Regardless of where you find yourself (or whoever you’re buying gifts for this holiday season) on the geek spectrum, everyone wants to get media from their computer to their TV at one point or another. HTPCs and HDTVs with built-in streaming are great choices, but a standalone media player is usually the least expensive solution. The PBO Core media player from Patriot Memory is less expensive than any HTPC (and certainly any HDTV with content streaming) at roughly $100, but this tiny little box packs quite the wallop.
About as big as three CD cases stacked together, the PBO Core has plenty of connectivity, offering composite video, HDMI, optical audio, two USB ports, one miniUSB, and Ethernet. There’s no wireless but Patriot does sell a compatible WiFi adapter. Offering plenty in the way of connecting external storage (flash drives, external HDDs) the PBO Core can also house an internal 2.5-inch hard drive, a feature not found in most of its competitors.
As for file support, the PBO Core supports video playback up to 1080p, and it plays well with all the popular file formats including Real Audio, Real Video, MKV for HD video and FLAC for lossless audio. Check out the full file support list here.
Compared to the original Patriot Box Office, the PBO Core has gotten a UI facelift and new firmware, making it easier to navigate through content. You also get some Internet widgets, including Flickr, Picasa, Stocks, Video News, Video Podcasts, Weather, and RSS feeds. Sadly, there’s no Netflix yet.
The PBO Core is hard to beat in the sub-$100 price range. Top notch file support, 2.5-inch HDD bay, a new and improved UI, and its small size make the media player hard to ignore if you don’t want to go the HTPC route.