OT: Some recent (video related) product finds

Started Apr 20, 2012 | Discussions thread
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malch
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OT: Some recent (video related) product finds
Apr 20, 2012

I recently upgraded a television in our bedroom and discovered some products that have simply thrilled me. I though one or two of you folks would find this interesting.

1. First, I added a WD TV Live player. This small (half the size of a WD MyBook disk) but rather ugly box is a real gem. It connects to a HDTV via an HDMI cable. And it connects to your network wirelessly or via an Ethernet cable. It has apps to access a variety of on-line services like Netflix but it can also reach any shared folders on your network.

With shared folders it's darn close to a play anything device; JPEG, MP3, AVI, MKV, MP4 and more. So far, it's played everything I've thrown at it. The quality of the HDMI output is excellent! The user interface is very/simple and intuitive. The supplied remote is a bit naff but I had no problem programming my universal remote to drive the thing.

I got mine for $99 shipped here:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/822481-REG/Western_Digital_WDBHG70000NBK_HESN_TV_LIVE_Streaming_Media.html

2. Next, I wanted to rip a sizable collection of DVD's and place them on the network. I decided to use H.264 encoding in MKV containers and looked for a suitable encoder. After trying a lot of programs that were hard to use and crashed frequently, I discovered VidCoder. It was able to compress several hundred DVD's with no problems at all. It's freeware and a darn good video transcoder with easy to use batch capabilities. This was easily the best of a dozen tools I tried:

http://vidcoder.codeplex.com/

3. Next, I wanted to improve the audio quality from the TV in our bedroom. We have a decent 46 inch Bravia on the wall but the internal speakers were pretty poor. We wanted something a little better without going to a full home theater setup or breaking the bank. I looked at a ton of options ranging in price from $100 to $1000. Even tried a couple at home but returned them for unsatisfactory performance.

Ultimately, I added a Vizio VHT-215 soundbar with wireless sub for $250 from Costco. The audio quality is very decent indeed. Of course, it's not going to hold a candle to a $4000 7.1 setup. But it's a very decent 2.1 system and the audio quality compares well with some $500 systems we looked at. I wall mounted the soundbar and connected to the TV with an optical link. The wireless sub sits in a corner of the room out the way.

It's came with yet another tacky remote but, once again, my Universal had no problem learning the necessary IR commands. It was quick, easy, inexpensive, looks good, and the sound quality exceeds that which I hoped to achieve on a limited budget.

4. Netflix. Their $8/mo unlimited streaming solution is a steal as far as I'm concerned. Obviously, it doesn't have every movie and show that you'd want. And live news and sports are non-existent. But the $8 subscription is just so more palatable than the $80 subscriptions to the cable/satellite vendors!

So there we have what I consider to be four winners that are well worth a close look for anyone that's heading in this direction with their home entertainment.

Together, they mean I have instant access to a lot of media including my large photo collection, a music collection, a bunch of DVD's, and various online services like Netflix and YouTube. All done on a very modest budget.

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