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CNET First Look
Sony SMP-N100Sony's SMP-N100 streaming video box isn't the most user-friendly, but it offers an unparalleled feature set at its price.
Hi, I'm Matthew Moskovciak, senior associate editor at CNET.com and we're here with the Sony SMP-N100. This is a streaming video box similar to an Apple TV or Roku and it's currently selling for $130. There's not much to the exterior design. It's basically a black box, a little on the large side, and there's a glossy finish around the sides. On the front, there's just a power button and a USB port. Around back, you'll find an HDMI output, but Sony also includes component and composite video connections for connecting to an older TV. There's an ethernet jack but there's also built-in Wi-Fi so you don't need ethernet in your living room. The remote is well laid out but it has a lot of buttons cluttering up the design that aren't necessarily needed for a streaming video box. The real strength of this box is it's suite of streaming media services. There's Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon VOD, Pandora, and Slacker plus Sony's own streaming movie service Qriocity. The only other box that has that much variety is Roku's line of streaming video boxes and the Sony has one trick up its sleeve that the Roku doesn't which is it can stream your personal media files off a connected computer or a USB drive. We were actually surprised by how many different file types the Sony handled, although it's not quite as comprehensive as the competing Boxee Box. Now while we love the list of included services, we were less enthusiastic about the user interface. It uses a modified version of the XMB interface found on the PS3 and we found the layout wasn't as straightforward as some competing devices. The interfaces for each service had a unified look but the cover art looked relatively small and sometimes it was hard to tell what the movie was. The Netflix interface also feels out of date, lacking advanced features like Search that are now found on competitors. The initial setup of the box also never handles Wi-Fi setup which is sure to trip up some users. So, all together, while the Sony SMP-N100 is a little on the geekier side with its unrefined user interface and setup issues, it's still a great Roku alternative with an excellent set of streaming media services and the ability to play back your own digital media. Just note that at $130, you can also get a Blu-ray player with similar streaming media services for just a little more. I'm Matthew Moskovciak from CNET and this is the Sony SMP-N100.