What is a Digital Media Streamer?

Mary Elizabeth

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.

Woman doing a handstand with a computer
Woman doing a handstand with a computer

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.

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to EasyTechJunkie about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

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Discussion Comments


Why is anyone still purchasing devices for digital media streaming? I don't know much about games, but other types of media like films and music can easily be played with a downloadable media player on the computer. The computer can easily be attached to a TV screen and used like a device.

Most of these media players are actually free and if they don't already play all available file formats, there are codecs that can be downloaded to make the media player stream them. Or one can just download an updated media player that works with everything.

I stopped investing in things like DVD and Blu-ray players a long time ago.


@literally45-- Yea, most devices are quite limited in the forms of media they will play. But you see, new media formats are coming out every day. It's very challenging for these devices to keep up with them. When a new media file format comes out, a new device has to be used to play that format. It's just not possible to constantly renew devices.

There are currently media players out there that will play three or four different types of media. But you have to be strict about the types of media that you use. Always check what the device is capable of playing before purchasing films, games, etc. And don't be surprised if in a few years when the market is bombarded with a media format that your streamer/player can't play.


I'm having trouble finding a digital media streamer that works with more than one type of media.

I have a DVD player that actually also plays some forms of electronic media like AVI. But it won't play anything else.

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