I’ve ripped all my CDs into AAC for my iPod), at least not without server-side transcoding, which is strange since the “Sigma chip it uses”:http://www.sigmadesigns.com/news/press_releases/041104.htm looks like it “supports AAC”:http://www.sigmadesigns.com/products/em8400series.htm.
For ~$130 (after rebate) it’s pretty tempting, but I’d hate to be stuck with it if it doesn’t work for me.