When Orb showed us the MP-1 music player, we were impressed with its ability to wirelessly stream music from a PC or Mac and then play it on an AV receiver or even our iPhone or Android device using a home network as the backbone.
The company's VP-1 video player is much more ambitious of a device, boasting a feature set that includes the wireless transmission of video to an HDTV. We've put the Orb TV through its paces, and though it does work as advertised, the overall streaming-video quality does leave something to be desired. But for $99, we're not sure there's an easier streaming-plus-media server hybrid device out on the market, we just think you may be better off with some more-advanced products.
Like the MP-1, the VP-1 is a similarly shaped disc-size device that hooks into the component or composite inputs on your HDTV. Of course we'd recommend using component where possible, but it's nice that Orb included everything you'll need (including power and video breakout cables) in the box.
Other than the actual Orb unit, there really isn't anything else to discuss in terms of physical design. Also included in the box is a USB cable and AC adapter.
We were very pleased with the Orb TV's ease-of-use factor, as we were with the Orb MP-1 music player. Setting up the device is just as simple. Following the installation guide on your source computer, the Orb TV connects to a local Wi-Fi signal and then provides a bridge connection between your source content and the wireless receiving device.
Of course you can add additional Orb TV receivers to your system, but during our testing we only used the one included in our review package.
Orb TV receives streaming video with the help of two pieces of software. The first, Orb Caster, must be installed on the source computer (and always be running) on a PC or Mac. Furthermore, this computer must be turned on when accessing its content, or the Orb TV will receive nothing.
Orb Caster can stream media to DLNA-compliant devices as well, such as an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. Better yet, the Caster can encode files on-the-fly so that most clients will play the source media. These file types include MP3, AAC, WMA, WAV, AVI, MPG, MP4, and MOV files, but your DLNA device will ultimately dictate your playback abilities.
The second piece of software is the Orb Controller, a smartphone-based application that controls what is being streamed. Like the MP-1, we were a bit surprised to see there wasn't an option for controlling media straight from the source computer, but again, we've been assured that this functionality will be introduced in future product updates. As of now, there are only iOS and Android versions of the Orb Controller available, so consumers without access to these two platforms seemingly have no way of using the Orb TV system.
Orb gives you component and composite breakout cables for video playback, but we really wish there was an HDMI option. We'd advise against a composite connection; the quality here was just bad.
Performance and features
We should also note that Orb TV is different from Orb Live, the system that allows smartphones to access live TV and other media from anywhere on their mobile devices.