Last year, I wrote a "Things that make me go *drool*" blog post highlighting some cool tech items I’d love to buy. The backpack and EA Sports Active were bought soon after that post. The Webcam, I bought a few weeks ago. (Well, a different model, but same idea. Review on that coming soon.)
The last item was a Portable Media Enclosure. I didn’t wind up buying this, but I did wind up winning something even better: The Brite-View CinemaTube. (Thanks to Brite-View and Jen from The Dirty Shirt for running the giveaway.) The Brite-View can connect to an external hard drive (which I happened to have an extra of) via USB. It can also connect to your home network and/or the Internet via Ethernet or optional Wi-Fi adapter. I purchased the Wi-Fi adapter and set up the Brite-View.
I’ll admit that my first impressions weren’t all that great. I encountered two big problems. Problem 1 was that the remote had a lag to it. If you pressed a button, you had to wait about 30 seconds before pushing another button. I worked with Brite-View’s customer support and finally realized that the problem was low battery charge in the remote control. Recharging the batteries overnight solved this issue.
The second problem was on the screen where I had to enter my wireless network’s password. The password was longer than the screen allowed and extra characters were added on the end, invisible to the user. This meant that any mistake towards the end was impossible to detect until the network connection failed and the long password had to be entered all over again. This problem was fixed with a firmware update. My takeaway from this is that Brite-View seems to be constantly striving to improve their product with firmware updates. (A good sign as no product is ever perfect.)
Those problems aside, I love the Brite-View. As I said in my "drool" post last year, I hate having to swap out DVDs. First, I need to move the inevitable pile of toys that gather in front of the DVD cabinet’s doors. Then I need to find the correct DVD. Then I need to put it in, keeping the case handy so I’ll be able to put it away when the kids are done with it. Discs can easily get misplaced or lost in the stack of DVDs.
My new system is to convert the DVD to MPEG, store them on the external hard drive and let the Brite-View play them. Even better, the Brite-View allows me to set up video playlists so I can have The Wiggles, followed by 2 Max and Ruby videos and ending with Sesame Street. In other words, I can have hours of kid-entertainment without a single disc to swap. I can also play/view music files or photos or add them to the playlist, but honestly my main use is movie viewing.
In addition, the CinemaTube can stream files from other computers on your home network. Just set up a desktop computer (or laptop, but desktops tend to be more "always on") as a server using TVersity, PlayOn or any similar UPNP media server. I tried TVersity, but want to try out PlayOn for the Netflix streaming capability. I’ll post a review update when I’ve done this, but I’m very excited about this possibility. (We could move the Roku to our bedroom and use the CinemaTube in the living room for Netflix streaming.)
The CinemaTube costs $99.99, or $119.99 for the CinemaTube and USB wireless adapter. At this price, it is well worth it. If I hadn’t won it, I would have gladly paid for the functionality the CinemaTube has provided me.