What you really need to watch Internet video on your television

What you really need to watch Internet video on your television

Summary: More and more of us are turning to the re-vamped Apple TV, Roku and other devices for our TV fix, but there are other things you need to enjoy watching Internet TV on your television.

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TOPICS: Mobility, Apple, Hardware
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Several friends have asked me recently what they should buy to watch Internet videos on their televisions. The newly revamped Apple TV? The cheaper and more services offered Roku XDS. My answer: None of the above.

Oh, there are good reasons to buy either one. If you're already wedded to the Apple way of doing things, the new Apple TV, or the old Apple TV for that matter, will work just fine. I'm not inspired by the new Apple TV, but that's just me.

Roku, on the other hand, offers by far the widest variety of video choices: Netflix, Amazon Video, MLB.TV, and many more besides. In addition, it offers many Internet radio choices as well such as Pandora and, in just the last few days, Sirius XM Radio.

So, why am I not recommending either? While I use both, on my main TV, a Sony KD-34XBR960 34-inch HDTV, one of the last of the high-end, picture-tube HDTVs, I use my Sony BDP-S570 Blu-ray Disc Player. Besides playing Blu-Ray DVDs and normal DVDs, it also comes with Internet streaming support for Amazon Video on Demand, Netflix, and, real soon now, Hulu Plus. As soon as Hulu Plus shows up, I'll be bidding cable TV a final adieu.

My point isn't though that you should buy the Sony BDP-S570, although it is a great combination of Blu-Ray player and Internet video extender. No, my point is that almost any high-end TV or DVR player that you'll be buying soon is going to have Internet video capabilities built-in. By the holiday season of 2012, I expect only the cheapest new TVs and DVRs won't have it built in.

In short, if you plan on upgrading your TV or any other major entertainment center component soon, you don't need to spend anything extra for an Internet video-specific media box. There are better things you should be spending money on if you want to watch Internet TV and enjoy it in your living room.

For starters, you really need at least a 3Mbps DSL Internet connection to enjoy Internet video. I've tried it at slower rates, and you really don't want to go there. Most of Internet TV's accessories are pure-streaming devices. If there's much more than a second or two of lag on your Internet connection, you're going to see the latest episode of The Big Bang Theory stutter across the screen. Yack!

Personally, I recommend getting at least a 10Mbps connection. I'm currently running with a 20Mbps cable connection and it works well all the way up to 720p. If you want to get to even higher resolutions, 1080p, you'll soon find yourself running into the limits of home broadband. Your devices may support it, but I've yet to see 1080p over the Internet work well in practice.

In addition, you really need 802.11n, and have it setup properly. You can make do with 802.11g, but in my experience, you're likely to run into video stuttering from time to time even with plain old 480i TV episodes and movies. Back when 802.11g was as fast as you could get, I just ran Fast Ethernet cable between my router and my early model media extenders.

In the near future, you're going to have a lot of other wireless choices for your Internet video. General purpose Gigabit Wi-Fi is on its way. There are also about half-a-dozen video-specific, high-speed Wi-Fi on their way, but I'll tell you more about those in my next column.

Topics: Mobility, Apple, Hardware

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22 comments
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  • How about an old PC

    Seems to work fine and beats throwing them in the garbage.
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • RE: What you really need to watch Internet video on your television

      @No_Ax_to_Grind An old PC & a decent-sized monitor is fine for watching TV in your office, but these days when I watch TV or movies I want to see it on a good-sized display with friends.

      Steven
      sjvn
      • RE: What you really need to watch Internet video on your television

        @sjvn@... I love my Epson 8100 projector and twelve foot image- it takes HDMI and RGB in, but only does 1080p while my old video card still does 1600x1200@70Hz. into an old Sony W900 CRT. BluRay disks still look best as online, cable, and satellite content is more compressed to conserve bandwidth. Very noticeable with a 12' image. I'm glad I stepped up from a 50" HDTV - its a whole different, immersing experience.
        markk02474@...
      • RE: What you really need to watch Internet video on your television

        @sjvn@... Here's what works for me. An ITX based system with 1.7ghz core duo, 2 gig of ram, 500 gig drive, WinXP and a Hauppage USB tuner. This acts as my DVD player/DVR/media streamer. It the same size as the old Apple TV and supports onscreen resolutions up to 1920 by 1280 (that's slightly higher than 1080p). In the living room hooked to the 46" and looks great. Total investment in the box was $210.
        Scubajrr
      • DVI to HDMI cable will do

        @sjvn@...
        Using a PC does not imply using a computer monitor. Many TVs have a PC input, but since DVI and HDMI are electrically the same, a DVI to HDMI cable or adaptor will allow direct connection.

