Set-top boxes that make you the program director

Take your TV online with one of these devices

Consumer Reports magazine: September 2012

Looking for an easy, cheap way to access Netflix and other streaming video services? Consider an Internet-connected set-top box. The boxes, most of which cost $100 or less, were used by 25 percent of survey respondents who stream video, most of whom were very satisfied. The small devices work with any TV that has an HDMI input, which includes just about any LCD or plasma TV. (A few boxes also work with older sets.)

Every model we tested yielded very good full HD (1080p) images. All stream Netflix, one or two more video services, and a music station or two. All but a few models also had apps of other kinds that we don’t list below, such as Facebook, Twitter, and photo-sharing services such as Picasa and Flickr. The Boxee and the Sony, the priciest models, also have full Web browsers.

All models can access your home network via Wi-Fi. Initial setup is pretty easy. You plug the box into your TV and connect to your wireless network, and you’re good to go. A few models even have Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS), so no password is needed; you push a button on the router to connect the player.

Editor's Note:

A version of this article appeared in the September 2012 issue of Consumer Reports magazine with the headline "Plug ’n Play: Boxes That Take Your TV Online."

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