522 of 535 people found the following review helpful
While I do like the Sony SMPN200 unit and am very happy with it, I did list some Possible Show Stoppers at the bottom that are worth a quick read. These are some limitations of the product that result in some people returning it. My goal isn't to convince you whether to buy or avoid this product, but instead to provide factual pros and cons so you can make that decision yourself.
The following are my detailed findings and experiences. My intended usage is primarily Hulu Plus and video streaming
from my Windows 7 x64 machine which can include Windows 7 TV recordings (.wtv files), and rips from DVD and BluRay discs which can include .mp4, .m2ts and MPEG file types. My home network is all wired gigabit with Cat6 cable so it is as fast and as stable as you can get. I am not testing the wireless capabilities since I use wired connections, but there are other positive reviews that are based on wireless. I do contrast the unit at times to the WD TV Live since I actually tested both products.
1. Does support Divx after upgrading to the latest firmware that was released on 2011-Nov-30. It even appears on the divxpro10 web site and there are other articles dated November or later documenting that divx is supported and "works perfectly". The reviewers that dinged the unit for lacking this capability were testing the unit before this firmware was available. I don't normally use Divx, and this codec has had many flavors over the years, but as a test I downloaded two .AVI movies (Time Changer and Grandmas Boy) from a site called divxcrawler and both of these played perfectly for me from an attached USB drive and when streamed from my Windows 7 computer. There are also other reviewers stating they play Divx using this device both from USB devices and over DLNA.
2. The popular negative reviewer of this product (who admits they didn't test using DLNA) warns that certain file types and hi-definition files aren't supported over DLNA. This simply isn't true. I have personally tested Bluray quality files (1080p and hi bit rates) using MPEG2, WMV9 and MPEG-4/H.264/AVC codecs. File types I tested with include: mpg, m2ts, mp4, wmv, ts, wtv. If this were an actual limitation of the product I would have given it a single star rating.
3. Supports the Amazon Instant Video service. If you are interested in this service, which is free for Amazon Prime members, then this is a major plus of this unit over the WD TV Live product.
4. Excellent picture quality. It was substantially better than the WD TV Live and probably the biggest factor in my decision to keep this unit over the WD TV Live. (Samsung 40" LED TV and HDMI connection).
5. Handles all file types I tested with ease including 1080p high bit rate videos (up to 24mbps) and hi frame rates (up to 60fps). I could pause, fast forward, reverse, and it would always correctly resume to normal play with no issues. For me, and when used as a network streamer, the WD TV Live had issues with these tests and froze and hung up a few times. Also, the WD TV Live completely chokes on .wts files (Windows 7 TV recordings) and this has been confirmed by other reviewers.
6. Easy setup. Automatically connected and found my Windows Media Center and PlayOn servers.
7. Upgrading firmware was easy, although oddly the unit just shuts down after upgrading instead of restarting which at first made me think something had gone wrong.
8. Supports DTS Audio for streaming video files which the PS3 does not - for example from "passthrough" encoded m2ts Blu-rays files. The PS3 apparently only supports this from an actual Blu-ray disc and not when streaming. Hopefully they will fix that for the PS3.
9. Noiseless since it has no fan like a PS3 or Xbox.
10. Hulu Plus app is actually more advanced than the PS3. When a video queues up it indicates the video bit rate, and exactly how much time before a commercial will start. If you fast forward you can actually see how far you can go before it will force you to watch a commercial. Obviously not "must have" features but pretty cool. Streaming quality is excellent and with surround sound.
11. Contrary to another reviewers claim, the unit does read subfolders on a USB drive. I am able to play videos and music from both the root folder AND from subfolders; however, with a USB connection it will only support 3 subfolders deep which really means you have 4 levels to work with. When using DLNA the limit is 18 subfolders deep. I created 10 subfolder levels as a test on my Windows machine (more levels than I will ever need) and it worked fine with those.
12. The following are the file types are listed in the manual: mpg, mpeg, m2ts, mts, mkv, mp4, m4v, wmv, asf, avi, mp3, m4a, wma, wav. It also plays the following types perfectly for me: wtv, dvr-ms, ts. I tested these types containing hi-def MPEG2 and H.264/MP4 videos.
