LG's NetCast Entertainment Access has been delivering streaming Internet content to televisions through the brand's Blu-ray disc players, but this year, they're planning on cutting out the middle man. LG has announced four new high-definition televisions, two LCD and two plasmas, that will have NetCast Entertainment Access built right into them.
That means a viewer can simply plug an Ethernet cable from their home Internet connection into the back of their LG television and gain access to online streaming video from a variety of sources.
LG's slate of Broadband HDTVs includes the 42-inch 42LH50 LCD, the 47-inch 47LH50 LCD, the 50-inch 50PS80 plasma, and the 60-inch 60PS80 plasma. The LH50 LCD line is currently available for pre-order, and is set for release in May 2009. The PS80 plasma line will become available in June.
NetCast Entertainment Access: What You Get
The LH50 and PS80 televisions will be capable of pulling down content from several high-profile streaming services. Perhaps the most important of these is Netflix, whose "Watch Instantly" program allows subscribers to queue up movies and televisions shows for online streaming. The LG NetCast televisions will be able to interact with a viewer's NetFlix account and display them on the big screen.
The Netflix "Watch Instantly" program has over 12,000 videos available for streaming, and more are being added every day. Users can navigate Netflix's video library and make selections using their LG remote, right on the TV screen. There's no need to do any extra work on your computer to make it happen.
YouTube is also accessible from NetCast-enabled televisions, and their new higher-quality videos are sure to look pretty good on a high-definition set. Rather than crowd around a computer monitor with your friends to watch the latest viral videos, you can pipe it directly to the big screen in the living room, so everyone can enjoy it comfortably.
LG has also teamed up with Yahoo! to sync their NetCast TVs with the Flickr photo service. If you have a Flickr account with lots of awesome photos, you can stream slideshows to your television screen. Yahoo! Widgets, which provides information on news, finance, and sports, is also available to NetCast users.
Last but not least, the NetCast TVs can interact with your home computer over the local area network. That means any videos, photos, MP3s, or other media you have stored on your PC can be streamed to the TV. That's especially handy for those with large media libraries who don't want to have to hook up their PC to the TV with a wire.
Aside from the broadband capabilities, these LG televisions are configured for a high level of high-definition entertainment. All four models offer 1080p resolution and refresh rates of 120Hz. If you're in the market for a cutting-edge television, this is where you want to be. The LH50 models both have 4 HDMI inputs, for best-quality connections, and are compliant with Energy Star 3.0 specifications, meaning they'll save you money on electricity, even with all the extra bonus features they have. The manufacturer's suggested retail price of the 42-inch 42LH50 is $1,699.95; the 47-inch 47LH50 is $1,999.95. Apart from the difference in size, they are identical televisions.
Details on the pricing specifications of the PS80 (aside from resolution and refresh rate) are not currently available, but should be revealed as we approach their June release dates.
Conclusion: Have Patience
These Internet-enabled televisions are quite attractive, but smart consumers may want to hold back until this fall when Vizio is planning to release their "Connected HDTV" platform, which is rumored to support a wider variety of streaming content services. Also, knowing Vizio, their Internet HDTVs may be more reasonably priced.
In any case, this is new technology. If you want in on the ground floor, then by all means, pick up an LG. If you're concerned about being on the cutting edge and would like to let the technology mature a bit, you may wish to wait for the fall.