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Reviews of boxes to get Internet on your TV

February 14, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
More and more people are looking to get the Internet on their TV. Many newer sets are Internet ready, but if you're not in the market for a new television, there are boxes that stream the Web directly to your TV.

With Netflix trying to eliminate mailing out DVDs, their choice is to stream their movies over the Internet into people's homes.

Consumer Reports tested boxes that allow Internet access and downloading of movies and shows. Depending on the box, you can surf the Web or just access sites like Amazon and Netflix. They're from the four major sellers: Apple, Roku, D-Link, and Logitech, which offers Google TV.

Each box has pros and cons. Logitech Revue's keyboard makes it easy to use the full Web browser, but the keyboard's size is a drawback - it makes for a pretty big remote. And it's expensive at $300.

The $200 Boxee box from D-Link costs less, but testers found navigating difficult. There's no mouse, and the controller is tough to use. Plus, right now, the content is pretty limited.

What about the $100 box from Apple? Jim Wilcox of Consumer Reports says not only is it cheaper, but it has an "easy, slick interface, and probably the best integration with Netflix of any box that we've seen."

On the downside, there's not a lot of content, and users can only rent - not buy - video, Wilcox said. Also, it doesn't have a Web browser.

The Roku XDS also costs $100, and it lacks a Web browser, too. You can access movies and TV shows from Amazon and Netflix, as well as from Roku's own channel, but you can't access YouTube, and the interface can be confusing.

"You really have to figure out what kind of user you are, how comfortable you're going to be using the interfaces, and whether these boxes offer the kind of content you really want," Wilcox said.

Once you do that, one of these boxes could be the solution for getting the Web to your flat-screen TV. You can also get the Web on your TV with an Internet-enabled Blu-ray player. Consumer Reports recommends a Panasonic model DMP-BD85 for $170. It offers wireless access to Panasonic's Viera Cast online service, which includes movies and shows from Amazon and Netflix.