5 Technologies That Customize TV Viewing


Streaming Station

Many people find the laptop-to-TV setup too daunting. Streaming stations, like those from Roku, offer unique advantages to anyone looking for an easy way to get Internet content on an HDTV.

First, you have to decide which Roku player meets your needs. The company does offer an entry-level model -- the Roku HD -- for $59.99, but an extra $20 will get you the Roku XD, which plays 1080p high-definition video. The only other thing you need is a television, such as the 40-inch (102-centimeter) Sony Bravia LCD HDTV we just discussed. Hooking the Roku to the TV is a snap. It comes with an HDMI input, as well as composite red/yellow/white audiovisual inputs, so virtually any television should connect. After that, you need to add the Roku to your home network by either running an Ethernet cable from your router to the Roku or establishing a wireless connection.

Now you're ready to start streaming content through subscriptions you already have with content providers such as Hulu Plus, Netflix, Pandora and Amazon Instant Video. These providers appear as "channels" in Roku. Simply select the channel you want, and its related content becomes available. Amazon Instant Video, for example, gives Amazon Prime members access to unlimited, commercial-free, instant streaming of more than 5,000 movies and TV shows.

If you're wondering about input, Roku makes that easy, too. Every Roku streaming player comes with a remote, which lets you navigate the Roku interface and control media playback. The Roku doesn't have a hard drive, however, so you can't record shows for future enjoyment. If you want that functionality in addition to content streaming, you'll need the next item in our list.