Apple TV snagged much of the fortune and fame as a stylish, no-fuss way to transfer web content to your television screen. (How very Apple.) For all of the sleek box's plug-and-play appeal, several new products showing up in the market offer different interfaces, capabilities and special features for all people—tech-savvy and not. The following are a few ways to make converting online content to your TV easy for any lifestyle.
A slim and surprisingly lightweight clamshell portable DVD player, Philips thought of most details for their stylish DCP750. Featuring an iPod dock, it also includes a SD/MMC card slot for slide shows and an RCA out to connect to a TV. It even has a 12v adapter for use in the car. Although the screen's resolution could be better, the swivel (though it only turns left) seven-inch widescreen is big enough for viewing from up to four feet away. When docked, the iPod lays flush making for a neat, seamless interface and the remote tucks away as well. Supporting multiple formats—DVDs, video CDs (VCD), DivX, DVDR, and MPEG4—it's convenient and the iPod/iTunes functionality is an obvious advantage. Available from multiple retailers for around $140.
Pinnacle TV for Mac HD Stick
The Pinnacle TV for Mac HD Stick is great in concept but, unfortunately, didn't work well in our offices. Utilizing free over-the-air HD reception, it's highly dependent on your locale. With the Elgato Eye TV lite software, you can essentially turn your Mac computer into a personal video recorder and TV. The USB plug-in is small, but it's a little bulky for use with a laptop's ports. It comes with a remote, but seems like an afterthoughtâit's not very well designed nor useful. Although the software scans and picks up channels automatically, it would be helpful if there was an indicator showing signal strength, as many channels were available but signal strength was lacking. It's compact size make it perfect for travelingâif you're headed somewhere guaranteed to have good reception. The price is right at $130 here.
Available for some time now, the MovieBeam 2160 was created by Disney and functions like a video on demand service by wirelessly transmitting a movie into the subscriber's home entertainment system. The device delivers movies directly to TVs via the MovieBeam box, at a maximum of 10 per week. It's extremely user-friendly and after buying the MovieBeam player—no subscription needed—each movie costs $2-5, depending on the quality and release date of your selection. Previews and trailers are free. Subscribers have access to the movie for a 24-hour period, after which the film is deleted. The MovieBeam box is available for $150 here.
X-box 360 Elite
Sporting a black and chrome exterior the $99—it can stream video and music from a number of different sources from your P.C., including iTunes. On the downside, after we got it all connected everything seemed to work pretty well, but the interface wasn't very intuitive. At times, it was difficult to find downloaded material as the organization of files was a bit choppy. The wireless controller was surprisingly easy to use when navigating video functions and has plenty of range—we used it from across the office. The online marketplace was easy to navigate and purchase from, but you can only use Microsoft Points. The Zune also connects via a USB port and there's talk of wireless function in the near future. Keep a look out as Microsoft plans to deliver live TV channels by the end of 2007 as well. Available here for $480.
Co-developed by former Apple, AT&T, and TiVo employees, the Vudu box allows you to stream thousands of movies without hooking up to a PC or cable box. Streaming MPEG-4, the unit modifies the picture to HD format. The remote only holds five buttons, so navigating the instrument should be easy, but performance and storage have yet to be revealed. Stay tuned at Vudu for more info on release date and price.
Griffin's TuneCenter Pro is a pretty straightforward dock allowing video viewing and music playback from iPods through televisions, as well as internet radio. While set up requires little more than a power source and an included RCA cable (you can also use S-Video), navigating through the on-screen menu felt clunky thanks to the interface and the remote, which both felt under-designed and slow. Remote functions don't support video, but the images translate well on the big screen. And if you're wondering about using an iPhone, music playback works while video doesn't. It's $110 from Griffin.