Sony Network Media Player SMP-N200 Review

Everyone is always talking about streaming content like Netflix, or Hulu, and who wouldn’t enjoy those features along with the ability to stream content from your home network on your TV wirelessly?  This is where the Sony Network Media Player (SMP-N200) comes into play.  It has the ability to stream your home network content to your big screen TV plus get other great content like Netflix and Hulu Plus.

The Sony SMP-N200 also has the ability to stream 3D content to your 3D enabled TV.  How does this device stack up with the competition?  Is the quality affected in any way with the wireless streaming?  Can it stream content from my Seagate GoFlex Home Network to my TV like I have been looking for?  We will answer all these questions and more in this review of the SMP-N200 from Sony.

Setting up

So after I do my unboxing of the device and see just how compact this device is do I then fully wonder can it do all that it claims to do?  So I plugged in the HDMI cable and turned it on and went through the initial setup and within minutes I was riding along the SMP-N200 highway.  Which is quite easy to navigate I must say.

Going through the selections you get your options of photos, music, movies, network and Sony’s Entertainment Network.  With the music selection you get a few sub menu’s to choose from -your own home network, Music Unlimited, Slack, Pandora Internet Radio, Berliner Philhamoniker, Lollapalooza Radio, National Public Radio and Moshcam.  Selecting one of those will send you to that apps program and you are off and running listening to music.  Some of these services do require a subscription so just be looking out for that.

In the Video category you get another slew of sub-menus to choose from besides your own home network, you have Video Unlimited (which is just like Music Unlimited just in movie version), Amazon Video on Demand, Hulu Plus, Netflix, VUDU, NHL Vault, YouTube, blip.tv, Crackle (which does have a fine selection of Godzilla movies…BONUS!), 3D Experience, SnagFilms, Dr. Oz, Yoga, Billabong, XOS College Sports, Wired, Epicurios.com, Concierge.com, CinemaNow, Style.com, Michael Jackson, Inside Sony Pictures, and so much more I don’t want to list.

Needless to say you are covered for any type of entertainment you are looking for.  One added bonus I enjoyed with my home network streaming to my TV.  It would play the programs I have on my network one after the other after the other.  However sometimes it would get stuck and need to restart but that is a rare occurrence it didn’t seem to be an overwhelming problem.

With the Network option you have an Internet Browser to surf the web, activate enhanced features and extended service plans.  The browser is ok at best with the lack of a physical keyboard and you have to click the keypad to get to a destination, then the browser would sometimes not be able to detect your wireless internet, even if you were just watching a movie on Netflix, the browser just wouldn’t be able to connect.  It was a pain in the butt from time to time so I just never dealt with it much after the first couple of attempts.

The Sony Entertainment Network is just the shortcut to the Music and Video Network which is subscription based.  You can connect the SMP-N200 to older TV sets that don’t have HDMI with either VCA cables or Component Video connection, so even older TV’s can get in on the act.  You can connect your SMP-N200 to the internet via a wireless connection (b/g/n) or via an ethernet port in the back of the box.

Time to sit back and enjoy

I was shocked at the plethora of material you have access to and just how much Sony crammed into this box for your entertainment and at a very reasonable cost.  This device really is a party in a box.  The layout and UI is simple at times a bit frustrating.  Everything you want to find is simply a few clicks away.  From here you can access the Movie categories and if need be you can switch back to the home screen and throw on some tunes in mere seconds.

The picture quality is superb as it broadcasts in HD and the one fun thing I enjoyed was that if my TV was off, as soon I a powered up the SMP-N200 it also turned on my TV and had it jump to the proper input selection.  This feature makes it very handy anytime you want to jump right into a movie or a television show.  This also happens anytime you turn on the SMP-N200 even if you are already watching a program on TV it jumps right into the home screen.

Boot up time is in mere seconds as it doesn’t really have that much software to launch, so that makes getting ready for a good night of entertainment a breeze.  Inputting a search option is a bit of a process as there is no physical keyboard to use just the on-screen display.

A Look at the Services

Netflix-Yes Netflix runs here but the UI is awful.  The selection boxes are very small and it doesn’t use your TV real estate very well.  While Sony was boasting of 1080P I found out that it really only streams at 720P without surround sound or closed caption options.  No word on when Sony will update that little feature.

Hulu Plus – Seemed really stripped down and in basic form is a bit difficult to navigate.  Plus the crazy amount of commercials makes it very distracting to the user.

Amazon Video on Demand – The layout of this service is fantastic.  Selections are bigger and easier to see to select from.  A good cross section of both movies and TV shows in renting options.  They say you are renting in HD and that means 720P as is usual for Amazon streaming devices.

Vudu – Now loading Vudu you have one of the best looking UI I have seen for this device.  Nice big selections and details on how to rent or OWN the movie and the price along with it.  You select the movie to get more information and you get a Rotten Tomatoes meter, what other Vudu community members thought of the movie, a price box for HDX (1080p), HD (720P) and SD (480p),Rent and Own options, cast and crew options, and just a slew of information for you to digest.  Really nice layout for this service.

Those are some of the major video services the SMP-N200 has to offer.  There are others but I don’t want to go on and on and on about all of them.  Got to leave you something to be desired and explore.  The music playback option was simple and easy as it read my iTunes library (those that are DRM free of course) and never had a hiccup.  The music service like Pandora, Slacker and NPR, all worked flawlessly.  Good selection of music to choose from great for a fun evening.

 

Overall and Results

Sony’s SMP-N200 uses the familiar XMB interface and while at first it was a bit hard to understand given some time it became second nature.  With the plethora of video services available to you some at a price and others that are for free the Sony SMP-N200 is easily one of the best options available on the market to stream content from the internet onto your TV.  With the extra option of being able to stream local content on your home network really was a bright spot to me when reviewing this unit.

Some disappointing things is as follows, lack of physical keyboard to search makes searching a pain, the web browser is beyond weak sauce, even though it says it will stream 1080P Netflix only comes in at 720P without a word from Sony on when to expect the upgrade.  Every once in a while the box will freeze up and a restart is needed and it can come at a time when you don’t want it to happen.

Pros

  • Tons of streaming content
  • Great selections of movies
  • Quick start up
  • Easy installation

Cons

  • Lack of 1080P for some video services
  • Poor keyboard for searching
  • Content freezes from time to time
  • Not all video formats are supported

With that being said and the calculations are completed we go to the Kyle Scientific Scale-o-Rama we go to our sliding scale of Buy It, Flip It, or Skip It.  Sony’s SMP-N200 is a solid entertainment streaming media device that is more than capable of handling your needs.  It may not be as flashy as the AppleTV but if you are looking for a device to stream your local content to your TV plus have the option of moving it around from TV to TV to suit your needs then this is the device for you.  So the end result is that the Sony Network Media Player (SMP-N200) is a solid BUY IT.  It costs $99 but is currently on sale for $69 on Sony’s website you can find it here and get even more information about this device.

 

Article first published as Sony Network Media Player (SMP-N200) Review on Technorati.

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