Getting online content on television is easier than ever. A growing number of Internet-capable televisions and Blu-ray players allow consumers to stream video from the Web to the big screen via a broadband connection.
Consumer Reports' latest Ratings of televisions and Blu-ray players that can stream movies online included more than 20 sets from $1,000 and four players from $150. Lab tests also revealed that set up and access to online content was easy and picture quality was decent if not quite up to the claimed resolution.
CR's tests also found another dozen or so televisions that can stream other types of content aside from movies; however, Internet browser capabilities on Web-enabled televisions and Blu-ray players are limited. Viewers can watch videos from YouTube; news, sports and more from Yahoo!; digital photos stored on Picasa and Flickr; and music from Internet radio stations such as Pandora and Slacker. Some of the content is free. Movies and TV episodes are pay-per-view or, with Netflix, included with a subscription. Other online streaming services include Amazon Video on Demand, Blockbuster on Demand and Vudu.
Aside from Web-enabled televisions and Blu-ray players, there are other devices available that offer access to streaming movies and online content, including the TiVo HD DVR, $250, and two game consoles: Microsoft's Xbox 360, $200 and up, and Sony's PlayStation 3, $300, which includes a Blu-ray player and a Web browser. There are also dedicated boxes that connect to an existing broadband service via a wired or wireless (Wi-Fi) hookup. Some of the streaming services, such as Vudu, also offer their own boxes for a fee.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
-- Which Net-cable gear? Each hardware brand has partnered with specific services; content may vary for different players or televisions within a brand. CR recommends that consumers who are upgrading from a standard DVD player to a Blu-ray player should consider an Internet-enabled model as it costs much less than upgrading to a television that can receive the Web and gets the same content.