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CNET First Look
Sony SMP-N200Sony's SMP-N200 streaming media box packs a lot of functionality, but it's hampered by its subpar user interface.
-Hey, I'm Matthew Moskovciak at CNET.com. We're gonna take a look at the Sony SMP-N200. This a streaming media box that cost $100 and it's basically a competitor of products like the Roku 2 XS, which let you take streaming media services like Netflix and let you watch them on your HD TV. Now, the real strength of the Sony is that it supports a lot of high quality streaming media services especially for video. There is Netflix, Amazon Instant, Hulu Plus, Vudu and CinemaNow on the video side and there's also some good options for music like Pandora, NPR, and Slacker, although we didn't find a lot of support for subscription music services like Rhapsody, Mog, and Spotify. Now, although services are great, but the problem on the Sony is the user interface really gets in the way. Instead of using the standard interfaces for Netflix or amazon, Sony has designed their own interfaces and the worse on what you get on other boxes. When you're browsing to cover out small and often impossible read, which can really make the browsing experience frustrating. Now, you think you could get a real nut by using the video search feature, but it doesn't search through Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, or really any of the services you will be interested in. Even with the main use interface, the icons are small and you can only see about 5 services at a time even there's plenty of screen real state to show more. Now, the box is also DLNA compatible, so you can play your own digital media files off your home network or via the USB port on the side. It works pretty well and it handles both MKV and XviD files, but found it doesn't support [unk] music collection even if you've downloaded it and organized it yourself. The exterior design is a lot better than last year. It has a sleeker look and there's a smaller footprint, although it's still much larger compared to the Roku 2 or the Apple TV. On the upside, the larger size allows it to include older analog video connection, so will still work with older TVs. There's also Ethernet on the back and there's built in Wi-Fi too, so you don't have to have Ethernet in your living room. The redesigned remote is really excellent and simple and Sony does a lot of the extra buttons on last year's remote that you really didn't need. So, should you buy the Sony SMP-N200 over say the Roku 2 or the Apple TV. It's really a tough sells since the Roku 2 is better straight ahead streamer. The Apple TV is better for Apple fans and the WD TV live is a better choice if you wanna playback your own digital media files. The Sony SMP-N200 has a lot of functionality for $100, but the interface needs work to compete with the other boxes. I'm Matthew Moskovciak and this is the Sony SMP-N200.