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Audio and Video

Of course, in some sense, all of the options here are "PC" based. The idea is to access the media files from your PC, after all. However, unlike the Media Center PC and the RoomLink, the following products allow you to get music, video, and photos from your existing PC, not purchase a new one.

Nearly all of the products here support most standard formats: MP3, WAV, WMA, JPEG, GIF, AVI, MPEG1/2/4, etc. Additionally, most work over both 802.11b and 802.11g, although for video performance you'd be much better off with an 802.11g network.

On the high end of these products is the Philips Streamium. There are several models in the Streamium line, starting around $300 and up depending on the features. All models allow you to connect to a wired or wireless network and play music, photos, or video from your PC. As with most of the products profiled here, you need to run a proprietary system—in this case, the Philips Media Manager—on your PC in order to access the media remotely. Although it's not the least expensive offering on the market, Streamium comes from a manufacturer with a solid reputation in home electronics and is easy to integrate into a home system without requiring additional purchases.

The PRISMIQ MediaPlayer is a device from PRISMIQ, a company currently offering this one product. They've been around since 2002, however, and the product does just what it's advertised to do. You can use it to play video, music, Internet radio, and photos from your PC on your home entertainment center. The MediaPlayer also allows you to browse the web on your TV, which is a nice additional feature. It works over a wired network or wireless—although it doesn't include a wireless card, so you have to purchase one separately. PRISMIQ has announced that they're working on a version that can function as a DVR, but that product hasn't been released. You need to run the PRISMIQ Media Manager on your PC, and unfortunately it only supports PCs. Mac users have to look at another solution.

Not to be outdone, several wireless networking manufacturers have their own line of wireless media players. First up is the D-Link Wireless Media Player. D-Link is best known as a provider of networking gateways, routers, hubs, and so on in the low-cost market. The D-Link Wireless Media Player works over a WiFi network and has wireless networking built in; no need to purchase a separate adapter. Of course, you need to run the D-Link Media Server software on your PC, which means that Mac users are once again out of luck.

Finally, networking company SMC offers the EZ-Stream, a WiFi streaming player that requires you to install the SMC Media Manager software on your PC. And again, Mac users are ignored. Curiously, the EZ-Stream doesn't support Windows Media files, even though it's a PC-only product.

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