Help Guide: How Do Other Internet-Ready Devices & Video Game Consoles Work?
Internet-connectable TVs are becoming more and more popular, but if you want to enjoy media from the Internet on your existing TV, these digital media devices are an affordable and effective way to stream web content to your current television.
Digital media devices such as the Roku HD Player and the Logitech Revue connect to your existing home network and offer Internet services such as Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube, HuluPlus, and more.
Each manufacturer offers its own range of services. There is a substantial amount of overlap and services are expanding rapidly as the technology advances. When looking for a digital media device that's right for you, be sure to research the services and content each product offers to be sure the device can provide the kind of content you want.
While the Internet content these products deliver is usually simple enough to be navigated with a remote control, some products may be bundled with a different type of controller such as a wireless keyboard for updating social media sites like Facebook or Twitter.
Nearly all digital media devices are self-maintaining, automatically downloading firmware updates that keep the device current or offer additional services.How Digital Media Devices Connect to Your Home Network
Digital media devices are typically equipped with Ethernet ports for connecting to your home network but some products, such as the Boxee Box, may offer a wireless connection. A wired connection requires the following:
1. A broadband Internet connection (with modem provided by your ISP)
2. A router connected to your modem (if you cannot connect directly to your modem)
3. An Ethernet cable for connecting the device (these are usually packaged with the device)
For a wireless connection, whether it's through built-in hardware or an additional device, you'll need a router with Wi-Fi to connect wirelessly.Types of Services Available with Digital Media Devices
Content varies depending on manufacturers and models, but services include access to streaming video and music, social networking tools, online photo galleries, news updates, stock tickers, weather information, sports scores, and a variety of smartphone-like applications.
Although several applications provide a fully interactive experience--updating your status on social networks such as Facebook or Twitter, for example--most devices do not feature full-fledged Internet browsers. You are limited to the applications offered as part of the manufacturer's service, so again, when shopping for an Internet-ready device make sure that the product offers the specific content or service you're looking for.
Since digital media devices are a relatively young technology, manufacturers are adding new offerings every day. Always be sure to refer to manufacturer websites for the most up-to-date information on their services.
Some of the currently available digital media devices:TiVo Premiere
--The original DVR manufacturer that introduced the idea of all-digital content to the average home, TiVo has evolved to offer more services on top of simply recording live TV. Web applications like Pandora and YouTube let you stream music and video, and you can rent HD movies via Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and BLOCKBUSTER On Demand. The TiVo Premiere requires a subscription in addition to purchasing the unit itself.Roku Players
--Roku was one of the first companies to offer Internet Media Devices, and remain a popular choice due to their affordability and ease of use. They offer basic access to a number of popular Internet services such as Netflix, YouTube, MLB.tv, and more. There are no additional fees on top of the subscription services they offer (for example, if you already have a Netflix account, there's no extra charge to use it on the player). Currently, Roku players do not offer general web browsing and only limited integration with social media apps (i.e., Facebook photo sharing).AppleTV
--The latest iteration of the AppleTV integrates smoothly with your home network, serving your iTunes music and photos while offering Netflix and YouTube streaming as well as HD movie and TV show rentals. Unlike previous AppleTVs, it doesn't come with any storage, and it doesn't offer web browsing or social media. But it's an affordable drop-in solution that works wired and wirelessly, and if you have an iPhone or iPod touch, there's a free remote app that will allow you to control your TV and iTunes from your portable device.Logitech Revue
--Logitech's Revue player is powered by Google TV, Google's new service that allows you to search, record, and watch TV in addition to having full Internet browsing. The Revue integrates seamlessly with your existing cable TV setup and works great with Logitech Harmony remotes. There's even a smartphone app for Android and iPhone/iPod touch that will allow you to use your portable device to control your home theater system.Boxee Box
--Built around the original Boxee media center software, the Boxee Box is extremely rich with features. In addition to offering streaming services like Netflix and YouTube, the Boxee Box offers a huge library of on-demand TV shows and movies in HD--much of the content is free, and Boxee can even link you directly to premium services for rental or purchase if a free version isn't available. You can also stream music and video from your network-connected PC, browse the web, and update your social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Included with the player is a regular remote and a QWERTY-style keyboard remote. It works wired and wirelessly, and there are individual apps that you can download to the Boxee Box that add more services.Slingbox
—-Slingbox players are a versatile way to watch your favorite shows on multiple devices. They connect to your home theater and stream content from your TV to almost anything, including PCs, laptops, and mobile devices. They don't record live TV, but do interface with your existing DVR to give you remote access to your recorded content. Certain models will also allow you to control your entire home theater remotely through a PC or mobile device.What Are Some Examples of Internet-Ready Game Consoles?
