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Internet Connected TVs Bring Cool New Features and Functionality



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A guide on connecting your TV to the internet and the cool new features you can enjoy.
By, Steve Hartfelder of Diamond Case Designs, Inc


Next stop on the information super highway; your couch

Connect Your Samsung TV to the internetHave you ever been set-up on a date by a friend who assured you, "you two would make the perfect couple?" Well electronic manufacturers have had that very thought in regards to pairing the "internet" with your "television." While most of these relationships never made it to the second date, it seems the industry may have finally found the perfect marriage.

The failed products designed to bring internet functionality to the living room were nothing more than PCs packaged in a different shell. These computers often suffered from slow internet connections, complicated set-up, and the general instability of computers. Furthermore, while consumers liked viewing photographs, watching movies, or listening to music, they didn't care about doing general computing work on their television.

Once manufacturers realized their folly, they quickly studied what applications consumers cared about and worked at integrating those specific functions into their products. These applications, sometimes called widgets, are faster, easier, and most importantly fun!


What can I do if my TV is connected to the Internet?

Connecting your TV, DVD player, or audio/video receiver to the internet offers new features and functionality in one of four main areas; movies, music, photographs, or applications. Let's briefly look at some of the popular examples in each of these areas.


Movie Reel Clip ArtMovie ApplicationsMovie Reel Clip Art

If you'd like to avoid the trip to the video store or the delay of waiting for a mail order service, check out a movie application. Popular services such as Vudu, Cinemanow, Netflix, and Blockbuster allow you browse and select the ideal movie using an on-screen menu. You'll be able to see cover art, actors, descriptions, ratings, and in many cases you'll be able to view theatrical trailers before deciding on your selection. A few differences between these services are:

Vudu Logo Screen Shot
  • NO subscription fees, only pay for rentals/purchases
  • Boasts worlds largest library of HD movies, with over 2000 titles. Many in 1080P quality.
  • New movies often available same day as DVD
  • Rental prices typically range from $.99 to $5.99
  • Vudu Labs = Offers hundreds of applications for additional functionality such as YouTube, Pandora, Flickr, and Picasa (available on most Vudu devices).
Cinema Now Logo Screen Shot
  • NO subscription fees, only pay for rentals/purchases
  • Boasts over 20,000 movie titles
  • New movies often available same day as DVD
  • Rental or purchase options
  • Rental prices normally $2.99 to $3.99
Netflix Logo Screen Shot
  • Subscription based service
  • Rates start at $8.99 a month
  • Started as a mail order company which added a streaming service. At time of writing offered:
    • Approx. 90,000 mail order titles
    • Approx. 7,000 downloadable titles
Blockbuster Logo Screen Shot
  • Subscription based service
  • Rates start at $8.99 a month
  • Started as retail only store, added mail order element, now offers streaming service.
  • Some plans combine in-store rentals, mail order movies, and streaming options

My Recommendation: My favorite movie service is definitely Vudu. I'm not big on subscription fees and I love the fact that they offer a huge library of 1080P movies. Furthermore, Vudu is the only service that offers applications (Vudu Labs) bringing additional functionality to your TV. Some of the Vudu Labs applications are discussed below.


Movie Reel Clip ArtMusic ApplicationsMovie Reel Clip Art

An internet connected system offers a couple of really cool musical alternatives to the traditional CDs, iPod, or digital music stations. You can truly listen in new and interactive fashions, here are two of the most popular.

Pandora Logo Screen Shot
  • Enter a few of your favorite songs or artists and Pandora will create a custom radio station tailored to your unique preferences
  • Up to 100 customized stations per account for different moods (rock, jazz, holiday, easy listening, etc.)
  • Refine stations by using thumbs up or thumbs down buttons on suggested songs
  • Listen on-line or on a connected home theater component
  • Listen up to 40 hours per month for free with advertising-supported accounts
  • Premium Pandora One yearly subscription is available for $36 and offers higher quality audio, unlimited listening, and no advertisements.
CinemaNow Logo Screen Shot
  • Rent an absolutely massive library of over 9 million songs for a modest fee
  • Often includes hard to find songs for your favorite artists
  • Listen on-line, on a mobile device, or on a connected home theater component such as select Yamaha audio/video receivers.
  • Rhapsody Premier plan is $9.99 a month
  • Premiere Plus is $14.99 a month and adds support for multiple mobile devices on one account

My Recommendation: Both of these applications are incredibly cool but for different reasons. I love Pandora because it is free and the suggested music is usually right on. Pandora has introduced me to several new artists that I otherwise would not have been exposed to. Rhapsody, on the other hand, provides an absolutely enormous library of music, including less popular artists and obscure music. I've also been able to listen to hard to find songs from some of my favorite bands that may have only appeared on a sound track or on a compilation CD. Pandora is worth checking out for all listeners while Rhapsody should absolutely be considered for the serious music fan.


