THE SET-TOP BOX MOVES ON

 They call it “convergence” in the high-tech biz. It means that moment when the computer and the television set come together and live happily ever after.

Joy has been trying out a number of set-top boxes that promise to bring the computer to your TV, and even bring TV to the TV. Oddly enough, the one she likes best so far is also the oldest. It’s the Microsoft Web TV Web TVbox, now renamed “MSN TV 2,” and it’s been around for more than 10 years, the latest version for nearly five. You can still get it from WebTV.com for $200.

 This was the easiest box to use and had the clearest signal. Like all of them it has to be connected to the Internet through a high-speed link, but once it is, it’s fine. In fact, Joy thinks that for many people it would take the place of a computer. We used it to browse the Web, watch videos that are on the Web, and read newspapers and magazines. You can also watch slide shows, listen to music and even read and respond to your email, using a wireless keyboard that comes with the box. You can go to any Web site, but for videos, the best ones are on MSN TV, or on sites like YouTube. Websites that require Adobe Flash or other downloads may not come in properly.

 The other downside to this old box is that you can’t watch high definition TV or pause live TV. The high-def crowd might want to turn to the new D-Link box, the DSM-750 Media Center Extender. This costs $285 at discount prices. We’ve always had good results with D-Link equipment, except for this thing. Setup required endless technical support calls and if we switch away from it to use our DVD player and then try to switch back, it tells us it has lost contact with the Internet. We’ve sort of lost contact with it.

 Coming down the pike are still better boxes and the road to convergence is clear. Panasonic’s “Viera PZ850” box, scheduled to debut in July and integrates some Google features into its Web browsing. Other contenders include the “Sezmi,” “Netflix” box, “Apple TV,” and “Xbox Live Marketplace.” But the box getting the biggest buzz right now is the upcoming “ZV,” which can be pre-ordered at Amazon for $499. We’ll get to this when it actually comes out. It will be for high definition sets only. 

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