By Jen Heller Meservey
Seemingly since the beginning of time, cable has been there, gobbling up your paycheck and bombarding you with TV shows, movies, sports, home shopping and infomercials from when you pour your morning coffee to when you can’t sleep at 3 a.m. Now, the Internet brings you just as many—if not more—exciting and time-wasting videos through streaming websites and subscription services. If you’re a YouTube junkie, a Netflix fanatic or a Hulu explorer, you may wish that you could combine your two loves by bringing the Internet to your TV. Fortunately, there are a few different ways you can combine the wide selection of the Internet with the convenience and larger screen of your TV, and it can even end up saving you hundreds of dollars a month that would normally be devoured by the cable monster.
Roku: No Computer Required
Roku is a little black box that connects your TV directly to the Internet through your wireless router or an old school ethernet cable. Because Roku connects directly to your TV, it doesn’t monopolize your computer, so you can effectively stream videos on your TV and browse the web on your computer at the same time. Roku works with subscription services like Netflix and Hulu Plus, as well as with Amazon Instant Video, which allows you to pay per stream. Roku also offers sports packages and premium services like HBO. There’s a standard model, at an affordable $49.99, plus more which provide HD or higher quality Wi-Fi connections from $59.99 to $79.99. Spend a little more for the Roku 2 XS at $99.99, and get a motion control remote that lets you play games like Angry Birds right on your TV.
Apple TV: Your Assimilation is Complete
If you have an iMac, an iPad, an iPod and an iPhone, here’s one more Apple product to assimilate you into the Mac collective. Apple TV connects your Mac computer, iPad or iPhone wirelessly to your TV, so you can watch your iTunes content, sports packages and even YouTube, anytime in HD. You can even play your iPad and iPhone games on your TV, using your device as the controller. For Apple fans, it’s worth the $99 price tag, and it’s currently the only Internet TV device that is compatible with YouTube.
Video Game Consoles: Because You Have to Stop Gaming to Eat
Even hard core gamers have to take breaks sometimes, like when they eat. For those times, you can use your Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360 or Sony PlayStation 3 to stream videos to your TV. Netflix and Hulu Plus are available on all three consoles, the 360 requires an Xbox Live Gold membership, starting at $5 per month, and Amazon Instant Video is available for the PS3. Also, online rumors claim that Google is working to develop a YouTube application for one or more of these consoles, according to Time magazine’s Technologizer.com.
Your Computer: Just Plug It In
The least expensive way to connect your TV to the Internet is to simply plug it into your computer. Purchase a couple of cables on eBay for a few bucks each, and you’ll have the freedom to watch anything you want on the Internet or your hard drive from the comfort of your couch. Of course, while inexpensive, this method can be a bit complicated. Here are some easy to follow steps so you’ll be getting a lot of entertainment for only a little bit of cash:
- Introduce Mr. TV to Mr. Computer. They will need to be in close proximity to each other for the cables to reach, preferably within 6 feet. Place your laptop on your coffee table, or move your desk next to your TV stand. You might even want to invest in a USB extension cable for your mouse, so you can use it across the room.
- Find your connection. What type of connection you can use depends on which ports are on your computer and your TV. Sometimes both will have the same type of port, like HDMI or S-video, but if not, you may need a special conversion cable, like one that converts VGA to component or composite video.
- Buy your cables. You’ll need to connect your computer and TV with a video and an audio cable. Depending on your connection, you may be able to find one cable that does both. Generally, your audio will come from the headphone jack on your computer and will plug into the red and white audio input ports on your TV. Look for a “Y” cable with two connectors on one end and one on the other. No matter your video connection, make sure the cable you get is “male-to-male.”
- Plug it in. Connect all of your cables and make sure they fit. Consult your TV’s manual to find the correct ports.
- Set it up. Your computer detects your TV as an external monitor. Sometimes it will recognize the TV automatically, but usually you will have to adjust your display settings. Your settings depend on your computer’s display adapter and can be found in the adapter’s documentation, or at the manufacturer’s website.
- Enjoy! You are now ready to enjoy the freedom of the entire Internet on your TV. Have fun browsing YouTube and iTunes, streaming Amazon Instant Videos or playing video files from your hard drive on your TV’s bigger screen.
Hello Internet TV: Goodbye Cable Monster
The cable monster is always hungry, but you don’t have to keep feeding it. Connect your TV to the Internet and kiss the cable monster goodbye.