Sky+ HD 2TB
WD TV Live
Petite but powerful, the WD TV Live offers a rich source of streamed content from iPlayer, Netflix, YouTube and Vimeo. Spotify music is available with a sub. The WD TV Live also plays a huge array of video and audio file formats, whether via USB or the integrated Wi-Fi. It’ll even aggregate downloads and search movie, TV and music databases to create a metadata-rich library. It’s easy to navigate, especially using the WD TV Remote app for iOS and Android. Regardless of its name, there’s no live TV and scant catch-up, but it’s a new web-centric way to watch TV and we like it.
Crystal Acoustic MM-Box 2
If you have no TV tuner and get your entire TV and film fix from internet downloads – avoiding the TV licensing fee – all you need is a file player like the MM-Box2. It’s credit-card sized (not to scale here) and can be stuck to the back of your tellybox. It uses the Realtek 1055 chipset to play any video file format with ease, also delivering full 5.1 audio. Photo and music formats play without hassle too. Oddly there’s no built-in Wi-Fi, or even an ethernet connection, so you’ll have to stock up on USB sticks and SD cards. Maybe not ideal for the family lounge, but a handy addition to your existing telly setup.
Price: £55 | Crystal Audio
We haven’t heard much from Freesat lately but now it’s back and taking on YouView with its own smart TV guide, Freetime. Much like Lord Sugar’s old pet project, Freetime is a backwards-looking seven-day EPG. BBC iPlayer and ITV Player also come out of the box with 4oD and Demand 5 coming soon. Under the hood is a 500GB hard drive (£279 for 1TB version). Local and network file support is excellent, covering all popular file types – MP3s even play with album art. Flickr and Picasa take care of your web-based photographs. However, with all the plus points comes an overly buggy interface. Displeasing.
This box of tricks is a Blu-ray player/recorder and Freeview HD PVR all-in-one, with a whopping 1TB hard drive for storing up to 259 hours of HD telly. On-demand services are well-catered for, with BBC iPlayer, YouTube and Netflix pre-loaded. Like many modern PVRs, there’s built-in Wi-Fi for streaming files – most popular codecs are supported – from a computer, but it’s not particularly robust at connecting over Wi-Fi. The BWT720 isn’t self explanatory out of the box either, but put in the necessary effort learning its nuances and you’ve got a multi-faceted do-it-all TV wonder box.
Pure Avalon 300R Connect
A no-nonsense, 1TB Freeview HD, dual-tuner PVR, infinitely improved by Pure’s simplified, easy to navigate, eight-day EPG and user interface. The PowerVR graphics engine provides channel transition effects and animated menus that will impress visitors, but aren’t too gimmicky. In fact, it’s great fun to use. However, for all its flash, the 300R is light on catch-up – there’s only YouTube and BBC iPlayer at present. It’s keen to direct attention to its music services instead. There’s access to web radio and, with a Pure Connect sub (£4.99 a month), an on-demand music library. Video file playback is excellent