First off, a confession – I consider myself gadget savvy but I had absolutely *no* idea that playing movies downloaded from the Internet on a television was even possible. Thanks to an equally techie colleague who mentioned he’d been doing this since years that I realized how foolish I’d been. What makes me feel less guilty though is how few people know about it, which is why I thought about writing this blogpost
The general name for this class of gadgets is “Media Players”. Simply put, it’s like a small box similar to your set top box which connects to your TV. The media player has a USB port using which you can attach any portable hard disk or thumb drive containing your movies in any damn format (AVI, DivX, XVid, VOB, MKV, MP4, MOV, WMV, h.264, MPG – you name it!) and it will play them right on your TV. Some even support full 1080p HD content. Yeah!
A lot of companies manufacture media players, the most prominent ones being Western Digital and Seagate. Then there are others like Iomega, Amkette etc. which also deserve a mention. The one that I specifically bought was the WD TV Live HD Media Player.
What I love about my WD:
1. Much smaller and cheaper compared to Seagate models. Also has the best price/performance ratio. The MRP is close to Rs. 9000 in India and most vendors will be selling it for Rs. 8000 or so. It’s available on eBay.in as well. I brought it for Rs. 7200 from Nehru Place but I bet a good bargainer can easily bring down the price to about Rs. 7000 or so.
2. Supports full 1080p HD. All you need to do is to connect the media player to your HDTV via an HDMI cable. The HDMI cable is not included in the pack. The usual composite cable (Red-White-Yellow) cable is bundled.
3. Upgradeable firmware so that your player never gets out of date as and when new movie formats come on the Internet. WD releases these firmware updates pretty often.
4. Most of us usually have our best AV hardware connected to our TV. You can literally download movies for free (via Torrents etc.) and play it on the best display and audio you’ve got.
5. No storage limitations since you can connect any external disk you like. The WD model infact has 2 USB ports.
6. No WiFi but connects via the Ethernet cable. You can even stream media from connected media servers and transfer movies to your connected USB drive wirelessly!
7. Definitely much better video quality compared to connecting your laptop directly to the TV. Moreover, your laptop does not get blocked while the movie is on.
8. It can even show pictures (from a USB disc or Flickr) and play music too. But really, let’s not talk about it. That’s not what I bought it for
9. Very simple UI – even your mom can operate it.
10. It has a remote! You can pause, fast forward and rewind etc. just like a DVD player.
I highly recommend buying a media player even if you have one of those modern TV’s which boasts of a “USB port”. The inbuilt TV hardware is generally not that powerful and you’ll often find yourself limited to the small subset of movie formats it can support. Even if you have a gaming console like a PS3, the same limitations still apply.
I you have any specific questions or comments, please add them below. I’ll be happy to reply.
Update 1: A lot of people have asked me the details of where I got it from. I got the player from AVS Informatics Private Limited, 208, Second Floor, Siddhartha Building, 96, Nehru Place for Rs. 7200. You can get their phone number from Justdial.com
Update 2: If you are planning to buy this media player, I would recommend that you also checkout the newer “WD TV Live Hub”. It has an internal hard drive and HDMI 1.4 (which can support 3D movies in future). For more details, click here. The MRP of this new model is Rs. 9999 but the actual retail price should be much lower.