With so many new DLNA media receivers emerging on the market, including the PS3 and X-Box 360, there are many options for media server software to run. Each server application has its own set of pros and cons. I researched all of the known products and listed out prices, supported operating systems and features. I also took the time to make a few notes and award best-in-class to a few select products that are the easiest to use, have the best features overall and provide the best end-user experience. Read on to find out how to choose your media server software.
The products are listed in alphabetical order. All servers are UPnP compliant. The Server column is the name of the server and a link to the vendor's product page. The Price column is how much the server costs. The Windows, Mac and Linux columns show support for those operating systems. The Music column indicates that the software can stream at least 1 type of music. The Photo column indicates that the software can serve at least 1 type of image. The Video column indicates that the software can stream at least 1 type of AV. The Transcoding column indicates that the software can transcode from one format to another.
|Cidero Internet Radio Station
|Cyber Media Gate (Java)||Free||X||X||X||X||X||X|
|Cyberlink Digital Home Enabler Kit||79.95||X||X||X||X|
|JRiver Media Center
|PS3 Media Server||Free||X
|Wild Media Server||$15||X||X||X||X||X||X||X|
|Windows Media Connect||Free||X||X||X||X||X|
|Yahoo Music Jukebox||Free||X||X|
What is transcoding?
The average consumer doesn't care about what technology is used to encode their media. They just want it to play. The problem is that many devices only support certain types of encoding and much media circulating around is in other formats. The solution? Transcoding. Transcoding means to convert a potentially unsupported encoding into a supported one for the receiving device on the fly. Wikipedia has more details on transcoding.
While basic functionality is indicated on this chart, there is no way of knowing how many types of music, photo or video formats are supported. It is also difficult to tell what formats can be transcoded. Most of the informational pages for these products don't give enough details, so without setting up every single product and testing all formats against a variety of devices, it's very difficult to know for sure what the level of support is.
Four products support every operating system: Cidero, Cyber Media Gate, Rhapsody and TwonkyMedia. Both Cidero and Cyber Media Gate are Java-based ports of their original C++ open-source counterparts. They appear to run on any Java 1.5 platform.
TwonkyMedia not only supports every operating system but has every main feature covered as well. Their transcoding support is new, as last time I looked into their tech specs I didn't see support for it, so time will tell how good it is.
Geexbox has no OS listed because despite being Linux-based, it runs its own distribution to work. To get similar DLNA server functionality in Linux, uShare can be compiled and installed, which is what Geexbox uses for its own server.
SimpleCenter has a free version without transcoding support.
The 2007 Winners
After reading user feedback all over AVS Forum and Sony's Playstation Boards, researching the product specifications and performing some basic tests of the products, I can say definitively that for Windows, Nero Mediahome and Simpecenter Premium offer the best ease-of-use, transcoding and overall functionality. Neither product is free, but as of right now they are currently the best in class. I have not been able to test enough products for Linux or OS X yet to give a good recommendation for those, but the chart provided should give you at least an idea of what may or may not suit your needs best.
Into the future and beyond...
New server are showing up every few months and existing ones are always adding new features. I will do my best to try to keep this list up-to-date, but I count on you to post your reviews and especially the corrections for prices, features and products for this list. Things have changes since I compiled the first list in 2007 so please read through the comments and discuss on the forums to make sure you have the latest information.
This list was last updated 10/9/2011 but some entries may not be current.