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Media Players & Set-Top Boxes 

Articles, reviews, useful tips

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Media Players & Set-Top Boxes: specifications, types

Type

— Media player. Smart set-top boxes with a pre-installed operating system for the "smart" component of the connected display, whether it's an old CRT TV or a computer monitor with a suitable set of interfaces. The media player transforms any ordinary TV into the category of "smart" and expands the range of possibilities of many modern smart TV models. The vast majority of set-top boxes for TV work under the control of the Android operating system and its modifications. As a result, a huge list of compatible applications has been released for devices of this kind, which provide access to network storage of films and series, are responsible for viewing streaming broadcasts, browser operation, social network clients, etc. Media players with powerful electronics support any type of content and pull quite resource-intensive games. Smart set-top boxes are available in form factors from small to large: some of them are indistinguishable from a standard USB flash drive, while others can be made in a rather large case with Wi-Fi antenna “horns”.

— TV tuner. A separate device for receiving TV broadcasts of the digital broadcasting network and transmitting them to the TV screen or any other suitable display via video and audio outputs. An external receiver will be useful for older TVs that do not have a built-in tuner, and if the TV does not support the desired TV broadcast format. Broadcasting programs in digital format is the main, but by...no means the only task of most TV receivers. A considerable proportion of them can record broadcasts to a USB flash drive, play audio and video files from it, and read common file formats from memory cards. Advanced TV tuners can connect to the Internet and be used to consume media content online.

— Tuner for PC. Devices for watching TV on a computer. Among them, two main varieties can be distinguished: external tuners for a PC connected via USB, and internal tuners installed in a PCI-E slot as an expansion card. The first option, usually, is characterized by a minimum of equipment, however, such devices can be used with almost any computer, from a powerful desktop workstation to an ultra-compact laptop. Internal tuners can have several inputs and outputs, while they are only suitable for desktop PCs, the case of which allows disassembly and installation of additional boards. Note that in both cases, the set of native functions of the tuner for PC, usually, is very limited. But this cannot be called a disadvantage: many additional features (for example, IPTV or video recording) are easier to implement directly through a computer.

— Tuner for a mobile phone. A rare category of devices for broadcasting TV programs of the digital broadcasting grid on the screen of mobile gadgets. TV tuners of this kind are connected to a smartphone or tablet via a microUSB or USB C port. They often receive DVB-T2 broadcast signals. To display an image from the tuner, you will need to install the appropriate mobile application on your phone. Smartphone tuners have not received wide popularity.

— Video capture device. A type of specialized equipment for capturing audio and video streams through the appropriate connection interfaces and transferring it to a computer for recording or organizing streams. A video capture device will come in handy for creating live broadcasts on Twitch or recording let's plays on YouTube. Such equipment is rarely equipped with its own drives and slots for them — usually it is designed for video recording using computer resources.

— CAM. CAM is an abbreviation for "Conditional-access module". Such modules are used in the networks of cable and satellite digital television operators as an element of a coded broadcasting system: a smart card is installed in the CAM, issued to the subscriber by a cable or satellite service provider, and the module itself, together with the card, is connected to a TV tuner, most often by the PCMCIA standard. The subscriber gets the opportunity to watch certain channels, depending on the specific settings of the card. Devices of this type are not independent tuners — they are only additional accessories necessary for operation in some television networks. When buying, you need to take into account that modern CAMs use several different coding systems and not all such accessories allow reprogramming. It is best to choose a module for a specific smart card.

Digital tuner

Digital TV broadcasting standards supported by the device.

Digital broadcasting has a number of advantages over analogue: it allows to transmit a high-resolution image and multi-channel sound, and also provides many additional features that are not available for analogue format. In addition, the signal level in the digital format almost does not affect the reception quality: the picture and sound are either in full quality, or (with a critical weakening of the signal) disappear altogether. The most relevant digital broadcasting standards today are terrestrial DVB-T and DVB-T2, cable DVB-C and satellite DVB-S and DVB-S2, here are their main features:

— DVB-T (terrestrial). The European standard of terrestrial television broadcasting. It is relatively rare due to the spread of the more advanced DVB-T2 standard. So it makes sense to buy a DVB-T tuner specifically if you are sure that there is such a broadcast in your region. Also note that DVB-T uses 2 terrestrial standards — MPEG-2 and MPEG-4; the compatibility of the tuner and the standard should also be clarified separately, otherwise there is a risk of being left without TV even in the digital broadcasting zone. However, many modern models are able to work with both options.

