February, 1998 Page 5

WebTV Plus - An Improvement
Written By: Barry Cooper

I used to scoff at the notion of a VCR-like appliance sitting atop my television set, allowing me to surf the Internet with a remote control.

The only way to surf the Net, I figured, was with a high-horsepower IBM-compatible or Macintosh personal computer.

Boy, was I wrong.

WebTV has introduced its second generation Internet box for home televisions.

It's about the size of a VCR but has many of the innards of a computer, including a hard drive--a first for WebTV.

The original WebTV made a splash around Christmas of 1996, and as predicted there was even more excitement this year. That first system is now being called WebTV Classic. The model that made its debut this past holiday season is called WebTV Plus. The price for the new model is astounding, just $299. For that you get the WebTV Plus unit with a 1.1-gigabyte hard drive, a 56K modem (the fastest available for regular home use), a printer port for printing out documents and a special picture-in-picture feature that allows you to watch television and have a Web browser open at the same time.

This outstanding package, given the price, could rank as the best new hardware of the new year.

With the optional $70 keyboard (or supply your own standard keyboard), WebTV Plus is nearly as versatile as

some desktop computers. It lacks a floppy drive for copying files to a disk and you can't install popular software bought from stores. But that doesn't take away from WebTV Plus' mission. It's supposed to be an easy-to-use Internet tool, and its speedy modem allows it to do that very well.

WebTV Plus should appeal to people who are curious about the Internet but don't need a full-featured personal computer. Gadget lovers will purchase it as a companion for their PCs. Some families with teens will purchase a WebTV Plus for the kids' rooms. Many teens already have their own television sets and phone lines. Now with WebTV Plus they can have their own Internet access without having to use the family computer. WebTV and WebTV Plus both feature built-in software to block pornographic Web sites.

WebTV Plus hooks up to your television set in about 15 minutes. If you've ever installed a VCR you're skilled enough to hook up WebTV Plus. All you have to do is connect a few wires and then plug in a telephone line.

After you power on the unit it will guide you through the process of opening a WebTV Plus Internet account. The service is $19.95 a month. A WebTV Plus account is available for $9.95 if you already have Internet access through another service provider. You should buy WebTV Plus even if you have the original WebTV. The new unit is faster, and more powerful. It's a big step up, like moving from a 486 MHz class IBM compatible to a Pentium.