How to Connect Your TV to the Internet

Computers & TechnologyMultimedia

  • Author John Matteson
  • Published April 18, 2011
  • Word count 804

The time has come – 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 don’t get the same variety but it’s 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, it’s 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). It’s 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-Link’s 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 – buy one that has Internet connectivity. All the major TV manufacturers now offer "Internet TVs" and you have many good choices.

But what if your plans do not include a new TV? Turns out you still have plenty of options. If you (or your kids) have a gaming platform such as PS3 or Wii, they already offer you limited Internet capabilities such as Netflix access. The new Tivo Premiere also gives you access to Netflix, YouTube, Pandora, and more.

Another possibility is getting a Blu-ray player or a home theater system with internet connectivity. For example, the Samsung BD-C5500 Blu-ray Player ($110-$130) offers Internet@TV, with downloadable widgets and apps. It is also wireless LAN ready in case you need to use Wi-Fi. The Samsung WIS09ABGN LinkStick Wireless USB Adaptor costs $50-$60. So for about $170-$180 you get yourself a new Blu-ray player plus internet connectivity to your TV.

Lastly, there are specialized Internet TV players such as Apple TV, NETGEAR Digital Entertainer Live, Roku, Western Digital WD TV Live Plus HD Media Player, and more. Roku XD is our favorite - for $80 you get 1080p HD video, wired and enhanced-range Wi-Fi connectivity, plus instant replay. For another $20, the Roku XD/S offers a USB port for playing stored photos, music, and videos (requires free software update).

If providing convenient access to your home media is important, consider Iomega ScreenPlay Director HD Multimedia Player. The 1TB version runs about $160, the 2TB version is $220. (wireless adapter is extra). You pay more, but you get a convenient HD home media server with Internet access.

John Matteson is President and COO of Shopping Syndicate, LLC which owns and operates Dealhack.com. He has been working in the digital media and consumer electronics related fields for more than fifteen years. Dealhack.com promotes hand-picked online coupons, deals, and specials on computers, electronics, and entertainment as well as food and wine, and various online services.

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