Roku Digital Video Player: $99
At $99, the Roku box is a cheap and simple way to stream movies and TV shows from the Internet to your TV. Users can subscribe to Netflix's Watch Now on-demand video service for as little as $9 a month and watch as many of Netflix's 12,000 streaming movie and TV titles as they like. Roku also recently added even more titles to its service through Amazon's pay-per-view Video on Demand service.
Apple TV offers a variety of free and premium media content over the Net directly to your TV. Using Apple's popular iTunes Store, users can rent movies and TV shows, buy and listen to music, view photos, and access podcasts. The AppleTV also allows people to stream media from networked Mac or Windows PCs. Apple has struck deals with all the major movie studios, and some of the titles are in HD.
Vudu Bx100: $149
Like Apple TV and Roku, Vudu is a dedicated set-top box for playing Internet-delivered video content. But what sets it apart from these other players is that the video resolution is much better at a full 1080p HD resolution. It also offers surround sound. As for content, Vudu offers a selection of movies from all the major studios as well as TV shows. And for the budget-conscious viewers, it added a bargain channel to the service that offers a rotating list of 99 movies for just $0.99 a pop.
TiVo HD/Series3: $249
Like the gaming consoles, the TiVo HD/Series3 is much more than an appliance for watching TV over your broadband connection. It's also a digital video recorder that can record two HD programs simultaneously while playing back a third, previously recorded one. But in addition to being a pretty cool DVR, it also offers on-demand movies over the Internet from Netflix, Amazon, CinemaNow, and Jaman.
SlingMedia's SlingCatcher lets owners of the companion Slingbox product place-shift viewing from one room to another (say, from the living room to bedroom), so you can watch live TV, or stuff that's recorded on your DVR, for example. But the SlingCatcher also includes SlingProjector software (Windows only, for now) that streams any video playing on your PC to your TV. That includes video from Web sites like Hulu.com, TV.com, and YouTube on your TV. Basically, anything you can play on your PC can be viewed on your TV via the SlingCatcher.
Sony Playstation3: $399
The Sony PS3 is primarily a gaming console that also happens to offer online movie and TV viewing on your TV. Movies can be bought, or they can be rented for 24 hours from the online Sony PlayStation Store. Movies are available from most major Hollywood studios and TV networks. Unlike the Xbox 360 and the other online video appliances, the PS3 also has a built-in Web browser that allows users to find and view any Web content on their TV. The console has built-in Wi-Fi as well. And in addition to games and online videos, it also plays standard DVD movies and HD Blu-ray movies.
About Molly Wood:
Molly Wood is an executive editor for CNET.com. She uses her expertise and passion for the world of technology for ruthless analysis in column, blog, podcast, and video form. As host of the "Buzz Out Loud
Before joining CNET in 2000, Molly was senior associate editor at MacHome Journal, where she wrote and edited Macintosh-specific product reviews, news, features and trend stories. Prior to MacHome Journal, Molly was a reporter and editor at The Associated Press (AP), where she assigned, wrote, and edited state, national and international news.
She lives in San Francisco with her son and husband.