Pioneer Project ET Hands-On: The Ultimate Networked Media Box

We're still wrapping our heads around Pioneer's Project ET. It's sort of every piece of media squeezed into one set-top box—with masterful execution.

Project ET, also known as Project ETAP, is due sometime next year for an undisclosed price. The system is essentially a Linux-based networked computer with a 1TB hard drive and Blu-ray player.

OK, so what? Here's a full list of what it can actually do:

• Play Blu-ray movies • Managed Copy (backup) Blu-ray movies • Connect to video services like Netflix (though not Hulu) • Stream stuff like with a polished, non-web interface • Link you to buying related movies/products through an unobtrusive interface • Support Windows Media Center • Be controlled through Android phones and iPod touch • Load 128 USB connected drives (which it encrypts in some cases) • Rip music in FLAC and PCM • Automatically include the album art and lyrics • Stream LastFM, Rhapsody and support Rhapsody downloads • Integrate third party home automation devices • Update Twitter • And do everything listed above through a SlingBox-like, web-mirrored interface

All of this sounds great, but if the UI is either slow or ugly, none of the features matter. Luckily, the interface is easy to navigate, tastefully designed, and oh yeah, fast. In fact, Blu-ray JAVA loads 6x faster on the ET than the PS3.

None of these features are set in stone. Pioneer explained that, depending on public response, they could pull the hard drive completely or ditch Blu-ray. They just want to create an internet-connected media machine to trump everything that's come before. And...well, they're certainly in contention.

We'd just like to see DVR and CableCard support. Because then it would pretty much do everything.

The main UI page, this one's on pictures, which can be pulled off a server or the local hard drive.

The picture UI is incredibly fast—pictures selected in the carousel on the bottom of the screen pop up full-res nearly instantly.

This is how you navigate through albums.

Not my favourite song, but this is what playing music looks like.

Inside the music interface, where it'll prompt you to buy related stuff from online stores you select, both digital (stream or download) and plastic (delivered to your house).


Oh yes, Twitter integration.

It's telling you to please buy Bolt stuff. Pleeeeease.

Hey look a managed copy of Bolt we just made.

This is the box that makes it happen.

The remote running off the Nokia N810 worked perfectly—everything on the screen showed up on the N810 totally in sync.

The iPod touch integration was a little jankier since it uses a web interface (because of SDK limitations), but still okay.

Technical issues willing, we'll get you a video of the interface in a bit.

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