So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Sony USB Media Player (SMPU10)
A budget Sony media streamer that does the basics well
- Affordable price tag, reliable video performance, high-quality remote control
- Limited functionality, only one USB port
The Sony USB Media Player (SMPU10) is pretty light on features -- but it's also light on your wallet. If you require an affordable way to watch PC content on your television, it will get the job done with aplomb.
Price$ 129.00 (AUD)
Sony's USB Media Player (SMPU10) is the company's belated answer to the Western Digital WDTV. It allows you to quickly and easily transfer digital media files — such as music, movies, photos and camcorder footage — from your PC's hard drive to a TV. Essentially, it provides a quick, fuss-free way to watch stored media in the comfort of your living room (or wherever your television happens to be situated). You don’t even need to connect the device to a computer to get started. As with most media streamers, it has the ability to play Full HD 1080p video via HDMI.
With an RRP of $129, the Sony USB Media Player is one of the cheapest HD media streamers on the market — including budget models from lesser-known brands. However, Sony has made some notable omissions to keep the price down, including inbuilt Wi-Fi and Ethernet. If you’re looking for a way to stream content across your home network, the Sony USB Media Player is not for you. It’s also a bit bland looking — especially for a Sony product. On the other hand, if you merely want a cheap media streamer that can do the basics, the Sony USB Media Player is a reliable choice.
The Sony USB Media Player connects to your television via composite video, component (RGB) or HDMI. A composite cord is included in the sales package, but you’ll need to source the other cables yourself. Instead of inbuilt memory, the player relies on a single USB port for storage. This will recognise practically any USB device you care to insert, including SD memory card readers and flash-based thumb drives.
To get started, all you need to do is connect the Sony USB Media Player to your TV with a storage device attached: it’s then a simple matter of choosing the files you want to watch from the relevant folder.
The first thing that impressed us about the Sony USB Media Player is the included remote control. Both chunky and highly responsive, it puts the WDTV’s tiny rubbery offering to shame. The menus, however, are decidedly less impressive, consisting of spindly text on an ugly white background.
We were also a little disappointed by the lack of a second USB port — most media streamers, including budget models like the Noontec Moviedock A6 and Xtreamer Xtreamer come with a pair of USB inputs. As mentioned, Ethernet and Wi-Fi are also absent, which means there’s no way to connect the device to your network. That said, the player's target audience is unlikely to be computer savvy, so the lack of networking features probably won't be missed.
When it comes to design, the Sony USB Media Player is curiously pedestrian for a Sony-branded product. It’s basically a plain black oblong with a few blue indicator lights: ho-hum. By contrast, Western Digital's WD TV is small and intriguingly shaped. This is one area where we thought Sony would come up trumps (presumably the design team was too busy working on Vaio notebooks). On the plus side, the Sony USB Media Player is thin enough to slot away from view.
We experienced no glaring issues with picture and sound quality during testing. The player outputs at 1080p and upscales standard-definition video to Full HD when connected via HDMI. We tested a variety of different codecs and did not encounter any skipped frames or unexpected glitches. Audio also remained in synch. For photo viewing, the Sony USB Media Player offers a slideshow mode complete with transition wipes and a maudlin piano ditty that is guaranteed to drive you up the wall within 12 seconds (thankfully, this feature can be switched off).
The list of compatible playback formats is large — but far from exhaustive. DivX, MP3, WMA, LPCM, AAC, MPEG-1, MPEG-4 and JPEG files are all supported.
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