DLNA is the secret sauce that brings together the various devices in your home and allows them to easily share content such as photos, music and videos.
Nearly 200 million DLNA-certified devices shipped globally in 2008 - including televisions, cameras, printers, PCs, set- top boxes, mobile phones and games consoles - and this is expected to jump to 300 million in 2012.
What's really exciting is that the number of DLNA-certified televisions has more than doubled in the last three months - up to 699 spread across more than 100 brands. This is the final piece in the puzzle, as it lets you watch a wealth of computer-based content on your big television in the lounge room rather than on the PC in the study or the notebook on your lap.
DLNA - the basics
Using DLNA requires two things - a DLNA server to send the content and a DLNA client to receive it.
You can set up a PlayStation 3 as a DLNA server, but your PlayStation 3 is likely to be next to your television anyway. You'll get far more flexibility from a PC-based solution running the likes of TVersity or PlayOn - which can live in the study and happily stream video to the lounge room. These will also let you stream video from the internet, with the ability to run a VPN for accessing US-only content.
The DLNA situation is set to improve with the release of Windows 7.
The new Windows Media Player will feature a 'Play to' command - making it simple to stream files to DLNA-certified devices throughout the home. Windows 7 is expected to play a key role in DLNA's takeup, although whether it ends up being a simple point n' click exercise or a networking nightmare remains to be seen.
|Streaming video: Choose the TVersity route to setup a PC as a server for your big screen Internet video
The DLNA client - your big screen TV
Of course you still need a DLNA client in your lounge room. That's where your fancy new television comes into play - with a sexy Ethernet port in the back for accepting streaming media.
Make sure you do your homework before you go shopping, as just because a television has a DLNA sticker doesn't mean it does everything you want. For example, Sony's early DLNA-compatible Bravias would only stream photos. The situation has improved with the new Bravias, but it's Samsung that's lead the way in Australia in terms of DLNA-compatible televisions. Do your research before you go shopping. The store assistant is unlikely know much about DLNA, but they are likely to tell you whatever you want to hear in order to get a sale.
DLNA clients - TVs vs set top boxes
While DLNA-compatibility is something to watch out for in new televisions, it's not worth upgrading you existing TV just to get DLNA. It's far easier to hook up a set top box that's a DLNA client.
You've got a few options including the PlayStation 3 and a computers running software like VLC, Boxee or XMBC.
Sony's new Blu-ray players are DLNA clients, but annoyingly they'll only receive photos, not music or video. The original Xbox and Apple's oft-maligned Apple TV don't include DLNA at all, but thankfully you can easily hack them to run DLNA-compatible software such as Boxee or XMBC.
You'll notice it's content providers such as Sony and Apple that have dragged their feet on incorporating DLNA playback into their hardware. Sony would prefer you bought Blu-ray discs, while Apple wants you to buy everything from the iTunes store. It might be up to Microsoft and Windows 7 to push DLNA into the spotlight.
Buying a flat screen TV? Have a question you'd like us to answer? Add your comments or questions about flat screen TV issues to the discussion below.
Also in this series, How to Pick a Great Flat Screen TV, And Not Get Sucked In By Marketing Hype:
Part 6: TV tuners and "Digital Capable"
Part 5: HDMI and component ports
Part 4: LED and backlighting
Part 3: Screen size
Part 2: Refresh rates
Part 1: Brightness and contrast ratios
Also see our 5 tips for buying a digital TV set top box
And also see the lowdown on Freeview, and whether you should care
If you're new to Digital TV, or have yet to make the leap, start by reading Prepare yourself for Digital TV