I’ll update this page as I experiment with new options.
I’m not going to list every media client and internet appliance — just the ones I have experience with or interest in. For an overview of the set top box market place, watch this video and check out these slides.
Game Consoles: Chances are you have one or more of the current generation game consoles in your home. All of these stream Hulu Plus, Netfliux, and Playon. The PS3 and Xbox also stream Amazon Instant Video, Crackle, TVersity, and Vudu as well.
Dedicated Boxes: For streaming of internet TV, there is only really one choice — Roku. The $50 Roku boxes stream some Roku channels in HD plus a lot of other stuff including Playon, and Plex. Click the link below to get a $5 discount on a Roku…
I give an honorable mention to the $50 Sony Media Players (SMP-N200) which stream a lot of channels including Amazon Instant Video, Crackle, Hulu Plus, Netflix, Vudu, and much more. No Playon or extensibility, but amazing hardware and terrific handling of USB connected media.
Servers are software that streams your online shows, movies, and home media files from a host PC to TVs, smart phones, tablets, game consoles, and other devices.
Playon is a commercial server that aggregates content from web sites using ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’ plugins and scripts. A free version streams your media and provides access to HBO Go. See the full list of channels here. Playon channels are, for the most part, aggregators of files posted to internet servers. The Food Network, for instance, is a bunch of episodes or programs that are on the Food Network rather than a continuous stream of programming.
Playon supports a wide variety of devices including all three game consoles, iStuff, and the Roku. See the complete list of supported devices here.
One of the things I like about Playon is that I can use it to watch TV on my Kindle Fire. To do this, simply open the silk browser, disable accelerated browsing (tap the menu button, tap Settings, toggle Accelerate Page Loading to off), then browse to http://m.playon.tv.
Plex is an open source server that aggregates content from web sites using ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’ apps. Plex server is free. Plex streams at up to 1080p (vs 480p for Playon). Plex organizes local media as ‘posters’ adding an image, duration, and a description — if available — automatically. So, Plex is a free server that supports a lot of clients including my Kindle Fires, Rokus, and PCs at high resolutions. And there are channels — official and unofficial — including Amazon Instant Video, Hulu, and Netflix.
What’s not to like? While the Plex server is free, the clients are not. It costs $5 for the Kindle Fire app and $3 for the Windows 8 app. There are a lot of channels, but not all work. I couldn’t add Netflix credentials and Hulu sputtered when anything at all happened.
I have both Playon and Plex installed on my media server. As far as I can tell, there is no conflict. I have both channels installed on my Rokus. We enjoy a lot of online content via Playon which is not available via Roku channels or Plex, use Roku channels when possible (and free), and play local media and some channels using the Plex server.