— DVB-T2 (terrestrial). The European broadcasting s...tandard, which replaced DVB-T. It provides higher bandwidth and is more resistant to interference; it is not compatible with the original DVB-T, but this is not a serious drawback: in most countries of Europe and the former Soviet Union, digital broadcasting is conducted precisely according to the DVB-T2 standard.

— DVB-C (cable). The European standard for digital broadcasting in cable networks. Despite the emergence of a more advanced DVB-C2 standard, it is still widely used by cable providers: DVB-C bandwidth allows you to transmit video in resolution up to Full HD and multi-channel audio, and equipment of this standard is relatively inexpensive.

— DVB-S, DVB-S2 (satellite). Standards for digital broadcasting via communication satellites; originally developed by European specialists, but are used worldwide. DVB-S2 is actually a development and improvement of DVB-S, DVB-S2 tuners can also work with the signal in the original DVB-S format. In light of this, modern TV tuners can provide both two separate satellite receivers and one module that supports both of these standards at once; before buying, this nuance should be clarified (especially if the characteristics of the type of satellite tuner is designated as "DVB-S/S2").

Operating system

Proprietary system. The operating system of the device is represented by the proprietary software shell of the manufacturer. Usually, such operating systems have an attractive and convenient menu. A proprietary operating system is developed directly by the manufacturer for the hardware resources of a particular model or a whole line, but has limited capabilities.

Android (AOSP). This type of operating system is a modification of the popular Android OS, mainly notable for being open source. It is a versatile operating system that gives the user much more freedom to create changes and customizations within the system itself. At the same time, the installation and stability of certain applications on this platform are not guaranteed, and the overall system management was not specially “tailored” for large screens, which may cause some inconvenience. First of all, such solutions will interest users who understand the features of the Android OS, like to customize and control everything for themselves, and have time for this.

Android TV. Devices of this type have full-fledged Android TV software, specially adapted to work on large screens. In accordance with the name, it is a type of Android OS, specially designed for such equipment. In addition to the common features of all Androids (such as the ability to install additional applications, including...even games), it has a number of special features: an optimized interface, integration with smartphones (including the ability to use them as a remote control), voice search, etc. Thanks to this, TVs with this feature are significantly superior in functionality to models with a “regular” Smart TV. Of course, a dedicated processor, graphics subsystem and memory are provided for the operation of a multifunctional OS, and the presence of such hardware resources is reflected in the overall cost.

Google TV. Rebranding of the Android TV platform for TVs and smart consoles, or rather, a new shell on top of the operating system under the sign of the “green droid”, introduced since 2021. Among the innovations, it has a redesigned user interface, an improved knowledge base that more efficiently distributes content by genre and collects search information from the entire list of installed applications and subscriptions. The voice assistant now understands the needs of the audience better and provides a detailed list of what was found. A separate tab in the interface contains live broadcasts of current events, whether it be sports events or a rocket launch to Mars. Among other things, the aspects that involve the use of TV as a command post for managing a single ecosystem of a “smart” home have been improved in the system.

