Multimedia players in a smart home

This article is about how, where and what devices we play videos on. Let’s take a look at the possibilities. My aim is to review arguments both for and against the different options.

In 2017 breaking news was that the screen of Apple IOS tokens can be mirrored to the Microsoft Xbox One player with Airplay technology. Getting really excited about that I reviewed the number of different devices we use for playing videos. This article is about how, where and what devices we play videos on. Let’s take a look at the possibilities. My aim is to review arguments both for and against the different options.

Traditional CD/DVD/Blue ray disc player

We don’t own this type of device as it is quite out-of-date.

Pros:

  • it can be indispensable hardware for old collections

Against:

  • we watch most films and series streamed on the internet or local network. We don’t use disks.

Xbox One / or other gaming console

Pros:

  • it is a type of game player which can also function as a CD/DVD/Blue ray player if necessary.
  • there is Netflix application on it with which online films are available.
  • it has a DNLA compatible video player that can play films from local networks.
  • it has an Airplay server application to mirror the screen content of iOS devices. Therefore films and videos purchased in iTunes Store can also be watched on ”Xbox”.
  • it has got Youtube which functions as an infinite tv channel for kids as well. We mainly look for videos on interesting topics: it may be a funny video or a short documentary on animals.

Cons:

  • it is slightly more difficult to manage than a remote control so it is a challenge for grandparents. They also dislike a simple remote control.
  • the codec base is not complete, that is why it cannot manage to play local films with certain coding.

Smart TV (we own a Samsung one)

Pros:

  • it has a smart tv centre that contains DNLA player and Youtube.

Cons:

  • the codec base is not complete, that is why it does not manage to play local films with some types of coding.
  • I have experience of a couple of smart TV generations but I am sure that the developers hardly ever use them in their homes. The ones I have seen are complicated and clumsy to navigate. Consequently, they are not grandparent friendly.

Apple TV

Pros:

  • series/films purchased on iTunes can be immediately streamed contrary to phones or tablets.
  • It mirrors phone and tablet screen content

Cons:

  • it cannot be used for anything else and it is not worth using it in the future just for streaming purposes.

Telephone or tablet + HDMI adapter

Pros:

  • there is no codec problem once the compatible software is installed.
  • not only video but any screen content can be mirrored on the TV screen (e.g.: games)

Cons:

  • the capacity of the battery is a question
  • it is not easy to find the adequate/compatible video player software. Unfortunately the processor or the bandwidth is not often enough for consistent HD/4K streaming. We use Airplay software and the Synology NAS video player software on iOS devices in turns/alternately.

Boxes specially used for playing videos

We have been using the PopcornHour products for a long time to our great satisfaction.

Pros:

  • I have never encountered a film which it wouldn’t play consistently.

Cons:

  • other functions are annoyingly difficult to use.
  • software updates aren’t frequent

How to control all these boxes?

I am keen on the product of Logitech Harmony Hub for two reasons.

  • Firstly, it meets my big wish, that is, it solves the all-in-one problem of different remotes.
  • Though it is much more convenient to use its own remote, it also has software that can be installed to your phone.

The result is that there is a box installed next to your device and after being programmed it can control all devices with media functions with one single remote control. The connection between your smart home is through an infra gate: if you activate the movie function in your living room, Logitech Hub informs smart home through the infra gate to adjust lightning to the function.

Conclusion: what would I buy today?

Xbox One or other gaming console is the perfect choice if you also use it for playing. If not, the best option is a smart TV with a great menu (you should try it out in the shop!) Other gadgets are becoming less and less useful.

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