Tune In to the Web
You can get your feet wet in the Web's waters and surf to your heart's content even if you don't have a PC. Web TV devices, also known as set-top boxes, hook up to your television and provide a direct link to the Web via a TV-friendly site called the WebTV Network.
Web TVs come with remote-control devices that let you hop, skip and jump about the Web without leaving your sofa. These units use your TV as a display monitor, so the bigger your set, the more panoramic your view of the Web. You will need a phone line to connect a Web TV's internal modem-these are not to be confused with cable modems that pump data over a standard cable TV line.
Ease of use is the hallmark of Web TVs. Simply plug in the connectors for the TV (or VCR) interface, phone jack and power, and you're ready to go.
Sony and Philips were the first two companies to offer set-top boxes. Both are reasonably priced, with Philips' WebTV Internet Unit ($329) slightly less than Sony's WebTV Internet Terminal ($349). Both are based on WebTV Networks' (Palo Alto, Calif.) design, and both tap into that company's WebTV Network service ($19.95 a month, unlimited access). The WebTV's built-in modem is a peppy 33.6Kbps based on a Rockwell chipset. The units use RISC processors, and support JPEG, MPEG I and MPEG II.