Technology is transforming the humble idiot box into a powerful Internet appliance. Whether you call it “smart TV,” “connected TV,” or “Internet TV,” it has the potential to upend our boob tube experience, letting us watch our favorite shows whenever and wherever we want, and merging TV shows with online content in cunning, clever ways. Smart TV won’t prevent television from rotting your brain (it’s not that smart), but it should empower you to find, and get more from, all the content that’s available.
Hollywood studios and TV networks are finally waking up to the power of the Internet, thanks to pioneering efforts by the likes of Netflix, Hulu, and Vudu. And if you can wait for pay-TV services such as HBO and Showtime to release their original programming on DVD, you can seriously consider ditching your expensive cable or satellite subscription services, too.
In the following pages, we’ll solve all the mysteries of smart TV. We’ll explain every important service and device that falls under the smart TV rubric (omitting only the most obvious players, such as YouTube), and tie everything together into a neat and simple package. It’s time to turn on and tune in.
Zotac has emerged as one of the busiest bodies at this year's CES convention, at least in terms of new product announcements. Announced today is Zotac's new D2700-ITX WiFi Supreme, a next-generation starter kit of sorts for users looking to put together a home theater PC system. It's built around the mini-ITX form factor to save space on your home theater rack, and is powered by Intel's Cedar Trail platform and an Nvidia GeForce GPU.
Some duos seem tailor made for one another: PB&J, Jack and Coke, and eggs and toast all spring to mind. A new company by the name of Brytewerks just came up with another one, and amazingly, it doesn’t involve food! The company’s upcoming Model One line of high-def digital projectors aren’t just digital projectors; they’re digital projectors with an Intel Core-powered HTPC built in. Why didn’t someone think of that sooner?
Next to a notebook, an all-in-one is the most difficult type of PC for a DIYer to build, simply because no one’s manufacturing enclosures capable of housing both a large monitor and the guts of a computer. Pick up Zotac’s ZBox Nano AD10 Plus and you can put together the next best thing: A computer that can hang off the back of almost any display you like, thanks to the included VESA mounting plate. The AD10’s dimensions, near-silent running, low power consumption, and generous I/O options render it a good choice for a disc-less home-theater PC, too.
Hot on the heels of our review of the Blu-ray-like Acer Revo RL100-UR20P Lenovo has released a new, slim nettop that it claims is the teeny tiniest desktop to be found in all the land. The diminutive IdeaCentre Q180 comes in a couple different configurations, all of which run on a 2.13 GHz Intel Atom D2700 CPU and an AMD Radeon HD 6450A GPU. That won’t have you playing Crysis any time soon, but streaming HD video should be no problem.
Home theater PC enthusiasts want their HD video and Blu-ray discs to run smoothly, dammit, and the HTPC doing to the leg work had better being whisper-quiet doing it. Zotac is a company that has made its name by catering to the demanding HTPC crowd, and a product they’ve announced today continues that razor-sharp focus: the GeForce GTS 450 ZONE Edition graphics card mixes DirectX 11 visuals with a fan-less cooling system that helps keep noise to a minimum.
PCs make great Blu-ray players, but Acer’s Revo RL100-UR20P is the first Blu-ray-equipped PC we’ve seen that’s thinner and smaller than most purpose-built Blu-ray players. If it played high-definition audio discs such as SACD and DVD-Audio, it would be one of the most powerful Blu-ray players on the market, but this machine isn’t that ambitious.
We’ve built our fair share of home theater PCs in the past, with all sorts of different use cases in mind. Our August 2010 HTPC was a stunner built for 3D, with passively cooled GPU, CPU, and PSU, as well as a four-channel CableCard tuner and Blu-ray 3D support. In June 2011, Gordon tried to make a small-form-factor HTPC that could cut out the previous build’s bulk (and CableCard) while still supporting Blu-ray 3D. Both of those rigs handled their respective tasks well, but what if I don’t care about cable but do care about gaming? This month’s task is to create a kick-ass gaming rig in an HTPC form factor—one that can handle modern games, as well as 3D Blu-ray and Dolby TrueHD audio, without sounding like a jet engine.
Looking to get your movie watching on? Turn to Zotac. The company might not be at HP’s level in terms of sales, but when it comes to HTPCs, few companies deliver better small form factor results. The company’s ZBox line has been a go-to brand for video streaming enthusiasts, and now, there’s a new Zotac ZBox available that ditches Intel and AMD in favor of a VIA processor.
The original ASRock Vision 3D is acknowledged to be one of the best small form factor HTPCs available. It was a reasonably specced machine for its time, but a page was recently discovered on the ASRock site that points to the second generation Vision with spiffy new Intel Sandy Bridge CPUs.