Best Streaming Devices
There are lots of ways to stream content over the Internet directly to your TV or other viewing devices. They include simple set-top boxes, tiny streaming “sticks,” and even video game consoles. Read on for my advice on how to choose the video streaming device that's best for your needs…
Which Streaming Gadget is Best?
Streaming devices come in a variety of shapes and sizes. But the form-factor is usually not the most important thing. A device’s channel line-up, remote control device, and user interface are actually more important. Price is a factor too, although all streaming services and devices will be far cheaper than their cable equivalents.
One thing to consider is that you may not need a streaming device at all. If you own a “smart TV,” it probably includes major streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, and others. Check the specs of a TV you own or are planning to buy.
For the largest selection of channels and dead-simple operation, it’s hard to beat the Roku 4 Streaming Media Player ($114) Access to Amazon Video, Netflix, Hulu, and HBO are the most popular features, but Roku offers over 2,500 channels of movies, TV shows, music, sports, news, international, kids programming and more. Its text and voice-enabled search function makes it easy to find content by title, actor, or director. Its remote control includes a headphone jack. The Roku 4 delivers great selection and it’s ready for the 4K future.
The Amazon Fire TV set-top box ($99.99) is smaller than the Roku in physical dimensions, but it supports over 4,000 channels of content. Fire TV supports 4K Ultra HD, for which there is little or no content as yet, but it also supports 1080p “full HD” for Netflix, Amazon Video, YouTube, Hulu, and more. Live TV includes NBC News, NBA, and Sling TV, which includes ESPN, CNN, HGTV, AMC, A&E, Cartoon Network, and more. The Fire TV includes voice control; just say the name of the show you want to watch and it starts streaming. There’s also a Fire TV Stick ($39.99)
The cheapest major streaming device is the Google Chromecast ($35), a button-like dongle that plugs into an HDMI port on the back of your TV. The Chromecast 2, released in September, 2015, requires a computer or mobile device as its source of streamed content, and also as its controller; there is no dedicated remote control to lose. The improved Chromecast 2 app makes it much easier to find content. The external power cable is now five feet long and connects to either a USB port or a standard AC wall socket.
One unique feature of the Chromecast is its ability to "cast" whatever you're viewing in your Chrome browser (from desktop, laptop or mobile) to your TV set. In addition, there are thousands of apps that can stream content via Chromecast; among them are Netflix and Hulu, TV shows from HBO Go, Crackle, Showtime Anywhere, and Plex; and network TV apps from the likes of CBS, ABC and Comedy Central. Sports fans can enjoy ESPN, MLB.com, NFL Sunday Ticket and dozens of specialty sports apps. On the music front, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio and NPR One are just a few Chromecast-compatible offerings.
More Streaming Options
Some people will prefer a portable streaming device that does not require a phone or computer. The Roku Streaming Stick ($43.87) may be for them, and it also includes a physical remote control. Basically, it’s the Roku 4 only smaller and cheaper. What’s not to like?
Apple TV is on its 4th generation, and the 5th is due out by the end of 2016. Naturally, it’s the most expensive streaming device ($149 to $199, 32 or 64 GB of storage) Its Siri-based content search is pretty darned good, enabling complex voice searches like “Find TV shows featuring Patrick Stewart,” with followup refinements like “just his newest ones.” You can search by movies, actors, directors, studios, age ratings and more criteria. Apple TV 4 also does apps for the first time, as long as you buy them from Apple. Apps range from from videos and music to real estate and fitness, as well as a handful of games.
If TV streaming devices can do games, why can’t gaming consoles do TV shows? In fact, xBox 360 and Playstation consoles will accommodate streaming video apps such as Netflix, Hulu, Animal Planet Live, and many more. They also play movies from DVD discs.
Do you stream movies, TV shows or other entertainment from the Internet to your television set? What streaming device(s) are your favorite? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 21 Sep 2016
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Best Streaming Devices (Posted: 21 Sep 2016)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved