Pioneer Project ET Hands On: The Ultimate Networked Media BoxS

We're still wrapping our heads around Pioneer's Project ET. It's sort of every piece of media squeezed into one set-top box—with masterful execution.

Project ET, also known as Project ETAP, is due sometime next year for an undisclosed price. The system is essentially a Linux-based networked computer with a 1TB hard drive and Blu-ray player.

OK, so what? Here's a full list of what it can actually do:

• Play Blu-ray movies
Managed Copy (backup) Blu-ray movies
• Connect to video services like Netflix (though definitely not Hulu)
• Stream stuff like MovieTrailers.com with a polished, non-web interface
• Link you to buying related movies/products through an unobtrusive interface
• Support Windows Media Center (possibly through DLNA)
• Be controlled through Android phones, the Nokia N810 (demoed perfectly), and the iPod touch (limited demo through the web)
• Load 128 USB connected drives (which it encrypts in some cases)
• Rip music in FLAC and PCM
• Automatically include the album art and lyrics
• Stream LastFM, Rhapsody and support Rhapsody downloads
• Integrate third party home automation devices
• Update Twitter
• And do everything listed above through a SlingBox-like, web-mirrored interface

All of this sounds great, but if the UI is either slow or ugly, none of the features matter. Luckily, the interface is easy to navigate, tastefully designed, and oh yeah, fast. In fact, Blu-ray JAVA loads 6x faster on the ET than the PS3.

None of these features are set in stone. Pioneer explained that, depending on public response, they could pull the hard drive completely or ditch Blu-ray. In fact, Project ET may not be a standalone product but a platform for future Pioneer products. They just want to create an internet-connected media network to trump everything that's come before. And...well, they're certainly in contention.

We'd just like to see DVR and CableCard support. Because then it would pretty much do everything.

Pioneer Project ET Hands On from Gizmodo on Vimeo.

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