If you own a Samsung Smart TV, you can access Netflix, Hulu Plus and other useful apps right from your television. If you don't own one, though, you could invest in Samsung's upcoming Smart Media Player. This set-top box will essentially turn any brand of TV into a Samsung Smart TV — if you don't mind its high $150 price tag.
If you own a smart TV or a video game console, set-top boxes might not be on your radar, but they can be a cheap way for people without those devices to access streaming video from their TVs. A number of devices exist to fill this space, including Roku, Apple TV and Chromecast.
The Smart Media Player, which will launch on Oct. 23, is a small, rectangular box that will use the same software as a Samsung Smart TV. In addition to watching TV (and accessing basic program guides), you can also stream movies and TV from the Samsung Media Hub. If you want to view your own photos and TV from a computer or mobile device, you can download an app and stream your content to the big screen.
Cable subscribers can also integrate your existing service with the Smart Media Player, without any tedious input-switching — provided that your cable company supports CableCARD technology. Keep in mind, though, that not every cable provider offers this technology, or allows users to provide their own cable boxes.
The real draw of the smart-TV software is its ability to run apps. In addition to browsing the Internet, a Samsung Smart TV can run video apps like Netflix, Hulu Plus and HBO Go. Whether you want to listen to Pandora or share your latest thoughts on Twitter, you can jump online right from your TV.
Since Samsung already has TV interface software, making its own set-top box seems like a fairly logical next step. Its price might prove to be a sticking point, however: The device will retail for $149.99. Compare this to similar devices: A basic Roku box costs $50, while an Apple TV will set you back $100. A Chromecast is only $35.
Another slight hitch is that consumers generally find Samsung's smart-TV interface to be usable but imperfect. The Web browser is slow and doesn't support applications like Flash. The interface itself lacks the snappy response of an Apple TV or the simplicity of a Chromecast.
Still, competition in a growing market is never a bad thing. If the Smart Media Player sounds like it's up your alley, just be sure to do your research first to ensure that a cheaper device wouldn't meet your needs just as well.