A couple of weeks ago, my precious PS3 gaming system malfunctioned and long story short, I now have a very expensive paper weight. Not only did I use my PS3 system to play video games and watch awesome Blu-Ray movies but it was also my main media streamer. I used it to stream a lot of movies from my laptop onto my big screen HDTV. In fact, I wrote about how to do just that in this article here. Needless to say, I needed another way to stream my movies onto my HDTV otherwise I’ll go crazy. After doing a lot of research on stand-alone movie streaming devices, I’ve picked a winner. Say hello to my new Patriot Box Office! The digital media streaming market has blown up. There are tons of devices in the market (as evident by Amazon) that all aim to do one thing: to easily bring your media from your computer onto your big screen TV with as minimal hassle as possible. Here are just some of the devices I’ve looked over:
Hopefully, you get the idea. I had a really hard time deciding which one to purchase because a lot of them are actually very similar in what they can do. One important factor I had to look at was the media file types the device was capable of playing. Another factor was network support. With the PS3, I couldn’t just load my movies onto a USB thumb drive, plug it in and expect to play them. The PS3 cannot play a lot of movies because it doesn’t support the codec or container type. With these media players, that problem has been eliminated. A lot of the devices allow you to hook up a simple USB stick or external hard drive into one of their ports and play your movies directly off of them. It is a very simple and handy way of doing things. Some other media players, like the Western Digital TV Live, even give you the capability to view online sites like Youtube directly from the device! If a perfect day for you consist of laying on the couch plowing over Youtube videos, than that device is perfect for you!
Patriot Office Box
In the end, I went with the Patriot Office Box. Some of you may be familiar with the Patriot brand because if you recall, these are the guys that makes memory (RAM) modules. Yeah I know what you’re thinking, why would they jump into the media player market? The correct question is why not? Almost every household has a HDTV and a computer with Internet connectivity and so these people must want a way to watch media on their TV rather than on their computer screens right?
Here is a actual screenshot of it:
Here is a picture guide detailing all the ports and switches on the device:
Setup could not have been any easier. If you can set up a VCR, you can set this little bad boy up. I just stick in the HDMI, optical, Ethernet and power cord, turn on the power switch, turn my HDTV on to the correct HDMI input and I was in business. The unit itself is really small. It’s actually smaller than your regular computer CD/DVD drives. The unit also feels very sturdy and doesn’t feel like its going to fall apart after a few months. Anyways, point is, if you wanted something low profile, the Patriot Box Office got you covered. Simply hook it up, place it someplace discreet (make sure it has room to dissipate the heat though and you can have direct line of contact with it for working the remote) and no one will be the wiser.
Another good news is that the device just works! So far, I’ve tested about a dozen of different files on it ranging from a host of different file types and codecs. Every movie played back without any problems. This little device have no problem handling any High-Definition files as well. In fact, you would think that it will need some time from when you press play until you you actually see something on the screen due to processing and whatnot but that doesn’t happen here. Movie playback was almost instantaneous! Even when I threw it a 9GB 720p Blu-Ray MKV rip, I felt the device almost laughing at me thinking is this all you got?! Picture quality was absolutely stunning with no major pixelation (which sometimes can happen when you transcode the video on the fly for streaming). Audio was also superb. I’m not a big audiophille but I’ve got a 5.1 setup and one of the HD rips I’ve played rocked my house. Audio was super clear too. If you watch a lot of shows with subtitles (anime for example), than you’ll be glad to know that the Box Office supports all types of subtitles as well. Also, the subtitle can be adjusted a great deal as well like font size, color, placement etc. I was so happy for this feature because I’m a big anime fan and when I stream my anime to my PS3, the subtitles would show up on TV either really big or really small and it took forever for me to adjust it each time. With the Box Office, it was really easy to adjust everything.
The device can also play music and photos. Also, because it has networking capabilities, you can stream movies from your laptop/computer to your Office Box as well. However, as of right now, it doesn’t work quite well with Windows 7. A future firmware update should take care of it though. All I’m doing is dumping what I want to watch onto a simple USB stick and then playing it that way. The Office Box also allows you to install a internal hard drive in it! This is useful if you want a quick way to view and store all of your most important media without having to turn on your computer or plug in any external hard drives.
Well, I didn’t mean for this to be a complete review of the Patriot Office Box but there are so many cool stuff about it that I just couldn’t hep it. A lot of similar devices like I’ve said earlier can most likely do the same things the Office Box can do as well. One thing that sold me on this device was the RMVB and the Real Media format support. I was really close to picking the Western Digital TV Live media player when I found out that it didn’t support the Real Media media format. I watch a lot of Chinese drama shows and movies and they usually come encoded with Real Media. The Office Box came to the rescue and it was one of the main reasons why I chose it over the others. However, that doesn’t mean that the Box Office is flawless. For example, even though it has networking support, it can’t access any websites or have any built-in third party services to utilize that capability. Being able to browse Youtube like the Western Digital TV Live media player would be an awesome feature. How about Hulu? Netflix support? Well, I can’t entirely put the blame on Patriot because the other third party services have to agree to it as well. All I’m saying is that having networking support is awesome to stream movies from your home network but other than that, it doesn’t do much. The browser interface of the Box Office needs some work as well. I’m willing to let the issue slide since I won’t be spending too much time in the menu interface.
Here are some actual sites with way more review details on the Patriot Office Box:
In the End…
This little media box did everything I want it to do. I’m finally able to watch movies on my big HDTV again. While the menu interface needs a little work, it’s not really something that would completely ruin the experience. I mean let’s be honest, once we find our movie in the browser interface and hit Play, that’s pretty much all there is to it. A lot of people seem to be complaining about the small lag time (1-1.5 sec) when scrolling through each movies in a folder and I tend to agree. It does get irritating especially if you want to watch a movie stuck right in the middle of a couple dozens of others. Hopefully they fix this with a firmware upgrade. Other than that, I can’t complain much about it. As long as the device lasts, I’ll be a happy camper. I’m just waiting to see when will future media players hit the market with more integrated Internet capabilities.