Okay, let me start by saying that I’m planting a stake in the technological terminology ground here, and declaring that I will now use the term “network media player” to refer to devices that connect a television to your home network so that you get access to media files stored locally and on the Internet. In the spirit of full disclosure, let me also point out that I have been singularly unsuccessful in such attempts in the past. (Everyone still says “laser printer” even though I tried to switch it to “page printer” about two decades ago because not all of them use lasers. But so it goes.)
These are the devices that let you stream Netflix movies or listen to your MP3 collection on your HDTV. It includes products such as the Roku boxes or Western Digital’s WD HD TV Live series. Note that I would also describe some HDTVs, Blu-ray players, video game consoles, and home theater receivers as having “network media player features“, which means that they can also access content from your network or the Internet without the need for a separate box.
There are more and more of these coming on the market every day, and I find it hard to keep up with all the choices and details. Now you’ll see why I started by defining my terms. Veronica Belmont of Revision3 has stepped up by creating a shared Google Docs spreadsheet on the Internet. She calls the devices “set top boxes“, but I reserve that term for the thing that provides an interface between your television and your subscription television service, such as cable or satellite TV. In any case, this list has a lot of good detail.
You can read the contents of the file, and if you wish, update and add to the information there. Like WikiPedia or any other crowd-sourced material, trust but verify before you take any action based on the details in the file. Still, it makes an excellent starting point for your research into these products.