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How do I pick the perfect media player?

Video cassette recorders had a lot to do with building the home theater industry. Stereo system manufacturers watched the soaring sale of VCRs and quickly added new capabilities to their entire lineup. That put a home theater system within reach of many people making them as commonplace today as the microwave.

With VCRs mostly retired, systems today have a DVD player, at least, with some also featuring Blu-ray capability. Perhaps the newest component adding functionality beyond simple disk playing is a media player.

Lately, I've been testing a newer model from Western Digital. The exact model is Western Digital USB 2.0 WD TV Live. The footprint of the unit is quite small allowing for easy placement and it comes with almost everything needed missing only an HDMI cable. HDMI is perhaps the best way to connect a home theater component in terms of ease and performance.

Content connections on the player include two USB 2.0 ports and one Ethernet port. Content may be copied from a computer to a USB flash drive or external hard drive and then the drive is directly plugged into the player to play the content. The Ethernet port allows for direct connection to a home network for direct streaming to the player.

With a newer 802.11n wireless setup and a supported USB wireless adapter connected to the device, users can wirelessly stream content from the home network directly to the player. The older 802.11g wireless standard would probably not give good results unless conditions are perfect.

The key to picking a media player for a home theater system is to match the intended use to the capabilities of the player, which is what guided me to the WD Live TV model. The easy setup and use is just the icing on the cake.

Ron Poland is a professor in the Computer Information Systems AAS program at Clinton Community College. Poland is certified in company repair and networking by the Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). He is also a Cisco certified network assistant. Questions may be sent to him via e-mail at ron@ronpoland.com.

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