[SNIP] Streaming Media Gadgets
Cable TV subscribers have their set-top boxes to bring them all the content they want and can afford. “Cord-cutters” have streaming media players that do the same things via the Internet instead of a cable company’s network. Here's a look at some of the most popular streaming gadgets and the nifty features they offer…
Is it Time To Cut The Cord?
Every day, more people are cancelling their cable TV in favor of streaming media, which brings online content to your TV screen. In addition to the money saved, streaming media players (SMPs) give users much more control and versatility than set-top boxes.
SMPs can take multiple forms. Roku’s line of SMPs include a set-top box, a portable “stick” that looks much like a USB thumb drive, and TV sets with Roku SMP circuitry built into them. All of the Roku SMPs can be controlled via a handheld remote, a smartphone app, computer, or tablet. The latest models include voice controls.
The original Roku 1 box ($50) connects to new TV sets via HDMI, but it’s also compatible with older sets using composite signal cables. However, for HD content you’ll need to use HDMI. The Roku 2 ($70) is faster than the original, and adds a few features such as screen mirroring, and the ability to access your favorite shows in a hotel or dorm room. The Roku 3 ($100) is even faster and supports voice searches for programs and gaming. The Roku 4 ($130) supports the latest 4K UltraHD sets, and has a remote finder.
All of Roku’s SMPs provide access to 2,500 channels featuring over 300,000 movies and TV program episodes. Some content requires a subscription; Netflix, HBO NOW, and Showtime are examples. YouTube, PBS, and many other content sources are free to watch.
Apple TV can stream all of the iTunes content that you’ve purchased, which no other SMPs can do. Originally released in 2007, the Apple TV is now on its 4th generation. The 3rd-gen box costs only $30 and is the cheapest way to stream Apple-only content, as well as Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vevo, YouTube, and the TV Everywhere portals of several major content providers.
The latest Apple TV costs $150; in addition to video content, it plays apps and games purchased via the iPhone, and features voice search and recognition. It connects to TV sets via an HDMI port, and can use Apple Airplay to communicate via WiFi with an iPhone, iPad, or iPod.
Fire TV and Chromecast
The Amazon Fire TV Stick ($39) is a bargain when combined with an Amazon Prime subscription ($99/year). That deal includes free streaming of several thousand Amazon Instant movies and TV programs, including original Amazon-produced shows. The stick also streams Netflix, HBO Go, YouTube, Hulu Plus, Sling TV, Watch ESPN, Spotify and Pandora, as well as hundreds of games. It is exceptionally easy to set up and includes parental controls.
Google Chromecast sells for as little as $27, but it’s not as fully featured as the other SMP options. You can control it only via an app on a smartphone or tablet, for instance. Content options include Hulu Plus, Pandora, Google Music, Plex, Vevo, and HBO Go, Netflix, YouTube and Google Movies & TV. Chromecast also excels at broadcasting what's on your computer screen to your TV. Chromecast is a good basic, inexpensive SMP that is steadily adding features and content providers, but it still lags behind Roku.
If you are already wedded to the Apple or Amazon Prime ecosystems, it makes sense to go with their SMPs. For basic streaming, you can’t beat Chromecast’s price. Roku offers the most options for moderate to severe streaming addictions.
Are you a cord cutter? What do you use to bring online content to your TV screen? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 15 Feb 2016
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- [SNIP] Streaming Media Gadgets (Posted: 15 Feb 2016)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved