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Bye-Bye DVD Player: Tips on Choosing an External Media Player

written by: Kumara Velu•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 1/18/2010

Would you like to play Divx, Xvid, MKV, MOV or MP4 video formats directly from your television set? Here are tips on choosing an external media player to help you do so.

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    Do you have non-DVD movie formats you wish to play over your television set? If you have movies in the Divx, Xvid, MKV, MOV, WMV or MP4 formats, the only way to play them over your DVD player would be to burn them to DVD discs.

    That would involve purchasing a video converter program and putting up with long encoding time, not mention the cost of blanks DVD discs. It’s tolerable if you’re converting the occasional movie. What if you have a huge collection of video files in non-DVD formats?

    The only painless way to play these non-DVD files easily would be through an external media player. An external DVD player can be regarded as the hardware version of versatile media players you use to play media files over your computer. They decode almost any video format thrown at them. All you have to do is plug your pen drive or hard drive into the available USB ports of the media player and you’re ready to go.

    If you have a membership to a movie download site, an external media player would be the quickest and easiest way to play back your downloaded movie files. If all this excites you and you’re thinking of running out and buying the next media player you hear about, hold on a moment.

    Consider these tips to help you make a wise buying decision.

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    Test the Supported Formats

    Does the product brochure states that all popular formats - Divx, Xvid, MOV, MP4 or FLV – are supported? Don’t just take the word of the manufacturer for it. While most of the media players play back Xvid and Divx files without a hitch, the same can’t be said for MOV and MP4 files. These movie files are encoded with different settings and may not be compatible with the media player although it’s listed as a supported format. I tested a MP4 file downloaded from YouTube and found that some media players could not play it although MP4 was listed as a supported format.

    If you have MP4 or MOV files or any other formats you doubt the media player would play, copy them into a pen drive and test them before buying a particular media player.

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    AV Outputs

    Do you have a HDTV? If you do, ensure that the media player comes with HD support. If you have a 1080p Full HDTV, make sure the media player supports that format. Most mid-range media players support the format anyway.

    If you own an analog TV set with S-Video or component input, make sure the media players supports them so that you could get videos with better clarity on your television set.

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    Supported Storage

    Do you need built-in storage for your media player? Check the maximum storage capacity it supports. Does the media player support SATA drives or just IDE drives?

    If you would like to play back your videos from an external storage device, check whether the media player supports older FAT 32 type drives. If you have a large external hard disk drive, check the storage limit supported. Some media players only support external drives of up to 1TB or 1.5TB.

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    Network Support

    If you have high speed broadband and wish to stream video to your television set from video sharing sites like YouTube, you could choose a media player which comes with network support. Such players cost slightly more than those which support only playback from external storage devices.

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    Firmware Upgrade and User Forum

    Ensure that the manufacturer has a support site that provides for firmware upgrades. At the time of purchase, the media player may come with minor bugs or unsupported video file formats. Firmware upgrades are supposed to address these issues.

    If the media player is of any repute, it would have a user forum where issues related to the player would be discussed. You may want to go through the posts in the forums to get an idea of its performance before making a buying decision.

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    Conclusion

    An external media player is a convenient device to play back video files not usually supported by your DVD player. The most important thing to check before buying one is whether it supports video formats of your choice and the newer formats with firmware upgrades.