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How to choose a DLNA Media Server for Windows, Mac OS X or Linux

Written by vaheeD on February 17, 2013
How to choose a DLNA Media Server for Windows, Mac OS X or Linux
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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.

Comparison Chart

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.

 

Server Price Windows Mac Linux Music Photo Video Transcoding
Allegro Media
Server
39.95 X X   X      
Cidero Internet Radio Station
Server (Java)
Free X X X X X X  
Cyber Media Gate (Java) Free X X X X X X  
Cyberlink Digital Home Enabler Kit 79.95 X     X X X  
Elgato Eyeconnect 49.95   X   X X X  
Fuppes Free X   X X X X X
Geexbox Free       X X X  
GMediaServer Free     X X X X  
JRiver Media Center
39.95 X
  X X X  
MediaTomb Free   X X X X X X
Mezzmo 24.95 X     X X X X
MiniDLNA Free     X X X X ?
MythTV Free     X X X X X
Nero
MediaHome
79.99 X     X X X X
Nullriver Medialink 20.00   X   X X X X
On2Share 19.95 X     X X X  
PS3 Media Server Free X
X X
X X X X
Rhapsody 12.99/month X X X X      
SimpleCenter Premium 19.99 X     X X X X
Tversity Free X     X X X X
TwonkyMedia 39.95 X X X X X X X
uShare Free     X X X X  
Wild Media Server $15 X X X X X X X
Winamp Remote Free 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.

Analysis

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: CideroCyber Media GateRhapsody 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.

How to choose a DLNA Media Server for Windows, Mac OS X or Linux
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