Bluetooth

Bluetooth is a technology used to connect various devices wirelessly directly. In media centers and TV receivers, it can be used to broadcast sound to wireless headphones and acoustics, to work with wireless mice and keyboards, to use a smartphone / tablet as a remote control, etc.; specific functionality should be specified separately. Also note that the supported version of Bluetooth can be specified here. The newest and most advanced is Bluetooth 5.0, but here is a more detailed description of the different versions:
  • Bluetooth v4.0. The version in which the "Bluetooth Low Energy" (LE) format was first introduced — in addition to regular Bluetooth (version 2.1 functionality) and the high-speed HE standard for transferring large amounts of information (introduced in version 3.0). Bluetooth LE allows you to significantly reduce power consumption when transmitting small data packets, such as request-responses about connection activity in idle mode. For the media centers and TV receivers themselves, this is not particularly important, but for portable equipment (especially miniature ones, where battery capacity is very limited), such functionality will be useful.
  • Bluetooth v 4.1. Development and improvement of Bluetooth 4.0. One of the key improvements was the optimization of collaboration with 4G LTE communication modules so that Bluetooth and LTE do not interfere with each other. In addition, this ve...rsion has the ability to simultaneously use a Bluetooth device in several roles — for example, to remotely control an external device while simultaneously streaming music to headphones.
  • Bluetooth v4.2. Further, after 4.1, the development of the Bluetooth standard. It did not introduce fundamental updates, but received a number of improvements regarding reliability and noise immunity, as well as improved compatibility with the Internet of Things.
  • Bluetooth v5.0. Version introduced in 2016. One of the most notable updates was the introduction of two new modes of operation for Bluetooth LE — with an increase in speed by reducing the range and with an increase in range by reducing the speed. In addition, a number of improvements have been introduced regarding simultaneous work with numerous connected devices, as well as work with the components of the Internet of Things.

Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi is a technology used for wireless connection to computer networks and for direct connection between devices. In media players, tuners and video capture devices, it can be used both to access the Internet or "local area" through a wireless router, and to communicate with a smartphone, tablet, etc. The AirPlay, Chromecast and Miracast functions are also based on this technology. The specific set of Wi-Fi features should be clarified separately; here we note that in this paragraph the specific supported version of such a connection can also be specified. Here are the main current options:
  • Wi-Fi 5(802.11ac). One of the newest (for 2020) standards. Uses the 5 GHz band (less crowded than used in earlier 2.4 GHz versions) for improved reliability and lower latency; and speeds can reach 6.77 Gbps with multiple antennas and 1.69 Gbps with a single antenna.
  • Wi-Fi 4 (802.11n). The predecessor of the above Wi-Fi 5, the first standard in which the 5 GHz band was introduced — here it is used along with the traditional 2.4 GHz and is not supported by some devices with Wi-Fi 4. Data transfer rate — up to 600 Mbps.
Note that, in addition to the directly claimed Wi-Fi standard, the media centre, digital receivers and video capture devices usually provide support for earlier versions — for maximum compatibility with different devices.

AirPlay

The technology of broadcasting audio and video signals through a Wi-Fi connection. Widely used in Apple electronics, the media centre with AirPlay will make it easy to duplicate a “picture” on a TV, for example, from an iPhone or iPad. The main disadvantage of this technology compared to similar Miracast is the need for a local network with a wireless router.

Chromecast

The original name is Google Cast. A technology for broadcasting content to external devices developed by Google. Allows you to transmit a signal from a PC or mobile device, broadcasting is standardly carried out via Wi-Fi. Note that in signal sources (smartphones, tablets, PCs, etc.), Chromecast is implemented at the level of individual applications. For example, at the time of its creation, this feature was available, among others, in the YouTube and Netflix apps for Android and iOS, as well as in the web versions of these apps for Chrome. Thanks to this format, this technology is extremely widespread nowadays, and the ability to connect a particular gadget to a media player with a Chromecast is usually limited to the ability to install appropriate applications on this gadget.

Miracast

A wireless technology that allows you to directly broadcast video and audio from one device to another directly over a Wi-Fi connection. At the same time, unlike AirPlay, transmission does not require a router and building a local network — it is enough that the receiver and transmitter are compatible with Miracast. One of the most popular ways to use this technology is to output a “picture” from a smartphone / tablet screen to a TV, and vice versa. A media centre or TV receiver with Miracast is useful if the TV itself does not support this function.

Card reader

A device for reading memory cards, most often in SD format. This feature is especially useful for exchanging information with some types of modern electronics: almost all cameras and laptops are equipped with card readers, and microSD cards used in smartphones and other pocket gadgets can be used in SD slots using simple adapters. Thanks to the card reader, you can, for example, easily view materials captured on a camera or smartphone camera, copy music and movies from a laptop to a media centre, and even perform some special tasks, such as updating the player's firmware. In video capture devices, the built-in card reader allows user to add the drive to the list of computer disks.

