The top minds in online video just wrapped up their annual industry pow-wow called Streaming Media West. This year’s edition of the premiere online video conference showed off the full power of Internet TV and webcasting, and highlighted innovations that are changing the way we watch TV and movies. While much of the conference was geared toward tech pros interested in adaptive streaming and cloud computing, there were plenty of products and gadgets for anyone considering a streaming TV box or smart TV. These days, you don’t need to buy a smart TV to have access to the full capabilities the technology has to offer. Just one affordable little piece of hardware can transform any TV into a smart TV and help viewers cut the cable TV cord with no regrets.
With the conference finished, here’s a quick look back at some of the newest and most exciting gadgets on display at Streaming Media West as well as which new Internet TV products provide the most bang for your buck.
INTERNET TV GETS A BOOST WITH STREAMING TV BOXES UNDER $99
If you think streaming TV boxes are costly playthings affordable only to tech millionaires, think again. Many of the top names in set-top boxes are priced at $99 or less. Even the two biggest names in the over-the-top TV box market, Apple TV and the Roku streaming TV box, have models available for $99 or less. Roku even has a $50 entry-level box, the Roku LT. Both of these big-name little boxes have advantages and disadvantages when it comes to streaming TV.
Apple TV has eliminated its “99 cents per episode” deal for watching episodes of TV shows (episodes are now $2.99), so watching Apple TV has become costlier. That $50 Roku box provides only 720p screen resolution, not 1080p, and does not offer an app to watch YouTube videos. On the other hand, these are the two most popular options to stream TV for good reason. Apple TV is the only option that can access and stream your entire iTunes library over your TV or home entertainment system. Roku boxes offer the most channels to watch, and have a USB port that you can use to attach a USB drive and watch your own personal videos. A 1080p Roku 2 HD box is available at the $79.99 price point.
|Search And Rescue
Finally being able to search all that great streaming content online is fabulous. When you don’t want to look for something to watch, check out all your favorite videos saved in your RealPlayer library.
Some other up-and-coming streaming TV boxes were also on display on the Streaming Media West show floor – all of them available for $99 or less. The NeoTV by Netgear offers the same $50 price as the entry-level Roku, but offers 1080p resolution and a YouTube app. Western Digital’s WD TV Live lets you customize your own home screen and background wallpaper. The Vizio Co-Star offers Google TV, and 3D streaming capabilities for 3D-enabled sets.
A “TV GUIDE” FOR INTERNET TV
There are all these great TV shows and full-length movies on the Internet that can be purchased or streamed for free, but how do you know where to find your favorite, obscure indie movies or British sci-fi shows? Between Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Vudu, you’d have to log in and search about half a dozen different smart TV apps. Industry insiders call this “content discovery,” but I call it “Somebody ought to make a TV Guide for streaming TV shows and include if content can be streamed, rented, or purchased.”
Several companies showed off their content solutions — including TV Guide. The standout was Roku Search, a feature just added to the Roku box. The new feature performs searches across Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, Crackle, Vudu, and HBO Go. If you’re already a Roku subscriber, you already have Roku search — or it’s in the process of being rolled out to you. If you don’t want to wait, just got to the Settings on your Roku player and select Software Update. Roku does the rest.
Do you have other ways to find where your favorite flicks are streaming? Does an under $99 price tag put a streaming TV box on your holiday shopping list? Know of any good streaming TV boxes not named Apple or Roku? Stream your opinions without commercial breaks in the comments section below.