Netflix is the go-to source for renting DVDs without leaving your home. A monthly subscription currently costs $10 in order to rent unlimited movies that will be delivered to your mailbox, and also to instantly stream movies from an Internet access. For $8 per month, you can have the option to only stream movies from the Internet.
You don’t have quite as large a streaming movie selection as you do by receiving them in the mail. But honestly, there are plenty — more than we can watch.
Hulu offers hundreds of television shows you can watch instantly with an Internet connection. Typically, you watch the most recent five episodes of a series, though there are times when producers allow access to an entire season’s worth, so you can play catch up.
We don’t have Hulu Plus, but with this $8 monthly service, you can watch Hulu off your computer using different devices (see more on that below). This is a nice option when you want to watch Hulu without typing up your computer.
With Amazon Video On Demand, you can both purchase and rent digital movies, and often their connection is faster than with either of the services above. Prices are reasonable, at around $1-$4 for movie rentals and typically $10-$15 for movie purchases.
4. Pandora or Last.fm
I love Internet radio. Love, love, love it. We have music on in our house all the time, and I listen to it when I work on all my writing projects. With Pandora (and Last.fm, particularly if you’re outside the U.S.), you can customize stations so that you listen only to music you like. The more you ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ songs, the most personalized your listening experience.
How to use them
You don’t really need any extra device save a computer for using any of the above services. If you’re not big on these forms of entertainment, watching or listening from your computer should be fine. You can even use a composite, VGA, or HDMI cord to tap your computer to your television (which ones depends on the type of TV).
The biggest downside to using a computer is that it ties it up from doing other things on it.
A Roku is a little box that serves as a portal to your digital subscriptions and channels them to your television. You simply plug it in to your television’s video-in port, and use the remote to add subscriptions.
With Roku, you can access our Netflix, Flickr, and Pandora accounts. You can also add You Tube, Facebook, Hulu Plus, Amazon Video OnDemand, and about 100 other channels. This frees up the computers so that we can watch a show on Netflix without tying up our computers. You can connect the Roku to your sound system, so our music from Pandora streams crystal clear.
3. Game Consoles
If you’ve got an Xbox, Playstation3, Wii, or some other digital gaming device, you can use the same features as a Roku directly on your console. We’re not gamers so we don’t have experience with this, but have a number of friends who take advantage of this nifty feature.