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Net fun on your TV screen

Rich content from the Web, in your living room on your television set. Sounds good? Here's how. Gagandeep Singh Sapra writes.

business Updated: Feb 25, 2013 23:22 IST

Television is great, with hundreds of channels available through your TV or direct-to-home (DTH) connection. But the broadcaster and the distributor still call the shots on what you can watch and when. You can go for a personal video recorder, of course, but in the age of the Internet, that seems passé.

Want to watch the whole season of a serial? Or a random video on YouTube? Or play a game? We show you devices that bring such shows, and more. This week we look at three such gizmos.

Apple TV @Rs 8,295
In its third avatar, Apple TV has become smaller, slimmer and faster than its debut version. And it is finally, officially, available in India. Power up the device, plug in to Internet via LAN or Wi-Fi, and connect it to your TV using an HDMI cable, and you are good to go.

Its built-in services include YouTube, Flickr and Vimeo, and it also can stream content that you have purchased or rented from Apple's iTunes store. The Apple TV ships with the most efficient and the smallest remote across the category. If you have other Apple devices, such as an iPad or iPod, you can use the little box to mirror its screen on your TV. Imagine Angry Birds on a 60" screen! You can also use your iOS device as a keyboard, or pair a bluetooth keyboard to Apple TV, to search for content.

The store is still in its infancy as far as Indian content goes. Television serials are still not available, but it is only a matter of time before the portfolio expands. Rental for standard definition movies starts at R80. Once you pay, you can watch the movie in 30 days, and as many times as you like within 48 hours of starting to watch. Rental for HD movies starts at Rs 120.

You can also watch podcasts, stream pictures and music from your PC or from iCloud, Apple's Internet service. But for a USB link, you would need to connect to the PC and stream via iTunes from there.

WD TV Live @Rs 7,900
The WD TV Live has a variant that has a hard disk. But if you are buying one without the disk, there are two USB ports, so you can have an external hard disk plugged in all the time if you want. However, like Apple TV, this also does not offer an Internet-browsing option.

It can play content from the hard disk drive or from a NAS (Network Attached Storage- a hard disk can connect to your LAN (local area network) such as the WD Live book or the iOmega Store Centre ix200). Or you can play content from the Internet through a LAN or a wi-fi link. It comes pre-loaded with a YouTube player as well as a few other online movie sites such as Vimeo, Hulu and Netflix. The catch is that Netflix and Hulu do not work in India. Output options to connect to TV include both HDMI and composite video out, which is a good option. The box size is similar to Apple TV, but the remote is big, similar to a TV remote.

The box has Dolby certification for audio, unique among these devices.

Amkette EVO TV @Rs 10,999
EVO TV runs on Android, and comes from an established India player, Amkette. At first look, the box is similar to Apple TV, but it has slots for an SD card and MMC, and four USB ports. It does not have a hard disk but you can connect one or a pen drive or your camera directly to it. Wi-fi is built-in, and there is an ethernet port in case you wish to cable up to the TV from your Internet router. And yes, you can use this to browse the Net.

The remote control communicates with the device by wi-fi link, so it does not require a line of sight for working. It also has motion sensors and lets you play games such as Angry Birds directly on TV. What more, it even has a built-in microphone to facilitate voice chats. Since it runs on Android, you can install applications, though the internal memory is limited to 4GB - but it means you can use services such as Flipkart's Flyte store, or Bigflix from Reliance where you can sign up for a monthly fee to watch any number of movies, giving access to more India-based content. Its speed is the lowest among the three devices compared.

The Verdict
If you have an Apple product such as a MacBook, or an iOS Device, and have been wondering how to hook it up to your television, the Apple TV works best. It also has a good subscription service from iTunes Store, though R80/120 per movie may seem expensive. But if you don't mind using an online service such as Bigflix or the iTunes Store, or are content to watch downloaded stuff, WD TV Live is good. On the other hand, if you want more bang for your buck, and want apps as well as capability to play games, and don't mind if the device hangs once in a while, the EVO TV where to go. Also, EVO is the one in which you can surf and search for any content on the Internet. The access is not limited.