How to Use Media Adapters and Servers to Download Content
7 of 8 in Series: The Essentials of Accessing Digital Content for Home Theaters
Some companies provide media adapters/servers or standalone devices that make it easy for you to download Internet content to your home theater PC or TV. The typical media adapter is wireless, supports 802.11g or n, has video interfaces such as HDMI and a remote control, and has an onscreen or LCD interface for selecting the content choices.
There are two main types of devices on the market:
Media adapters/servers: Media adapters communicate with a PC and facilitate the flow of content from and through your Internet-connected PC to your home theater.
Standalone devices: Standalone devices connect directly to the Internet and do not require an intermediary PC. While they usually can catalogue and access PC-stored content, it’s not the main focus of these devices — so you don’t need an actively running PC to gain access to Internet content with standalone devices.
Many leading consumer electronics manufacturers offer media adapters, and capabilities and quality can vary substantially among these products. Media adapters “adapt” the PC content to the home theater environment, offering content to common stereo interfaces such as RCA and digital audio jacks, instead of the more computer-oriented USB and Ethernet jacks.
The list of media adapter players is long. The following gives you a flavor for what’s out there:
Roku SoundBridge: Roku SoundBridge M1001 elegantly links your home theater to a remote PC via 802.11g wireless. It supports Apple’s Bonjour technology (formerly known as Rendezvous) and iTunes, as well as Windows Media Connect, Windows Media Player 10, and Windows Media DRM 10 — it’s the most compatible music player around.
Squeezebox: The Squeezebox Classic, made by Logitech’s Slim Devices division, has standard analog as well as digital optical and coax outputs, so you can link this to your stereo directly with high-quality inputs if you like. The Squeezebox has “always-on” Internet Radio, powered by its own SqueezeNetwork, that lets you tune in to Internet radio streams even when the home PC is switched off. It features Ethernet and 802.11g connections.
Roku also offers a whole-home audio player called the Squeezebox Duet that can bring music to multiple rooms and includes an LCD screen-equipped remote control that shows your entire music library right on the remote.
Apple AirPort Express: The AirPort Express is a small device that serves multiple roles: media adapter, travel router, print server, Wi-Fi repeater, and more. You don’t get a remote control, LCD, or onscreen display. For that, you’ll want to upgrade to the Apple TV.
Other media adapters:
D-Link’s MediaLounge products include the DSM-520 Wireless HD Media Player and the DSM-120 Wireless Music Player.
Netgear’s Wireless Digital Media Players include the high-definition capable EVA8000 Digital Entertainer HD.
Linksys’s wireless entertainment products include the WMB54G Wireless-G Music Bridge and a pair of Windows Media Center extenders.