Watch Streaming Video on Your TV!

For those without a DVR, the ability to watch ’30 Rock’, ‘The Office’, or ‘House’ on demand via Hulu is amazing.  You can even watch movies like ‘Jewel of the Nile’ or  ‘Lock, Stock and Smoking Barrel’.  If you have a Netflix account, and you’re looking for a better selection of movies, you can select Watch Instantly to stream select features.   The only problem is you have to watch them on a computer monitor, and if you only have a 13″ screen laptop, it will not be as rewarding as watching it on your television. The solution is to hook up your laptop or Mac Mini to your TV, or buy a Vudu, Roku or Apple TV set top box.  Check out my previous blog post on connecting your Mac/PC to your TV if you opt for the laptop/Mac Mini connection.  If you have a home theater, and/or want a permanent set up, then a set-top box might be right for you.

VUDU was the first device to come out that would enable you to rent or purchase a movie and stream it to your television. It offers 13,000 movie and TV titles on demand from Hollywood studios and independent distributors, including a large HD collection.  The standard box gives you 250 GB of space ($149).  The XL model, designed for high end home theaters and available only through an authorized installer, has 1 TB of storage, which translates to about 500 titles ($499). Bonus – You can connect to Pandora Radio, Picasa, YouTube and Flickr.

ROKU gives you have over 50,000 videos at your fingertips. This selection includes 12,000 movies and TV shows from Netflix, and 40,000 titles from Amazon Video on Demand.  It has built-in wi-fi, and can be used wired or wireless.

APPLE TV teams up with iTunes to extend movies and TV shows in standard definition and HD.  It comes in 40 GB and 160 GB versions ($229/$329).  It can access all compatible content off your iTunes account (movies, TV shows, photos, music, podcasts, etc.), and even stream content from up to five computers.  It is partnered with Flickr, YouTube, and Mobile Me (.Mac) to add more viewing capabilities to your box.  Warning, this does NOT work with older, non-widescreen TVs.

BOXEE is the baby of the bunch, and it doesn’t have hardware (yet).  You simply download the freeware, and use it on your desktop or even better, on your laptop. The latter is portable and can be connected to a larger screen. It’s an alpha version, and available for Mac and Linux users.  The last group of Windows testers were invited in February 2009, so you probably have to wait for the beta version.  Boxee brings a lot to the table. It’s a media center that assembles all your entertainment together.  Your movies, TV shows, music and photos on your hard drive are added to the mix of several online channels (too many to mention them all).   The highlights of Boxee are Hulu feeds, Joost, Netflix (Macs only), CNN, G4, NBA, Discovery, CNET TV, Pandora, Last FM, Shoutcast, YouTube, Picasa, and Flickr. You can even send updates to Twitter, FriendFeed and Tumblr (set-up via the website)!

DYNAMIC DUO – Here’s were the fun begins!  For those Mac users with an Apple TV and are a bit technically inclined, there is a hack that will get Boxee (and XBMC) onto your ATV. Follow the first video (link below) to build a USB patchstick (not all brands and models work, so check the Boxee announcements forum for the list), and the fourth video to install it to your Apple TV.  This gives you the ability to watch whatever is in you iTunes collection, PLUS all the streaming video content available through Boxee on a larger screen. Score!

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