        However, there may be a particular HDMI input on the TV that needs to be used for optimum display of PC content.
        Patanjali
      • RE: What you really need to watch Internet video on your television

        @sjvn@... An N330Atom-based 1.6GHz dual-core ITX board, built-in surround sound, with a Radeon (forget which one) video card, a Blue-Ray drive, and an internal 160GB drive, hooked up to my 1080i DVI projector and a 12ft wide roll-down screen is how I watch my movies.<br><br>The mobo had a firmware bug where it would crash on 64-bit GRUB but not 32-bit GRUB so I didn't know what else to do with it except turn it into a 32-bit media-center<br><br>My previous media-center was an old P4 with an ATI Rage All-In-Wonder and the previous 800x600 VGA projector. The only component I bought special for that unit was the DVD drive since DVD ROM drives were still new at the time. At the time, it was cheaper than a new DVD player and in the end, it worked a whole lot better.<br><br>All I need now is a better popcorn maker.
        mheartwood
      • RE: What you really need to watch Internet video on your television

        @sjvn@... You can either get a projector, or you just get a ATI graphics card with HDMI out w/ Audio (they all have that these days) and now your old PC can decode just about any video format (5000 series has native Blu-ray decoding) and watch it on your TV. A $15 remote will allow you to control your computer, and bam ur done.
        Jimster480
    • RE: What you really need to watch Internet video on your television

      here in italy we use THE CUBE hardware with telecom :) <a href="http://www.tophotelsuedtirol.de">hotel sudtirol</a>
      hotelsudtirol
  • Not everyone has super fast internet

    I like the looks of the Roku units, but for me any internet TV product needs to have local storage for buffering. I do watch some TV on my 1.5 Mb connection, but even SDTV has issues, and HD would be unwatchable. I am willing to pay more for a device that would spool the program, or even allow for the complete download for later viewing. Hard drives and flash memory is so cheap that I fail to see why this is not standard.
    itpro_z
    • I agree completely

      @itpro_z That's one reason why I like the old model Apple TV. I also keep a terabyte of video in my personal library, but that's a story for another day. Unfortunately, everyone is focusing on streaming/rental now instead of owning.
      sjvn
      • Owning is over rated

        @sjvn@... I was referring more to just buffering or storing locally rather than pure streaming. Streaming is nice, but only if you have sufficient bandwidth to make it feasible.

        Regarding owing, I have DVDs still in the shrink wrap years after I purchased them, and movies that I have downloaded that I only watched once. Yes, there is the rare exception of a movie that is worth watching multiple times, but that is rare indeed, or at least it is for me. I do have a substantial library of both physical media and digital media, but have reached the point where I would be content with video on demand at a reasonable price (subscription) rather than filling up shelves or hard drives. I am considering an XBox as perhaps the best alternative at this time.
        itpro_z
  • To me owning and local storage go together

    Your watching habits may vary.

    Steven
    sjvn
  • I Recommend Vudu - It Streams in 1080p High Definition

    I watch streaming video in 1080p HD through Vudu (www.vudu.com). It is very crisp, clear, and lag-free. <br><br>Vudu comes with many of the latest televisions and home theater systems. My new LG home theatre comes with Vudu, NetFlix, YouTube, Pandora, Picasa, etc. <br><br>Vudu has the largest library of 1080P HD movies available, including new releases--many more than NetFlix. In fact, Vudu makes new releases available much more earlier than NetFlix does. <br><br>Check it out, Vudu is the up-and-coming movie streaming service!
    FullFrame
  • RE: What you really need to watch Internet video on your television

    You're kidding right?

    A BitTorret client and a torrent tracker are all you need.

    Oh I see, you meant legally ;-)
    tonymcs@...
  • RE: What you really need to watch Internet video on your television

    1) You do not need a 1080p TV, because a 50" 720p monitor will provide comparable picture from 8ft plus. I have a TH-50PHD8UK monitor and no computer speakers.
    2) You do not need a new computer with an HDMI output, if yours has DVI and optical outputs. Use a DVI to HDMI cable
    3) Use a 5 channel HDMI switcher if you do not have multiple HDMI inputs for your computer, DVR, Bluray DVD, or PVR. I connect these devices to my switcher from there to my to monitor for 720p or 1080i video.
    4) If your AVR does not have HDMI inputs use optical cable connections for 5.1 Dolby Dgital Theater sound or 2.1 24 bit 96000 khz sound for music.
    5) If your laptop has an HDMI output, use your wireless high speed internet connection.
    I have high speed comcast cable and have had a flawless sound-video connection between all devices for 4 plus years. I am able to display and hear anything my computer can receive on the internet. I multitask with ease if I want to read or write on my computer and listen to music at the same time. Internet video displays at 720p. I assume a 1080p TV can be programmed to display 720p, if 1080p is a problem for you internet speed connection. Use a logitech wireless mouse for couch control. Buy a new AVR if you have the money
    wmcoverdale
  • RE: What you really need to watch Internet video on your television

    And for us Europeans?
    jhughesy
    • RE: What you really need to watch Internet video on your television

      @jhughesy Well, in the UK you'll soon have, YouView, aka Project Canvas and you've already got iPlayer. I'd trade any three smaller U.S. TV video streamers for iPlayer myself. I don't know, but I imagine the EU countries either have similar services to Hulu/Netflix or will soon.
      sjvn
  • TV licensing

    Biggest driver for me to explore internet TV is to get rid of ?145 per annum TV licensing cost. But there are not many providers in UK.
    p.vinnie@...
  • RE: What????? Dont need all that at all

    I have been doing this for 3 years now and have not had cable for over 1 1/2 years All you need is a vga cable!!!!! I do use a hdmi out from my video card but most people just need a vga cable! Since you cannot yet stream full 1080p over the internet VGA looks good enough! BUT I do use and HD 5750 with HDMI out combo with a Blu-Ray player optical drive and you have a great HD medi center. So I donot need any of that stuff he is suggesting, and I also have the full ability of a pc on my TV! IT IS THE FUTURE!
    stevesalot
  • RE: What you really need to watch Internet video on your television

    bigger problem is availability of all programs that you would normally watch during the week. even with Hulu plus, you won't be able to get everything and when you do, it'll be old.
    reverseswing