If your home is a typical US household, your main HDTV is a Full HD (1080p) model, but it does not have the ability to stream content from the Internet, limiting your viewing choices to the offerings of your service provider, be it either broadcast, cable or satellite.
If you already have a high speed Internet connection, adding a Digital Media Player or a Blu-ray disc player with a streaming content feature will convert almost any legacy HDTV into a Smart TV enabling instant viewing of TV programs and movies from services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and Vudu.
We list the most popular models and the main content services they offer after the break.
Media Players and Smart Blu-ray Players
Media players are small boxes that connect to your HDTV, (typically via an HDMI cable) and provide access to thousands of movies, TV shows and other content. Top selling models are offered by Roku (pictured), Western Digital, Boxee, and Apple TV. The top selling Smart Blu-ray Players are made by Panasonic, Sony, LG and Samsung .
Roku offers movies and TV programs from Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video. (Amazon Prime members [$79.99 year] get free downloads of thousand of movies from Amazon Instant plus free two day shipping on any item from Amazon direct).
Roku comes in three flavors. The entry level Roku HD Streaming Player outputs 720p HD and has built-in Wi-Fi for $49.99 from Amazon direct. The step-up Roku 2 XD will stream content up to 1080p Full HD resolution for $69.95 from Amazon direct. The top-of the line Roku 2 XS sells for $84.95 from Amazon and adds an enhanced RF remote control for games, a full edition of the Angry Birds game and an Ethernet port for wired Internet connection. For more on Roku see our review of last year’s model here as many of the features and functionality carried over.
The Apple TV MD199LL/A is probably the best known media player. Unlike the previous model, the updated version will now output up to 1080p. You get Netflix as well as the iTunes Store to buy or rent TV shows and movies. It also permits streamed content including music from iTunes on your computer. Other streamers offer more movie services. The Apple TV sells for $90.98 from Amazon direct.
Western Digital makes two models. The entry version WD TV WDBHG70000NBK-HESN and offers Netflix, Blockbuster and Hulu plus movie and TV services. It sell for $89.99 from Amazon Direct. The Western Digital WD TV Live Hub 1 TB Media Center adds a 1 terabyte hard drive for storing your own photos and home videos. It sell for $173.99 from Amazon direct.
The Boxee Box provides movie services from Netflix and Vudu. It includes a QWERTY wireless RF remote control. Like the others, it also offers music services and apps. The Boxee sells for $149.99 from Amazon direct.
Top Selling Smart Blu-Ray Players
The Panasonic DMP-BDT220 is a 3D ready Blu-ray player and includes built-in Wi-Fi. Panasonic offers movie and TV content from Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu plus, CinemaNow and Vudu as well as apps, music, Skype video calls (with optional camera) and social networks. The DMP-BDT220 sells for $129.00 from Amazon direct.
The LG BD670 3D Wireless Network Blu-ray Disc Player with Smart TV offers movie and TV content from Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu plus, Cinema Now and Vudu. This model is a 2011 and sells for $90.00 from Amazon Direct.
The Sony BDP-S390 Blu-ray Disc Player with Wi-Fi includes movie and TV content from Amazon Instant, Hulu plus, Video Unlimited, Netflix, Cinema Now, Vudu and the Sony Movie Channel. The Sony BDP-S390 sells for $116.49 from Amazon direct. The Sony BDP-S590 3D Blu-ray Disc Player with Wi-Fi offers the same streaming services as the S390 and adds 3D playback capability. The BDPS590 sells for $128.92 from Amazon direct.
The Samsung BD-E5900 3D WiFi Blu-ray Disc Player offers movies and TV programs from Netflix, Hulu plus, Vudu, Blockbuster and Cinema Now in addition to apps and an Internet Browser. The BD-E5900 sells for $125.45 from Amazon Direct.
All listed smart media and Blu-ray players include free shipping. All prices listed offered by Amazon direct and are sold under its policies. We recommend and affiliate (we may earn a small commission on referred sales) with Amazon because they have among the best customer policies in the industry. Amazon direct offers 30 Day returns. They stand behind their sales. Note: prices are correct as of posting and may change at any time, please verify with our links; Most states do not collect sales tax on Amazon orders with the exceptions of [CO, KS, KY, NY, ND & WA]. You always must pay sales tax (in states that collect it) when buying at a brick and mortar store. Should you buy an HDTV from on-line or from a retail store? Learn all the pros and cons in our article here.
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