1. I've seen some critiques that this product doesn't support free Hulu content. NO STREAMING UNIT, TV, TABLET, PHONE OR BLURAY PLAYER SUPPORTS FREE HULU CONTENT. Hulu blocks the free content from everything except a computer browser. Any non-computer device that supports Hulu actually supports HuluPlus which costs $8 a month. This is strictly enforced by Hulu and not any of the device manufacturers. Even if you get a device with a Flash enabled browser (like an Android Phone, PS3, Google TV device like the Logitech Revue, etc) then Hulu will block it from playing videos. So while technically this is a Con, this is also a limitation for ALL other competing devices.
2. A feature that isn't important to me but I have seen WD TV Live fans gripe about: The unit will not attach to Windows shared folders, only to "server" shares like from Windows Media Center, Windows Media Player, PlayOn, Nero Home, Tversity, etc.
3. The Hulu/Netflix interface is getting highly criticized by fans of other products. Instead of showing fewer and larger images with titles directly under each image, there are more smaller images with the text for the selected video shown across the bottom of the screen. I would prefer the interface implemented for the PS3, but my wife actually likes the implementation for the SMPN200 better. Regardless, it is an easy to use interface.
4. I don't know whether to blame this on Nero Recode software or the SMPN200, but it won't play surround-sound-audio for videos created with Nero Recode (versions 10 or 11) that are encoded as H.264 (the most common MP4 codec currently in use). Stereo videos created with Nero Recode play fine such as those that can also play on a phone or tablet. Surround sound videos created with VideoReDo (using the exact same codecs) play perfectly. Also as stated above, it plays surround sound perfectly from m2ts/bluray and DVD files, from Hulu, and from TV recorded with Windows 7, so Nero is doing something that makes its surround sound audio incompatible with the SMPN200.
Possible Show Stoppers:
1. If you have a tiny TV or poor eyesight, then you probably won't find the interfaces for Hulu and Netflix acceptable. Instead of showing fewer and larger images with titles directly under each image, there are more and smaller images with the text for the selected video shown across the bottom of the screen. You would be able to read the text from a distance, but the images would just be useless blurs. I have a 32 inch TV in my bedroom, and a 40 inch TV in the living area, and for both of these the Hulu and Netflix interfaces are fine even when viewed across the room.
2. Apparently there is no subtitle/closed captioning support except for Sony BIVL (Brava Internet Video Link) content, and of course unless subtitle contents are embedded on the video files themselves. If this ever changes with a firmware update I'll change the review accordingly, but if this is an important feature you'll want to skip this product.
3. Is not compatible with streaming videos using PlayOn. It will connect to PlayOn and navigate all menus and video selection lists just fine; however, when you select a video the unit freezes and must be unpluged to recover. I searched the PlayOn forums and found a post describing the exact same behavior. Oddly I have read that the older SMPN100 unit does work with PlayOn.
4. No surround sound from Netflix streaming. The unit does support surround sound, and it supports it for Hulu, but for some reason only stereo from Netflix. There is no way to know if this this will be corrected with a future update from Netflix (yes they provide the client), so if this is a critical factor for you then skip it.
5. No support for ISO files. If you want to copy ISO image files of DVDs/Blurays to a USB hard drive then skip this unit. This would place you in the crowd of users that want to buy a very large dedicated hard drive (since you need 5-to-7GB per DVD and 17-to-50GB per Bluray), and those that buy specialized software that lets you create these files from copy protected DVDs and Blurays. This unit will read and play entire uncompressed DVDs/Blurays copied to a hard drive (such as can be done with products like DVDFab), but not when copied to an ISO image file.
6. Web browser. If you have an expectation of easily searching and surfing the web using a simplistic DVD style remote as though you are in front of a PC with a full-blown keyboard, then skip this unit. If your goal is to play Flash videos using the built in web browser (as opposed to using the built in Hulu and Youtube players) then skip this unit. Also skip the WD TV Live if these are your expectations as it doesn't have a browser at all.
7. With a USB connection it will only support 3 subfolders deep which really means you have 4 levels to work with. If your primary intended usage is a large dedicated USB drive with a large collection of videos organized deeper than 3 subfolder levels then you won't be happy with this unit. The WD TV Live will better suite this type of user. However, if you are sharing/streaming content from a computer then this subfolder limitation doesn't apply. I created 10 subfolder levels as a test on my Windows machine (more levels than I will ever need) and it worked fine with those.
