Did you know your TV is stupid? I didn't know mine was, but apparently it is. This came as a bit of a surprise to me as I was always quite content with the fact that my flat screen displayed whatever channel I requested. Time and technology bring about changes. I will confess that I am old enough to remember when dumb terminals were replaced by smart terminals. Those existed back in the computer Stone Age when the computer meant a mainframe or a mini computer system.
I actually found out my TV was stupid a year or so ago when the advertisements for smart TVs started appearing. I'm not actually sure what makes them "smart". I've stood in front of many of them and asked them questions, but I have yet to receive an answer. It's sort of made me feel like Scotty in Star Trek IV.
It turns out that to make a TV smart only requires that it can connect and communicate across the Internet. Apparently "Internet" = "Smart".... At least for TVs. If it were that simple for humans a lot of people who spend their day watching cats play the piano on YouTube would be (place the adjective or expletive of your choice here) geniuses.
Accommodating The Viewer
Way back in 2004 when we first introduced the concept of the Home Enterprise and the devices that it would integrate, we made a point of saying that when it came to the dominant technology in the home, the winner was going to be the screen. This was not to say the PC would become obsolete, but was more a predictor of the marketplace as it looks today. The key was then, and still remains now, content and content delivery.
In an effort to deliver this Internet-based content seamlessly to the user, we now have apps to receive it on our cell phone and our tablet, and yes, on smart TVs. For those of us whose TVs never graduated Internet school there are streaming players, smart boxes, to attach to the TV to make them smarter (IQ=Internet Qualified). Prices vary as do features, and we've chosen to focus initially on those devices that offer a lot of capability for very little of our hard-earned money. One such device is Netgear®'s Neo TV.
So What Does it do?
The purpose of the streaming player is to bring Internet-based content services such as Netflix®, Vudu, YouTube,Hulu Plus™, Pandora® and the myriad of other similar content services to your TV screen. Generally, they connect by means of an HDMI cable and receive their Internet content via wired or wireless ethernet from your router.
There are no industry benchmarks to rate streaming devices, but generally we look for a device that offers a broad range of content providers, a simple and user customizable interface, a decent remote control and a reliable Internet connection to provide a smooth HD experience.
What Do I Get?
The Netgear® NeoTV NTV 200 is a small streaming player roughly 4 1/2 in. square and one inch high. It comes packaged with a remote control, two batteries for same, a power adapter and a quick start guide. You need to supply your own HDMI cable, but this is not uncommon.
The NTV 200 is equipped with all the necessities to make your TV smarter. These include:
- 1080P HD streaming capability
- Built in wireless 802.11N Wi-Fi for extended range-B/G/N compatible
- 10/100 RJ 45 ethernet port
- HDMI video output port
- Dolby 5.1 surround sound capable
Generally speaking, setting up streaming players for your TV is a simple operation. I guess the manufacturers figure if your TV isn't smart you might not be either. In any case, Netgear® make their's extremely simple. Give or take fishing your HDMI cable, installation will only take 5 minutes. It's as simple as:
1. Connect the HDMI cable
2. Put the batteries in the remote
3. Connect to the Internet either through the ethernet port or wirelessly.
-If you choose wirelessly you can either use Wi-Fi protected setup (WPS) or you can manually enter your network information.
4. Press the power button on the remote and follow the on-screen quick setup instructions now displaying on your much smarter TV.
-The setup will allow you to set things like screen resolution, standby timing or any specific network protocols you may need.
In most cases it's pretty much plug it in and go.
So How Much Smarter is my TV?
If you equate the number of new things you'll be able to see streamed from the Internet to your big-screen flat-panel to making your TV smarter, as we alluded to before, your TV will be approaching genius IQ. You will now be able to stream content from all of the providers we mentioned above and are pictured in the image below and watch cats dance and mere humans do foolish things to your hearts content.
One can only hope... But I doubt it.
Is That All There is to it?
Pretty much. We found Netgear®'s NeoTV NTV 200 simple to set up, simple to use and easy to operate. It offers the vast majority of streaming services you will want to use and Netgear make updates available fairly regularly. The unit itself is quite inexpensive and we have found it online and in stores for under $50.