I bought my wife the Sony BDP-S570 3D Blu-ray Disc Player for Christmas to keep at her apartment where she works out of town. My wife has never been fanatical about video quality but slowly came to appreciate Blu-ray beauty from my watching 1080p shows on my LG BD390 Blu-ray player. Last year I had bought her a Roku box so she could stream Netflix and the Sony BDP-S570 now replaces it, because not only does the Sony play BD discs, it streams Netflix, Amazon Videos on Demand, Pandora, Youtube, and many other internet video services. Plus it supports DLNA networking to fetch photos, music and movies off our computers.
I was reading this weekend a review comparing the Roku, Apple TV and Boxee Box devices and it made me wonder if these gadgets had much a future if televisions and Blu-ray players are going to build in the same functionality? Then today I was helping a friend who has an older MacBook find a cable that would allow her to output Netflix streaming to her television set and we discovered the cable that would handle video and audio was $99. I told her for $79 she could get a Roku box for streaming Internet video, or spend $20-50 more and get a Blu-ray player that also streamed Internet video.
Of course, if I was helping a friend buy a new TV, I’d recommend they pick a set that had Netflix streaming built into the television. Many sets offer various levels of Internet support. It doesn’t take a science fiction writer to predict the future here. If technology can eventually stream content with Blu-ray quality – why have any external boxes at all.
The El Dorado of cable subscribers is to have a la carte channels. As the television becomes a node on the Internet it’s easy to envision this happening. Right now you can get several paid channels this way, Netflix, Amazon on Demand, Hulu Plus, MLB, etc. Of course TCP/IP and the Internet isn’t structured for this, but that doesn’t mean it won’t adapt.
So the question: What to buy now? Last year I bought my wife the Roku for $99. A few months later the Wii started streaming Netflix. If we had waited we could have skipped the Roku. Then, this year, Susan wanted a Blu-ray player, which doesn’t replace the Wii. But if the Wii played Blu-ray discs like the Playstation, we wouldn’t have needed it. I love Blu-ray video quality, and right now Netflix HD is very nice, but not Blu-ray 1080p.
What I’d recommend is buying the cheapest device that streams Netflix at Netflix’s HD quality, and that’s the $79 Roku XD box. However, if you really love movies and want to enjoy Blu-ray now, I’d recommend spending $20-70 more and getting a Blu-ray player that does both. I got the BDP-S570 for $138 before Christmas on sale. Right now it’s commonly sold for $149. There are Ethernet wired only BD players for under a $100 that can do this. Units with Wi-Fi built in are about $50 more.
The BD disc players won’t have as many Internet channels as a Roku or Boxee device, but most people will be happy with Netflix. Look for Amazon Video on Demand and Hulu Plus if you’re willing to rent movies individually, or pay for a bunch of TV shows. The Netflix all you can eat pay model is a much better deal though. However, when I saw True Grit at the movies recently and wanted to see the old John Wayne version, the quickest way was to pay Amazon $2.99 to stream it, which I did and it worked great.
The lesson in all of this is the television is becoming a major Internet appliance. The trend might even kill off the cable and satellite business, and I expect eventually people will prefer to stream content rather than buy discs. All too often I let my Netflix discs sit for days because it’s easier to stream.
The beauty of the Roku and Boxee devices is they can be upgraded to handle more Internet channels. Blu-ray players can too, but my LG390 only added a couple of paid services. LG did add more services to later models, which really irked me. I hope newer Blu-ray players will be designed like the Roku and Boxee machines to be expandable. The first time I upgraded the Sony BDP-S570 it added several channels, and it has an expanding menu, so that’s a good sign.
JWH – 1/11/11