261 of 304 people found the following review helpful
I picked up the Sony SMP-N200 looking to find a good solution for playing local media while also having a good amount of choices for internet streaming as well. I own 3 Roku units right now, and by far they are the best internet streamers out there, but they have a very limited range of codec support so aren't ideal at all for local playback. I also have a WD TV Live Plus, which is terrific for local playback file support, but it's interface is terrible. Other quirks it has left me shopping arou
nd for other alternatives.
In that search I had purchased and returned the Logitech Revue because it was rather cumbersome to use and lacked local playback flexibility. I did really like the Chrome browser so when I saw the introduction of the new Sony also had an internet browser I was sold.
When it arrived it was very easy to set up and get online. I noticed the box is larger than other boxes I had, and the remote was so lite it was almost weightless. I did worry right of the bat that either I would accidentally break it, as it felt more like a toy than a real remote control. Apparently the augmented version of the Xbar UI from the PS3 used in the smp-n100 is unchanged in this new model. It wastes alot of screen real estate and is small enough that unless you're right up on the TV or are using it on a large screen it's difficult to read. This is a criticism that Cnet also gave it in their own review. The Netflix app, which is customized by Sony suffers from the same. Very small cover art and text that is tiring to continuously squint at. The Hulu Plus app works well, but the Amazon Instant Video app has no rhyme or reason to how things are sorted in the Prime Streaming selections that it too was more pain that it was worth to find what you were looking for. The global streaming search function is a great idea, but in my use it only showed matches to queries from its lesser-known streaming channels and none of the main ones.
The unit does include a very nice Vudu app, but for my tastes there really isn't anything coming out now days that I want to spend their high prices to see. Sony Unlimited Movies and Music is also on the box but I didn't bother to try because honestly I didn't want to give Sony my credit card info lol.
Besides the big providers mentioned, the majority of the other streaming channels were basically worthless throwaways that no one would spend any time watching. One "channel" (I can't remember the name) of tech reviews had seven videos of reviews in total of products that were all dated from 2008. Certainly gave me a glimpse at the expected update frequency.. Also, the Bravia Internet selection is not included on this unit, so if that's what you're expecting you will be disappointed.
The local playback was a mixed bag. The box could do DLNA (which I did not try) because I have my media on a small usb hard drive. As a caution to anyone looking for DLNA functionality, the manual does state that there are file types it can not support over DLNA that it will otherwise support over usb such as WMV9 and AVCHD, and it can only play standard definition over DLNA for some other file types as well. You may want to look up the manual on Sony's website to make sure it can handle your particular application.
With USB the first thing I noticed is that because the Sony has no way to mount or unmount the drive, you must plug or unplug any usb attachment while the unit is off. This is highlighted in the user manual as a must in order to avoid corruption of the usb device and/or files on it. Meaning that you can not even change thumbdrives/hard drives unless you power the whole unit off. Curiously, a few times the unit did not recognize at all the same flash drive that had worked previously in it. I was also dismayed to see that the Sony did not support all the .jpg image thumbnails of coverart for the video or audio files, so then every movie was just a default icon.
Furthermore, I found that it would not play many .avi files I had (that would play on the WD) because apparently Sony does not support the divx codec. I did not realize what type of video was in the AVI container files at the time, just that I had files that I wanted to play. It was only upon investigation of the codecs of the files that wouldn't play did I find out the issue. In all fairness, that codec is not listed in the manual as being supported so that one is really my fault for not realizing before I bought. The issue is, one shouldn't have to think about whether the codec in their AVI is compatible or not. If the box says it plays AVIs then many users assume it will play all files that end in ".avi".
As an aside It also does not play DVD ISO files, the primary way that I archived my dvds. I knew that going in, but just in case that is a requirement for the reader I wanted to mention it. I had begun ripping all my DVDs to H.264 MP4 files also so I could watch them on my Roku, and possibly on my iPhone, but I found that to be an arduous and lengthy process. I've also come to the realization that I'm probably never going to sit and watch a 2 hour movie on my phone, and if I do I'll just go to Netflix.
The Opera browser, the biggest reason I went for it over another capable box, is terrible. Navigation with the remote is awkward and cumbersome, and the biggest kicker is that it is not flash capable!?. I was under the assumption that the whole reason for having a browser on your TV is so you could point it at web page video and view it, but apparently that is not the case. I did chat with a Sony support rep and they stated there was not going to be support for a flash plugin.
