Cutting Loose: Connected TV for Everybody

Cable cutting. You've probably begun the process already, even if you haven't gone all the way - think about how often you turn to Netflix, or Amazon, or Hulu Plus. And despite the panicked efforts of networks and providers nationwide, when are you watching live TV, exactly, aside from sports?

But 'til recently, cutting the cord was a project strictly for serious A/V geeks. With so many boxes now on the market is it finally ready for prime time? Even the most confirmed luddites among your relatives are probably watching the bulk of their movies on Netflix these days, there's over-the-air HD TV for the taking in most markets, and handy guides to getting out from under the thumb of your local provider are everywhere. Are they ready to take the next step?

Anticipating this question, I swapped out my Boxee Box - a popular, full-featured, and admittedly nerdy little HTPC replacement that we looked at in our digital media receiver roundup of a few months back - for three new devices - a couple of set-top boxes and a connected TV - that promise easy access to the post-cable world, or at least a painless introduction to the world of streaming content, even for those still reluctant to give up on their cable service providers.

Read on for our takes on the Channel Master TV over-the-air DVR/set-top streaming hybrid, Western Digital's revamped do-it-all WD TV Live, and Best Buy's Insignia Connected TV.