Many of mankind’s innovations through history are a reflection of our tireless striving for greater comfort. Some smart (and lazy) person figured out long ago that, instead of carrying stuff on our shoulders, it would be better if we had a mechanism that could do it for us. Another idle person realized that the ancient pleasure of sitting down and staring at a wall would be much more enjoyable if there was actually something on the wall to watch, and, hence, the television was invented in the 20th century. One of the more recent developments in our search for maximum comfort is the emergence of the "media player." With the spread of the Internet, smart phones, and increasingly powerful tablet computers, people have grown accustomed to the idea of digital entertainment being as readily available as the air that we breath. Instead of having to switch between separate devices for playing music, viewing photos, watching movies, and surfing the web, the TV media player allows us to sit tight in our living room and enjoy all types of entertainment, using only one single versatile device. This guide presents eight reasons to invest in a media player for TV.
What is a Media Player?
A TV media player is the perfect storm of several different devices combined into one compact unit. A media player is either a stand-alone or built-in device that lets the user browse between different media types and play them all on a regular TV. It is common to distinguish between two types of media player. The first type plays local media files stored on the device. The second type can access a local network or the Internet to stream content from the Internet.
Reason 1: Video-On-Demand Services are Great
Older readers of this guide will remember the days when anticipating the next episode of a favorite TV show lasted a whole week or more. MacGyver’s next escape from an impossible trap and Columbo’s next solution of a complex murder were completely in the hands of omnipotent TV networks. Luckily, those days are over. In recent years, video-on-demand services have seen a dramatic rise in popularity, with more and more people discovering the ease and convenience with which TV episodes and movies can be streamed. By investing in a media player capable of connecting to the Internet, one can connect to any the video-on-demand services available online. These services let users rent a movie or episode for one or two days, during which they can be streamed directly through the media player as many times as the user likes. This way, there is no longer any point in waiting for days, sometimes weeks, for a new episode or favorite movie to air. Simply pick a suitable time, turn on the media player, sit back, and enjoy.
Reason 2: Because it’s Simple
At this point, some readers may be asking what’s wrong with simply plugging in a laptop or PC to the TV? This is certainly an option, but compared to using a media player, it is often a less convenient and more complicated approach. Cables are usually not part of the typical living room decor, and are often hidden to the greatest extent possible. But connecting a PC to the TV involves more extensive wiring than simply plugging in a discreet media player designed specifically for that purpose. Connecting a PC to the TV often looks "sloppy," and is seldom a setup that people find appealing over the long run. It’s a bit like rolling out an extra bed for a guest; useful for the duration of the visit, but hardly a permanent solution. Another drawback to connecting a PC to the TV is that navigation can become a frustrating matter. In order to change movies or load another episode, one has to use the computer mouse and operating system, browsing through folders and files as if sitting by a work station. In a media player, all features are easily managed using a single remote control, avoiding the hassle of having to switch between the computer and TV, which can easily distract from that cosy "movie time ambience" that viewers like.
Reason 3: Because it’s Practical
"But what if I prefer watching files that I store locally on my PC, and don’t want to transfer them all to the media player hard drive?" you may ask. The beauty of the network enabled media player is that it can access the files stored on an external device. Instead of bringing the PC to the same room as the TV, it is not difficult to establish a wireless connection between the media player and external storage unit, and navigate between the local files as if they were contained on the media player itself. Another option is to store the movies or episodes on a flash drive or external hard drive and plug them into the media player. So even people who want to watch the movies stored on a laptop need not physically bring the computer to the TV, but can access them in a much simpler way, via the media player.
Reason 4: Because it Makes Space
There was a time when people dedicated whole sections of the living room to display their collection of CDs and DVDs. Alternatively, particularly in households with children, the living room became a storage room in itself, with plastic discs spread out all over the place. Thanks to the introduction of the media player, the CD/DVD shelf can be taken down to make room for something else. Whole libraries of different media, be it music, videos, or photos, are stored locally on the media player itself or on a PC that connects to it wirelessly. Instead of getting up and walking across the room to change discs, all one must do is push a button on the remote control. And where the CD shelf used to be, you can now install a cool minibar.
Reason 5: Because it’s Better
Unlike a PC or laptop, the media player was designed specifically to play back different types of media. Therefore, it is usually more powerful in terms of how it decodes video and sound, resulting in much improved performance over simply connecting a computer to the TV.
