Blu-ray player streaming-media services compared

CNET compares all the streaming-media services offered on 2011 Blu-ray players, including Panasonic Viera Cast, LG Smart TV, Samsung Smart Hub, and Sony Bravia Internet Video.

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

If you're buying a Blu-ray player this year and you care about streaming media, the chart above is your new best friend. We've tallied up all the streaming-media services offered on each manufacturer's Blu-ray content portal, making it easy to directly compare the competing platforms. While every manufacturer includes Netflix, Vudu, YouTube, and Pandora, that's where the similarities end.

You can read the in-depth reviews of each streaming content portal by clicking on the links in the chart, which includes screenshots and a detailed look at each service's user interface. We'll continue to update the chart as the year goes on, but here's the quick-and-easy takeaway as of now.

I want something that's easy to use

We expect most buyers only use a few key services 95 percent of the time, like Netflix, Amazon Instant, and Pandora. In that case, you'll want to focus less on the total number of streaming services (that you won't use that much anyway) and more on a user interface that's easy to use.

LG Smart TV user interface
We really liked LG Smart TV's straightforward user interface, with large icons for each streaming-media service. Matthew Moskovciak/CNET

The clear standouts here are LG's Smart TV and Panasonic's Viera Cast. LG's Smart TV is our overall favorite, with a very straightforward user interface and a few more high-quality services (MLB.TV, Napster, MOG, vTuner). But Panasonic's Viera Cast is not far behind, with its unique Skype capabilities and excellent user interface.

I want as many streaming services as possible

If you're not particularly picky about user interfaces (or you're willing to put up with them for more streaming services), Sony's Bravia Internet Video platform is the pick. It has more streaming services than any of its competitors, including both Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant--a duo that no other competitor has. The compromise here is that Sony's user interface is lacking, with even services like Netflix and Amazon Instant featuring custom interface with small cover art that can be hard to read.

Sony Bravia Internet Video user interface
Sony Bravia Internet Video's custom user interfaces often result in tiny cover art that's hard to read. Matthew Moskovciak/CNET

Samsung's Smart Hub also offers quite a few streaming-media services, including MLB.TV, and we liked its user interface more than Sony's. But you're still making a compromise, as the Smart Hub interface is more cluttered and difficult to use compared with Panasonic Viera Cast and LG Smart TV.

Of course there's more to picking a Blu-ray player than just streaming services, so check our list of best Blu-ray players and individual reviews for more information. And if you're really interested in all the details on each player, check out our 2011 Blu-ray comparison chart for more information.

 

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