Feeling overloaded by MP3s, JPEGs, and DVDs? Overwhelmed by wires, interfaces, and stacks of CDs? Relax. The right home server can simplify your life; store your movies, music, and photos in one place; and finally introduce your computer to the rest of your living room.

Self Serve
Slim Devices
Squeeze Box $299 (Audio-Only)
This slick-looking box is serious about tunes. It wirelessly streams audio from the Internet, supports Rhapsody and Pandora premium-audio services, and has analog and digital outputs. Setup doesn’t take long, but it isn’t easy (Mac users may struggle). Once it’s up and running, the Squeezebox is a gem; sound quality is good and the interface is simple. Its biggest drawback, though, is that it can’t stream music from copyright-protected online stores, so you can kiss iTunes’s 99-cent song downloads good-bye.
Self Serve
Sonos
Zoneplayer 80 Bundle $1000(Audio-only)
This thing kicks ass! If you want an elegant streaming solution, the ZP80 is your ticket to digital-audio nirvana. Its PDA-style controller is so cool, you’ll be tempted to wear shades while operating it. The ZP80 comes with two modules so you can set it up in two rooms (though the system is expandable up to 32 rooms) and includes all of the cables you’ll need to get it up and running—which takes less than five minutes. The first module must be hardwired into your network, but the rest communicate wirelessly with it for seamless integration.

Self Serve

Apple
APPLE TV $300 (Multimedia)
This server blazes an elegant path to home-media consolidation as it streams both audio and video. Mac devotees will love the iPod-like interface and Nanosize remote. Videophiles will love that it handles highdef signals and has HDMI component-video outs, but it doesn’t come equipped to stream standard video to older TVs. It may be the best media server on the market, but like most Apple products, this sleek box is only compatible with iTunes files, which still look shoddy on big-screen HDTVs.

Self ServeSony VGF-WA1 Wireless Digital Media Streamer
$350 (Audio-only)
Think of the WA1 as a boom box that plays your PC’s digitalmusic library or compatible Web radio stations via Wi-Fi. It supports all popular musicfile formats except those that are copyright-protected, like most iTunes downloads; and because the WA1 is battery powered, you can carry this tabletop unit from room to room. Audiophiles beware: The system sacrifices sound quality for portability.
Self ServeNetgear
EVA8000 DIGITAL ENTERTAINER HD $400 (Multimedia)
Propellerheads, rejoice! This bad boy doesn’t look as cool as the Apple TV and it doesn’t offer all the latest tech, but it does a lot for the price. It can stream YouTube videos, Flickr photos, live and recorded TV, Internet radio, and even protected iTunes downloads. Sadly, setting it up will make you sweat, the interface is clumsy, and the somewhat dusty wireless technology holds back the Netgear’s streaming capability. If you can get past that, this baby delivers.
Self Serve
Turn your Xbox 360 Elite into a home-theater hub
XBOX 360 ELITE GAME CONSOLE ($480) has plenty of hidden talents; one of them is acting as an affordable entertainment-system hub. Just add the HD-DVD drive ($200) and a powered speaker system, such as Pioneer’s HTS-GS1 ($300), then connect the console to your HDTV and home network. You can stream audio or video from your PC, or download directly from the Xbox Live Marketplace to the Elite’s 120-gigabyte hard drive. Then take the cash you saved and blow it on BioShock.
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