The Swiss Army Knife of Net Appliances? : Neon Technology's NTV-2500
by Nate Heasley for Digital Living Today

Internet appliances are all the rage these days, and everyone seems to have their own vision of what such an appliance should look like. Unfortunately, most of them are limited in features and require an Internet account with the manufacturer's own ISP -- and that'll usually run around $21.95 a month. Since dial-up access is available for as low as $7 per month now, it hardly seems worth it to pay twenty-two bucks, even if the Net appliance is only $99. Enter the NTV-2500.

The NTV-2500 is billed as a "complete entertainment solution." It includes a DVD player, so you can watch your favorite movies in the latest digital standard. That same DVD drive also plays regular CDs, MP3 CDs and even karaoke CDs, all of which can be played through a home stereo for the best possible sound (it does nothing, incidentally, to improve your own voice, so be careful with the Karaoke feature!).

The device also has a modem and software that connects to the Internet for Web browsing, email and even streaming audio and video using the RealAudio/Video format. The included 10/100-base T Ethernet connection means it can handle high-speed Net connections through DSL or cable modems. The NTV-2500 also has expansion options, like a digital camera for video conferencing and for adding snapshots to email. Other peripherals can be added through the USB connectors or serial and printer ports.

To enhance your TV viewing pleasure, the NTV-2500 also has a built-in TV tuner. This feature allows the TV to be controlled through the NTV-2500, and adds features like the option to view up to six different channels at the same time (one live, the others in "snapshot" mode"). There are also plans for supporting interactive TV standards in future upgrades of the device’s system software.

While the list price is $599, it's got the flexibility to let you choose your own ISP, which will save you money in the long run and help you avoid obsolescence. If you want a discount on the price, you can sign up with Prodigy (for that "industry standard" $21.95 per month) and get $300 off, plus a $100 rebate from Neon, which brings the price down to a very reasonable $199. And for that price, you get more than just a limited Net much more.

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