Bored With Broadcast: Tap Your TV Into the Internet

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The Internet provides a nearly limitless supply of entertainment, especially in the form of movies and music. With the right setup you can enjoy that entertainment on your TV, not just on your computer. Internet-ready TVs, or "Smart TVs," are finally offering some really impressive features and content that often justify their prices and allow you to enjoy your entertainment center even more.

Internet Connection

  • Most Internet-ready TVs can get online using built-in Wi-Fi or an Ethernet port, and after you set up the TV once, it connects automatically in the future. Some TVs require an adapter, and without it you can't use any of the television's online features. If you are considering an Internet-ready TV, you should make sure you've got everything you need to get it online.

Apps

  • One of the most visible features of Internet-ready TVs is their apps, which function similarly to apps on smartphones and to programs on computers. Each app is specifically designed for a certain use, like video chat on Skype or accessing your account on Facebook. Available apps on various Internet-ready TVs overlap, even between different manufacturers, so if you're considering a purchase, the determining factor might be other TV features or even the prices.

Video Content

  • Some of the most popular apps are for viewing videos online. Since apps are focused on meeting specific needs, they usually have an intuitive and easy setup for accessing these videos. Popular apps are Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Video, Hulu Plus and VUDU. The way these apps work is entirely independent of your TV service, like cable or satellite: apps require only Internet access to provide their movie and TV content. This contrasts with options like DVRs that display TV schedules and record content only from your existing TV service. Just remember that while many apps are free, others, like Netflix and Amazon Video, require payment for accessing their movies. Some apps require a flat monthly rate or individual rentals or purchases.

Content Sharing

  • Many Internet-ready TVs allow you to share media across several devices in your home. Although sometimes the initial setup is a bit challenging, wirelessly accessing your computer or smartphone for video files, photos or music can be convenient. This can be especially practical if you want to see your own media on the big screen without the hassle of transferring it on a flash drive or disc.

Other Features

  • Since Internet-ready TVs tend to be on the cutting-edge of entertainment devices, most other features you'd expect in a quality TV will be present. This includes HD capability (usually full 1080p), USB ports, good image and audio customization and plenty of connections. You can always find exceptions, but typically an Internet-ready TV will meet the needs of an average or even a demanding home theater setup. Of course, all that improved hardware and software does come with a higher price tag.

Specific TVs

  • Many of the most popular and best Internet-ready TVs are manufactured by Samsung, LG, Panasonic and Vizio, though more manufacturers are starting to make their own quality options. These are a few full HDTVs that are Internet-ready. One option that's not too expensive is the Vizio SV422XVT, which is a 42-inch LED LCD with plenty of apps and a fair set of connections. A more expensive and full-featured option is the Panasonic TC-P50VT25, which has a 50-inch screen, good image quality and 3-D support. And one of the best models available is the Samsung PN64D8000, with a large 64-inch screen, 3-D support, superior color and black levels and a large selection of apps.

Other Options

  • Even if you don't have an Internet-ready TV, you can still get your TV online using specialized devices like Roku, Boxee, Apple TV or even video game consoles. These devices connect to the Internet wirelessly or with an Ethernet cord, and then they connect to your TV, often with an HDMI cord. This type of setup offers many similar features to Internet-ready TVs at a significantly lower price.

  • Photo Credit BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images
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