When it comes to today’s HDTVs, it’s no longer good enough to have just a big, beautiful picture. Today’s sets need to offer a little something extra—or a lot something extra, if the TV can tap into the Internet.
Web connectivity is certainly one of today’s most sought-after HDTV features. Most newer sets are packing in access to Netflix, YouTube and Pandora, as a minimum. Of course, there hundreds of additional options out there, depending on the TV’s manufacturer.
Unfortunately, not everyone can afford to upgrade to a web-capable HDTV. Even if you have a big AV budget, you probably don’t want to go buying a new HDTV every time a new feature comes out. If that’s the case, we hope you have some type of local electronics recycling service on speed dial!
Thankfully, you don’t really need to upgrade the biggest piece of the puzzle. There are plenty of ways to get web content using your current screen, whether you have an HDTV or a projector-based home theater system. Some people add a PC into their setup, with many others opting to get that Internet fix through a gaming console or a web-enabled Blu-ray player. However, there are several stand-alone media streamers that can easily (and cheaply!) add web streaming into your current or even a secondary setup.
After all, why have a dumb TV when there are so many inexpensive options begging to smarten up that set? Check out our slideshow of 10 Sizzling Stand-Alone Media Streamers.
Apple has had two versions of its compact media streamer. Why mess with a proven formula? This 2012 version added in 1080p streaming and a new, user-friendly interface. The real hook here is access to everything under the Apple umbrella—almost. It does put all of iTunes video on that big screen, but if you’re looking to rock out to iTunes-based music, you’re going to have to sign up for iTunes Match, which is $25 a year. Otherwise, it’s got AirPlay and AirPlay mirroring, as well as direct access to streaming services such as Netflix, YouTube, Flickr, and more.
It was a tough call between this compact box and Roku’s Streaming Stick. The Stick is just what it sounds like, packing streaming features into something the size of a USB flash drive. However, you need an MHL input to make it work, and that’s something only found on newer HDTVs and other CE devices. This little box can make almost any HDTV a smart one, as long as it has an available HDMI input. Besides over 750 channels of available entertainment, the $99 box comes packing a remote with motion control for gaming and a built-in headphone jack for late-night viewing.
VIZIO is setting itself apart from all of the other streamers by packing the power of Google TV into its set-top. The Co-Star hooks to any TV via HDMI, and can search across live TV and whatever is on the web. Some of the box’s most popular services include Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, M-GO, YouTube and iHeartRadio. However, it also has the distinction of being the first box to stream OnLive’s on-demand gaming service (for a fee, of course). Other features include 3D support, 1080p streaming (when available), built-in WiFi, and a full-screen version of Google Chrome with Adode Flash Player and HTML 5.
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