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How Do You Watch Netflix On Your TV: Apple TV, Roku, Console Or Cord?

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A question for 2013: How do you get Netflix on your television? Lucille Bluth awaits. (Paul Sakuma/AP) | AP
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Netflix's streaming library might be nearing peak excellence. The political drama "House of Cards" has proven a bona fide smash hit show; the fourth season of "Arrested Development" has American workers planning vacation days; and full seasons of "Breaking Bad," "Mad Men" and "The West Wing" have launched a thousand lost weekends of binge viewing.

It's a back catalogue that would make any television network envious -- a feast of full seasons of hit shows that are perfect for your living room set. Yet, many of the 20+ million Netflix subscribers are still watching Walter White and Buster Bluth on comparably tiny tablet screens.

You might be wondering, then: How can you get Netflix onto your television? What's the best way to get that content from your 10-inch iPad or 11-inch laptop to your 50-inch TV set, where it was meant to be viewed?

Your most common options are below. None of these gadgets exists solely to stream Netflix on a television, of course -- they can play video games, access other websites and video and generally do much more than simply zap Netflix onto your LG or Bravia.

If your Netflix has been too long confined to your laptop or tablet, though, this list can serve as a launching point or shopping list for a much-needed purchase. Here are your most practical, widely-used options to stream Netflix on your TV set:

THE BOXES

A streaming media box is a small, Internet-connected device that hooks up to your television set and your Wi-Fi and gives you access to web television services like Netflix for no extra charge. The largest immediate difference between all of these boxes -- which include the Roku, Apple TV, Boxee TV and several different devices running Google's television-based operating system, Google TV -- is channel availability, or which web services each box can run. You can see a comprehensive chart comparing all of the boxes here, and a nice, critical article from Wirecutter here.

The Roku and the Apple TV represent the two most popular media streamers in America. The Roku starts at $50 for the most basic model, though $100 gives you several additional features including a USB port to play media from a USB stick and a motion-sensing controller to play a Wii-like version of Angry Birds. A smartphone app for iPhone or Android allows you to control your TV with your phone and lets you stream some of your downloaded music and movies onto your television. The Roku also offers a sizable library of third-party apps made especially for television.

The Apple TV, meanwhile, only comes in one flavor and costs $99. There are no games, but the Apple TV does let you stream your video content from your iPhone or iPad straight onto the television, through a technology called mirroring. Apple TV offers relatively few apps, though one could argue that Apple is offering only the apps that people actually use. The box also offers downloads through the iTunes Store, which many are already familiar with.

Apple TV and Roku might be the two biggest players, but others are attempting to make some headway with unique features that go beyond just streaming movies. The Boxee TV, for example, can also hook up to your cable television and replace your DVR, giving you unlimited web storage for your recorded shows for $15 a month. Google TV boxes, like the Vizio Co-Star, also give you access to the Google Chrome web browser on your television, for real Internet surfing.

THE CONSOLES

Gaming consoles aren't exclusively for video-gaming anymore, as more and more console owners are putting down the controller to watch video through their machines.

Consoles are more expensive than boxes, but they offer much better gaming experiences than any box; the Netflix part is really just a bonus feature or sweetener of purchasing a console.

The PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 will both be replaced by newer consoles by the end of 2013, so now is not the best time to buy them. Nintendo's new console, the Wii U, was just released in late 2012, however, and offers some interesting applications for TV watchers. Most notably, the GamePad controller for the Wii U functions as a tablet, so that if you don't want to watch Netflix on the TV anymore, you can send the show to the GamePad and continue streaming your Netflix show on the controller from anywhere in the house.

THE SMART TVS

If you don't want to plug anything into your set, you can buy what's called a "Smart TV," which is a general term for an Internet-connected television which runs apps like Netflix. TechRadar runs down its favorite Smart TVs here, though note that some of these televisions may have been updated since the December publishing date.

This is obviously the most expensive option to view streaming video on your TV; but it does eliminate the need to buy another box and deal with extra cords and cables. If you're in the market for a television anyway, it's not a bad option, though it's still wise to purchase based on screen quality, size and cost -- rather than availability of Internet apps.

THE CORDS

Finally, the penny-pincher's solution to this conundrum. If you're a real cheapskate, you can purchase a cable or cord that will connect your laptop to your television and project whatever is showing your laptop's screen onto your TV. It's the cheap and dirty way to do things, but it works, and you can stream whatever you want on the Internet, without needing to download an app from the app store of your box, console or Smart TV.

Best Buy actually has a fairly thorough guide for connecting televisions to computers for newbies; you'll need to figure out what kind of cord connections are available on both your computer and your television set before you make a purchase. Once you figure it out, shop around online for the best price, perhaps using our own handy guide for finding the best online prices when you shop.

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Again, these four categories do not encompass every method for beaming Netflix onto your television; they are simply the most common and practical for the average home viewer. Now, let us know: How do you watch Netflix and other streaming services on your TV? What did we miss? Which of these options works, and which will leave you wishing you had purchased something else? Let us know in the comments below.

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CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that Netflix was streaming "Dexter." Showtime announced it was pulling its shows from Netflix in March of last year.

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