A big selling point of today’s HDTV’s are their online capabilities. But if the one you have comes with minimal connectivity choices, or no Internet connection at all, you’ll need a stand-alone box to gain “Smart TV” access. But just as a number of devices in a genre can seem similar, a closer look will showcase one that performs in a superior fashion. Such is the case with the VIZIO Co-Star.

The smallish plastic box connects through your cable/satellite provider (a U-Verse box in this case) and then on to the HDTV using HDMI.  A few minutes of using the built-in Wizard will set up for wireless access (should you not plug an Ethernet cable into the back). Since Google TV is integrated into Co-Star, the TV channels come with search functions, PIP (picture-in-picture) and the other companion functionality Google offers for televised imaging. Outside content is taken care of through a USB port and DLNA support. In effect Co-Star is also a media server — one with the processing power to handle file distributions as efficiently as that of any stand-alone model. My wife used this to present pictures she had shot of one of our dogs on the “big screen” and it’s immediately obvious that any picture that looks “good” on the small screen of a phone or laptop looks “great” when it’s up on a big HDTV screen.

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