Offers an improvement in inexpensive

MSN TV 2

October 21, 2004|By Craig Crossman | Craig Crossman,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

MSN TV 2 offers an improvement in inexpensive set-top access to WebOver the years, I've seen them come and go. I'm talking about those set-top boxes for your television that give you access to the Internet. While they met with varying degrees of success, most of them weren't a hit with consumers.

The latest offering is made by Microsoft. The MSN TV 2 Internet and Media Player is a second-generation box that has learned from so many of the mistakes inherent in its predecessors. And while this still may not be TV Internet nirvana, I believe they are on the right path with this unit.

Based on the popular MSN service, the MSN TV 2 box connects to your TV set via composite or S-Video connections. The Internet connection can be made via the unit's faster broadband Ethernet port or its slower standard dial-up. Two additional USB ports are there for additional peripherals such as a printer. The MSN TV 2 can also be hooked up to a local area network in your home or office.

Users have access to headline news and can search the Web. Additional features include accessing photos, video, music, instant messages, chat rooms, MSN channels, basically just about anything you can do with the MSN service using a computer.

The MSN TV 2 also includes a wireless keyboard and a TV-like handheld remote control. The MSN TV 2 sells for $199. The monthly MSN service is $9.95 if you have your own dial-up or broadband Internet Service Provider, and $21.95 a month for dial-up access.

The MSN TV 2 is available through several national retailers such as Best Buy, Circuit City, CompUSA, online at Amazon.com, or directly from MSN via msntv.com.

It goes without saying that these kinds of set-top boxes still can't rival the performance of a personal computer. But then the MSN TV 2 sells for a fraction of the cost, and its design isn't intended to replace a computer. The MSN TV 2 provides a general, easy-to-access Internet experience without the clutter and expense of a personal computer sitting in your TV room.

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