There are several ways to get a connected TV..you could go whole hog and buy one of the new fully loaded wide screen jobs with internet connection built in. If that is not in the cards for you, there are several lower cost choices. They range from stand alone internet access and sharing units to like D-Link’s Boxee or internet and sharing enabled Blu-ray players. Since I already have ethernet cable strung to my entertainment centre and I needed a new Blu-Ray player I went for the entry level Samsung BD-C5500 Blu-ray player. Sure it’s last year’s model but at $129.95 at Future Shop it was a good deal. There are more expensive models if you want to go wireless.
For starters the 5500 is a good, fast and full featured Blu-Ray player that also up-converts your existing DVD collection to nearly HD standards. But the main reason I bought it was for Internet access and access to media files on my computer. I like the way Samsung does it.
Samsung Apps aka Internet@TV allows developers to create programs that can be downloaded by compatible Samsung products, enabling owners to add whichever programs they like. Right now there is a pretty good selection including You Tube and Netflix.
Currently all the apps are free. Samsung promises to add more free and premium paid apps as time goes on..in the month I have had the 5500 I have only seen FaceBook removed. But, Twitter remains and it is a pretty cool way to browse your Twitter account but posting even a short tweet is an all but impossible chore with the numeric buttons on the remote control.
The Samsung BF-C5500 is also DLNA-compliant and capable of streaming video, audio, and photo files from a network-connected PC or viewing them from a USB drive or supported smartphone. This is a great feature that allows access to media files on your PC. I especially liked being able to play all my favourite video podcasts on the big screen.
Now a bit of technical talk. Accessing content from your computer requires a DLNA server to be running. This can be accomplished in a number of ways. The Samsung instruction manual only suggests installing the Samsung PC Share Manager on your Windows PC. I found this application to be big and awkward and quickly deleted it. If you are running Windows Vista or Windows 7 you can set Windows Media Player to allow devices to play media on your computer. It works reasonably well but for some reason..in my experience anyway..it showed generic icons instead of thumbnails beside the media files. And it occasionally stuttered delivering 1080p videos.
I found the Samsung BD-C5500 a great way to add flexibility to my TV choices and well worth the modest investment. It will however, not play from your iTunes library. If that is a must for you the only solution is Apple TV. It costs $119 at the Apple Store and Authorized retailers