How to Add Internet Access to a Standard Television

You can cut the cord and still catch regular shows plus special events

What to Know

  • The easiest way is to use an internet-enabled Blu-ray player or video game console.
  • The next easiest way is to use a standalone video streaming device like a Roku, VUDU box, or Apple TV.
  • Or, connect a laptop or PC to a TV, turning your flat screen into a computer monitor.

Internet-enabled TVs allow you to do everything from watching YouTube videos and accessing weather information to listening to music from Pandora. If you have an HDTV without internet capability, you can add equipment to your current set that allows you to do many of the same things. There are several options for adding internet capabilities to your TV.

Internet-Enabled Blu-ray Player

If you like movies and you want to get the most from your HDTV, a Blu-ray player is a necessity, and many of today’s units access internet content, including YouTube videos, movies from Netflix, and music from Pandora. Internet-equipped Blu-ray players don’t usually let you access as much online content as an internet-enabled TV, but they do include some of the most popular web widgets, and they sell for as little as $150.

Video Game System

Most popular video game systems connect to the internet, allowing access to a variety of online content. The PlayStation 4 is our favorite from this standpoint. It will enable you to download and stream pay-per-view movies and TV shows as well as content from Netflix. It also has a full web browser that can take you to all your favorite sites. The Xbox One also allows Netflix streaming. As with most internet-enabled home theater units (including TVs), video game systems can’t access everything on the web, but they’re really good at bringing a number of the most popular functions to your flat screen.

Standalone Video Streaming Device 

You can buy a number of standalone boxes that will stream web content to your TV. ​Roku boxes are among the most popular, and they can stream movies from several sources, play music from Pandora, showcase photos from Flickr, and more. Heck, NBC even has a Roku app to let you live-stream the Olympics every two years.

Other standalone units that people find appealing are Apple TV and the VUDU Box. Each of these devices offers a variety of internet-enabled functions. There are other standalone boxes available as well, and this is a market segment that we expect to grow. Ask what’s available at your local electronics store, and they’ll be able to show you all the options they have available.

Laptop or PC

It's easy to connect a laptop or PC to a modern television, essentially turning your flat screen into a huge computer monitor. This isn't the solution most people will opt for, but it may be right if you're insistent on bringing all that the web has to offer to your big screen. While internet-enabled set-top boxes and Blu-ray players limit the web content that can be streamed to a TV, a computer – particularly a Media Center PC – can do it all.

Decide What Content Is Important

Unless you choose to connect a computer to your TV, the device you buy will have limitations. Be sure the one you purchase can do everything you need it to. For instance, Netflix subscribers won’t want a unit that can’t stream video from that subscription service.

Look at the Specs

Most devices that stream web content to TVs can handle high-definition video, but not all of them. If you have an HDTV, you’ll want a unit that can stream video at 720p, 1080i or 1080p. If you buy a unit that can only handle standard-definition video, you will probably be disappointed.

Consider Your Connections

All internet-enabled video devices require a high-speed internet connection. That means you’ll need a way to connect the unit to your home network. Some devices require a wired Ethernet connection. Others have Wi-Fi built in. Before you buy, you should have a good idea of how you plan to connect your system to the web. That way you’ll avoid the frustration of connecting it to your TV only to discover that you can’t get online.

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