Thankfully, streaming content from a PC to the iPlayer is far easier and can be setup without too many issues. Using Microsoft Media Connect, which is now built into Windows Media Player 11, the iPlayer can play a variety of music and video and also image files streamed directly from a PC. Happily, the iPlayer also plays most of the most popular video formats including DivX, Xvid, MPEG1, MPEG2, MPEG4 and Windows Media Video 9 in standard and high definition.
Another feature of the iPlayer is the use of the tvMax service to provide podcasts, online email and Internet browsing. The podcasts in particular are a nice addition, and it was easy to search and find the Diggnation podcast using tvMax. Email and Internet browsing were, however, rather less appealing with the email being a paid extra and web pages proving slow to load and impractical to navigate.
What this forces home, more than anything else, is that although the iPlayer does lots of things it specialises in none of them. This wouldn’t be quite so bad were it easier to use – a genuine plug and play product as it were – but it’s not, and only very patient enthusiasts are likely to get full value out of the machine.
Moreover, with the PVR and media hub market proving very competitive, the iPlayer appears rather expensive despite the fact that it has a lot of features in one box. Promises of “future proof” technology are barely proven, and though support for ipTV does add another reason to consider the iPlayer, there’s no way of proving how well the iPlayer will handle such content.
Taken at face value the iPlayer has some excellent features, but the combination of shoddy build quality, an unfriendly interface and the lack of a second tuner detract considerably from its appeal. With these concerns weighted against the many alternatives and future developments in this arena, one can’t help thinking that the do everything but specialise in nothing approach of the iPlayer is destined for comfortable mediocrity.