It’s rare that a professional audio/video equipment reviewer gets truly excited about a new technology—and even rarer when they all do.
The technology I’m referring to is Internet video streaming. It’s the ability to play video from Internet sources like Amazon, Netflix, and YouTube right on your TV. Streaming used to require a computer, but now it’s built right into numerous home theater devices, such as TVs, Blu-ray players, and video game systems.
Streaming didn’t catch on when it debuted about a year ago, probably because it started with a motley collection of second-tier web video services nobody cared about. In the year since, it’s matured into perhaps the most exciting and useful new home theater technology of the last few years. All of the reviewers and editors I talk with regularly not only like Internet streaming, they’re using it several times a week.
I’d seen Internet streaming at press events, but never thought much of it. Recently, though, I upgraded to a Profile 2.0 Blu-ray player and it just happened to include Netflix and YouTube streaming. I was astounded to see Jackie Chan’s The Legend of Drunken Master appear on my TV screen in a matter of seconds—and in surprisingly good fidelity through my 6 Mb/sec Internet connection.
Since then, I’ve spent many a night enjoying some of the 12,000-plus movies and TV shows available on Netflix’s streaming service. And I’ve used the YouTube streaming to watch all sorts of old clips and TV shows—most notably a forgotten favorite, Space Ghost: Coast to Coast.
None of these devices has enough internal computing power to run a browser like Internet Explorer or Firefox. I originally thought the lack of browsing capability was a crippling omission—but I now realize it’s an advantage. With no browser interface to accommodate, the Internet services can be reformatted so they’re properly cropped and zoomed to fill your TV screen, and so they’re easy to navigate using a TV remote. In fact, I find the YouTube interface on my Blu-ray player easier to use than the YouTube website.
To sum up: You get tons of great content, instantly available for free. All you need is a high-speed Internet connection and one of the new Internet streaming devices.
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