Tivo brand cable boxes can replace your generic old cable DVR. They will tune the HD cable channels you are used to but will offer you a huge array of online content. This includes several of the services I mentioned above for Video, but also offers access to music services like Rhapsody & Pandora radio.
.NETWORKED MEDIA PLAYERS!
The term "Connected Source" refers to networked media players & online streaming services. These are devices that can get entertainment to your TV or Stereo from media by simply streaming directly from the internet such as Music, Movies or TV Shows. These players can also access any digital content you own on a computer in your network like photos, music or TV/Movies. There are 2 distinct separations you must understand. First is the services, where the media is coming from & the Second is the device or "Box" that plays onto your TV & sound system.
Box that Plays on your TV
All of these online services are offering us an easy and affordable way to access any media we can imagine without having to leave the house but how do you actually get it on your TV? A computer might be an obvious choice but for anyone who has tried to connect their computer to their TV it does not play well and is difficult to navigate when you just have a simple remote in your hand. There are many "Box" devices that operate from a simple hand-held remote with the buttons you are used to like UP/DOWN/LEFT/RIGHT/(SELECT).
Many of these devices you may already own and simply are not using to their potential. Here are highlights of a few of our favorites.
Box: Apple TV
Apple TV. This is surprisingly small and simple. It nests itself into an existing iTunes infrastructure so easily it almost installs itself. It is the most limited regarding accessing options of the services available but of course works great with your existing iTunes library. It will download content directly from the iTunes store.
Box: Google TV
GOOGLE TV. The new guy on the block is the Google TV. They have a few companies making different versions of their boxes so you have a choice. One huge thing they do differently is they include a full wireless keyboard to make searching & navigating the limitless options of the internet easier. Along with the full keyboard, they also include a full Google Chrome Web browser. This is especially handy if you want to see something not supported by the other services such as a ping pong tournament only shown on a ping pong website and not hosted anywhere else. Another really cool feature is the way they do a video overlay to use Apps on top of whatever you are currently watching like twitter on top of your cable feed! The Google TV boxes are a little more expensive than the others but the list of benefits make it definitely worth the consideration.
ROKU boxes are one of the most flexible devices on the market & one of my personal favorites. They access so many services I could never mention them all here without offending you. They start out simple and you can add features as you go
Box: Your DVD Player
DVD Players. Many of the new Blu-Ray DVD players that you already own will access these features. Some have wireless built in but if you have one that does not hook to your wireless internet, try one of our network solutions such as the plug & play network kit over your power lines from Monster Cable.
Box: Your Game Player
Most of the Game Boxes, again that you probably already own, have access to many online services besides just playing games. The PlayStation3, X-Box, Wii & more will all access online content and allow you to watch what you want when you want!
Box: Your TV
TVs. Many Televisions sold this year and many more to come will include these type of networked apps built in. Because normally I am hoping your TV lasts a good amount of time, I do not prefer relying on the TV to provide these services. The features will come and go faster than you should have to change your TV set out. Also many of you have the TV hanging on the wall as a monitor and it may be difficult to back feed audio/video back into the sound system or other rooms.
Some services have you download the file for use & some instantly stream without fully downloading. The advantage of downloading is you get the best quality but you have to wait for the download to complete before watching. Also with downloading you can choose to either purchase the file to own or just rent it for a short time use. The advantage to instant streaming is you get it right now but the quality may be degraded depending on your internet speed. There are many options and I will go through a few of my favorites here:
An unlikely player in this category is Amazon.com. Amazon was one of the first online retailers to launch a VOD (Video On Demand) side of their site and has a huge collection and will work from a variety of devices. Many other companies are jumping on board but Amazon is still leading the way.
An obvious powerhouse in delivering digital media is iTunes.
Itunes Apple's iTunes began taking over the world with music downloads and has expanded greatly into Video offerings. With Apple's portable devices being by far the most popular, many people already have iTunes & know how to use it. The only downfall is iTunes is not universal in that you really need an Apple device such as an Apple TV to play from. Many of the other services will play from a variety of devices.
NETFLIX started as the DVD mailed to your door company and now is one of the leading TV/Movie streaming services. Its advantages are that its programs are instant streaming & it is a monthly fee of as low as $8 a month all you can watch!. Also it has over 10,000 titles available. Lastly it has current versions of many popular TV shows online the day after they air on TV you can watch commercial free! Its cons are that if your internet service is not blazing fast the quality can be compromised and they do not have many new releases available.
VUDU is another instant streaming service that focuses on the best quality HD. It does not charge a monthly fee and is simply a pay as you go or truly "On Demand" service. What's nice about Vudu is you will have many more new releases to choose from & the largest movie database to select from!
Service: Your media
Other media that often gets overlooked is connecting to your family home movies with services such as YouTube or Vimeo & Photos from the likes of Flickr or Picasa.