Media streaming devices review

Wireless music and movies, anywhere in the home.
 
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02.Results

The following models scored the best results in our test 

What to buy
Brand Price
D-Link Media Lounge Entertainment Network DSM 320 $299
Microsoft Xbox 360 $804
Logitech Squeezebox Wireless Digital Music Player $359

The D-Link DSM 320 may not perform quite as well as the others in our what to buy list, but it's very easy to use and good value.

If you've already got a Microsoft Xbox 360 the addition of a Wi-fi attachment for $155 will turn it into a very functional music streaming device. Otherwise it's relatively expensive.

If it wasn't for its just OK standby energy score, the Logitech Squeezebox Wireless Digital Music Player would be equal to the top overall performer. It's easy to use and performed well in our tests.

What about the rest?

All except the Mediagate MG350HD Wireless High Definition Multimedia player are reasonably easy to use. Poor standby power performance reduced some overall scores, particularly for the Apple TV and Pinnacle Soundbridge Radio Wi-Fi Music System. There's really no excuse for this in a product that's likely to be left in standby for long periods.

What is streaming?

Media (music and video) streamers are essentially a device that can read the media on your computer's hard drive, convert it to other formats, and transmit it to a sound system elsewhere in the home. If your computer and sound system are in different rooms, there has to be some form of connection and all the devices in this test can link up either via an Ethernet cable, or by wireless if you have a wireless router connected.

All the devices we tested are capable of reading a number of music formats, while some can also read video and still image formats as well (see the Formats table).

Music tends to require less data to be transferred to get a good result.

Video over wireless is not really viable if there's any obstruction to your wireless connection, but all the devices that can read video formats in this test performed well when connected by cable.

ZIOVA troubles

The Ziova Clearstream CS 510 has a good ease of use score, but we couldn't test its wireless performance because it refused to connect to our network. The distributor couldn't track down the problem in time for publication.

After many attempts and upgrading the product's firmware the company did finally solve the wireless problem (the SSID name has to be less than eight characters and the wireless access point set to 802.11g only).

We also discovered it wouldn't deliver sound when connected to a TV using HDMI. This is a known problem and Ziova assures us there's an upgrade coming to resolve it.

 

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Results table

Full results for all models are shown in the table below 

  Features
Brand/model Price ($) Overall Ease of Use (%) Performance (%) Standby power (%) Connect external device [1] Memory Card Reader [2] Clock Alarm
D-Link Media Lounge Entertainment Network DSM 320
www.dlink.com.au
299 87 92 79 80 None
Microsoft Xbox 360
www.xbox.com.au
$804 [a] 85 82 97 70 F
Logitech Squeezebox Wireless Digital Music Player www.slimdevices.com 359 85 92 80 60 None
Netgear Digital Entertainment HD EVA8000
www.netgear.com.au
599 80 77 96 50 E, F, P, D
Apple TV
www.apple.com.au
449 80 88 80 30 S
Terratec Noxon2Audio
www.terratec.com
455 80 82 79 70 E, F SD
Pinnacle Soundbridge Radio Wi-Fi Music System
www.lakopacific.com.au
675 78 84 40 None SD
Sony Playstation 3
au.playstation.com/ps3
$1049 [b] 77 75 79 80 E, F, P, D CF, SD, MS/Pro
Pinnacle Soundbridge Network Music Player
www.rokulabs.com
359 74 87 53 60 None
Ziova Clearstream CS 510
www.ziova.com
499 71 73 66 [d] 70 E, F
Mediagate MG-350 HD Wireless High Definition Multimedia Player
www.airlinktek.com
284 55 32 95 70 E, O, F, C
 

