When it comes to holiday gifts, certain electronics, including flat screen TVs are expected to be hot sellers according to a Consumer Reports' poll. More and more manufacturers are making TVs that can stream movies, share photos online and more.
All you need is an Internet connection-you may not even need cable! Testers just checked online services being offered on several major-brand TVs.
Take the Internet and some of the newest TVs. Now you can marry the two at the click of a button.
Jim Willcox of Consumer Reports says, "Most of the major TV brands now have at least a couple of models that can access the Internet through a broadband connection. Those sets tend to be a little bit more expensive though."
Consumer Reports just check out several online services, including Viera Cast from Panasonic, Samsung's Media-2.0, and LG's NetCast.
You can access most of these services by connecting a TV to the Internet via an Ethernet connection and then pushing a button on your remote.
Icons called widgets appear on the TV screen. A couple of clicks starts the program, like this one from YouTube.
Depending on your set, you can also stream movies from companies like Amazon Video On Demand, Netflix, or Vudu.
"Overall, we found the quality of the streaming video to be good, about the quality of a DVD." said Willcox.
And Vudu's HDX format is even better. It's real HD quality, but you do need a faster Internet connection.
Also in Internet-enabled TVs, you can access weather and stock updates and share photos.
"We found all the online services relatively easy to use." said Willcox.
As for cost, except for the streaming movies, the services are free.
Be aware, while these new TVs are able to access the Internet, you can't surf the Net like you can on your computer.
If you're looking to buy an Internet-ready TV, Consumer Reports says ones from the Samsung 6000 and 7000 series, as well as the Sony XBR series, did very well in its tests and are worth considering.