by Greg King on March 21, 2011 in Audio & Media
Among the mass of set-top media players available on the market, can one of the most well-respected electronics companies set itself apart from the crowd? With Sony’s SMP-N100, we aim to find out. On the surface, the device looks similar to others, but inside, Sony’s popular XMB interface awaits, along with powerful wireless capabilities.
Frustration with the app aside, the Sony SMP-N100 is a solid media device. It allows you to leverage your existing content streaming accounts like Netflix and Hulu Plus but also includes the ability to steam your own content across your home network. The inclusion of the XMB interface was a welcome sign and one that I think many will find enjoyable.
Speaking of the XMB, I am reminded every time I turn on the SMP-N100 of my PS3. Owners of the PlayStation might as well skip the SMP-N100 unless they have a need to stream the few file types that the SMP-N100 supports that the PS3 does not. Even then, it’s a matter of connecting a storage device via USB. You still can’t stream those files.
Given my thoughts about the PS3, the SMP-N100 is priced right about where it should be given the features that it brings to the table. You can stream media, connect to your favorite content providers and access the many channels that only Sony can bring you. While those exclusive channels aren’t going to sell any devices by themselves, they do sweeten the deal once you have the SMP-N100 hooked up to your home entertainment center.
There are areas where the SMP-N100 is lacking. It doesn’t allow streaming of .mkv files. It doesn’t use the Netflix and Hulu interface that everyone on the planet is already used to. It costs more than many other comparable devices. All of these areas need to be addressed when you consider your next CE purchase.
As Brett mentioned in his PlayOn!HD review, the AC Ryan device is the only one on the market that allows you to install an internal hard drive and use the streamer as a NAS server. While I don’t hold this against Sony, if you are looking for networkable storage, you need to keep these things in mind.
All in all, the Sony SMP-N100 is a quality product from a company known for its high-quality devices. It’s not a great device, given its shortcomings but it does manage to leave a very good impression on me.
In full disclosure, this review should have been written months ago. I purchased this device before CES (January!) and have been playing around with it ever since. For what it’s worth, I am fortunate that it worked out that way. As I spent more time with the SMP-N100, daily use of the little box slowly rooted out flaws that I otherwise would have glanced over.
As an example, the custom interface for Hulu and Netflix. I can turn on my PS3 and Hulu will look exactly the same as it does when accessing it on the Roku XD. Why in the world Sony chose to go with something custom for the SMP-N100 is beyond me. Maybe it was looking to avoid product sales cannibalization. Whatever the reason, the differences between the two were more than I was willing to deal with and not something that I simply got used to.
I plan to box up the SMP-N100 after this review is published and switch back to the Roku. This isn’t because the SMP-N100 is a bad device. No, far from it. It’s because it lacks the polish and shine of the Roku and other devices. I went into this experience with the hopes of finding the true all-in-one streamer that I have been looking for and I just didn’t find that in the Sony unit. That might not be a fair expectation to start off with but I know where my satisfaction level is and the SMP-N100 fell just short.
Let me stream my .mkv files and we might be onto something. My Samsung television can do that! It does it in a very crude fashion, but it can still do it. All that should be needed is a new software update. Let’s make it happen. And while you’re at it Sony, can we get that on your amazingly capable PS3 as well?
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