Streaming services: Buyer's guide
Streaming movies, TV programs and other video is becoming more and more
commonplace. Part of that is because many makers of consumer-electronics
equipment -- including TVs, Blu-ray players, digital video recorders, video
game consoles, digital media players and more -- are adding features that
make watching Internet video as easy as watching a cable channel or a Blu-ray
Disc. Still, watching streaming video poses some challenges. Here's what
you need to know:
- You'll need a fast Internet connection. Broadband or DSL
is a must, and the faster the connection the better. On slower
connections, video resolution might be reduced or you might experience
occasional starts and stops of your streaming content. Streaming video
isn't really a practical consideration for dial-up users.
- Video quality isn't quite as
good as Blu-ray. Experts say even the best high-definition video stream
can't quite match the quality of Blu-ray Discs, though a few come close.
If the absolute best video quality is a priority, stick to Blu-ray Discs
or over-the-air or cable-TV high-def channels.
- Size up the service's library. Most streaming services have large libraries these days, though selection
can vary. Though it is less expensive than most others and impressive
in its own right, the film selection at Netflix is light on the hottest
recent titles. Hulu Plus has few movies, but lots of current and past season
the equipment. You'll need Internet-capable video equipment --
a TV, Blu-ray player, digital video recorder, video game console or set-top
digital media player -- and a wired or wireless connection to your home
network. Keep in mind that each service only works with compatible gear
from specific manufacturers.
vary by service. Most services charge by the rental or offer
the ability to buy videos for unlimited viewing. Netflix and Hulu Plus
offer a subscription-based model that lets you watch as many movies or
TV programs as you want as many times as you want for one price per month.
However, Netflix has few current hot releases while Hulu Plus is primarily
a service for watching streaming TV programs.