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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Internet on the TV: 2010 version

Vizio's Bluetooth QWERTY remote

Yahoo widgets

Vizio apps

Vizio multitasking

Samsung apps

Samsung apps download page

Sony Bravia Internet Video

LG Netcast screen

Panasonic VieraCast home page

VieraCast customization

Vudu

YouTube on LG

YouTube on Sony

Facebook on Vizio

Rhapsody on Vizio

eBay Yahoo widget

Sony Yahoo widgets with FrameChannel

VieraCast Bloomberg

LG games

What a difference a year makes. In 2009, which saw the first serious attempts at TVs with built-in Internet services, we reviewed plenty of mixed bags. On the plus side, essential streaming video services like Netflix and Vudu seemed to work relatively well, but on the minus side, utility widgets (mainly powered by Yahoo) were sluggish, remotes were unwieldy, Wi-Fi was nonexistent, and content selections were limited. In 2010, most if not all of those problems have been addressed by many makers.

The following photos are screenshots from 2010 TVs' Internet services. You can mostly ignore the pricing on those slides since it applies to the (generally expensive, big-screen) models we reviewed only but feel free to click through to the reviews for more details.

First up is, deservedly, Netflix. Hands-down the most popular streaming service on non-PC devices, it's available on the Internet-connected TVs of every major manufacturer.

Related: App-etite for comparison: Internet services on TVs

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
OK, so this one isn't a screenshot, but it's pretty dang important. If you want to get the most out of Internet services like Twitter and Facebook, let alone keep your sanity inputting usernames and passwords, you'll want a keyboard on your remote. Vizio is the only one to offer it.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
Here's a look at the Yahoo widget taskbar, which is used by Sony, Samsung and LG as a place to access nonstreaming services and utilities like weather, news, stocks, etc., as well as more advanced widgets like eBay. Its main issue is sluggishness, although on Samsung's new models we tested it's much zippier.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
Vizio also uses Yahoo's design with the bar along the bottom, but it integrates all streaming services (Netflix, Vudu, etc) down there, too, providing a sort of one-stop Internet service shop. Response time is snappy, but it can get crowded when you get a lot of services, widgets, etc. in there.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
Unlike any other Internet service, Vizio lets you run apps on top of streaming services.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
Samsung's main apps page gathers everything into a convenient tile view, similar to a certain other app-centric device from, well, Apple. Integration doesn't feel as tight as Vizio because there's still a separate Yahoo widget bar for many utilities, but less scrolling is necessary.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
New apps on Samsung's TVs are categorized nicely.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
Sony's service focuses on video, and in addition to the big names includes a lot of niche services like Minisode network, Blip.tv, Style.com, Howcast.com, and numerous video podcasts.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
The claim to fame of LG's Netcast service is a background that shows the weather and time of day in your area. It's nice in Texas.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
Panasonic eschews Yahoo widgets for its own VieraCast interface, which has been revamped for 2010. In addition to Netflix (coming in July) the service adds Pandora and a couple of other names. The breadth of content lags behind most of the others, however, and the interface seems somewhat archaic. The services are designed to take over the entire screen instead of overlaying whatever you're watching.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
One advantage of Vieracast, however, is customization. You can place the apps and streaming services you want on the first, second, or third page in any of seven slots arranged around the central picture window. Most other interfaces, aside from Yahoo widgets, don't let you rearrange content to the same extent.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
Vudu is available on most Internet TVs, allowing high-def streams on a pay-per-view basis.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
Every maker has its own YouTube client aside from Vizio, which lacks YouTube at the moment. None of them handle the site's high-def video, however.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
YouTube clients are pretty much created equal.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
At the moment Vizio has the only Facebook app. It can show your wall, photos, profile info, friends, and news feed. You can also update your status from within the app. We'd like to see slideshow functionality, basic messaging or chat, but the basics are here and we had no problem using it.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
Rhapsody's subscription music service is currently a Vizio exclusive as well, and it our testing it worked very well.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
The eBay widget is one of the more-advanced offerings on the Yahoo platform, enabling you to search, follow auctions, etc.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
Sony allows you to place your Yahoo widgets anywhere on the screen, and one of its exclusives is an RSS reader called FrameChannel.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
Panasonic's VieraCast service lacks a traditional news widget, but makes up for it--at least as far as business-centric uses are concerned--with the full-featured Bloomberg widget.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
Simple games are available on most platforms as well, although most are as lame as LG's attempts here. We suspect it's just a matter of time before the Farmville widget arrives, however.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
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