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As more and more households have begun to adopt high-speed Internet, applications for Internet TV and movies have exploded. These technologies have a number of advantages, including ease of use, price point, and breadth of choices. While watching Internet TV on a laptop is quite easy, getting online TV onto a home TV can be difficult for the less technically-adept. Fortunately, there are a number of methods for getting Internet video onto a regular TV, and most of them aren't too difficult or expensive. This article will review some of the different options for displaying video from a computer or the Internet on a home theater system.
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How to stream video from a laptop to your TV
If you have a movie or TV show streamed directly to your laptop from a service such as Netflix or Hulu, there are a number of different ways to display the video on your TV. Most of these methods require specific cables, which shouldn't cost more than $10-20. Avoid expensive "Gold plated" cables, as they don't noticeably improve performance.
Option 1: S-Video Cable. This is the most common, and easiest, option. S-Video cables are cheap and most TV's have a connection for S-Video. This method just requires you to connect your laptop's S-Video port to the one on the TV. Make sure your laptop has an S-Video port before buying a cable. You will also need an audio connection.
Option 2: VGA connection. This is a better option for HDTV's than S-Video, as it provides a high quality connection. The quality of VGA is better than that of S-Video, and the cables are similarly cheap. Note that only HDTV's have a VGA port, so this will not work for ordinary TV's.
Option 3: DVI connection. DVI uses a digital signal, and results in a high-quality signal. The cables are more expensive, however, at around $40-80. In addition, most computers don't have a DVI connection. This is another option that only works for HDTV's.
Option 4: HDMI. This is the highest-fidelity connection available, and will create high quality video. Most computers don't have HDMI connections, so you will likely need a DVI-to-HDMI cable.
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Digital Media Receiver (DMR) options
The digital media receiver, which usually goes by its abbreviation 'DMR,' is an excellent option for playing Internet movies and TV on your home theater. DMRs can connect to your home network and play back videos sent directly over the network; this can come from home computers or from a server. DMRs are a little more expensive and difficult to set up, but they provide excellent utility and can integrate Internet media better into the home theater experience than cable connections do. If you have a wireless network, you can connect your device directly into the network and stream movies in real time.
DMRs are compatible with non-wireless networks, too. Users can connect directly to the Internet via an Ethernet cable. This is a better option if your wireless network is unreliable or slow. Some DMRs can also record live TV and store movies for later, allowing you to download a movie before you want to watch it.
There are several different options for DMRs. The Apple TV comes in at $99. It has 8 GB of storage capacity and connect to 802.11n Wi-Fi networks. The Logitech Revue is more expensive, at $299, but comes with more useability than the Apple TV. It also connects to 802.11n or Ethernet networks, and plays back a number of different file types. Users can also browse the Internet on their TV's. The Slingbox Pro-HD is another good, albeit expensive, option. The Slingbox can stream HD-quality video from a home network, and very high quality directly from the Internet. The cost at Amazon is $239.95.
It is also possible to use a video game console, such as the XBox 360, to stream Internet TV and movies to your home TV. Read more about the top media streamers here: Top Media Streamers of 2009.