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CNET First Look
A buggy streaming stick short on contentPLAiR promises to stream free web video to your TV via a quirky stick-like device, but it's buggy, unreliable and lacking content.
Hey. I'm Matthew Moskovciak from CNET. And today, we're going to take a look at Player. This is a unique looking device that promises to stream a whole bunch of free web content from your laptop, tablet or smartphone for just $99. Now, the Player has a pretty cool look to it but a lot of the allure wears off once you get it in your hands. There's no getting around with the product, just feels cheap in your hand and the plastic casing actually split apart when I pulled it out of the box. Pop off the top cover and you'll see Players HDMI plug, that's designed to slide right into a spare port on your TV. So, what's this cable for? Well, HDMI doesn't provide enough juice to power a player. So, there's a micro USB port on the side that you could connect to a power outlet using the included adapter or your TV's USB port if it has one. A dangling cable does spoil a lot of players just the stick design and the other problem is that I had an awfully tough time getting the cable to actually fit in the port. The plastic casing in the port just don't line up that well. So, getting the USB plug to fit can be a real struggle. Getting players set up to work with your wireless network and devices is straight forward with simple on-screen instructions. Once it's set up, you can start streaming. Player's app for iOS and Android devices which offer pre-selected content but a lot of it ends up being clips rather than full episodes. The real appeal of Player is the Chrome plugin and it supposedly let you stream any web video from your browser to Player. Even better after you select a video to play, Player works independently of your computer. So, you can turn off your laptop or use it for something else. Now, that's the pitch but in practice, I found it to be pretty unreliable. Full episodes of Saturday Night Live worked but Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and Conan didn't. The [unk] would stream but only with an annoying overlay over the video content. The Daily Show didn't have that overlay but it did have close captions and there is no way to turn them off. Even more frustrating is that there were a lot of glitches during playback and I never quite made it through an entire show without at least one minor glitch and most time the glitches were more significant. There's also the issue of image quality. Some stuff could look good like 1080p stream from YouTube but most of the times a video quality was pretty poor with a lot of artifacts and frame rate issues. There's also a lot of content that player doesn't even attempt to stream. Big name services like Netflix and HBO Go are off the table and it won't play your personal music collection or stream for music services like Pandora. So, with all the glitches and limitations, player just isn't really recommendable right now. It's just too unreliable and there's none enough good content that works. There are also a lot of great competing boxes for $100 like the Roku 3 and Apple TV, both of which offer a lot more functionality including a fair amount of web video content. And if you're really looking to stream web video to your TV, your best bet is still connecting a $5 HDMI cable from your laptop to your TV. It may not be the sleekest or most convenient solution but it's cheap and a lot more reliable. I'm Matthew Moskovciak from CNET and this is Player.