She just wants to watch her stories.
July 21, 2012 8:51 AM   Subscribe

What is the best way for my sister to watch Netflix given her old TV setup?

What she's got is a 27 inch TV, DVD Player, VCR, and a digital converter box (for over the air broadcasts). The TV only has 2 composite in feeds, being used by the VCR and the DVD player, with the digital converter passing through the VCR. There is also an original XBox that plugs into the A/V ports on the VCR and is passed through to the TV.

What she wants is to add Netflix streaming to her TV options. A Roku box would be perfect, except there really isn't a good way to add it into the mix. My next thought was to replace the DVD player with a BluRay player.

But finding a BluRay player that meets her needs has left me head scratching. It needs to be wireless, region free, and have composite out. And new, she's not interested in a used or refurbished item nor anything from eBay.

Is there a BluRay player out there for her? What other options am I over looking?
posted by zinon to Technology (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You could just get a little switcher box, like this one, which is $17.
posted by bcwinters at 8:53 AM on July 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Apple TV is $99 and will hook right into her existing setup.
posted by killdevil at 9:13 AM on July 21, 2012

AFAIK, Apple TV requires a HDMI input, and it doesn't seem like she has one.
posted by Diablevert at 9:17 AM on July 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding adding composite in ports with a switcher box (also called an AV selector). This is what I recently did for my mother-in-law when she bought a Roku box for her old TV.
posted by 2ghouls at 9:23 AM on July 21, 2012

what about replacing the vcr and tv with a combo dvd/vcr, which would free up a set of ports for whatever device you decide to use for netflix?
posted by dpx.mfx at 9:26 AM on July 21, 2012

WDTV is another option. Does the VCR have front inputs you could use?
posted by backwards guitar at 9:31 AM on July 21, 2012

Why isn't the Roku a good match? I have this same set up. Semi-ancient 27 inch, dvd player, vcr, and Roku. I need to check the wires which are hidden in an entertainment center, but one wire runs to the dvd, which then runs to the Roku, which then runs to the vcr, and then back to the tv. I've never had any connection problems. I've even got an old PS2 in there somewhere.

By original Xbox, do you mean the first one that was put out? Newer ones can stream netflix.
posted by loriginedumonde at 9:44 AM on July 21, 2012

I assume "original Xbox" means not the 360, so there's no Netflix for it. However, you could add XBMC to it, but given the old-school setup, I'm guessing that's a little too technical.

The current Apple TV (2) wil not work as it's HDMI-only and the boxes that promise to convert HDMI into something else don't actually work. If you could find an original Apple TV, that's a candidate for XBMC as well and is probably a little more user-friendly, but I don't remember if it supported composite TV out.
posted by yerfatma at 10:35 AM on July 21, 2012

Response by poster: The TV only has 2 composite/RCA inputs, one is the DVD Player and the other is the VCR. The VCR has 2 composite/RCA rear inputs, one is the Digital Converter and the other is the XBox. The VCR does have front inputs, but only mono (yellow and white). So there's not place to add a Roku in the current setup.

A switcher would work, but it looks like you have to physically switch the feed (well press a button) to change devices. Also, I'd like to future proof this for her, so when she finally buys a HDTV everything still works.

And yes, original XBox, is not a 360 and does not offer Netflix. I'll look at XBMC for it, but considering that it's running through her VCR, it's already a bit of a kludge and I'd rather avoid too much more of that.
posted by zinon at 11:00 AM on July 21, 2012

Panasonic DMP-BD87
posted by rhizome at 11:37 AM on July 21, 2012

There are remote control a/v switch boxes, they're a little more expensive, but worth it.

For years I had a similar setup, with a Tivo in the mix, which handled my Netflix fix. Put the DVD/VCR, the Wii,.and the Xbox on different channels of the switcher.
posted by ApathyGirl at 12:40 PM on July 21, 2012

Get a roku and plug it into the front inputs. Use the left channel for sound. The tv is probably mono internally anyway.
posted by The Lamplighter at 1:02 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: PS3? it'll replace the dvd player, add blu-ray, (cooler games than the old xbox), and netflix, computer streaming, and a bajillion other features i have never used ;P

i'm guessing this is an old tube tv? time for a new one, maybe? can pick up a 27" set for cheap...~$200...though it will prob seem smaller than the 27" set she has now (just from widescreen vs. will be wider, but shorter...) 32" prob ~$300...there are a bunch out that include smart TV/Google TV/netflix/a bunch of other features baked right into the tv, often for little/no extra cost...check out the store.

also, replacing the TV (the real weak link in this chain) will save your sister $$$...judging by the labels i've seen, somewhere in the ballpark of $40-80/yr in electricity.
posted by sexyrobot at 2:03 PM on July 21, 2012

General answer: get a switch box to switch between all of the different video sources. That one box is used to change what is going to the tv, so there is only one place to change inputs. Get a netflix playing device that can be connected to the switch box.

There are composite video + stereo audio switch boxes that can be controlled by IR.

If you want to have a single remote that can handle the video switch, the tv, and whatever other devices, you want a programmable remote. As programming is a pain, just give in to the Harmony remote system.

Similarly, many AV receivers can do this switching. Note, that receivers will often up-convert a lower quality video source to a higher quality output (component to hdmi for example), they will not generally cross-convert (HDMI to component), and they will not down-convert (component to composite). The number of composite inputs on modern receivers is dwindling as everything is hdmi these days. Be aware, it is possible you might buy a receiver that will not happily work with a future hdtv/hdmi input device in the future (such is a result of hdcp that in no way is good for the consumer).

Many devices that stream netflix will want to output that video over hdmi. At least one of the Roku boxes has a composite output. Some of the netflix capable blu-ray devices I looked at would only output internet streamed content over the hdmi connection and only if it was hdcp compliant (thus why, in 2012 I purchased a stand-alone dvd player).
posted by fief at 3:14 PM on August 1, 2012

Response by poster: In the end she went with a new TV.
posted by zinon at 2:07 PM on December 31, 2012

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