Pros and Cons of Incorporating Internet in Your Home Theater

Netflix and Vudu Buttons On Remote Control
Netflix and Vudu Buttons On Remote Control. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

As a result of increased audio and video content available via the internet, there is now a big emphasis in the integration of the internet with the home theater experience. To find how you can add the internet into your home theater setup, read my companion article: Six Ways to Incorporate the Internet into Your Home Theater System.

Once internet access is integrated into your home theater setup, it definitely expands the nature of the home theater experience, adding definite advantages, but there are also a few things to be cautious of, beyond getting it all connected.

First, let's get to the good part.

Advantages of Integrating The Internet Into Your Home Theater Setup:

1. Lots Of Content

The main advantage of integrating the internet into your home theater experience is access to a lot of content, including TV programs, movies, online videos, and music from a variety of streaming services - there are thousands of internet TV and music channel containing libraries of millions of TV shows, movies, and songs a lot more that you can physcially store on discs and tapes.

This content can be accessed using a Smart TV, Network-enabled Blu-ray Disc player, network-connected home theater receiver, or by add-on devices, such as standalone media streamers or plug-in stick devices.

2. Anytime Access

The second main advantage of integrating the internet into your home theater experience is the ability to access all those movies, programs and songs just about anytime you want.

So, for those of you that are still struggling with programming and recording on VCRs and DVD recorders, internet streaming provides you with the convenience of not having to deal with setting timers and keeping track of discs and tapes. Audio and video content is available at the touch of a button.

However, although the ability to access content from a broad range of services, on a variety of devices, on your schedule, the world of internet streaming doesn't provide the perfect entertainment solution.

Disadvantages of a Integrating The Internet Into Your Home Theater Setup:

1. Audio and Video Quality

Although streaming services have made big strides in upping the audio and video quality of what they offer, in most cases it is still not as good as physical media sources, such as CDs and Blu-ray Discs.

For example, audio and video files are often highly compressed and some video files may look pixelated on a large TV screen.

Also, a high definition video stream will not look as good as the same high definition content accessed directly off of a Blu-ray Disc or transmitted via over-the-air, cable, or satellite HDTV feeds.

In addition, in terms of audio, although things have improved, for home theater fans, having movie soundtracks limited to the lossy Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital Plus formats, is a turn-off when a Blu-ray Disc of the same film may contain a Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos, or DTS-HD Master Audio lossless soundtrack.

These factors also lead up to the second disadvantage that you may encounter.

2. Internet Speed Requirements

In order to get the best audio and video quality from content that is streamed from the internet, A high-speed broadband connection is required. Unfortunately, in addition to the cost opting for higher-speed broadband service, there is a not of inconsistently around the U.S. in terms of how much speed is available in specific areas.

The reason this issue is important is that Video files, especially 1080p, 4K, and HDR-encoded files, especially need a lot of bandwidth due to the large file sizes.

If you have access to a service in which content can be downloaded for viewing later, instead of streamed for instant viewing, the download times for high definition movies can be very long - and 4K (ouch!).

You may have to wait some time, sometimes as long a 12 to 24 hours if you have a slow broadband connection speed, before you would be able to view the content.

Also, in terms of both streaming and downloading, the speed of download or quality of streaming may be tied into how many people are accessing it at the same time. Sometimes, just as on a PC, websites may reach streaming or download capacity during certain time periods. This can cause issues, such as buffering in which the content periodically freezes or skips.

3. What Device Do You Have?

Another thing to take into consideration, whether you have sufficient broadband speed or not, is that although there are thousands of internet streaming channels and services, the ones that are available to you depend on what brand/model of device you have to access them on (Smart TV, Media Player/Streamer, Blu-ray Disc player, Home Theater Receiver).

For example, Netflix is the most commonly offered service across platforms (in fact, a growing number of Smart TV and Blu-ray Disc player remote controls actually have a dedicated Neflix button, but although services such as Vudu and Hulus Plus are becoming available on more devices, some services, such as Crackle, are only available some devices and not others.

In other words, different manufacturers have contracts with different internet content providers, or, in some cases, the TV maker may have in-house streaming channels that are only available on their products. As of 2015, the devices that offer to largest selection of internet streaming channels and services are the ones offered by Roku, at about 2,500

4. It Isn't All Free

Here is the most important thing that is overlooked by many consumers. In the excitement of being able to access all of the great video and music streaming content that is out there, many are surprised that not all internet content is free.

In other words, although there is a lot of free music, TV and Movie streaming content, be prepared to pay for more highly-desirable content. Some services are have monthly subscription fees, such as Netflix, HuluPlus, and Rhapsody, and some require a pay-per-view fee, such as Amazon Instant Video and Vudu Also, TV networks that also provide streaming access to their programming on a next-day basis, may also require to verify that you subscribe to a cable or satellite service as a condition for access.

5. Watch Your Caps

The final thing that can hamper your internet streaming experience is how much your internet service provider charges you for streaming and/or downloading all those TV programs, movies. Even though you think that you are paying flat monthly fee for your internet service, that fee may be contingent on a data cap, just like you may have on your cellphone service. For more details on this issue, including examples of how much you can and stream per month based on a specific datacap, read our companion article: What Fair Use is and How It Limits the Amount of Online Video that You Stream

Final Take

So as you can see, internet streaming definitely adds a lot options for home theater and home entertainment, and, in fact, many consumers have "cut-the-cord" abandoning traditional cable and satellite TV altogether, opting to merge the past with the trendy by accessing local TV programming via antenna, and everything else via internet streaming services - and with services, such as Netflix and Amazon providing and increasing amount of original programming, in addition to recycled movies and TV shows - the traditional TV networks and cable/satellite services, and Blu-ray, DVD, and CDs are no longer the only choices consumers have for accessing entertainment.

Just make sure you are aware of everything need, in terms of equipment and money, to enjoy it all.