Web browser

Built-in browser that allows you to browse the Internet on the TV screen to which the device is connected. Some specific features may not be available, but they are usually not critical for this type of Internet surfing; in addition, the capabilities of built-in browsers are constantly expanding.

IPTV support

IPTV service support — broadcasting by the IP protocol, using computer networks (including the Internet).

This feature should not be confused with online TV: in fact, IPTV is a type of cable television, where not an antenna cable is used to transmit the signal, but network equipment. Otherwise, IPTV and cable TV are completely similar: broadcasting is carried out through the operator; the choice of channels is limited by the assortment presented by the operator; and additional charges may apply for access. At the same time, the possibilities of IPTV are much wider than those of traditional cable broadcasting. Most specialized applications have a Time Shift feature (see below); any excerpt of a recently watched broadcast can be re-watched; in addition, it is often also possible to rewind the broadcast to a point in time before the start of viewing (if you turned on such a TV later than you planned). Other features may be provided for additional convenience, such as favorite channel lists, parental guaid, etc.

HDMI

HDMI is the most common modern interface for working with HD content and multi-channel audio. Video and audio signals with this connection are transmitted over a single cable, and the bandwidth in the latest versions ( HDMI 2.0 and HDMI 2.1) is enough to work with UltraHD resolution and even higher. Almost any modern screen (TV, monitor, etc.) with HD support has at least one HDMI input, which is why most media players and TV receivers have outputs of this type. However, there are also models without HDMI — these are mostly outdated or the most inexpensive solutions that use only analogue video interfaces. There are also models for several HDMI and in most cases one of these ports is for the incoming signal, while the HDMI ports differ in versions.

— v 1.4. The version presented back in 2009, however, does not lose popularity to this day. Supports 4K (4096x2160) video at 24 fps and Full HD at 120 fps; the latter, among other things, allows you to transfer 3D video over this interface. In addition to the original v 1.4, there are also improved versions v 1.4a and v 1.4b, where the possibilities for working with 3D have been further expanded.

-v 2.0. Version released in 2013. Among other things, it introduced the ability to work with 4K video at speeds up to 60 fps, compatibility with ultra-wide format 21: 9, as well as support for up to 32 channels and 4 aud...io streams simultaneously. HDR support was not originally included in this release, but was introduced in v 2.0a and further enhanced in v 2.0b; media players from this category can support both the original version 2.0 and one of the improved ones.

— v 2.1. 2017 version, also known as HDMI Ultra High Speed. Indeed, it provides a very solid bandwidth, allowing you to work even with 10K video at a speed of 120 fps; in addition, a number of improvements have been made to HDR support. Note that the full use of HDMI v 2.1 is possible only with a special cable, but the functions of earlier versions remain available when using conventional wires.

USB C

The number of USB C connectors in the design of the device.

This interface differs from the full-sized USB host ports (see above) primarily in the design of the connector: it is much smaller and made double-sided (the plug can be inserted in either direction). There are also a number of notable differences regarding application specifics. The most common option is the same as for conventional USB — connecting external peripherals, primarily drives like flash drives and external HDDs. But for charging gadgets, such connectors are used extremely rarely. In some models, USB C plays the role of a service input for managing settings from a computer (that is, it actually works in the USB slave format — see "Inputs"). Also, this connector may provide an Alternate Mode mode, when other interfaces are implemented through the USB C hardware port — for example, DisplayPort or HDMI for video broadcasting, or Thunderbolt for connecting some accessories. In media players, this mode is practically not used yet, but in the future the situation may change.

Summing up, we can say that the features of using USB C in each model should be clarified separately. As for the number, such connectors are rarely provided for more than one — this is quite enough in most cases.

LAN

LAN — connector for wired connection to the Internet and/or local area network using an Ethernet cable. A wired connection is not as convenient as Wi-Fi (see "Multimedia"), but it is considered more reliable and provides faster data transfer speeds. And the speed indicators depend on the device and can be 100 Mbps and 1 Gbps.