The three major gaming
consoles all provide some level of video streaming capabilities. Both the Sony PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii provide free access to TV shows and movies streamed from Netflix, but you'll need to request an installation disc from Netflix be mailed to you. The Xbox 360 also provides access to Netflix streaming, however you must be an Xbox LIVE Gold member
(a $49.99 annual subscription).
Internet-Ready HDTVs: Frequently Asked Questions
What Is an Internet-Ready TV?
The Internet is becoming a larger part of people’s daily lives, and more and more devices offer new ways to stay connected. As a longtime hub of information and entertainment, it’s only natural that the television has followed suit.
Internet-ready TVs take the web content that has been increasingly popular in external devices—video game systems, Roku boxes, DVD/Blu-ray players, etc.—and deliver it directly to your television.
These televisions are equipped with an Ethernet port (and often a wireless connection or add-on) much like your PC or other network devices. Once connected to your router, they use your broadband Internet connection to provide you with content.
Content varies depending on manufacturers and models, but one can gain access to streaming video and music services (both paid and unpaid), smartphone-like applications or widgets, social networking tools, online photo galleries, and plenty more. Manufacturers continue to expand their offerings by the minute and can extend their devices’ abilities via firmware updates--a distinct advantage over analog sets of yesteryear.
Is an Internet-Ready TV Interactive? Can I Surf the Web on My TV?
Internet-ready TVs are interactive, but only to a certain extent.
These devices don’t feature Internet browsers, so you can’t simply surf the web as you would on a PC. The current focus of Internet TV is on streaming media--along with pared-down versions of popular web applications, for quick access to information you want to check regularly.
That said, several applications provide a fully interactive experience. You can, for example, view your Flickr or Picasa slideshows, update your Facebook status, or perform other similar actions, but you can’t pop open a browser and search for a vacation spot.
Why Would I Want an Internet-Ready TV?
Streaming-media aficionados are popping up everywhere nowadays. Whether it’s video services like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon’s own Video On Demand; music services like Pandora or Rhapsody; or a wealth of other entertainment options, the biggest selling point is having instant access to the entertainment you’re after.
Many people utilize additional devices for these services—watching Netflix on a video game system, for example. With these televisions, an extra piece of hardware is not a requirement, and many services are free.
It’s also nice to have another place to access your social media updates, news, stock info, etc. Ever sit in front of the TV looking at your cell phone or laptop?
Finally, several of these televisions also offer access to media on your home network, allowing you to enjoy content you already have sitting on a hard drive.
What Is the Comparative Cost of These TVs?
The answer to this question is twofold, as one must consider the cost of the television as well as the internet part.
First, the televisions. Internet-ready TVs cost a bit more than non-Internet models with similar specs. Part of this is simply the cost of the additional hardware, such as the addition of an Ethernet card or wireless hardware. In addition, manufacturers must license content, which consumers may see in that final price tag.
Internet service and home network costs comprise the other part of the equation. This includes the cost of monthly broadband Internet service, a router for distributing your Internet connection among your different connected devices, cabling or optional wireless hardware, and, finally, the cost of any paid services (such as Netflix or Vudu).
What About Repairs, Lifespan, Tech Service, and Guarantees?
One advantage of modern electronics is the ability for manufacturers to update device firmware. This means that as they offer new services—you won’t be left in the dark as long as your hardware supports them. This is particularly handy with Internet TV, since manufacturers are adding new services and applications at a rapid rate.
The actual repair and service of each television will depend on the manufacturer’s warranty and service policies and will be in line with that brand’s non-Internet TVs.
Some manufacturers offer official user communities, FAQs, and other online support, which can be another fruitful avenue for quick answers to questions one might have.
Is There Data That Compares Different Brands and/or Models?
As the technology grows, there is of course an increasing amount of data in the form of reviews, product comparisons, etc. online and in print, to help you make your decision about which model to purchase.
Amazon has created this chart LINK TO CHART offering a comparison of the various services, applications, etc. on some of the main manufacturers’ Internet-ready televisions.
Note that since Internet TV is a relatively young technology, manufacturers are adding new offerings every day. Refer to manufacturer websites for the most up-to-date information on their services.
Can I Surf the Net and Watch TV Simultaneously on the Same Machine?
Many of the Internet services out there take up a full screen--streaming video, for example. But many applications, such as news or stock tickers, can be displayed while you enjoy normal television programming. This will depend upon the model/manufacturer and which service you’re accessing.
How Fast Can the TV Process the Data? Is It Just as Fast as My PC?
The answer to this question would of course depend upon the specific TV and PC being compared, but in general these TVs are not as powerful as modern PCs that are designed for more demanding processor tasks.
Performance is also dependant upon your Internet connection. Video content may require delivery at a lower resolution for poorer signals, for example.
Is Internet Content as Good as It Would Be on Your PC--or Better? Is There HD-Quality Internet Content?
