Can tech firms take over your TV?

SmartGlass is looking to make second screening mainstream

It's the hot craze that's sweeping the nation - no, not Gangnam Style, but second-screening. Gone are the days when one screen was enough for anybody; today, even your Gran's calling people names on Twitter while she watches the X Factor.

Technology's moving into our living rooms like never before, and it seems that everyone wants a piece of the action - so will your goggle box become a Google box, or an Xbox? Will you make your TV go Wii, or will you want an Apple TV?

The Apple TV is the rumour that just won't go away, and it was given new life this week when analyst Gene Munster predicted that we'll see it on sale next November. He doesn't mean a new Apple TV streaming box, either: he reckons we'll see 42-inch and 52-inch tellies with the Apple logo on the bezel. According to Munster, the Apple TV is real, it's very good, and it'd be here already if negotiations with US cable companies weren't proving difficult.

Xbox TV?

Stalled negotiations may be bad for Apple, but they're good for anyone else who wants to charge into our front rooms - and one contender is Microsoft, who may be working on an Xbox TV set-top box. Xbox TV shouldn't be confused with the incoming Xbox 720: it's more of a general device with an emphasis on streaming video and casual games, while the more powerful (and presumably more expensive) Xbox 720 offers a more traditional gaming experience.

The Xbox TV would be part of a wider strategy that also includes SmartGlass, which brings some of the Xbox to smartphones including iOS and Android.

The strategy also includes Windows RT, the laid-back, off-duty version of Windows 8 that's Microsoft's answer to the iPad, but that's got off to a fairly slow start - and as our Alex Roth reports, its app store isn't great and "some of the movie prices are just ridiculous... now that Amazon is ruling the roost with iTunes running a close second, [Microsoft] needs to step up its game to compete."

Nintendo wants to be the second screen too, and its Wii U takes that literally by sticking a second screen into the controller. However, now that it's gone on sale in the US, it's attracting some vocal criticism. According to 4A Games' Oles Shishkovtsov, it has "a horrible, slow CPU".

Is he right? We quite like the Wii U, but it isn't perfect. As Andrew Hayward explains in our in-depth review, while there's lots to like, "with the hardware performance seemingly only meeting that of several-year-old competitors, it may well feel outdated in many ways if other new hardware rolls out in a year or two." Ultimately, of course, it'll be all about the games.

Choosing the right screen

No matter what second screen you go for, if you fancy changing your main TV we can help: we've just updated our super soar-away guide to the best 40 and 42-inch TVs in the UK today, which covers the fastest-growing sector of the TV market.

We think that for most people, that size is the sweet spot - and because home cinema addicts have moved to even bigger displays, that bit of the market is a world of slashed prices and big bargains.

Fancy a bargain that only costs 69p (99c)? Good news: we've just launched Tech., a weekly iPad magazine "from the makers of TechRadar". That's us! Tech. will be brightening up people's iPads every Thursday, and you can find out all about it right here.

The TechRadar hive mind. The Megazord. The Voltron. When our powers combine, we become 'TECHRADAR STAFF'. You'll usually see this author name when the entire team has collaborated on a project or an article, whether that's a run-down ranking of our favorite Marvel films, or a round-up of all the coolest things we've collectively seen at annual tech shows like CES and MWC. We are one.