If you're using a TV made expressly for outdoor use — and we recommend doing just that for safety's sake — you'll forsake some of the newest features like built-in internet connectivity, which gets you online through the TV. But even if the screen isn't set up to stream movies and shows from your home computer or the internet by itself, there are good options out there.
Add a component like a Blu-ray Disc player (for DVDs) or a digital video recorder (which records network and cable shows for playback later). Depending on the outdoor space, they can be stored in a weatherproof cabinet and connected to the display screen by a professional. Most are simple enough to disconnect and store when not in use if you don't have weatherproof housing. It’s not ideal, but it’s an easy way to use the newest technology without investing in an entirely new system.
Internet-enabled Blu-ray Disc players and gaming consoles are inexpensive, readily available and easy ways to add streamed content to an outdoor theater. Most now let you stream content from subscription services like Netflix and Vudu for instant viewing.
TVs mounted over a fireplace are too high for optimum viewing but they do have one clear advantage: the ledge below affords room for a component to help get content to the screen.
If you're going to the trouble of mounting a TV, make sure to pump up the audio quality. TVs got skinny by sacrificing internal speakers; add to that ambient noise and the sounds of nature, and you'll have trouble hearing without at least two speakers connected to the TV. Or go all out and do five-channel surround sound complete with subwoofer. Many outdoor speakers come in wireless versions.
Apple makes it easy to get content from one device to another. Look for the Apple AirPlay logo on speakers and docking systems. This means the device can access music and related video content from your home network and play it on the patio. The iPad, iPhone or iPod touch all work as controllers, making it a snap to operate and fewer components to keep track of outdoors.
There are kits that help stream content to an outdoor TV, many of them inexpensive like this one from IOGEAR. Simply plug into the TV and insert the dongle into a computer's USB port to extend a wireless signal outside its normal range and stream content from a laptop to the larger screen.
There's a steady flow of new products coming out meant to stream content to TVs using a home network like the AppleTV. Also consider Orb TV, a small hockey-puck sized disc that connects to a stereo or TV and then plays anything stored on a home computer network. Use an iPad, iPod or smartphone as the remote control and get video from your iTunes library or stream from Netflix. Orb sends content to outside speakers and screens.