AV output

AV output. Analogue output for video and audio transferring. Previously, due to the large size of the equipment, it consisted of 3 RCA jacks and was connected to the TV accordingly. Now the devices have become more compact and don't have free space on the case. Therefore, the AV output is a single headphone jack, to which a tee cable is already connected (check availability in the package). Since all components of the video signal are on the same cable, the picture quality and immunity to interference are low.

Coaxial output

In this case, the term coaxial refers to a type of SP/DIF interface that uses an electrical cable with an RCA connector. This interface provides sound transmission, including multichannel, in digital format; at the same time, the electrical cable is more susceptible to interference than the optical one, but is not as fragile.

Optical output

A variation of the SP/DIF audio interface that uses a TOSLINK fibre optic cable. Like the coaxial connector, the optical output uses a digital data transfer format and can work with multi-channel audio. At the same time, optical fibre requires rather delicate handling, but it is absolutely insensitive to electrical interference.

Audio output (3.5 mm)

The presence of an audio output in most cases implies a 3.5 mm mini-Jack connector for headphones. This connector does not transmit high power, which can fully supply the TV with an audio signal, but for compact devices, which include headphones, it will come in handy, since most household wired headphones are produced with a 3.5 mm plug. Headphones can be useful in noisy environments, or vice versa, when loud sound is undesirable, as well as in situations where sound must be listened to attentively (for example, when listening to radio broadcasts to learn a foreign language).

Antenna input

Input for connecting an external antenna for receiving broadcasting. By default, it should be present in all TV tuners.

CPU

The model of the CPU installed in the media player.

This information is mainly of reference value: the processor is selected in such a way as to provide certain practical characteristics (maximum resolution, support for certain standards, embedded applications, etc.). So when choosing, you should focus primarily on these specifications. However, if you wish, knowing the processor model, you can find detailed data on it and evaluate the capabilities of the media centre to work with resource-consuming applications. This can be useful, in particular, if you choose an Android model (see above) and plan to use additional software intensively — the set of applications for this OS is very extensive, and some of them are quite demanding on system resources.

Also note that CPU data is often specified for advertising purposes — to emphasize that the device has a fairly advanced chip from a well-known brand. Among the most common brands of such processors are Allwinner, Amlogic, Rockchip, Realtek.

CPU cores

The core is the part of the processor that executes a single thread of instructions. Accordingly, the presence of multiple cores allows to work with multiple threads simultaneously, which has a positive effect on performance. Theoretically, more cores can increase the efficiency of the processor. However, in fact, CPU performance depends on so many additional factors that the number of cores is purely a reference parameter. So, a high-end dual-core processor may well be more performant than an inexpensive quad-core one.

CPU frequency

The clock speed of the CPU installed in the media centre.

On the technical side, the higher this indicator, the faster the processor works and the higher, accordingly, the overall system performance. At the same time, the CPU performance depends, in addition to the frequency itself, on a number of factors — architecture, number of cores, special design features, etc.; and the actual speed of the entire system is affected by performance of components other than the processor. In addition, manufacturers usually select processors in such a way that their computing power is guaranteed to be enough for all the features claimed for a media centre. Therefore, in this case, the CPU frequency is more of a reference parameter (and partly an advertising indicator that demonstrates the advanced specifications of the device), rather than practically significant for buyer.

Built-in memory

The volume ofits own storage installed in the media player.

In this case, storage means permanent memory available to the user — the storage that you can fill with movies, music, applications, etc. The larger the volume of such storage, the more convenient it is for the user; on the other hand, this parameter significantly affects the cost of the entire device. In addition, it should noted that external media are also quite suitable for films and other multimedia content — flash drives, portable HDDs, drives installed in a slot (see below), optical discs, etc. So specifically look for a model with a capacious storage makes sense in two main cases. The first is if you want to keep an extensive collection of content in the media player, so as not to bother once again with connecting flash drives, loading disks, etc. it is best to put it in the built-in memory, and often this is the only possible option).