Camera Clip ArtPhotograph ApplicationsCamera Clip Art

Sharing digital photographs on your large screen television is one of the coolest advantages of an internet connected television. Two of the most popular services for sharing photos are Flickr and Picasa.

Pandora Logo Screen Shot
  • Free account option
    • Limits the number number and views of uploaded photographs
    • Only low resolution images are accessible, though full resolution images are saved in case account is upgraded
  • Pro-account option available for $24.95/year
    • Unlimited uploads (size restrictions apply)
    • Share photographs and videos with more people
    • Ad-free browsing and sharing
  • Edit photographs on-line
  • Ability to order gifts or prints
CinemaNow Logo Screen Shot
  • Two part service
    • Picasa - Free photo editing and management software offered by Google
    • Picasa Web Albums - The internet enabled portion that allows you to share your photographs on-line
  • Control over who sees your photographs; friends, family members, or the public
  • (1) Gb of free storage space
  • Ability to order gifts or prints

My Recommendation:Both applications are good for sharing photographs however Picasa has been more popular with my friends, I think because of the ubiquitous nature of Google. Internet enabled TVs are great for allowing you to view photos on your large screen TV however the editing and ordering still needs to be done on the computer.


"Other" Applications

Vudu Apps on Mitsubishi TVIf there is still time left in the day after enjoying your new movie, music, and photograph options, check out some of the other applications internet connected TVs can offer.

These applications include things like Facebook, Twitter, weather reports, Wikipedia, stock quotes, and more.

My Recommendation: These applications are like going on a double date. Most of the time you prefer sticking with the company of your significant other (movies, music, or photographs), but sometimes it is fun to mix it up and go out with another couple (Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, etc.). While I don't find myself using these applications as often, they can certainly bring new fun to the relationship.


What applications do my electronics offer?

Use the table below to see what popular applications some of the major manufacturers offer. Keep in mind this is not intended to be an all inclusive list and the availability of certain applications can change.

Mitsubishi Television Logo
  • Select televisions offer:
    • Vudu Movies
    • Vudu Labs, applications such as:
      • Pandora
      • Flikr
      • Picasa
      • YouTube
Samsung Television Logo
  • Select television and blu-ray DVD players offer:
    • Blockbuster
    • Pandora
    • YouTube
    • NetFlix
    • Skype
Panasonic Television Logo
  • Select television and blu-ray DVD players offer:
    • Pandora
    • Picasa
    • NetFlix
    • Internet Radio
    • Skype (not available at time of writing)
Sharp Television Logo
  • Select televisions offer:
    • NetFlix
Toshiba Television Logo
  • Select televisions offer:
    • Vudu
    • Pandora
    • YouTube
    • Flickr
    • Picasa
LG Television Logo
  • Select television and blu-ray DVD players offer:
    • Vudu
    • Pandora
    • Netflix
    • YouTube
    • CinemaNow
    • Yahoo TV Widgets
Yamaha Receivers Logo
  • Select audio/video receivers
    • Rhapsody
    • Internet Radio

How do get these internet applications on my TV?

The two most common ways to get internet connectivity into your system is by purchasing a compatible TV or blu-ray DVD player. Certain audio/video receivers such as Yamaha also offer internet functionality.


How do I connect my TV to the Internet?

To enjoy any of these features, your TV, blu-ray player, or receiver must be connected to the internet. You will need a high-speed connection such as DSL or a cable modem. The best way to connect an internet device is by running a wire from your modem or router and directly plugging it in. A wired connection offers the most stability and consistent speed. If physically getting a wire to your home theater is not practical, wireless solutions are available such as power line carriers*. Many of the newest TVs and DVD players even have built-in wi-fi so connecting them is as easy as knowing your networks password.

* Power line carriers are adapters designed to extend network coverage to areas of your house that are not pre-wired. One adapter plugs in to your modem/router in the computer area while the other plugs into the home theater area. The adapters use the electrical wiring of your house to create a network connection. In many cases these adapters offer a cost effective solution for situations without pre-run wire or wi-fi components.

Important Note: If you have multiple home theater devices that all have internet functionality, you do not need to run a cable for each device. You can add a simple switch that will allow multiple devices to share a single internet connection. We can help you select the right switch for your application.


An important note and a final thought

An internet connected TV can absolutely bring new entertainment and enjoyment to your home theater experience, but it is important to remember it should not be viewed as a replacement for a computer. In fact, most of the applications will require the initial use of a computer to establish accounts and/or authorize your TV to use the respective services. And some applications require a keyboard for full functionality.

By keeping this perspective in mind, you'll enjoy a fruitful relationship for many years to come.


For More Information or to Purchase

If you have questions or are interested in purchasing an internet enabled home theater device please call toll-free 800-616-5354. We are an authorized dealers for all major brands of electronics and will be happy to assist you in finding the right solution for your needs. When calling feel free to ask for me (Steve Hartfelder) or my brother Dave Hartfelder.


Diamond Case Designs, Inc. - 655 N. Shepard St. - Anaheim, CA 92806 - (800) 616-5354 - www.diamondcase.com

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