Even for the core functionality it has, it gets a lot of the small things wrong. All those small things add up to a sizable frustration using the device for the average user. The problem with the Sony is it doesn't do anything particularly well. If you are looking for internet streaming only, local playback only, or both, frankly other boxes can do it much better. The only real thing it has over competing boxes is 3D capability, so if you have a 3D TV or are interested in getting one this is the only option for 3D streaming. Be forewarned though that there really isn't much if anything in 3D available to stream right now.
All in all, if you are looking for a streaming box that lacks any real user-friendliness that includes customized apps like Hulu Plus, Amazon, Netflix, and Vudu, somewhat (but not complete) wide local file support, and a (worthless) browser, well the Sony is the way to go I guess. CNET says of it, "The subpar user interface holds it back as a streamer and it's just OK at handling your own digital media, especially compared with boxes like the WD TV Live or Boxee Box" and I completely agree. Unless you are on a strict budget, I would say skip it and go for another box. In the end you will probably be happier.
Truth be told though, I sent mine back after four days of use and opted for the new WD Live streaming player. It plays just about anything you throw at it with probably the best UI on the market right now, also has built in wireless, and a great selection of streaming services. I couldn't be happier with the WD over the Sony.
Some commenters have expressed their displeasure that I mention that I returned the unit and purchased a competing product, with which I am very happy. They have also felt that I am too harsh and expect too much of the unit for my "unorthodox" uses as well. I will just say that for anyone reading this review, please keep any and all user experiences from product reviews in mind when deciding what is right for you. The best way to make an informed decision on what's right for you is to have all the information you can. No review or experience is "right" or "wrong", take from them what you can and draw your own conclusions. Have a happy new year.
36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
The Sony SMP-N200 seems to perfectly fit what I was looking for in an DLNA streaming device - easy Wifi connection with no lag in streaming, UI that is smooth and not laggy when scrolling through tons of files, something can play various formats without hiccup (Xvid, 264, etc), and it was inexpensive ($70 at time of this review) to boot! It has quite a few bonus features (over requirements at least), such as a plethora of online content such as YouTube, Hulu Plus, Netflix, etc. The most useful f
or me was the Amazon Prime streaming, which wasnt the selling point but is definitely a nice feature that quite a few of similar devices lack.
My main use-case for this device is to stream DLNA content from my NAS to my bedroom TV. I had no need for permanent local HDD storage, and the web-based apps were not my main reasons for buying. I used to use an old Xbox360 till it RRoD'd on me, then I purchased the WDTV Live, but the UI was sluggish, especially when scrolling through tons of files... but the main thing was it failed to stream 80% of the time till I restarted it, even tho it was able to navigate the menus fine. Maybe I had a dud unit, but I was not impressed.. anyway, I searched far and wide for something that would fit my needs perfectly, and have a few extra features as a bonus. The Sony SMP-N200 seemed to be just that, and I'm very glad I took the risk.
The UI on this device is VERY similar (I'd say nearly identical) to the PS3, so if you love/hate that interface, it could be a deciding factor. Personally I find it might be a little smoother scrolling files, but maybe not quite as fast.. so it doesnt 'hang' like the PS3 would sometimes. It has what you'd want for a streaming function, such as decent fast forward/rewind (I didnt encounter any buffering from my NAS, tho Amazon Prime videos took a sec to catch up). When you stop a video it will remember the last location, which is a very good thing (and expected these days)
The N200 also has a USB port that seems to function exactly as I'd expect - you plug it in, it appears in the list, and you can watch videos with ease (like an X360 or PS3 behave). For some reason the WDTV wanted to build up a media library before even letting me watch something off a USB stick, which was beyond annoying. Well enough about that...
The remote is small and easy to use, and I was very pleased to see that it was NOT a bluetooth remote, which meant I could code my Logitech Harmony universal to use with it - which works flawlessly by the way. So I'm a happy camper on that front as well.
A few other side notes: a firmware update applied without any issue, tho I am not sure what it really did to improve anything. The N200 has a nice option for power consumption - you can either have it use a lower power mode but slightly longer boot time when powering on, or a quick boot time that uses slightly more power when turned off. I opted to stick with the lower power/longer boot, and it comes up quick enough for my needs - I usually tend to hit the all-on button on the universal remote, and come back after a half a minute of doing other things while the TV/devices turn on anyway.
I've yet to find a single thing that I dislike about the N200 - which is rare, but my needs/wants for a product like this are perhaps more niche than most. I will update this review if I face any issues.