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5 Technologies That Customize TV Viewing

Laptop + Television

If you've read about Sony Internet Television, which embeds an Intel processor in an HDTV, you might be asking yourself, "Wait a minute, doesn't my laptop already come with an Intel processor?" It does, and you can use it to customize your TV viewing. You'll need a recent-vintage laptop to ensure you have the proper connections.

The cost of such a setup depends on the exact configuration of the laptop and the television. For example, a typical HP Pavilion dv6t laptop runs about $580, while a 40-inch (102-centimeter) Sony BRAVIA LCD HDTV retails for $599.99. Then there's the cost of content. A no-cost option is a standard account through an Internet TV provider such as Hulu, which combines a large selection of TV hits and movies from more than 260 content companies.

Unfortunately, free Hulu is really a computer-only solution. It offers standard-definition video quality and limits you to the last five episodes of popular shows. For full high definition and access to all current-season episodes of 45 popular shows, you'll want to invest in Hulu Plus. This will set you back $7.99 a month. On Hulu Plus, you can watch your favorite shows when you want to watch them. Plus, you can start a movie at home on your TV and finish it later on another device.

One final note if you decide to experiment with this technology configuration: You'll need some space near your TV to set up your laptop. And because you'll be controlling your laptop from a living-room couch, a wireless input set -- mouse and keyboard -- is helpful. All of which makes this the least elegant solution in our list. A less cumbersome approach might be one of the streaming stations currently on the market. We'll cover those next.

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