I have been fiddling with (oops, I mean evaluating) media players for over a year now. I purchased a D-Link DSM-520 about a year ago and was pleased with how many file formats It could play, but I found the user interface to be on the clunky side. It takes a long time to navigate through the menus and the menus are only available after several minutes of power on.
Well I thought maybe I could find a better media player that would have a more responsive user interface, so after much research, reading reviews, scrutinizing media formats of various offerings, I chose an Argosy HV359T as it had an impressive list of media formats that it could play. There is a short bootup time, but the menu is readily available and the network files don't take forever to appear.
The Argosy was quite impressive, I got it with a 1TB drive and began to fill it up with videos. The specs indicated that it could play MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, (AVI, DivX 3.11, 4.x, 5.x, 6.x HD, Xvid, MP4, MOV), DVD Folder, and DVD ISO.
Sure enough when I played MPEG-1 MPEG-2 files, things went well, AVI and DVD ISO played good also. When I went to play DVD Folder files, I first experienced a format that was specified, but would not play the audio. After some fiddling, I found I was able to convert the audio to PCM, but this required re-rendering the entire video, causing some loss of video quality. I have yet to find an Xvid, DivX or MP4 format that I can play on it.
I am not picking on Argosy, but feel the need to raise awareness about the entire media player market. There are a lot of new products coming out every day. The D-Link can play some of the formats that the Argosy cannot and vice-versa. I also briefly evaluated a Western Digital Media Player but returned it as it did not offer any additional features over what I already had.
The MPEG-4 format has so many variants, that there is probably no current media player that can play them all, Caveat Emptor. MP4 and MPEG-4 formats are most likely the wave of the future. So what is a video enthusiast to do?
Enter the Best Media Player
A coule of weeks ago, I saw an offer that I couldn't refuse, I came across a small form-factor desktop computer with an 80GB hard drive. It came with Windows XP which includes Windows Media Player. The computer fit on my media shelf and only came to $180.00. I did spend a little bit more on a wireless mouse/keyboard combination so that I wouldn't have to be plugging cables in and out all the time.
I moved my HD-PVR and Total Media Extreme over to the new computer (actually a refurbished computer, but there are some new ones in this price range) and licensed it to play videos from my DivX account. To my pleasant surprise, my large screen TV had a dedicated PC input and when I turned it all on, the PC's video came up in full screen, WOW! I then plugged the Argosy into a spare USB port and am able to use it in Hard Disk mode to access my video library.
Now I can play just about any video format that comes along andwhen new formats become available, I am sure that I will be able to find a player that will run under the Windows XP OS. The small form-factor computer is a convenient size and it does what all media players should do, it connects to my LAN and works with my Media Center Edition computers. I gained the ability to play video from Netflix, YouTube and the Internet, quite an improvement! The price is higher than the low-end media players and lower than the high-end media players that cannot do as much. I have found the perfect media player for me at the right price.