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App TV: 2011 Internet services on TVs compared

Editors’ note: The chart doesn’t list every streaming-media service available on each manufacturer’s TVs; for the sake of simplicity, we chose those we considered most important.

Today, many TVs are able to connect directly to the Internet. A few of them include QWERTY keyboard remotes and actual Web browsers, but most lack these PC-like extras. Instead they’re designed around a “walled garden” of apps like Facebook, Picasa, and casual games; streaming services like Netflix and Pandora; and an interface meant to be browsed using one thumb and a standard TV remote. Increasingly, they also offer app stores with paid and free apps as well as, in one case so far, actual shopping.

Of course a lot of other devices, especially Blu-ray players and dedicated boxes like Apple TV and Roku, also offer apps and streaming. The advantage of these boxes compared with a TV is cost: you can add them to an existing TV without having to upgrade, and if they become obsolete, the replacement cost is a lot lower. If you’re interested in one of these devices, check out Blu-ray player streaming-media services compared or the Guide to Internet TV: Hardware.

But if you’re buying a new TV and want built-in services without having to connect an extra box, you may be interested in how the various walled gardens stack up. We’ve reviewed a few this year, with more to come. The chart above contains a quick-and-dirty look, arranged in order of which ones we like best so far. All include Netflix and the differences accumulate from there.

Read more about how the different TV makers’ app suites compare.

Chart updated July 25, 2011, with the addition of Toshiba.
Chart updated November 3, 2011, with addition of Vizio.

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