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Digital media receiver

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Title: Digital media receiver  
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Subject: Set-top box, Receiver, Home Shopping Network, XBMC, Home theater PC, Streamium, Eternal Word Television Network, Sky Angel, ShopHQ, DMR
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Digital media receiver


A digital media receiver (DMR), also commonly referred to as a media extender, media streamer, digital media hub, or digital media adapter (DMA), is a home entertainment device that can connect to a home network to retrieve digital media files (such as music, pictures, or video) from a personal computer or other networked media server and play them back on a home theater system or TV.[1] The DLNA organization refers to these devices as digital media renderers.

Functionality and capability

A digital media receiver can connect to the home network using either a wireless (IEEE 802.11a, b, g, and n) or wired Ethernet connection. A DMR includes a user interface that allows users to navigate through their digital media library, search for, and play back media files. Some DMRs only handle music; some handle music and pictures; some handle music, pictures, and video; while others go further to allow internet browsing or controlling Live TV from a PC with a TV tuner.

Some other capabilities which are accomplished by DMRs include:

  • Watch, pause, and record live television
  • Play and store music CDs and view album art
  • Play, catalog, and store DVD videos
  • Listen and pause Digital Radio
  • View digital pictures (one by one or as picture slideshows)


Some DMRs have integrated displays and speakers. Others must be connected to an external output device, such as a television, or a stereo system.

There are stand-alone digital media receivers from Apple (e.g., Apple TV), NetGear (e.g., NTV and NeoTV models), Logitech, AIOS, XIOS, Micca, Popcorn Hour, D-Link (Boxee Box), Western Digital (e.g., WD TV), EZfetch, and Pinnacle (ShowCenter 250HD). The model numbers change frequently and so it is advisable to visit their web sites.

It is also common to find DMR functionality integrated into consumer-electronic appliances, such as gaming machines (for example, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360), DVD players, set-top boxes, or even connected HDTVs (such as HP MediaSmart Connect and MediaSmart TV).

It is common for DMRs to also support connecting to internet services, such as Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Vimeo, etc. These appear to be bigger selling points for hardware devices.


Software is sometimes used to connect a computer to a media receiver. For example, Microsoft Media Center is software that comes with a version of Microsoft Windows named Media Center Edition. Some media receivers (e.g., Logitech) will connect to that software to stream music, pictures and recorded or live TV originating from the computer.

Apple iTunes can also be used this way with the Apple TV hardware that connects to a TV.

There are competitors to Microsoft Media Center. For example, XBMC, Media Portal, and Moovida. These products are free.


By November 2000, an audio-only receiver was demonstrated by a company called SimpleDevices,[2] which was awarded two patents covering this invention in 2006.[3][4] Developed under the SimpleFi name by Motorola in late 2001, the design was based on a Cirrus Arm-7 processor and the wireless HomeRF networking standard which pre-dated 802.11b in the residential markets.[5] Other early market entrants in 2001 included the Turtle Beach AudioTron Ethernet receiver and the Rio Receiver phone line networking receiver.

An early version of a video-capable DMR was presented by F.C. Jeng et al. in the International Conf. on Consumer Electronics in 2002.[6] It included a network interface card, a media processor for audio and video decoding, an analog video encoder (for video playback to a TV), an audio digital to analog converter for audio playback, and an infrared receiver for remote-control-interface.

A concept of a digital media receiver was also introduced by Intel in 2002 at the Intel Developer Forum as part of their “Extended Wireless PC Initiative." Intel’s DMR was based on an Xscale PXA210 processor and supported 802.11b wireless networking. Intel was among the first to use the Linux embedded operating system and UPnP technology for its receiver. Networked audio and DVD players were among the first consumer devices to integrate DMR functionality. Examples include the Philips Streamium-range of products that allowed for remote streaming of audio, the GoVideo D2730 Networked DVD player which integrated DVD playback with the capability to stream Rhapsody audio from your PC, and the Buffalo LinkTheater which combined a DVD player with a DMR. More recently, the Xbox360 gaming console from Microsoft was among the first gaming devices that integrated a DMR. With the Xbox360, Microsoft also introduced the concept of a Windows Media Center Extender, which allows you to access the Media center capabilities of your PC remotely, through your home network. More recently, Linksys, D-Link, and HP introduced the latest generation of DMRs that support HD video playback and may integrate both Windows Extender and traditional DMR functionality.

Streaming and communication protocols

While early DMRs used proprietary communication protocols to interface with media servers, today most DMRs use standard-based protocols based on UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) and DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance). DLNA-compliant DMRs and Media Servers guarantee a minimum set of functionality and proper interoperability among DMRs and servers regardless of the manufacturer.


There are two ways to connect an extender to its central media center or HTPC server - wired, or wireless.


A wireless connection can be established between the media extender and its central media center. On the downside, interference may cause a "less than optimal" connection and cause network congestion, resulting in stuttering sound, missing frames from video, and other anomalies. It is recommended[by whom?] that an 802.11a or better be used, and over as short of a distance as possible.

Other names

Digital media receiver manufacturers use a variety of names to describe their devices. Alternative names include:

  • Connected DVD
  • Digital audio receiver (DAR)
  • Digital media adapter
  • Digital media connect
  • Digital media hub
  • Digital media player
  • Digital media streamer
  • Digital video receiver
  • HDD media player
  • Media Extender
  • Network media player
  • Networked DVD
  • Networked entertainment gateway
  • Wireless Media Adapters


See also

Television portal

External links

  • - HD Media Player Comparison Grid
  • - UK HD Media Players Comparison Grid
  • HD Media Player - Which HD Media player
  • HP MediaSmart Connect Wins Popular Mechanics Editor's Choice Award at CES 2008
  • CNET Editors' Best Network Music Players
  • PC Magazine Media Hub & Receiver Finder
  • AudioFi Reviews of wireless players
  • PC World's Future Gear: PC on the HiFi, and the TV
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