  Specifications
Brand/model WiFi type Needs display to setup Dimensions (DxWxH, mm) Min System Requirements Vista compatible Mac and Linux compatible Warranty
D-Link Media Lounge Entertainment Network DSM 320
www.dlink.com.au
802.11g 300x425x45 1974 98+ 1
Microsoft Xbox 360
www.xbox.com.au
802.11b, 802.11g 310x260x80 4700 XP+, XP Media Center edition, Vista NS 1 [f]
Logitech Squeezebox Wireless Digital Music Player
www.slimdevices.com
802.11g 79x191x89 575 XP+ Yes Yes 2
Netgear Digital Entertainment HD EVA8000
www.netgear.com.au
802.11g 273x430x55 2233 XP+ Yes Mac 2
Apple TV
www.apple.com.au
802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n 197x197x27 1195 XP+ (with iTunes 7) NS Mac 1
Terratec Noxon2Audio www.terratec.com 802.11b, 802.11g 177x165x75 780 XP NS Mac 1
Pinnacle Soundbridge Radio Wi-Fi Music System
www.lakopacific.com.au
802.11b, 802.11g 160x280x145 2620 98+ Mac 1
Sony Playstation 3
au.playstation.com/ps3
802.11g 275x325x10 5400 XP+, XP Media Center edition, Vista Yes 1
Pinnacle Soundbridge Network Music Player
www.rokulabs.com
802.11b, 802.11g 58x247x68 668 98/SE/Me/2000/XP NS Yes 1
Ziova Clearstream CS 510 www.ziova.com 802.11b, 802.11g 217x330x52 1995 NS NS Linux 1
Mediagate MG-350 HD Wireless High Definition Multimedia Player www.airlinktek.com 802.11b, 802.11g 155x58x192 972 NS NS Linux (e) 1
 

Table notes

Price paid in December 2007.

Ease of Use (60% of overall) how easy it is to use including instructions and help files, default settings, software and hardware installation, on-board controls and remote control.

Performance (30% of overall) rated the audio quality whilst streaming (via Ethernet and WiFi) and the range of the wireless performance in different circumstances.

Standby Power (10% of overall) based on our measure of the device's standby energy consumption.

Features [1] Connect external device whether additional devices can be connected to the device:

  • E: External HDD
  • O: Optical Disc Drive
  • F: Flash drive or USB key
  • P: iPod
  • D: Digital Camera
  • S: Service port only
  • C: Memory card reader

[2] Memory card reader supports most major flash memory formats:

  • CF: Compact Flash
  • SD: SecureDigital
  • MS/Pro: Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro
  • MMC: MultiMedia Card

Specifications WiFi type (see Wireless performance); Needs display to setup; Dimensions depth, width and height of the product in mm including all protrusions except the power cord; Weight in grams including power pack where separate from main unit; Min System Requirements for Windows; Vista compatible at the time of testing, but drivers may be released later; Mac and Linux compatible if the devices work with Mac and Linux; NS is not specified.

Footnotes

[a] Additional cost $155 (included in final price). Purchased WiFi receiver to make Xbox 360 WiFi capable.
[b] Additional cost $49.95 (included in final price). Purchased PS3 remote to create level playing field for other devices.
[c] The Pinnacle Radio sound quality was judged purely on the wireless playback, as it had no option for wired Ethernet.
[d] The Ziova performance was judged solely on sound quality, as its wireless failed to connect to the server in testing.
[e] Not stated for Mac.
[f] 1yr general claim (3yrs if console fails due to 3 red lights) plus 90 days for accessories.

How we tested

All except the PlayStation 3, which needed a firmware update to recognise some file formats, were tested as they arrived in the box. Each device was installed and configured according to the instructions in the manual.

Sound quality was rated using music files and the same good quality speakers for each product, streamed over Ethernet and wireless connections. The exception was the Pinnacle Radio where we used its built-in speakers as that's how the product is meant to be used.

To avoid interference, the wireless router on the test PC was located about one metre from the streamer and both were placed in the CHOICE radio frequency screening room that shuts out radio waves.

To test wireless range our testers took the products to a country area with little or no radio interference. Each product was set up and started playing, then the source was moved slowly away till we reached a distance of 30 metres. This was repeated with one and then two 40 cm thick stone walls between the devices.

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