I've grown tired of hooking up the laptop to the HDTV whenever I want to watch anything from the computer. The remote never cuts it and even though I use my Sony PlayStation 3 for a lot of my viewing, there's some times when having a box designed from the ground up around being a streaming media player would be preferable. This is where the Brite-View CinemaTube has entered into my life and changed my media sharing HDTV watching experience.
Initial ThoughtsBrite-View has a line of plug and play media players to help you share your media from your PC to your TV. I recently received a brite-View CinemaTube 1080P HD and have been using it non-stop to stream anything under the sun such as Revision3.com's HD MP4s and other media that I have stored on my PC and Mac. I connected the CinemaTube to my network via a cat5 cable and other than some minor configuration changes on my Windows machine, everything worked perfectly right out of the box. I was able to stream with the UPnP support as well as by navigating through my shared folders. If you have a Mac, the process is seamless and if you're running XP or Vista you should be up in no time at all. Since I'm running Windows 7, there were some minor configuration changes. However, this is all outlined in good detail by brite-View online. I'm also sure they'll issue a software patch to the device to avoid this work-around entirely. The unit itself is extremely small, light weight and easy to setup. Navigating through the menus with the remote is simple and straightforward.
UI and Remote ControlThe CinemaTube's UI is nothing to write home about, but it gets the job done. Two areas of improvement for the UI would be in presentation and organization. If you're the type that has all their media stored in one unorganized folder, this system doesn't have a good way for you to quickly scan through and pick out the one item you want. It just gives you a list of the files and you have to scroll through until you find the one you want. It does have a handy preview feature, but I found that to actually slow me down occasionally. That would be useful when looking through old TV episodes or MP3s, but other than that it'll probably be disabled on my device. The good news is that the UI could be updated with a new firmware release that you can download direct to the device via it's update feature. It's not horrible, but it does have room for improvement.
However, the remote for the device is like gold. It makes interacting with the device simple and elegant. It's extremely responsive and even though the UI's presentation is lacking, the remote helps to cover up those imperfections.
FeaturesWhat the CinemaTube lacks in UI, it makes up for in features. Pick a video or audio format and it's almost guaranteed to be supported. Thanks to two USB ports, you can also use media off USB memory sticks or even USB hard drives. The device can work by accessing media over USB, your networks shared drives or via the UPnP MediaServer DCP. I'm looking forward to using an external hard-drive as the main source of content for the CinemaTube soon.
Playing movies direct from ISO files was probably my favorite feature of having this device. If you have your DVD collection backed up to your computer or a USB hard-drive, you can use the CinemaTube BV-5005HD to navigate through the DVD menu just as if you had picked it off of your DVD shelf and put it in your DVD player. Everything was snappy and the remote is full featured so it never felt like I was using a computer. It felt just like using a DVD player.
One thing to note about the feature set is that while you can play videos from YouTube over the device, it's really reliant on streaming from a PC with proper software installed -- so honestly, it's probably not something you'll even bother with doing. I could care less about streaming from YouTube. I can always turn on the PS3, my iPhone or look on the laptop for that. It's not a big deal to have YouTube on the big screen for me.