After years of hype and expectation, they’re finally here; enabling you to stream internet content such as BBC iPlayer programmes and LoveFilm video on demand to your TV via your home wireless broadband network.
Being able to choose what you want to watch, when you want to watch it, on a decent-sized screen and from the comfort of your own sofa is a big step forward in home entertainment. It could even spell the end for DVDs and Blu-Ray discs.
How does internet TV work?
You can either buy a USB dongle receiver that picks up the internet signal or join your wireless router box to your TV with an Ethernet cable. Providing you have a broadband connection of at least 2Megabits per second (Mbps), you should be able to bring internet TV to your living room.
But don’t expect a full internet service complete with Google search and web browser facilities just yet. At the moment, internet services have to be specially-designed to suit TV formats and screen resolutions - so they're a little restricted.
The mismatch between PC and TV screens was always one of the main stumbling blocks preventing internet TV taking off, combined with manufacturers’ annoying attempts to force customers to use only their technology and services.
Thankfully, these issues have been resolved, and the number and variety of streaming services to your TV is likely to increase dramatically over the coming months.
One reason for this is the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) – a collaboration between the world’s leading consumer electronics, PC and mobile companies to create products that can easily share digital content no matter what brand they are. Look for DLNA-certified products when shopping around.
Why I’m an internet TV fan
For Christmas, we bought a Sony Bravia internet-enabled TV (KDL-32EX503: £489.17-£599 on moneysupermarket.com’s shopping channel).
It’s high-definition (HD), with full 1080i resolution and 100Hz frame rate for smoother movement, and comes with a built-in Freeview tuner enabling you to watch free-to-air programmes at HD quality where available. If you want to record in HD quality you have to upgrade to an HD hard-disk recorder (currently around £300).
I have to say I don’t notice that much difference flicking between the HD and normal versions of the main TV channels (broadcasting in standard-definition), but being able to watch iPlayer programmes in high-quality mode and streamed movies in HD is a delight. Our internet connection is around 10Mbps so after the internet content list has loaded – which can take a while – we experience no jerkiness or interruption of picture.
We bought the Sony USB wi-fi adaptor dongle (UWA-BR100) to pick up the wireless signal (there are other makes that do the same thing) and moved our router into the living room to ensure the best possible connection. Leaving it in the kitchen (about 10 metres away with thick walls in-between) caused a few problems with the weaker signal strength.
You usually have to sign up for subscription on-demand services first via your computer then link your computer and TV by inputting a code found on your TV. Once the registration is complete you can access your services via the on-board electronic programme guide. And internet capability also means you can link up your TV to your home computer network and share music, photo and video files on the bigger screen, too. Before you choose an iTV, make sure you know exactly what streaming services the manufacturer offers with that particular model.
The best-selling iTV brands include Sony, Samsung, LG, and Panasonic. Prices vary widely (£400–£1,800) according to the type and size of screen (LCD or plasma) and whether you opt for slimline LED backlighting – rapidly becoming the standard for its greater contrast between whites and blacks – and other features such as built-in Freesat.
We’ve selected three similar models for price comparison purposes on moneysupermarket.com’s shopping channel.
All three models have:
- Full HD capability (1080p)
- 32-inch LCD screens with LED backlighting
- Internet capability
- Built-in HD Freeview tuner
- Digital Living Network Alliance compatible
£599.95 - £1,099
£421.92 - £841.97
£599.99 - £938.13
Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing.