Most of us subscribe to cable or satellite TV, and many people still have shelves full of CDs and DVDs, but that probably won't be true that much longer. Our entertainment and news programming, our movies and music and sports, are increasingly being delivered over the Internet as we need them, via a technique called streaming. (The alternative is downloading, which means that you acquire the entire movie or song before you can begin playing it.) All modern, Internet-connected computers can stream content, but getting streamed movies, TV, and music from the Internet to the TVs in our living rooms and the stereos in our bedrooms is more challenging. Luckily, devices are available that connect both to the Internet and home entertainment systems to enable us to stream our entertainment. Read on for suggestions of the best options in a number of categories.
NOTE: If you buy one of these devices, you still need to subscribe to the paid services you want to stream. For instance, when you buy an Apple TV, you still need a Netflix subscription to stream movies using it.
Key apps: Amazon Instant Video, Hulu, Netflix, Pandora, and YouTube
The Internet may be the future of entertainment, but what if you're a little retro and still watch the occasional DVD or Blu-ray? You're out of luck with Internet-only devices such as the Apple TV or Chromecast; neither of them has a place to insert a disc. Enter an Internet-connected Blu-ray player. One of the best is Sony's BDP-S5100. The BDP-S5100 plays Blu-rays, DVDs, and (thanks to its Wi-Fi connection) connects you to the major streaming services (except, of course, iTunes) such as Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu. It has a number of other audio and video apps, making it an entertaining addition to your home entertainment system. Although the list price is $139, you can get it online for around $119 from many stores, making it close in price to Apple TV/Roku but with a disc player to boot.
Pros: Combines streaming with Blu-ray player for discs; SideView mobile app works as a remote.
Cons: Nothing major.