The time has come Ė no matter how many channels your cable or satellite provider offers, the Internet has more. You have to have Internet on your TV. How do you go about it? Define Your Requirements The first question: do you want an "Internet-browsable" or "Internet-connectable" experience? There is a difference here. The "Internet-browsable" experience is actually surfing the Net on your TV using a browser and, usually, a keyboard. "Internet-connectable" products, on the other hand, will provide you with access to select internet-based services - but not the "whole Internet". Typically, they will display a variety of icons onto your HDTV screen. These icons represent movie-streaming services, music services, social networking services and so on. While an immediate reaction may be "yes, I want the whole Internet on my TV," in reality the "connectable" experience in most cases is just fine. You donít get the same variety but itís generally cheaper and easier to set up and use.
The next question: do you want wired or wireless connection? The wired is cheaper and faster, the wireless is more flexible. Ultimately, it comes down to your home setup: if you have an Ethernet (RJ-45) outlet near your TV, go with wired. Otherwise, look for a wireless solution, itís cheaper than trying to re-cable your home.
Do you want to have access to the video or music collection on your PC/Mac or a network server on your home network? You generally have to read the specifications to find out what each device is capable of in this respect. One thing to watch for is the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) certification. Most of the major computer and electronics companies are members of DLNA and a certified product has a good chance of interoperating with other DLNA products using Universal Plug-and-Play protocol. Note that Apple is not a DLNA member and they use a different protocol. Setting up an Internet-Browsable Experience You can use an actual computer with an AV or HDMI output, a wireless keyboard/mouse and your TV as a monitor. The cost typically starts at $400. To get better experience, consider Windows Media Center - an application that allows users to view and record live television, as well as organize and play music and videos. It is now standard in most editions of Windows 7. Combine it with a specialized media server, such as HP MediaSmart EX495 Home Server (around $630), equip it with a DVI/HDMI video card ($40-50), and you get a home media network with TV display.
Google TV is a well-publicized attempt to bring the Internet to TV without using computers. You can buy a new TV with Google TV built in (around $400 premium over models without one). Itís cheaper to buy an external Google TV-enabled device, such as Sony NSZGT1 Wi-Fi Blu-ray Disk Player with Google TV (list price $399.99).
Our favorite approach, however, is D-Linkís Boxee Wireless HD player. It retails for $199 and provides a robust Web access and a well-designed QWERTY remote. It will also help you to identify all the files on your hard drive or home network and then build a media library. Creating an Internet-Connectable Experience If you are looking to buy a new TV, keep it simple Ė buy one that has Internet connectivity. All the major TV manufacturers now offer "Internet TVs" and you have many good choices.
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