as the name implies, is a box that sits on top of your TV and gives you
access to movies and TV shows from the Internet. Some broadcasts stream
live directly from sites like Netflix, MLB.TV, Comedy Central, and more,
but Boxee also stores a library of content that has already been
broadcast online. One cool thing about Boxee's system is that if
you're watching something funny that you want to share with your
girlfriend, you can send her a direct message in real-time and tell her
to take a gander (assuming she has it too). The box will be available in
a month through our affilate amazon.com and is a little on the expensive side, with pricing starting at $199.
The Roku Digital Video Player (reviewed previously on Cool Mom Picks) is another device that streams movies, TV shows, music, and other entertainment to your TV via the Internet. Once you lay down $60 or more, you have access to a lot of free channels, like Pandora Music, which is great for breakfast music for the kids, as well as sites you may already subscribe to like Netflix and Amazon on Demand. It's a good, inexpensive option for getting access to approximately 50,000 on-demand movies, although it would be nice if it had more new releases for free.
The gaming console
that your husband supposedly bought for your kids - but uses more than
they do - can actually stream content as well. Each offers its own
platform for streaming media content: Sony PlayStation can tune into BBC shows and the Weather Channel; Xbox Live offers the ability to access Facebook and peruse an online directory of movies and TV shows; and both, in addition to Nintendo Wii,
can stream Netflix as well. Take control of that remote, turn off Final
Fantasy VII (or in my house, Wii Golf) and settle in with a nice movie.
If you just want the Netflix streaming, all you need is a DVD (they'll
send to you) that downloads the program onto your console.
Apple TV is the only device available on the market that gives you instant access to iTunes on your TV. Anytime you make a change to iTunes on your PC (or Mac, of course), it wirelessly syncs, so you won't lose any of the kids programs you've hoarded on your iPhone. One gripe is that Apple charges $0.99 each for TV rentals and $3.99+ for movie rentals even though others charge the same to purchase forever. But if you're an Apple loyalist and want to make your iPod/iPad/iPhone/iTunes and your TV one big happy family, then this is the device for you ($99).
Unlike some of the other set-top boxes, VUDU's claim to fame is that it plays movies and TV shows at full HD resolution, giving you the unfettered and hi-def glory of all that is Bradley Cooper. In addition (as if you need more incentive than Bradley), it's pay-as-you-go, which means no monthly rental fees! Think of it as a much bigger, much more expansive and much better quality version of your On-Demand cable box, included with online access to free videos from YouTube, Flick, Vimeo and other sites. Pricing starts at $169.