Internet TV Options for Flat Screen Televisions
Which HDTV Manufacturer has the best Internet Connectivity Features?
Internet connectivity is a fairly common option on mid and high tier flat screen televisions. Streaming movies, news headlines, real time weather, stock quotes and sports scores and more are available on many TVs. You can even update your Facebook or Twitter accounts right from your TV. Most TVs share many of these options but some brands have more than others. In this article we break down the internet options from some of the major TV manufacturers to help you decide which TVs carry the online features you want most.
Samsung is following the iPhone model with their "Samsung Internet Apps" feature. This allows you to customize which internet features will be available on your TV by visiting the Samsung App Store. Most of the channels and widgets found on compteting TVs are free such as Netflix, Youtube, Hulu, Yahoo, VuDu's video on demand service and more. There are also free apps for real-tine weather, news, sports scores, stock quotes and more. Twitter and Facebook access are there along with streaming music services like Pandora.
Where the app system differs from it's competitors is in the priced options. You can purchase games, interactive fitness routines, fine art and photography slide shows and much more for anywhere from 99 cents to about 10 dollars. Samsung's internet connectivity features are very rich and the app system gives them a lot of flexibility.
Sony divides their internet features into two categories, Bravia Internet Video and Bravia Internet Widgets. Bravia Internet Video features over 30 channels of streaming entertainment, some of these are free others are pay per view video-on-demand services. A few of the standouts available are Netflix streaming that is tied to your netflix account, Hulu which is a free, ad-supported TV and Movie streaming service, Amazon video on demand, Qriocity, a streaming entertainment service from Sony, YouTube videos, Pandora Internet Radio, NPR and more.
Bravia Internet Widgets provides real time updates from Yahoo news, sports and finance as well as Facebook and Twitter connectivity, USA Today sports and TV Guide.
In November of 2010 Sony introduced a bomb on the Internet TV feature markeplace with it's Google TV partnership and products surrounding the new technology such as the 40" Sony NSX-40GT1 Internet TV (also available in 46", 32" and 24" screen sizes). The new Google technology offers search capability through browswer of all the Internet. This enables search and find options for television shows or movies and the Internet TV services or cable and satellite providers that offer them. The technology is also available with Sony's Blu Ray player the NSZGT1.
LG calls their internet connectivity Netcast and it too features both streaming video options and widgets. On the streaming video front LG televisions have access to Netflix, VuDu, Youtube and Roxio's CinemaNow on demand video service. Yahoo's widget service has real-time weather, sports scores, stock quotes and more. Pandora internet radio rounds out the list of internet features for LG TVs.
The internet connectivity feature on Panasonic televisions is called Viera Cast. At the time of our most recent review we noted that Viera Cast was limited when compared with some of the competeing options. The lack of Netflix streaming was one noteable abscence although being able to make video calls with Skype was a nice feature. Viera Cast does feature Amazon video on demand, Pandora internet radio and some real-time news, weather, sports and financial widgets from Yahoo and Bloomberg as well as streaming video from Youtube. Twitter and Fox Sports channels were tagged as "coming soon".
Aquos Net is what sharp calls their online feature. It has Netflix and Vudu for streaming TV and Movies. For it's widget line up it has the usual real-time weather, news, sports scores and stock quotes but also adds local traffic, an HD photo gallery and HD versions of newspaper comics like Cathy and Garfield. The Funspot feature has casual games such as Blackjack, Sudoku and Memory games.
Aquos Net also has Facebook and Twitter access as well as Wikipedia, Photo sharing sites Flickr and Picassa and access to numerous news outlets.
Vizio, like Samsung is also following Apple's "app" style of internet features. One of the cool features of the Vizio TVs is a Bluetooth remote with a slide out, full QWERTY keyboard. Users who update Twitter from their television will appreciate the convenience of a full keyboard.
Video streaming options include Netflix, Vudu, Yahoo TV and Amazon on demand. Rhapsody's streaming music service is available as well as the full complement of real-time weather, news, sports scores and stock quotes found on other internet connected TVs.
As a Netflix account holder I really appreciate being able to stream movies directly to my TV although this feature can be found now in other devices such as Blu Ray players, XBox 360 and Sony PS3 if you desire this feature and don't have an internet connected TV. The streaming video services are definitely the highlight of internet features on today's televisions, we found many of the widget features to be gimmicky or something you would use a few times and then forget about.
One other thing to note when considering an internet connected tv is how you will connect it to your home network. Some TVs include wireless networking while other's sell a proprietary dongle that will enable to the TV to connect wirelessly. If wireless is not available or has spotty coverage in the area where the TV is you will have to run ethernet cable between the TV and your router or modem. In the case of long runs the cheapest and best option for cable is to find a local computer or cable store and have them custom cut the wire for you, it will be much cheaper than buying long lengths of cat-5 or cat-6 cable at an elextronics or department store.