Digital media is electronic media, as opposed to, print media. Digital media that a computer user accesses could be seen through a browser, housed on an internal or external hard drive, played through a digital media player, or streamed in an ongoing delivery flow. A digital media streamer, or streaming media player, is a device that plays some or many types of multimedia. Newer game consoles, such as Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Nintendo® Wii, can also double as digital media streamers.
A digital media streamer may be able to stream a variety of multimedia, depending on capabilities and licensing. Apple TV, for example, can handle media from iTunes, but does not play Window Media files, while Windows-oriented streamers may be just the opposite. Digital media streamers will typically handle a range of file formats, include video formats MPEG1, MPEG2, MPEG4, and AVI; audio formats MP3, WAV, and AAC; and photo formats JPEG, PNG, and TIFF. They may also work with a variety of playlist formats.
These devices can be categorized differently by manufacturers and retailers. They may be referred to as digital multimedia receivers, live HD media players, theater, or media center extender. Devices with a more limited range of media will typically have a name reflecting their capability, such as DVD player, but the reference to multimedia can be tagged on afterward.
Differences between products include ease of setup, cost, capacity, and speed of downloads. Operating system compatibility and connectivity protocols are two essential items to consider in integrating a digital media streamer with an existing computer and wired or wireless local area network (LAN). Some products of this type do not have Wi-Fi, and they may be geared for different LAN standards, often 802.11b, 802.11g, or 802.11n, or offer a choice.
There are some commonproblems that may show up when using a digital media streamer. These include unreliable streaming bit rates, incompatibility issues, license and media rental restrictions, too simple or too complex menus, and lack of built-in DVD player or lack of Wi-Fi support.