Long and hard...no, not me - that's how I looked before deciding on what would become one of the most important items in my home entertainment set up.
Like many people I had always dreamed of having a way to store my music, video and pictures in a central location and being able to access them on various devices around the house.
I had been an early adopter of Windows Media Center/Centre as it appeared to offer a lot of what I wanted. Unfortunately, the lack of decent pre made systems and the somewhat variable results of building your own system and hoping media centre would work drove me to distraction. I bought the only mother board with HDMI output I could find but either the hardware or software made for many nights reformatting and trying to save what media I had managed to put on it. It is still in my garage somewhere!
Step forward a few years and every man and his dog is bringing out DLNA devices capable of streaming and playing media around the house. But they weren't all completely compatible, were they.
Firstly I bought a Qnap TS110 NAS. For the uninitiated (like I was) this is an enclosere that houses a hard drive (1.5TB in my case) that then connects by LAN cable to your wireless router - but oh is it so much more. It has a processor. And RAM. And an operating system (albeit Linux in this baby Qnap so be prepared to learn a bit to get the most from it) Basically,it is a Linux powered media centre. The size of about 4 dvd cases stuck in top of each other.
The Qnap community is large and very, very helpful to newbies like me. When I had total data failure in the early days one member spent the whole evening remotely accessing my system to save my data and get it all back up and running - and wouldn't even let me buy him a drink!
So the Qnap will store my media - mp3, jpegs, avi, divx etc and allow me to view them on a DLNA device. This was where the search started. The biggest problem is how to choose. Most of the big boys do blue ray players with media player capabilities. Some are wired LAN only, some offer the option of a USB wireless dongle much like the 570s smaller bro the 370 (but at £60 as you can't just use any old dongle it is a dear option) and some have wireless N built in like the 570. I decided I needed wireless but needed to know if it would be quick enough to stream movies - after all, early media center trials had been rubbish.
Most high street retailers do not stock all the various models available. Some of the big warehouse retailers may but I'll be buggered if I could a) find a member of staff who even knew what DLNA was and b) find ANY retailer that had one set up as a DLNA player to demonstrate their ability and that included the Sony shop. Of course, you could rely on reviews and magazine tests but again, as an early adopter there wasn't a lot to go on.
One reason I ended up with the sony was the BBC iPlayer support - and bloody good it turned out to be too. There are other gimicky things to like youtube that I have never used. Still no ITV player though.
I read every review I could find and at the last moment was tempted away from the LG which nearly got my cash.
So how do I find it? Excellent is the answer. I have a wide selection of music and movies stored on my NAS and the sony found the NAS first time. After some very simple set up I was able to play content easily. I have since tried a plug in mains network adapter as a comparison and found no benefit over the inbuilt wireless. (I have a belkin wireless N router and thoroughly recommend that as well) Iplayer streams smoothly and it is fairly easy to find what you want. If you have played with the crossbar navigation on a PS3 you will be instantly at home.
Things that it doesn't do that would be nice: No thumbnail support for albums or movies. Not a deal breaker. No MKV playback over DLNA (works from USB) but if you aren't worried about streaming HD movies then no loss. The USB only supports drives that are FAT formatted thus limiting the size to 4GB so no external hard drive plug in possible or full dvd iso. A little annoying but again, if you need the USB input so bad it is probably not worth paying the extra for built in wireless.
It also works perfectly with windows 7 and vista if you have windows media player set up properly. Allows you to play content from your PC or lappy. Theres even an app for your iPhone that lets you use your iphone as a remote control and movie info display. How cool is that? You can also display pics from your iphone on the Sony using a free app but movies/music require paid for ones. Not sure about android. Kids won't let me play with their phones to find out.
How does it perform with bluray I hear you ask. Well, I only have one bluray disc (seriously, I didn't buy the player for that) but Layer Cake looks great and it does a fine job of upscaling normal dvds. The Gracenote function works well for CDs and DVDs getting the music/movie info just like windows media player does with no input from you but it doesn't work on the DLNA streamed stuff. Haven't checked the USB stuff.
Remote does all required perfectly and as I have a Sony Bravia TV it also works that.
So all in all I love it. I would still pay what I paid for it if it didn't have a bluray drive because the DLNA part is so good. Apparently it does 3D too. Just one small warning. I decided to update the firmware by downloading from sony and burning to a disc. Damn thing wouldn't turn on after! Luckily, a Sony service centre is really close and they sorted it in 3 days. Oh it also has optical out for your multiedia amp if you have one and it weighs so little you'll think they sold you an empty box.