Internet-streaming media devices and services have become my latest muse since receiving my most recent cable bill. After viewing it, I thought surely there must be a way to save some money and still enjoy good TV and movie content.
There are a lot of streaming media software programs and hardware devices available that will enable someone to view TV and movie content from the Internet. From game consoles and Internet-enabled TVs to dedicated hardware and even homemade solutions, one has many options from which to choose.
TV and movie content can be streamed from the Internet to your computer and other devices via services such as PlayOn at www.playon.tv/playon, Amazon Instant Videos at amazon.com/Instant-Video/b?ie=UTF8&node=2858778011, Netflix at netflix.com/Default?loms=abcd and many, many others.
These services require additional fees. See the Websites for the pricing plan details. However, there are many others which offer free content.
Content can be streamed to your TV using standalone media devices such as Apple TV at apple.com/appletv/, Boxee at www.boxee.tv/, Roku at roku.com and WD TV Live at wdc.com/en/products/products.aspx?id=330. In addition, content can be streamed on video gaming consoles such as the Nintendo Wii, Sony PS3 or Microsoft Xbox 360 and many other devices.
Most of the standalone, dedicated media devices are very reasonably priced. For instance, Apple TV and Roku devices are both less than $100. Both are tiny devices that won't take up much space; they're about the size of a coaster and only an inch thick. They also are simple to setup.
Nowdays, there are Blu-ray players and TVs that feature built-in capabilities to stream Internet content via a wireless or wired Internet connection. They include software known as Internet apps which feature Netflix, Amazon Video and other streaming services.
Another option is to build your own streaming media box. The custom-built media boxes use special media software to gather and play streaming media content from the Internet.
Among software that can be used to stream content include XBMC at xbmc.org, MythTV at mythtv.org and Plex Media Center for OSX at www.plexapp.com and Windows Media Center, which comes with Windows. All of these programs can be used to enhance your streaming content experience.
I've been checking out the latest Roku offerings after missing a great deal for an older model on Woot. I got the newest Roku 2 XS player as a birthday gift. It is the top level of the current Roku 2 offerings and it costs $99. The two other new Roku 2 players are the Roku 2 HD at $59 and the Roku 2 XD at $79.
I chose the Roku 2 XS player because it comes with the most features. It comes with a free, full edition of the popular Angry Birds game and an enhanced remote with motion control for games.
In addition, the Roku 2 XS features surround sound, built-in WiFi, an Ethernet port, a USB port for music, videos and photos and a miniSD slot. There is also a single port for composite audio and video.
One of my favorite things about the player is that the Roku 2 XS player works with my old TV. The TV doesn't have standard audio/video ports, you know, those white, yellow and red connections. I used my existing RF modulator/video converter device between the two and violá!
Setup was a breeze, only three steps and about five minutes of time. I spent more time trying to decide which channels to add because there are so many offered.
The Roku fun continues next time.
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