Tested: the 12 best media players of the moment

The media player function of smart TVs is usually very limited and apps often respond slowly over time. In short, enough reason to play streams and local media files via a remote device. Media players are now available in all shapes and sizes. Which product offers the most possibilities at an attractive price? We compared the 13 best media players of the moment.

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The market for media players can currently be roughly divided into two groups. For example, there are devices that mainly focus on offering streaming services. Examples include the Google Chromecast, Apple TV and Humax TV+ H3. In addition, there are also media players that give priority to the playback of their own media files. Think, for example, of the countless Android players with Kodi and the media boxes with their own developed Linux interface. The challenge is to find a device that masters both tricks flawlessly. In this test we are therefore looking for the best of both worlds. And preferably also with Ultra HD support, so that the player is future-proof.

Netflix

Broad support for streaming services is nice on a media player. Netflix in a decent resolution in particular is a big plus, since a quarter of all Dutch households have a subscription with this provider. Incidentally, there is a lot of frustration with many media player manufacturers. Although most hardware is fine for Netflix, the Americans are not exactly generous with licenses. In fact, the story goes that Netflix does not want to do business with Chinese companies at all. Many Android players can therefore only offer an app from the Play Store with a maximum resolution of 480p. Fortunately, there are also exceptions!

Test procedure

We subject every media player to a thorough test. We first check whether the build quality of the device is in proportion to the requested price. We also release countless audio and video codecs on the media player and check whether the device is failing somewhere. Especially the mkv container in combination with the h.264 codec is common in download networks. We also check whether original Blu-ray rips, DVD rips, ISO images and avi files are played. Of course we also present the player with modern h.265/hevc files in a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels. We also include the range of streaming services in our assessment. In addition to Netflix and YouTube, we mainly focus on Dutch services. Finally, we also take a close look at the controls, because of course you want as much ease of use as possible as a media fan.

Apple TV 4

There are few connections on the Apple TV: the device only contains an HDMI 1.4 output, an Ethernet and a USB-C port for factory purposes. So you can't connect an external hard drive with movie files via USB. The Apple TV therefore mainly functions as a streamer. The stylish remote control has only a few buttons and it actually works nicely. A touchpad is also available for accurate navigation. From the main menu you can access the iTunes library, but you can also install additional apps. The most interesting provider is Netflix, where you can watch movies and series in full HD. We also see apps from NOS, YouTube and Knippr to receive live channels.

Well-known names such as NPO Missed, KIJK, RTL XL and Videoland are missing, which means that the use of the Apple TV for the Dutch market is rather limited. However, there are a striking number of games available. Owners of an iPhone or iPad can optionally display videos and photos directly on a television. A nice extra is that the Apple TV supports Siri, so that you can search for a movie via voice commands, for example. That works very well in practice. It is sloppy that Apple does not include an HDMI cable. The storage capacity of the tested product is 64 GB, but for 179 euros you can also purchase a copy with 32 GB of storage.

Apple TV 4

Price

€ 229,-

Website

www.apple.nl 6 Score 60

  • Pros
  • Strong housing
  • Netflix in full hd
  • User friendly
  • Negatives
  • No USB ports
  • Not suitable for downloads
  • Few Dutch apps

Google Chromecast Ultra

With the new Chromecast Ultra, Google is building on its easy-to-use cast solutions. The Ultra version costs more than twice as much as the regular Chromecast. The round box has a slightly different design than the regular version, but the operation is the same. You connect the player to an HDMI port on the television or receiver, after which you can control the Chromecast from a smartphone or tablet. For example, as soon as you indicate on a mobile device that you want to watch Netflix, the Chromecast will automatically download the required stream. With the regular Chromecast, it is important to arrange sufficient WiFi coverage for this, but the Ultra version does not have this limitation. The power adapter contains an Ethernet connection.

Since the Ultra can process 4K images, a wired connection (because of the extra bandwidth) is not an unnecessary luxury. It is nice that the Ultra also supports the HDR format dolby vision, so that you can display Netflix streams in the highest quality. This compact player performs excellently in our test system and processes excellent streams via the apps from NPO, YouTube, Netflix, RTL XL and Horizon Go. Configuration is a breeze via the Google Home app. The Chromecast Ultra is less suitable for displaying your own media files. You can stream videos from, for example, a Plex media server. However, file compatibility is limited.

