How To Make Your HDTV Smart

June 17th, 2012 · 11 Comments · Blu-ray Players, Connected TVs, Digital Media Receivers

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

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.

Apple TV

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

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.

Boxee

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.

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Blu-ray Deals

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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11 Comments so far ↓

  • Spiritwalker

    I see loads of comments about streaming but no one is talking about personal media, ie: avi,mkv,mp4 etc! Some people would like to share their media throughout their home network. Which of all these devices allows you to do that as well?

  • K jelinek

    Hi
    Two questions. Would I be able to get local stations for news or would that require an antennae? Also, can I get FX or just certain programming from FX? Thanks. K

    Yes. You would need an Over The Air antenna for local channels. Not sure about FX, check with the provider for the given “Smart” box.

    HD Guru

  • Bob Billy

    I was actually looking for a more “do it yourself” kind of guide. You guys should look into XBMC.

  • Joe

    Started with a Roku, upgraded (I thought) to a WD TV Live Hub. My first Hub failed after 6 months; the replacement, after a year. WD was decent enough to send me yet another replacement, but it’s still in the box. Using the Xbox downstairs and loving it. Using the Roku upstairs and loving it, too.

  • Maryu

    I have an apple TV in one room and I got a Mac Mini for my family room TV. I can access Itunes, Netfllix, all the PBS movies, and YouTube and regular internet as well on that TV now. Works well.

  • Jennifer

    I purchased a Ruku 2 and even though it finds my Wifi it will not connect. I am tired of buying these devices that won’t connect wirelessly and having to spend hours trouble shooting without results.

  • Brian G

    I purchased a PS3 for the kids but because it had the blue ray player built in and the Internet connectivity. I used it at first wireless but the truth is that it will never compared to wired if you can get away with it as everyone knows. We stream from Netflix and the Internet through the PS3 all the time as well as all our wireless devices. I’m satisfied for now.

  • Claude

    Having seen the “internet ready” on a nice 60” Sharp Aquos set at Costco, I bit on the bait, only to find out that it does not have an onboard quick connect to the internet. Post purchase I considered this to be a bit of phony advertising since it required me to go thru a regimen of clicks and screens to enable the wireless internet access. I found the Sharp “apps” and their limited number of usable icons rather disappointing and thereafter purchased a Samsung blu-ray player. When will these major, expensive manufacturers add an onboard fast click connect to their devices? We are past due believe me.

  • Stringfellow

    I have a question…

    Will streaming devices become “a thing of the past,” considering Mr. Pollard’s point, with the so many manufacturers including applications in their televisions-and blu-ray players-that are not unique to their company (i.e., Hulu, Amazon Prime streaming…)?

    In addition, Apple will be releasing an Apple television, but my presumption is that the current “Apple TV” streaming device will remain in the market for anyone that does not purchase an Apple television and, as Dave said, still wants to be able to keep “one foot in the Apple Universe.”

    Smart TV is evolving. CE makers will continue adding apps and services and make these available in TVs as well as Blu-ray players, free standing units and who knows what if anything else in the future.

    Based on industry sources, we believe Apple is working on its own platform like a video itunes that will include number of cable networks at launch. When it occurs it will take us one step closer to the day viewers will not need for a cable or satellite program provider and be a real alternative to linear TV services.

    We continue look for hard evidence regarding the Apple iTV as in our opinion, all reports to date have been either hearsay or speculation. We will publish news about the Apple iTV once a real announcement is made. Stay tuned.

    HD Guru

  • Dave

    I have both the Roku and Apple TV. I find the streaming picture quality to be comparable and based more on the source stream quality than the device. They are connected via HDMI cables to my HD LCD TV. Roku has a handy bluetooth remote control and clearly has more streaming channels. It also has Amazon Prime free streaming for those who subscribe to Amazon Prime. If I didn’t need my Apple TV to stream from iTunes, iPad, and iPhone content using Airplay, I’d probably settle on the Roku. I have one foot in the Apple Universe and one in the rest. However, the fairly low price point for these devices means I can use both with no purchaser’s remorse.

  • Kevin Pollard

    I have a Vizio 55″ HD-LCD TV that can access Netflix, and many other sites with apps built into the TV. Is there a way to just load a web browser app so I can just surf the web, and not be directed to specific sites?

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