6 of the best media streamers compared

VideoMate T1000W - £179
Manufacturer: Compro
Web: www.comprousa.com

At nigh-on £180 the Compro player is by far the most expensive of the streamers on test, but by the same token it is also the most fully featured.

While there are other devices here that allow you to drop a hard drive inside the machine for some bittorrenting joy and easy video library storage, the T1000W also contains Compro's excellent DVB-T tuner, meaning that you can also record live digital TV too.

It's also capable of both wired and wireless connectivity. Unfortunately, this online connectivity is a little wasted as all it currently offers is a YouTube plug-in and nothing else. We were expecting more to come along in time, but the T1000W has been out long enough for us to suspect there's little in the pipeline.

In local media terms it's fine, with a hugely comprehensive list of compatible formats in both video and audio mode. It's also got a host of input and output options, with 3 USB ports, component HD and HDMI connectors as well as all the audio outputs your amp could wish for.

The GUI is very reminiscent of the PS3's layout, and the bundled remote is thoroughly responsive throughout, but all is far from rosy.

At this sort of price you'd have hoped for a speedier setup time, but it takes an absolute age to boot from a cold start. It also takes a fair while starting up web, local or networked content, which is almost unforgivable. We also had a few issues with some standard subtitle formats, which it purports to support and for this price you'd expect more.

It's a stylish, silent, fairly powerful beast, and could cater for all your media needs, but it might just be a slightly frustrating experience.

Verdict: 83

O!Play Air HDP-R3 - £80
Manufacturer: Asus
Web: uk.asus.com

Asus' new Realtek-powered media box, the bizarrely-named O!Play HDP-R1 is sold as the easiest way to enjoy HD content in the living room and with no setup required aside from choosing the display format and time zone, it's not far from it.

It takes a few seconds to boot into its solid, if visually uninspiring, menu-screen then it's just a question of plugging your media into either the built-in card-reader, USB device or combo eSATA/USB port.

It's got a raft of codecs ready to play too, including the downloader's favourite HD wrapper, .MKV.

The video interface is very neat too, giving a rolling preview by simply highlighting a particular file, and playback is then only a click away and starts up quickly, which is refreshing. For someone into their pretentious foreign subtitled films (like me) the added bonus of .SRT, .SUB, .SMI and .SSA support is fantastic and with the in-video menu-screen you can tweak the subs to your own tastes too.

Network play is less impressive and we had serious problems streaming HD content across a wired network. Sure, it can play all your hi-def, .MKV packed 1080P loveliness without batting an eyelid, off your external hard drive or USB key, but you're going to have difficulty getting it playing smoothly over Ethernet.

The O!Play HDP-R1 isn't going to set the world alight, and I'd rather have some internal storage, but hooked up to a decent NAS device or with a fat USB stick stuck in the side it should fulfil your basic media player needs.

Verdict: 81