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Western Digital has added a new model to its line of media players called the WD TV Live Plus HD Media Player, that does something its other models don't do: it supports Netflix movie streaming. With the Live Plus, B&H now offers a dozen products including media receivers, Blu-ray Disc players, DVRs and HDTV sets that stream Netflix movies and TV shows directly to your home theater instead of a computer.
If you're a Netflix subscriber with a broadband connection, you probably know that you no longer must wait for every DVD you order to be delivered in a red envelope by the U.S. Postal Service. About 12,000 movies and TV episodes are available for immediate streaming. You can keep up to 500 titles listed in your Instant Viewing queue. You can pause one, start another, and return later to the paused position of titles you hit on earlier. You can effectively stream as much content as you want with one of Netflix's DVDs-by-mail subscription plans, which start at $8.99 a month. (See image below showing some newly released titles for streaming.)
Even if you think Netflix streaming is the icing on the cake of an already good deal for renting DVDs or Blu-ray Discs by mail, having the ability to stream is a smart back-up plan for alternative entertainment when a disc you wanted failed to arrive in time for the weekend. And Netflix streaming isn't confined to computer screens. B&H offers a variety of players that hook up directly to your TV. They include media players, Blu-ray Disc players, home theater systems and DVRs. There are even a few TVs with Netflix streaming built in.
So, if you're ready to welcome Netflix to your home theater or bedroom, you could shop by price. Or you could shop according to what you need to upgrade your system.
When it comes to different types of devices that stream Netflix, media players offer the smallest footprint and lowest price. You connect them by Ethernet cable or wirelessly by Wi-Fi. Besides streaming content from the Internet or a network-attached computer or storage device , media players accept content from a hard drive or flash stick plugged into one of their USB ports. The WD TV Live Plus media player (opening picture above) is compatible with a huge list of video, photo and music formats. It's priced at $119.99. (All prices mentioned in this article were as of June 14. Click through the product links to see the latest pricing.)
Another media receiver with Netflix streaming is the Seagate FreeAgent Theater + HD Media Player (right). It is priced at a very attractive $99.95. Wireless connectivity for both the WD TV Live Plus above and the Seagate are predicated on an optional USB Wi-Fi adapter. So, if you plan to use either player without an adapter, make sure there's an Ethernet jack near your TV or get an Ethernet cable long enough to reach your router.
If you're ready for an all-in-one Netflix player for streaming content from Netflix or playing DVDs, Blu-ray Discs and CDs, B&H has some specials on Blu-ray players. One of the best deals we've seen for streaming Netflix to your TV is the Panasonic DMP-BD65K Blu-ray Disc player. It contains Viera Cast for streaming Web entertainment including Netflix. There's a $20 instant savings applied through June 19, bringing the price of this full-featured Blu-ray player down to only $130.49.
The Sharp BD-HP24U Aquos Blu-ray Disc player (left) also contains Netflix instant streaming and offers $30 instant savings until June 19, reducing the price to $149.95. It features a Quick Start play function, enabling you to start watching discs in as little as 10 seconds. One way to help decide between the Panasonic and Sharp is by matching brands to an HDTV set or audio receiver you already own. Typically, when you turn on the Blu-ray player connected to other components through an HDMI cable, the same-brand receiver or TV will turn on automatically.
Another Netflix streamer is embedded in a DVR that's many times more capable than the one you lease from your cable company. It's the Tivo HD XL ($464.89, plus subscription). If you want to add a 2.1 sound system at the same time you put a Netflix streaming player and Blu-ray Disc player in place, consider the Samsung HT-BD7200 home theater system. At $639.99, the system comes with an integrated A/V receiver/Blu-ray/DVD player, two front tower speakers and a subwoofer. And if you're ready for an HDTV set with Netflix streaming built in so you don't need to connect a source component, consider one of these three Sharp Aquos sets: the 40-inch LC-40LE810UN ($1,599.99), 46-inch LC-46LE810UN ($1,899.99) or 52-inch LC-52LE810UN ($2,299.99).
As you can see, adding Netflix streaming ranges from about $100 to more than $2,000 depending on whether you use it as an opportunity to upgrade your system. Of course, adding Netflix streaming to your TV is in itself an entertainment upgrade. So pass the remote... and the popcorn.