Although many products offer both video and audio streaming to your entertainment center, you may want to hold off on the video for a while. After all, hard drives are getting cheaper and cheaper, and video formats are still undergoing a bit of settling. If you just want to get your music from your PC to your stereo, you're in luck. Here's a rundown of products that just support audio. All of these devices support MP3 playback as well as Windows Media, and all work via a WiFi network. Because the demands for audio aren't as great as video, these should all work without a problem over an 802.11b network.
First up is Sound Blaster Wireless Music from Creative Technology, one of the biggest names in PC audio. Of course, PC audio means, well, PC audio, so Mac fans are once again left in the dark. The cumbersomely named Sound Blaster Wireless Music also has a somewhat slow and cumbersome remote, which is used for browsing song selections. Because it doesn't do video, you can't view song selections on your TV. It also requires installing the Creative MediaSource software.
The Roku SoundBridge network music player is probably the most interesting-looking option on the market. The tube shape of the Roku makes it very distinctive. The SoundBridge has a vacuum-fluorescent display on the front of the unit for browsing directories and selections, and features a remote control. Windows users can choose between Windows Media Connect and Musicmatch for managing audio libraries. For Mac users, the news is mixed. Although the SoundBridge supports Mac and iTunes, it lacks the ability to play ACC files purchased through the iTunes music store, which is a serious drawback to any serious Mac user.
The Squeezebox from Slim Devices is the player for all systems. It uses the open source Slim Server Software for media management, runs on Windows as well as the Mac, and it also runs under Linux, BSD, and even Solaris! It features a vacuum-fluorescent display and a remote control, but can also be controlled from a Pocket PC or Palm device. Truly, the Squeezebox is the king of WiFi streaming devices for the geek community.
With D-Link in the game, Linksys couldn't be left out, and sure enough, they have the Wireless-B Media Adapter. The Wireless-B Media Adapter isn't limited to just audio; it also supports photo viewing. However, it doesn't support video and it doesn't support Macs. It connects to your TV for viewing photos and navigation menus. The TV connections lead me to suspect that a Wireless-G version supporting video may be in the works, but so far nothing has been announced.
Finally, there's a product that's all Mac! Actually, that's not entirely true; Apple's AirPort Express supports both Macs and PCs running Apple's AirTunes software. The AirPort Express is a very small device, the smallest of all these offerings, and curiously, it doesn't feature a remote. In fact, the one big drawback is that you have to select your music via AirTunes, either at the PC/Mac itself, or, if you have a laptop handy, you can do it remotely. Overall the product is very nice, and if you have a Mac, it's probably the way to go. However, not having a remote can be an annoyance at times.