In Part One of this series , I showed you how to use a game console to turn your HDTV into a Smart TV.
If the functionalities of Xbox, PS3 or Wii are not up your alley, you should go for smart set-top boxes that are ruling the roost today. After all, they cost just a fraction of what a Smart TV would. The only condition: it’s best if you have an HDTV for that high definition experience. Remember, these devices require access to the internet via cable or Wi-Fi to work. You’ll need a decent broadband connection to view streamed programs. Preferably, a 10mbps connection or HD streaming and 20mbps for more high-end stuff.
Roku – HD Streaming Player, $59.99
Easily one of the most popular smart set top boxes, the company’s newest avatar, Roku 3, it is rightly touted as the new standard in web streaming. With an easy interface and a powerful remote, it allows you to stream entertainment to your TV with its built-in wireless networking.
Netgear – NeoTV Streaming Player, $49.99
This one equips your TV with internet access for streaming movies and TV shows. The best part? It’s compatible with most HDTVs with its built-in Wi-Fi and offers 1080p screen resolution with a data transfer rate of up to 150 Mbps.
Belkin TV Plus Set-Top Box, $164.99
With this device, you can watch live TV and DVR-recorded programs on a mobile device, thanks to internet access. It allows viewing from up to eight devices when using your Wi-Fi network. But the best part? It can do a direct record and has an easy-to-use channel guide.
WD – TV Play Media Player, $57.99
Western Digital isn’t far behind with this device that allows you to stream digital media to your compatible HDTV and DLNA/UPnP network drives, USB storage devices, PC and Mac. And yes, it supports 1080p resolution and boasts of built-in Wi-Fi and an Ethernet port for LAN (local area network) connections.
Sony Internet Player with Google TV, $169.99
With a universal Bluetooth remote, touchpad and QWERTY keyboard, this device allows you to connect your TV to your home network with its built-in Wi-Fi. Not to forget, it can store data of up to 8GB and allows for voice search. Can anything get better than this?
Vizio – Costar Stream Player with Google TV, $99.99
It comes with all the smart set-top box standards: live TV, internet, streaming content, Google Play, Google Chrome browser and 1080p resolution support. Not to mention, universal remote with touchpad and keyboard. But the one standout feature? Allows you to view 3D content.
Apple TV, $99
One of the forerunners, this slid behind many who seem to have taken the sting out of this device. However, Mac users would prefer this one because it’s Apple-feature-friendly. Take that to mean, all the iOS apps and the companies Apple has tied up with like Netflix and Hulu. What’s more, you can wirelessly mirror your computer’s or iPad’s display for turning your television into a giant monitor.
Boxee TV, $99 for the device, $9.99 per month for DVR capability
You can also call it a cloud-powered DVR. But the best part? You can make use of its smart TV functionality without any use of cable. Boxee TV works with over-the-air signals, YouTube, Netflix and your own digital files. That it is also a DVR with unlimited storage space makes it a steal deal. Which means, you don’t have to delete any movie or tv show ever.
Pocket TV dongle, $135
This is a small Android device designed like a thumb drive that plugs into the HDMI slot of your TV. It offers 1080p screen resolution and has a microSD slot and 4GB of storage with Wi-Fi access. With a 1GHz Cortex A9 processor and 512MB of RAM, it also has a USB port for external storage. Before we forget, it runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich OS. You can control your TV using an IR remote or a phone remote app or the Wi-Fi remote that comes with the Pocket TV dongle.
— Zahid H Javali