Reason 6: Because it’s Versatile
In addition to the most obvious usage of a media player (i.e. playing videos), media players are also designed to play back music, display photos, and even surf the web. Having a media player connected to the TV turns the television into an all-purpose station. What better way to enjoy photographs with family or friends than to gather around the big screen while sitting comfortably on the couch? The media player eliminates the need to pass around a smartphone from one person to the next, or to cram everyone around a tiny laptop to view holiday photos. Also, wouldn’t it be great to have an instant messenger program or email client running in the background while watching TV? It is often useful to stay connected to the outside world, even when absorbed in the world of drama, music, or sports.
Reason 7: Because it’s Discreet
Media players are usually designed to blend well into the overall decor of a living room. Most of the time, people do not want their hi-tech gadgets to make sounds, produce blinking lights, or assert their existence at all. They are supposed to just sit there, quietly doing their job. Media players excel at this. Not only are they compact and easy to fit into even the smallest space, but they draw little energy and operate in relative silence. This way, when Charlton Heston screams in despair at the end of "Planet of the Apes," there is no blinking blue light in the corner of the eye, nor any hissing mechanical sound from beneath the TV stand, to distract from the intensity of the scene.
Reason 8: Because it’s Affordable
Despite all the amazing functionality of a TV media player, they are usually not very expensive. Prices do, of course, vary depending on the make and model, but even buyers without a lot of money to spend can find a media player that fits their budget.
Selecting a Media Player for TV
The following sections discuss several factors to consider when deciding which media player to buy.
Supported File Formats
One important thing to check when buying a media player is that it supports the file formats one intends to play back. Most players are very versatile and are designed to play back a wide range of formats, but it never hurts to double-check. Movies are typically in .avi, .mov, or .mp4 format, while audio formats include .mp3, .wav., and .flac.
As mentioned earlier, media players are often divided into those that connect to a network and those that store files locally. If it is important to be able to stream media online (i.e. renting movies from Netflix or another video-on-demand service), the media player needs to be able to connect to the Internet. Also, it is important to check that the media player is compatible with the particular video-on-demand service one has in mind. In addition, there needs to be a high-speed Internet connection to accommodate the streaming data. If the media player will be used mainly for playing local files, it may not be necessary to get one with networking capabilities.
Usability and Features
Media players vary in the level of control they grant the user over playback settings, storage settings, etc. To some people, it is important to get a player with many such control features, while others may be satisfied with more basic functions such as "Play," "Pause," and "Stop." Depending on the number of control features, and the complexity of the player in general, prices may vary between models.
Stand-Alone or Built-In
In case one is interested in getting a completely new television set, it may be worth considering purchasing a "smart TV," equipped with a built-in media player. Such built-in players have the same functionality as stand-alone players, but take up no additional space. However, stand-alone players allow the user to easily upgrade to a more advanced model later, without having to buy a new TV.
Purchasing a Media Player for TV on eBay
Media players for TV are widely available in consumer electronic stores or computer stores. Depending on the make and model, prices may vary from very affordable to more expensive. Another great source to buy a media player for TV is at one of the many marketplaces available online. eBay, for instance, has hundreds of listings for media players in all shapes and sizes, including ones with networking capabilities.
Finding Media Players for TV on eBay
- Go to the main page and locate the category for TV,Video & Audio. From there, you will be able to browse all things TV related.
- Type "media player" (without quotation marks) into the search box and click the Search button to receive thousands of results.
- If you know what type of media player you need, add a "+" followed by the item you are looking for (e.g. "network," or "hard drive") into the search box.
- Another category where you will find hundreds of listings for media players is the Electronics section, under the subcategory called Consumer Electronics. Use the same search commands as described above, or simply browse through the listings to find the right media player for you.
- When conducting keyword searches, click "Search title and description" to expand your results.
Finally, visit eBay's Search Tips page for more information on how to search for media players with keywords.
Perhaps the most comfortable innovation invented by man in recent years is the media player for TV. Rather than having to switch between the TV, the DVD player, the CD player, and the camera for viewing different types of media, the media player lets us access our whole library of movies, TV episodes, songs, and photographs with the click of a button. Some media players come with a hard drive on which to store files locally, while others are able to connect to a local network or the Internet to stream media not stored on the player itself, such as video-on-demand content. Media players are easy to use, practical to set up, aesthetically pleasing to the eye, versatile, powerful, and often affordable. The reasons to invest in one are many, and hopefully this guide has highlighted a few of the more important. Readers who have decided to buy a media player for their TV should visit a local consumer electronics store or shop online at one of the many virtual marketplaces like eBay. When buying a media player, consider factors such as which file formats it supports, whether it has networking capabilities, and how many features it comes with. Some people may even want to consider getting a new TV, in which case there is the option to buy a built-in media player.