The world was rocked by the infinite format war, but hardware makers answered with HD media players that can read damn near everything. Iomega's newest ScreenPlay Director players decode a vast array of 1080p video—and serves CinemaNow movies.
There are two devices, the $250 ScreenPlay Director HD, which comes with a built-in 1TB hard drive and its slimmed down hard-drive free sibling, the $130 ScreenPlay TV Link Director. Unless you want to spend $120 for a limited-purpose hard drive, I'd say focus on the TV Link, as it's essentially the exact same thing. Iomega says it's DivX-certified, and handles H.264, WMV and MKV at 1080p, which is a good sign. Better still is that the newly posted notice on the site says it can read DVD disc images and AVCHD (meaning video yanked from Blu-ray discs).
In addition to YouTube, Flickr, Shoutcast Internet radio, RSS feeds and podcasts, there's also CinemaNow. It may not be as cheap as Netflix or as sexy as Vudu, but CinemaNow is holding its own as a major video-on-demand service, and its prospects are only looking better and better. It's DLNA certified, so it will play well with Windows 7 out of the box, and should take streamed video from many sources (and work with PlayOn). We haven't seen shots of the interface, however, so that's a mystery.
Bottom line: There's a lot of these devices out there already—as you well know. This year, this week even, the field of HD media players is going to get even more crowded. Syabas' new PopBox player has Netflix (but no pay-per-view VOD service). Lord knows it's just a matter of time before there's something with Netflix, a movie channel like Vudu or CinemaNow and the ability to decode a bajillion other video formats. That's a tricky mix for some reason, but I can feel it coming. Maybe this week. Iomega had to come out with a new ScreenPlay that was fully HD and compatible with the latest formats, because their previous players didn't hack it. Still, until we check it out, we'll have to wait to say whether the ScreenPlay Director devices are worth ranking. [Iomega]