Cut the cord: 13 set-top media streamers

By , Computerworld |  Personal Tech, media streaming

The Co-Star's remote has dedicated buttons for three popular entertainment selections and a touchpad for navigating around the screen. Flip it over and you'll find a QWERTY keyboard with tiny keys for typing in everything from your password to the search term "Green Acres." The Co-Star's remote has a dedicated ".com" key to ease Web journeys and a four-way gaming control for when aliens attack.

There's also a Google TV Remote app for controlling the set-top box from your Android or iOS phone or tablet.

How it connects: The Co-Star can tap into your home's broadband via 802.11n Wi-Fi or wired Ethernet. It connects to the TV via HDMI and offers an HDMI-in port as well for integrating a cable/satellite box or DVD/Blu-ray player. (Cables not included.) There's no audio-out jack or composite connector.

What you can watch: Like the Sony Internet Player, the Co-Star integrates live TV with the Google TV platform's array of free and subscription-based online programming, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Go and Amazon's Instant Video service. It also provides access to the OnLive on-demand cloud gaming service as well as thousands of Android apps and games via the Google Play Store.

Want to see what's going on at CNN's or Computerworld's website? The Co-Star has a Chrome-based Web browser as well as Google search built in. It also has a USB port for connecting a hard drive or memory key for watching home movies, scrolling through photos or listening to music.

Who it's best for: If you want Google TV but don't want to shell out for Sony's Internet Player, Vizio's Co-Star does without extras like onboard storage, an optical audio port and a second USB port -- but it still rolls up live TV, online TV and Web browsing for $100. (It doesn't, however, work with older TVs that require composite video input.)

WD TV Live

Price: About $99 ($79 TV tuner also available)

Best known for its hard drives, Western Digital also has a TV set-top box that can deliver your favorite shows and movies. It lacks the ability to browse websites, but gives freedom of choice for how you get it online.

At 4.9 x 3.9 x 1.2 in., the TV Live box is small enough to be stashed just about anywhere, and it's available in versions for the U.S. (for NTSC TVs) or Europe (for PAL sets). Like most of the others, the set-top box delivers full 1920 x 1080 HD content to the TV set.

The system's remote control doesn't have a mini-keyboard, but one of the USB ports can be used for connecting a wired or wireless keyboard to the set-top box. If you like, you can use your smartphone or tablet as a remote control with Live TV by downloading the company's free Android or iOS app.


Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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