As for specific volumes, the capacity up to 4 GB is considered very limited nowadays; such a storage is not enough even for a movie in HD 720p, its purpose is mainly to store a small set of applications. 8 GB and 16 GB are also relatively small, but this already allows you to work with a fairly extensive set of software and store individual movies in HD resolutions. And if you initially intend to store a large amount of c...ontent on the device, you should definitely pay attention to models with a capacity of 32 GB or more.

RAM

The amount of RAM installed in the media player.

In general, this volume is selected by the manufacturer in such a way that the device can normally cope with the tasks that are claimed for it. On the other hand, all else being equal, more RAM usually means faster performance. This parameter is especially important if the media player runs under the Android OS (see above): such firmware allows the installation of additional applications that may have rather high requirements for RAM.

As for specific values, by modern standards, a device with more than 2 GB of RAM is considered a fast media player.

Ultra HD 4K support

The ability to play video in ultraHD 4K on the device. This format covers several resolutions, all of which have a horizontal size of approximately 4000 pixels. However, the most popular is the frame size of 3840x2160 — in particular, this is the standard value for 4K TV screens; therefore, most UltraHD content is also released in this resolution.

A 3840x2160 frame contains 4 times more pixels than the popular Full HD standard, resulting in an even sharper and more detailed image. Of course, you will need a TV (or other screen) of the appropriate resolution to fully enjoy the experience; but such screens nowadays are becoming more common and affordable.

Ultra HD 8K support

Ability to play videos in Ultra HD 8K on the device.

This format is a further development of high-definition video after UltraHD 4K (see above). The term "8K" alludes to a size of about 8000 horizontal pixels; and the most common frame size for this format is 7680x4320 (that is, twice the 4K on each side and four times the number of pixels in the frame). This gives extremely high detail; in addition, the technical specification of 8K screens includes a number of additional requirements regarding high-quality colour reproduction, and media centers often meet these requirements. On the other hand, so far (as of early 2020) 8K screens are rare and very expensive; therefore, there is little content released for them, and support for such video in media players is provided rather for the future.

HDR support

HDR standard supported by the media player.

For more details about HDR in general, see above, while the standard defines some features of the implementation of this feature. Today, the following HDR formats are relevant:

— HDR10. Historically the first of the consumer HDR formats, less advanced than the options described below, but extremely widespread. In particular, HDR10 is supported by almost all streaming services that provide HDR content at all, and it is also common for Blu-ray discs. Allows to work with a colour depth of 10 bits (hence the name). At the same time, devices of this format are also compatible with content in HDR10 +, although its quality will be limited by the capabilities of the original HDR10.

— HDR10+. An improved version of HDR10. With the same colour depth (10 bits), it uses the so-called dynamic metadata, which allows transmitting information about the colour depth not only for groups of several frames, but also for individual frames. This results in an additional improvement in colour reproduction.

Dolby Vision. An advanced standard used particularly in professional cinematography. Allows to achieve a colour depth of 12 bits, uses the dynamic metadata described above, and also makes it possible to transmit two image options at once in one video stream — HDR and standard (SDR). At the same time, Dolby Vision is based on the same tec...hnology as HDR10, so in modern video technology this format is usually combined with HDR10 or HDR10 +.

Drive slot

The presence "under the hood" of the device slot for installing an internal drive.

This feature is found both in models that already have their own drive, and in devices without built-in storage. Anyway, the drive slot allows the owner to equip the media centre with built-in memory at his discretion, independently choosing the volume and other characteristics of such memory. Such an opportunity will be especially useful for those who would like to keep an extensive collection of films and other content directly in the device’s memory: choosing a model with the desired set of characteristics and purchasing a hard drive of the required capacity for it is easier than looking for a device that initially has both certain operating parameters and sufficient amount of built-in storage.

Note that the slots for the drive can have a different form factor and connection interface; this point should be clarified by the characteristics. However, with the search for hardware for such slots nowadays, usually, there are no problems.

