Friday I purchased the Sony SMP-N100 digital media player at Best Buy. On Sunday I returned it to the same Best Buy. Normally I like to give a product a fair shake and rarely do I give up on one so quickly, but those product had so many issues, I found it unacceptable.
Originally I had planned to get the Western Digital WD TV Live Plus. It was recommended by a co-worker as what he used to stream all his DVDs to his TV. He told me that he had taken his and his wife’s DVD collection and transferred (ripped) the contents to an external hd and could stream the contents with this WD TV to his television. This eliminated the need to maintain and care for hundreds of DVD in a house with six children. This appealed to me greatly because I am always concerned about the ever-growing collection of DVD’s I have.
So off to Best Buy I went.
When I arrived they only had two options in the TV/Video section: the WD TV Live Plus hub (which is similar to the WD TV Live Plus but also contains a built-in 1 TB drive) and the Sony SMP-N100. The Western Digital device was priced at $169, which put it out of my price range for this project (for only having 1 TB of storage. If it had had 2 TB, I would have found this acceptable, but I also wasn’t thrilled at the idea of having the media and the streaming device in the same physical box.)
So I quickly eliminated the WD Live hub, but I didn’t see any of the WD TV Live Plus devices that were advertised on the Best Buy website. So I asked the sales guy if the had any and he went off to check. Meanwhile I looked at the Sony SMP-N100.
This was an impressive device: dozens of internet streaming channels (including such notable winners as Crackle, Netflix, Pandora, and Hulu Plus), the ability to stream content from various sources (such as attached storage, network share, PC hard drive), and an iPhone app…well, this was the one for me! And all for $69…$30 less than the WD TV box. By the time the guy had returned with the WD TV I was sold on the Sony device.
I purchased the item and hurried home. I unboxed the device. It was very sleek and sexy in the traditional Sony way. The device had three outputs: HDMI, Composite, and Component Video. I chose to use the component video because 1) I had no HDMI ports left and 2) I forgot to buy a Composite cable.
I hooked it up to the television and fired it up.
I’m not go into the details, but let’s just say the wifi capabilities of this thing are about useless. Don’t even bother. If you are still planning to purchase this device after reading this review, please make sure you have a ethernet cable ready and don’t even bother with the wifi.
Once I connected it to the ethernet, and after two rounds of updates, it was ready to go. The first thing I did was went to the internet streaming section to see what channels were available. The channels are part of the Sony Entertainment Network. I was interested in many of the ones listed on the box, but much to my dismay many of the channels were not available any longer. Not a deal breaker, but still a disappointment.
Then I started checking out the RSS feed feeds that it had. Many of these feeds I was familiar with and knew that many of them had been cancelled already. I was starting to become dismayed at the shrinking features of the device.
I activated the Netflix and it worked pretty well. The picture was good and it was easy to navigate and search for movies. I was pleased with this aspect of the device.
I decided next to focus on the streaming features of the device, specifically streaming from a attached storage device. The list of possible formats was quite large including DivX, DivX HD, WMV, MKV, and MP4. Yet despite all these possible formats, I could not rip and encode any DVD with any product that would play back properly on the SMP-N100. The best I could get with any commercial ripper I tried on PC or Mac was to get the audio to play.
After numerous hours and dozens of failed attempts at creating a video file that could be played on the SMP-N100, I gave up. It didn’t seem to matter what setting I tried, what software I ripper the DVD’s with, or what data source I used the movie would not stream. I also tried both DNLA and non-DNLA data sources to no avail. (Note: the only data source I did not try was a DLNA network share on a workgroup PC because, well, I did not have one, although I have a hunch this would have worked. Every technical document and forum post I read seemed to point in this direction
After about twelve hours I gave up and packed the device up and got it ready to send back. The combination of difficulty of getting a movie to play and the reduction in features from those advertised made this a pointless endeavor. The SMP-N100 is an embarrassment to Sony.
I went back to Best Buy to return the SMP-100 and get the WD TV Live Plus.