The list of pirate-friendly media players and streamers just seems to be getting longer and longer. Popcorn Hour, Western Digital TV, Kaiboer , brite-View, and now Xtreamer... the latest in the list is, well, not very "extreme."
The Xtreamer isn't very different from everyone else, and it's a dead ringer for the compact WDTV. It does the same things, too: With the Xtreamer plugged into your TV, you'll be able to play movies in digital format on your TV sans discs, DVD players, home-theater PCs, or Blu-ray players. And by movies, we mean legal backups of films and TV shows you already own – alright, who are we kidding? If you're currently downloading Lost Season 6 from the torrents, this little device is for you.
The little Xtreamer fits comfortably underneath or beside your LCD TV. We like it that it's small, but despite the diminutive size, there's room inside for a SATA drive and a little fan for cooling. After you've plugged in the power, and the HDMI cable, you're good to go. Play movies locally from the hard drive, or sniff around the network to stream movies stored on your laptop.
With the optional Wi-Fi antenna (P940) plugged in, the Xtreamer looks just like a router. Connecting to the wireless network proved to be tricky. When the automatic settings don't work, the Xtreamer's shallow networking options can be frustrating, plus you'll have to enter your password repeatedly. It's a small thing, but it can be annoying.
We haven't seen a menu this ugly in a long time. You're dropped into a folder system that's straight out of Windows Explorer, complete with folders marked as "." and ".." for navigation. On the usability end of things, it works, but in this era of iPhone apps and intuitive touch controls, the Xtreamer's navigation feels Paleolithic. But don't worry, it gets the job done.
The good news is playback worked without a hitch and was gloriously clear and detailed, with no slowdown or dropped frames even in 1080p. Most importantly, MKV files played without a hitch, so you've got the majority of movies from your pirate friends covered. If you prefer movies in DivX, H.264, Blu-ray ISO, or whatnot, the Xtreamer plays them, too.
The details are where the Xtreamer hits a snag. Once we had movies up and running, we had trouble adjusting the zoom settings. By default, we had the Xtreamer on 16:9, but there's no fine tuning of the display settings available. Again, it's a small thing, but Allah is in the details, as they say.
There's an app for that
Lose the remote and your iPhone can come to the rescue. By navigating to the Xtreamer's IP address on Safari, you can control the device remotely. It's a neat little party trick, but it's also not worth the trouble – or the battery life. (Plus we'd much rather have this feature in app form instead.) The remote control does the job fine, thank you very much.
NMT [Network Media Tank] devices have long been one of our favorite media players because of their active community and support. Xtreamer has taken note of this and is now on version 2.2 of its firmware – which is surprisingly feature-packed and gives the device features like NAS mode and FTP service.
Version 2.2 also gives you better handling of Dolby TrueHD and DTS MA formats via lossless downmixing if you're into that (with DTS pass through as a target for future upgrades). It's a good sign that updates like this have been happening for the Xtreamer.
Along with firmware support comes – hopefully – future fixes for the small issues we found, such as more detailed zoom settings and better menus, especially in the network settings. Other players have already sorted these kinks out, but truth be told, they won't be an issue for the average user. Once you have everything up and running, the Xtreamer works and it works well, stepping into the background, as it should, so you can enjoy your videos.
Click here to see the Xtreamer in the Buyer's Guide.