Q: If you were to start from scratch with a TV system in your home, how would you do it?
We subscribe to Comcast's very basic programming level but are considering alternatives, including smart TVs that can display programs available online through our Mac Pro laptop. We want the capability of receiving live network news broadcasts as well as a few select programs such as PBS series and perhaps a few live sports broadcasts. Is there a configuration that would meet our needs at an affordable price and that would adapt easily to coming changes?
A: I wouldn't buy a smart TV; the Internet portion of it will be obsolete long before the TV part is. It's much more practical to use (and cheaper to upgrade) an intermediary device, such as a Wi-Fi-equipped Blu-ray player. The player will double as a disk player and as a software link between the TV and your home Wi-Fi network.
As for which large-screen TV to buy, there are spirited arguments about whether plasma, LED or LCD technology is best. You can find comparisons of the three on PC Magazine's website, at tinyurl.com/65a3zvo
Once you connect the TV and the Blu-ray player, link the player by Wi-Fi to a fast Internet connection. Future-proof yourself with a 10- to 15-megabit download speed. While this is fast today, it won't be once more streaming video arrives in high-definition format. Today it will be more than enough for watching TV shows and movies from Netflix, Hulu and others.
You can get broadcast TV over-the-air, although digital reception can be fickle, from cable or satellite TV (both good but not cheap) or, in a few months in some major U.S. cities, from the new Aereo service. Aereo, which is both controversial and legal (based on recent court decisions), uses a bank of antennas to receive local over-the-air TV broadcasts, then streams the broadcasts over the Internet to subscribers ($8 a month for 20 viewing hours, or $12 a month for 60 hours). The service is now offered in New York and Boston, with plans for expansion in other cities (none of them in Arizona yet).
Cable channels are another matter. Some, such as HBO, are streamed over the Internet, but they're only available to conventional cable or satellite TV subscribers.
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