If you like the streaming capabilities of Sony Blu-ray players, you’ll love the new SMP-N100 Network Media Player.
CE Pro enjoyed a sneak preview of the player at Sony headquarters in San Diego last week.
This SMP-N100 Netbox has everything the Sony BDP-S570 has, minus the Blu-ray drive and plus the support of additional video formats including DivX and MKV.
And the suggested retail price is only $129, meaning the street price may eventually come in around the $100 mark. That puts the product into contention with other standalone media streamers like those from Roku, Popbox and Western Digital.
For starters, the SMP streams Sony’s full suite of Bravia Internet Video services including Netflix, YouTube, Amazon VoD, Pandora; exclusive channels such as FIFA (back when), Michael Jackson, Dr. Oz and the Berliner Philharmoniker; popular online channels such as Slacker, NPR, Crackle, Wired and Epicurious.com; and Sony’s own Qriocity VoD service that is tied to the PlayStation Network.
Basically, you can get most of the same services offered by the other streaming players, with one glaring exception: There’s no Hulu or Boxee.
That is expected to change this year when Sony releases Hulu Plus to all of its Bravia Internet-enabled displays and players. For now, you can head to the Crackle tab on the Bravia Internet menu and get something pretty good in the interim.
What you won’t see in the N100 is Google TV, says Jeff Muto, product planning manager for Sony’s Home Audio & Video Group.
“It’s not integrated now,” he tells CE Pro. “Their strength is searching the wide-open Internet. In this [N100] case, we’ve packaged the content it for you. … Each of the services looks the same with a consistent UI [user interface].”
Unlike most of the other inexpensive players on the market, the SMP-N100 lets users stream content stored on the home network – not just services from the cloud.
Being a DLNA-compliant client, the unit automatically recognizes any DLNA server on the network, including PCs, NAS devices and more. If you have pictures, music or videos (hopefully of the legally ripped variety) on a DLNA drive at home, you can watch it through the SMP.
Furthermore, a USB port on the unit allows users to instantly access content stored on a USB drive.
Lastly, the N100 has 802.11n wireless technology built in -- no external adapter required.
Given these on-board features, “It does more than Roku" for the price, says Muto
SMP-N100 Connections and Additional Features
SMP-N100 connectivity. The unit features a 10/100 LAN port; composite, component and HDMI outputs; and stereo and digital audio outputs.
Here, Muto grins: “There’s no proprietary [Sony] connection.”
The previous version of the Netbox could be used only with Sony Bravia Internet-enabled TVs.
System control. Obviously, the N100 comes with a handheld IR remote control.
In addition, Sony already has an iPad app for its Bravia Internet service, so you can bet they have it also for the media player.
There is also an Android app, which is especially nice for voice-based search. No, the system is not yet smart enough to enable greater voice-control functionality.
“Right now, there are no playback controls [for voice],” says Muto. “Eventually we would like to be able to say, ‘Play Netflix.’”
Favorites. Sony lets users pare down the 30-plus Bravia Internet offerings via a “Favorites” tab.
Simply press the “favorites” button on the remote (or other controller) to add Netflix or the Spanish station to the page. No, you can’t drill down through the favorites. For example, you can’t bookmark a specific YouTube video.
Things You Can’t Do with N100
Currently, you cannot use the device to:
Perform a universal search of content across online services and local content
Drill down into Netflix (you can only play what’s in your queue)