Video decoders

Codec — from the phrase "Encoder-DECoder" — in this case is the format used for encoding digital video during storage/transmission and decoding during playback (without encoding, video data would take up an unjustifiably large amount of space). Do not confuse this parameter with the format of video files: different files of the same format can be encoded with different codecs, and if the corresponding codec is not supported by the player, video playback will be impossible, even if the file format itself corresponds to the capabilities of the device. And in models with online TV support (see "Features") this nuance also determines compatibility with a specific broadcast: the general format of the broadcast is indicated by the codec used for this.

In general, modern devices usually have quite extensive sets of codecs (one of the most advanced for 2021 is H.265), and there are usually no problems with video playback; in extreme cases, you can use special programs for transcoding files. As for specific codecs, detailed data on them can be found in special sources, but with standard use of media players, such details are not needed.

Audio decoders

The set of audio codecs supported by the device

Codec — from the phrase "Encoder-DEcoder" — in this case, the format used for encoding and compressing sound in digital form during storage/transmission and decoding — during playback (digital sound is basically impossible without encoding, and compression allows to reduce the amount of data). Information about supported codecs is relevant primarily for assessing whether the player will be able to work with sound in a particular video file. The fact is that even in video files of the same format (see below), sound can be compressed by different codecs; and if the player supports the file format, but does not support the codec, sound playback will become impossible.

Theoretically, these rules are also relevant for audio files and online broadcasts (all formats — TV, video, audio). However, in fact, when working with such content, you can ignore codec data. So, for each audio file format, usually, its own standard codec is used, and file type support automatically means codec support. Broadcasts usually use generally accepted audio decoders like MPEG-1 or MPEG-2, which are practically guaranteed to be supported by any modern player designed for such broadcasts.

As for specific codecs, detailed information on them can be found in special sources, however, with the standard use of devices, such details are usually not needed.

Screen

The device has its own external screen. Such a screen has a small size and performs an auxiliary role; various additional information can be displayed on it: operating mode, selected media, file name and location, playback time, etc.

Remote control

Remote control included with media center or TV tuner. In addition to the classic remote control with basic controls, there are manipulators with additional features.

QWERTY keyboard. Such remotes, in addition to the standard set of keys for controlling the player (see above), have an alphabetic keyboard similar to a computer one. This is relevant primarily for media centers with support for social networks and photo services (see "Features") — a keyboard with letters is needed at least to enter a login/password.

— With sensors. A kind of remote control that uses sensors instead of classic buttons. Such equipment is somewhat more expensive, on the other hand, the sensors give the remote control a stylish appearance, and in some cases they are more convenient than buttons.

With voice control. A remote control equipped with a built-in microphone and capable of recognizing a specific set of voice commands. This control format is often more convenient than using buttons/sensors. At the same time, the set of supported commands can be different — sometimes it is quite limited compared to traditional remotes, sometimes vice versa (for example, it may be possible to type text using voice input); these nuances should be clarified separately. It also will be useful to find out the list of supported languages; note t...hat English is almost guaranteed to be on this list, but Russian not always.

— Absent. The absence of a remote control is typical for network media players controlled from other devices — usually from a computer or from a mobile gadget through a special application.

Remote IR sensor connection

Possibility to connect an external IR sensor to the device.

Such a sensor plays the role of a receiver for commands from the remote control. It is useful in cases where the set-top box is difficult or impossible to install in a place convenient for remote control — in such a place you can place a remote receiver and use the remote control without any problems. Note that the sensor itself is usually not included into the package.

Cooling system

The type of cooling system used in the device.

— Passive. Systems based on natural heat dissipation; usually, one or another type of radiators is used. Passive cooling is absolutely silent, does not require energy and is extremely reliable — roughly speaking, there is simply nothing to break in it. Its main disadvantage is its low efficiency; this is not critical for relatively simple and low-power devices, however, passive systems are not suitable for advanced models (although Android models are often an exception to this rule).

— Active. Cooling systems with forced heat removal; usually the presence of fans is assumed. Such cooling is extremely efficient, making it suitable for use even in the most powerful devices with intense heat dissipation. Its disadvantages are noise, increased power consumption, as well as the probability of failure (very low, but nonetheless existing).
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