The Sony SMP-N100 is a streaming media center that offers many multimedia sources like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora, Amazon, and others, but also plays your own media files that are on your home network. It isn't the easiest box to use, but it sure is full of some nice features.
The little black box that the Sony SMP-N100 is measures 7.4 x 1.6 x 7.4-inches (whd), which makes it quite large and unruly, so make sure you have a space for it someone with your home theater equipment. The matte black top complements the glossy piano black sides and it has a very clean look with only a power button and USB port on the front.
On the backside of the SMP-N100, you'll find an HDMI out, component out, composite out, and an Ethernet port. The unit also has built-in Wi-Fi networking, so connecting it via a hardwire connection isn't necessary, but you'll probably want to make sure you have 802.11n networking as it is the fastest of the group.
Sony's included remote is very simple and easy to use. It has a directional pad with simple playback buttons as well as a full number pad.
The setup of the Sony SMP-N100 is very easy, too easy. The setup wizard skips over one crucial element of the unit: networking. You must manually go into the settings menu and configure your networking settings, which was fairly easy to do once there. The inclusion of this step in the setup wizard should be a no brainer, but somehow Sony overlooked it.
The user interface will look extremely similar to anyone who has a Sony PlayStation 3 because it's just a modified version of the XMB interface. Across the top you'll get icons for each type of media (photos, videos, music) but also network and Qriocity.
Selecting the video tab shows you a listing of the different online streaming services that the N100 is compatible with, like Netflix and Hulu Plus. Sony lists quite a bit of services on this list and the list can be quite daunting as there are many obscure services listed as well, so finding the one you want can be a little hard.
When you choose a service, Sony uses its own interface to display the content from that service instead of the service's own. This is a good thing because it creates uniformity across all services, but the downside is that it isn't designed too well. For example, the Netflix streaming interface shows 18 cover art icons for movies on the screen at once, so the images end up looking very small and hard to see. There's no text labels except for the movie that is currently selected. Another missing element to the Netflix area of the SMP-N100 is the ability to search by title name.
The mainstream services that Sony offers with this unit are Netflix, Amazon Video on Demand, Hulu Plus, Pandora, Slacker, Blip.tv and its own streaming movie service, Qriocity. Sony also offers many obscure services that include some of the following: National Public Radio, Lollapalooza Radio, Dr. Oz, Fearnet and many others. Unfortunately, there is no way to hide content from showing, which would make the content you want easier to find.
Streaming content from your networked computers is pretty straightforward as it works via the DLNA protocol. Sony supports quite a bit of file formats with the SMP-N100, including JPEG, DivX, MP3, MPEG and many others. You can also play content from a USB storage device (including thumbdrives), hence the USB port on the front.