Google Chromecast Ultra

Price

€ 79,-

Website

play.google.com 8 Score 80

  • Pros
  • Netflix and YouTube in Ultra HD
  • Simple to use
  • Negatives
  • Less suitable for own media files
  • No own user interface
  • Requires mobile device

Dune HD Solo 4K

Dune HD is a brand that has been developing products for the higher price segment for some time now. The players are best known for their excellent file compatibility. The Solo 4K is no exception. Whatever video file we release on this compact device, the accompanying images appear smoothly and in very bright colors on the screen. The Sigma Designs SMP8758 chipset used effortlessly processes original Blu-ray rips (including menu display) and h.265 files in 2160p up to a maximum of thirty frames per second. The Solo 4K sends a dts(-hd), dolby digital or dolby atmos audio track directly to a suitable receiver.

For sound purists, the player also plays high-quality dsd and flac files. The housing is largely plastic and less robust than the aluminum finish of the competing Popcorn Hour A-500 player. By loosening two screws on the bottom, you can place a 2.5-inch drive in an aluminum holder. The hard disk is actually external, which is favorable due to a low heat production. Dune HD also has a dvb-t tuner built in, although that is not so interesting for the Dutch market. After all, only the three NPO channels and a regional station can be received via the digital ether without a smart card. Nevertheless, perhaps a nice extra for the bedroom or during holidays in the camper. Another notable feature is the support for the Z-Wave protocol, which allows this player to control home automation equipment. The quick menu contains a reference to Android, but this part has been 'in development' for almost a year. Except for YouTube, the Solo 4K unfortunately does not have any significant apps from video services at home.

Dune HD Solo 4K

Price

€ 349,-

Website

www.dune-hd.com 7 Score 70

  • Pros
  • Excellent file compatibility
  • Clear color rendering
  • Original extras
  • Negatives
  • Plastic housing
  • Poor app offering
  • Duration

Dune HD Solo Lite

Under the significant name Solo Lite, Dune HD has developed a smaller brother of the Solo 4K. Of course there are the necessary similarities. The housing, the chipset used and therefore also the file compatibility are exactly the same. The Solo Lite, on the other hand, does not have a 2.5-inch slot, Z-Wave integration and DVB-T tuner. Furthermore, the integrated WiFi adapter supports a lower network speed. This stripped-down edition is a smart choice by the manufacturer, because not everyone is waiting for all kinds of price-increasing features. If you want to display movies in the best quality, the Solo Lite is a very interesting option because of the high-quality media processor. This product is mainly intended to play your own media files, because the app offer is substandard.

Dune HD Solo 4K

Price

€ 179,-

Website

www.dune-hd.com 8 Score 80

  • Pros
  • Excellent file compatibility
  • Clear color rendering
  • Interesting price
  • Negatives
  • Plastic housing
  • Poor app offering

Eminent EM7580

With its EM7580, Eminent is the only tested provider that dares to equip its player with the Linux distribution OpenELEC. After turning on the player, you will immediately end up in Kodi. Its user interface is perfectly optimized for remote control, while Android-based players have their limitations in terms of ease of use. The downside of this is that you depend on unofficial add-ons in Kodi for streaming services. There are excellent extensions available for NPO Missed and RTL XL, but unfortunately that does not apply to Netflix. Knowing that most Android-based players still offer a lousy Netflix app, however, we can appreciate Eminent's choice of OpenELEC.

The EM7580 works perfectly for playing your own media files, with the device switching between the correct refresh rates itself. With movies, the surround formats dts and dolby digital are forwarded to a suitable receiver, but there is no support for more recent formats. The Amlogic chipset used cannot decode Ultra HD files, so the maximum resolution is 1920 x 1080 pixels. The construction also shows that it is a relatively cheap media player, because the plastic housing feels somewhat flimsy. Nevertheless, for barely ninety euros you get a great media player that plays everything up to 1080p neatly. By the way, keep in mind that Eminent relies on the OpenELEC community for updates. Some time ago, due to disagreements, a number of programmers set up their own fork under the name LibreELEC. For the time being, OpenELEC still regularly releases updates.

Eminent EM7580

Price

€ 89,99

Website

www.eminent-online.com 7 Score 70

  • Pros
  • OpenELEC
  • Great ease of use
  • Affordable
  • Negatives
  • Moderate construction
  • No Netflix support

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