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Watch Internet Video on Your HDTV

There are many easy ways to get free content.

How to watch internet video on tv, man with laptop, Apple TV

Getting video from the computer screen to your larger HDTV is easier than you might think. — Photo by Rob Penner/movie still: Courtesy Everett Collection

Many of us remember having roughly half a dozen TV shows available at any given moment, period. Slowly but surely we gained more choices and more control, through UHF and VCRs, then cable and satellite. And now, thanks to the Internet, there are literally millions of videos at your disposal, from professionally produced shows created especially for the Web to goofy clips posted on YouTube to online feature films from Netflix and Amazon. But why stay hunched over a computer to enjoy this cornucopia of content when you can sit comfortably on the couch and watch Internet video on the biggest screen in the house, your HDTV set? There are several ways to make it happen – here are the pros and cons of each.

Connect Your Computer to the TV

More and more laptop and desktop computers come with HDMI output — the same single-cable video and audio connection used for Blu-ray players and high-def cable and satellite boxes. Just buy an HDMI cable, connect the computer to an available HDMI port on the TV and you're basically in business. I say "basically" because you may have to change a setting on the computer to get the picture to pop up on the TV (the info should be in the user manual). And for Mac folks, you'll need an HDMI adapter for any model other than the Mac Mini (see Apple's support page.)

See also: Demystifying HDTV terminology.

With this approach, anything on the Internet is fair game for high-def viewing. The only tricky part is controlling the computer from the couch. You could buy a long HDMI cable and hold your laptop, or keep it on the coffee table, but that lacks elegance. Leaving the laptop near the TV and using a wireless mouse and keyboard are also options — some wireless keyboards even have a built-in touchpad to serve as a mouse substitute.


Next: "Smart" HDTVs and blu-ray players. >>

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