The market is flooded with new media streamers, but which one is for you? One of the cheapest and easiest options is the unambiguously titled Netflix Player. With an active account, the Netflix Player streams movies and television shows from their online library (currently around 10,000 videos). It connects to the internet via 802.11b/g WiFi or ethernet, but delivers low-quality video if your connection speed is less than 1Mbps. It costs $99 plus at least $8.95/mo for a Netflix subscription. It runs Linux so hopefully we’ll see some hacks for it soon like we did with previous Roku products. A fine device, if you want to stream movies and nothing else, but if you want to stream data from other sources, like a network, usb hard drive, or (gasp) bittorrent, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
A friend of ours recently purchased the Popcorn Hour. This set-top box can stream video from a network or usb hard drive using practically any codec or container format, can be configured to download torrents with an internal hard drive, and supports a number of web services including YouTube and Flickr. The Popcorn Hour is at least a fair value at $180. The downside? It doesn’t come with a hard drive or WiFi.
The lack of internal storage might be deal-breaker for you; if so, the Myka could be a better fit. In addition to coming in 80, 160, and 500GB flavors, this device opts out of all proprietary content delivery services in favor of open ones. It has strong synergy with BitTorrent.com built in, downloading directly from it or a number of other torrent services like ISOHunt. Prices range from $299 to $459.
If you’re like us, you’d rather build your own Linux media streamer. All you need is a spare computer. Cheap graphics cards with component out are fairly easy to acquire. For a frontend, you could use DVR software like MythTV, but that might be overkill. Check out the Linux port of XBMC which is what the Mac version of XBMC we covered previously is based on.