Netgem iPlayer

What is it?

The Netgem iPlayer is a DVB-T set-top box with built-in web browser. The DVB-T part means you can view digital TV channels using the same aerial and cabling as used for analog TV channels, in the UK this means the Freeview range of digital channels. Versions of the iPlayer are available for DVB-T broadcasts in France, see the manufacturer's page

What sets the Netgem iPlayer apart from other set-top boxes is the built-in web browser, so it is a ready made platform for accessing the internet in your living room.

The Netgem iPlayer has a UK distributor (Evesham) and you should be able to find iPlayers on ebay without too much difficulty. Things to look out for are:

  • the latest version of the iPlayer can receive HD broadcasts and also has a facility for recording programs onto its hard disc (PVR)
  • newer versions have card reader slot for decoding pre-paid encrypted channels (such as topupTV)
  • a wireless keyboard is also available for the iPlayer (the supplied remote control can be used to enter text but it involves cumbersome multi-tap of the 0-9 keys)

The iPlayer can also handle mp3, jpeg and mpeg files from outside the browser, this can be used to stream media from a PC elsewhere in your house to be played in your living room.

How to hook it up (TV, internet)?

The iPlayer has phone line socket and can be configured for dial-up acceess but the best option is to use the iPlayer's USB socket. For this you will need either a USB to ethernet adapter or USB to wireless adapter

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The display for entering URLs or accessing your favourite book marks are in large font size and show clearly on a TV screen. Using the remote controls arrow keys navigates to the webpage's anchor links, automatically scrolling the page as it goes.

The browser does have a capability to play Flash content but unfortunately the Flash player is quite out of date and you will be very unlikely to view any Flash content found on the web these days. This is perhaps the greatest failing of the iPlayer especially given the prevelance of websites using Flash to play video clips.

The browser is javascript and HTML 4 compliant. However the style sheet (css) handling is below modern expectations and coupled with the browsers in-ability to handle asynchronous http requests (used by AJAX) will mean that interaction with some websites will be disappointing or impossible.

As Netgem no longer provide software updates it is unlikely that these deficiencies will ever be fixed. This is a great pity because the iPlayer is an easy to set up, unobtrusive piece of consumer electronics and could easily lead the way in bringing the interent into the living room.

However the living room is probably never the best place to access a website that is heavy with text or requires complex interactions. Websites that are properly designed with the TV in mind are, by their nature, not text intensive and are simple to navigate. So it is still perfectly possible to use the iPlayer to access such websites.


Using Netgem iPlayer to access media on another PC

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