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Stream Machines

By Simon Munk

It’s finally happened: We spend more time on the Net than on the couch. TV is losing viewers … to laptops, tablets and smartphones. But the boobtube’s far from going away -- it’s just going with you ... online. At the same time, more online content is making its way onto your TV. Crazy, right? Modern video streamers are linking up the Net and TV, allowing you to take “The Real Housewives of New York” on the road wherever you go. Like most housewives, there is no hiding from them! Here are our recommendations for the best video stream machines for your viewing needs.

Best … if your favorite network is social

D-Link Boxee Box


This device -- which looks like a Rubix cube with a corner cut off -- collects video content off the Net based on your friends’ recommendations via Facebook, Twitter and Boxee’s own social network. Boxee then delivers Internet feeds to your HDTV in vivid 1080p, with Dolby Surround Sound. It also offers a slick interface, allowing you to use your iPhone or Android as a remote. The catch? Its functionality is in the early days of development, and some video sites are still blocking the technology. (Some sites can be so stubborn!)
Price:
$220

Best for Apple Lovers

Apple TV

Tiny, slick and cheap, the Apple TV is hard to beat in the streaming category. Apple’s media streamer grabs music and movies from your computer and streams them to your TV set via HDMI and optical audio technology. It’ll also allow you to rent and stream high-def movies and TV shows online, as well as hook into services and Internet apps such as Netflix, YouTube and Flickr. You can control it with an iPad or iPhone. The drawback? It’s all done via iTunes -- so it only works for Apple-supported file formats and services. Photo: Getty Images
Price:
$99

Best for Traditional TV Lovers

Slingbox PRO-HD


The Slingbox performs almost in the opposite manner as a media streamer. It draws high-def TV programming from your standard satellite feed or cable box (or pretty much from wherever you get your TV signal), then slings it out to your desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile phone -- via the Internet. So why whistle while you work, when you can do something so much more productive … like watch “The Jersey Shore”?
Price:
$300


Best for Multimedia Maniacs

Sony PS3

Hey! You may think of your Sony PS3 as a game console, but its many multimedia functions offer many more possibilities. Along with playing Blu-ray discs, the PS3 can hook into your computer’s media archive and stream digital TV, movies, music, photos and more to your TV. And, unlike the rival Microsoft Xbox 360, it’ll also connect to a handheld PSP over the Internet -- so you can watch downloaded content anywhere in the world. So, instead of watching your favorite TV shows from your living room, you can travel around the world and watch ’em there! Now that’s progress!
Price:
From $300

Best for the Economically Challenged

Roku

Dollar for dollar, it’s tough to beat Roku’s bargain media-streaming solution. Even a low-end model comes with built-in Wi-Fi, an HDMI output and high-definition video handling (albeit at a limited 720p). It’s lacking some of the high-end features that pricier rivals boast, but it’s a good buy for the money. It’s like hiring your cousin the plumber to come over and watch TV -- except your cousin’s actually a lousy plumber.
Price:
From $60

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