As mentioned above, Internet content is slimmed down to specific, streamlined offerings that are dependent upon what each manufacturer offers. For example, you might access Yahoo! Widgets, but not browse the web from the company’s search engine. You can see the latest news on AP or New York Times applications, but not be able to click through their entire website. Internet TV offers more of a snapshot than an immersive web experience for the sake of convenience and simplicity.
As for HD-quality content, the answer is a resounding “yes”. Video can be streamed in full 1080p resolution with services like Vudu or Netflix (although resolution and compression may be adjusted for slow or problematic Internet connections). And, of course, a 13-inch laptop screen can’t quite compete with an HDTV for enjoying movies.
How Do I Navigate Internet Content on My TV? Does It Come With a Remote/Mouse Object?
The means of navigation depends upon each television’s manufacturer and model. Nearly all units include a remote control for accessing content, including input of alphanumeric characters (video game players may be used to navigating and using software keypads with their controllers).
Vizio provides a Bluetooth remote with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard for several of its models--similar to certain cell phone designs. Other models even allow you to attach a USB keyboard, such as Panasonic’s TC-P46G25.
What’s the Difference Between Internet Television and Internet Protocol Television (IPTV)?
The main difference between these two means of delivering content is that Internet TV is delivered over the Internet—the global, public World Wide Web—and IPTV is delivered over a private managed network (by a telecom company, for example).
IPTV requires a set-top box, and viewers receive the provider's own channels--it is being deployed by telecom operators as an alternative (or addition) to cable/satellite television. The benefits are interactivity with the quality, consistent service, and added security of a private network.
Internet TV's advantage, however, is that publishers can deliver their content to any number of devices without being tied to a specific service provider or system. For example, Netflix can be streamed to Internet TVs, Blu-ray players, video game systems, etc., regardless of manufacturer, and which company is providing broadband service.
The Internet-ready TVs sold by Amazon.com feature Internet TV services as opposed to IPTV.
What Can I Expect to Get in a TV That’s Internet-Ready? Does It Come with a Computer Inside It? A Keyboard? A Mouse?
Generally, on the outside, an Internet-ready TV will look the same as a standard television--aside from the Ethernet port for connecting to your network.
While you won’t see too many keyboards or mouse peripherals, some models do feature different controls than their non-Internet equivalents, such as Vizio’s Bluetooth QWERTY remote mentioned above. Others may include an external dongle/piece of hardware for a wireless connection.
But these are not all-in-one computers by any stretch: one might think of them as enhanced televisions offering a handful of entertainment bonuses on top of all the other modern HDTV features.
What Do I Need to Connect My TV to the Internet, Wired or Wirelessly?
A wired connection requires the following:
1. A broadband Internet connection (with modem provided by your ISP)
2. A router connected to your modem
3. An Ethernet cable for connecting the television
A wireless connection requires a router with Wi-Fi and a means of connecting wirelessly (this may be built in to the television or the manufacturer may sell/provide additional hardware).
One additional necessity might be a credit card for handling per-view or subscription fees on paid services and an Internet-connected PC for setting up and managing accounts, etc.
How Do I Decide Which TV Is Best for Me if I Like Sports? Gaming? Movies?
There’s plenty of overlap in the services offered by different manufacturers, but one consumer may find a particular brand’s content more in tune with his or her needs. One sports fan might migrate to Panasonic for Fox Sports while another might choose Vizio for NBA Game Time, for example. A movie buff with a Netflix subscription would likely choose a manufacturer offering Netflix, while a gamer might pick the platform offering the most thumb-twiddling satisfaction.
Check this comparison chart LINK TO CHART created by Amazon.com for a quick overview of services offered by several manufacturers. Note, however, that it’s best to consult manufacturer websites for the most up-to-date information since these services are rapidly developing.
How Can I Get the Internet on My TV if I Don’t Have an Internet-Ready TV?
There’s no single answer to this, as there are so many ways to get Internet content nowadays.
Several DVD and Blu-ray players now offer similar services to those outlined in this FAQ, and many devices allow you access to particular content such as Roku’s Netflix devices.
Another option is accessing content through video game systems, something many consumers have been doing for some time now.
Perhaps the most obvious would be simply connecting a PC to your television. Several manufacturers offer low-profile media PCs these days that are equally at home in an office or living/family room. Of course not everyone wants a keyboard on his or her coffee table.
How Will It Work With the Rest of My Home Network? Do I Still Need Cable or Satellite?
Like so many other factors, the interaction between the TV and the rest of your network depends on the model. Many feature the ability to connect to your home media server or PCs, allowing you to listen to music or watch video content you have stored on your hard drives.
As far as network performance, certain applications—such as streaming video—require a lot of bandwidth. If several machines are using the same connection, they will affect each other’s performance to some extent.
Those who get their broadband via cable/satellite providers will obviously still need that part of their service, but programming is a matter of personal preference. Some find value in cable/dish television offerings, such as premium channels or DVR services. That said, it is not required for Internet television.