Best Streaming Devices for 2018
Elmer Fudd predicted that smellevision would replace television by the year 2000. That didn't happen, but streaming online content is fast outpacing the viewership of traditional broadcast TV. It’s been a while since my last roundup of streaming devices. So let’s take a look at the state of streaming in 2018...
Which Streaming Gadget Should You Buy?
Roku rules, in terms of market share, with Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, and Apple TV nipping at the heels. The top sellers have not changed much in the past two years, but less-known devices have risen to the top of the second tier, and each has something special going for it.
Roku is the only device whose manufacturer does not also produce a content service. Roku works with any willing partner - smart TV makers, over-the-top service providers, and social media companies. As a result, Roku has the deepest lineup of channels and the largest market share, estimated at 38.9 million Americans at the end of 2017.
Chromecast finished second with an estimated 36.9 million users, followed closely by Amazon Fire TV with 35.8 million. Apple TV was a distant fourth with 21.3 million users; but as usual, Apple laughed all the way to the bank.
The three market leaders sell “stick” versions of their products for under $40; while not the most capable editions, the sticks are very popular. A 4th-generation Apple TV costs $150 while the newest 4K box goes for $200.
A Roku 4K Ultra device goes for $99 at Amazon. A certified refurbished Ultra can be had for $75. It features a night-time audio mode the evens out loud and quiet portions of the audio track. You probably will stay up late watching the 500,000+ movies and TV episodes available; see the full Roku content lineup.
The Amazon Fire TV 4K Ultra HD device comes with an Alexa-powered remote that hangs around your neck like a pendant; no more lost remote! It costs Prime members just $70 and they can even get that in five monthly payments of $14 each. Prime Video is now producing its own original shows, too. The Amazon Fire TV Stick ($40) and other options are available.
Streaming Devices from Google, Apple and Others
The minimalist, $35 Chromecast’s special sauce is its ability to “cast” whatever is in your Chrome browser onto your smart TV or any Android mobile device. That includes Netflix, Hulu, HBO NOW, and of course YouTube. Its lineup includes “more than 200,000 TV shows and movies, 30 million songs through apps like Netflix, YouTube, Pandora, Hulu, HBO GO, WatchESPN and Google Play.” The Chromecast content ecosystem is here.
Apple has the latest, greatest content format, of course. HDR (High Dynamic Range) movies can be hard to find on Amazon or Netflix, but the Apple TV 4K has it.
Among the second-tier players worth considering are value-oriented devices and high-end gamer systems that can stream 4K Ultra HDR like a boss.
Microsoft’s Xbox is better known as a conduit for Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty, but it can also put the latest movies and shows from Netflix or Hulu at your fingertips through the Windows Store.
Playstation Vue streams sports and other live or on-demand TV content.
China’s Xiaomi Box includes Android TV 6.0, 4K streaming, HDR video support, DTS/Dolby Digital Plus support and a Bluetooth voice remote for just $69. It includes all the goodies that come with Chromecast, including casting. The quad-core Cortex-A53 CPU, MALI 450 GPU 2GB of RAM, 8GB of flash storage (expandable via a USB port) are pretty respectable specs but may not be up to streaming the most demanding 4K content.
For no limits, you may want to look at the $179 Nvidia Shield screamer streamer. It sports a lightning-fast Nvidia Tegra X1 processor, 3GB of RAM and 16GB of storage;HDR playback, Dolby Atmos/DTS-X audio, and comes with a remote, Gigabit Ethernet, two USB 3.0 jacks, and an HDMI 2.0 jack. It runs Android TV so it supports thousands of streaming apps, plus YouTube, Google Play, and more.
One streaming gadget to avoid is the TV Frog. In advertising, they've made statements such as "Never Pay For Cable Or Subscriptions Again… This Device Allows You To Watch Anything For Free.” That's just not true; like other streaming boxes, it merely allows you to display online content on your HD television. You'll still need a subscription to Netflix, Hulu, etc. Online reviews indicate the device is low quality, and customer service lacking.
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 29 May 2018
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Best Streaming Devices for 2018 (Posted: 29 May 2018)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved