Best Streaming Devices for 2018

Category: Gadgets

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.

Streaming devices for 2018

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...

 
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This article was posted by on 29 May 2018


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Most recent comments on "Best Streaming Devices for 2018"

(See all 26 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

C gene
29 May 2018

Perhaps he is referring to the Asus Cube which is an android streaming device


Posted by:

Robb Thurston
29 May 2018

"Posted by: Kenneth Heikkila 29 May 2018: "My bro-in-law has something he calls the Cube, but I can't find what he is describing anywhere. He says after a one time purchase of the device."
Mr. Heikkila, that sounds a lot like Chrome OS, aka the Brick. Please check this out, or investigate further: >.


Posted by:

Robb Thurston
29 May 2018

Re: Kenneth Heikkila. Here are some references, to Chrome OS, as well as Asus Cube.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chrome_OS;
https://www.asus.com: Asus Cube: Home Entertainment O!Play Digital Media Player.


Posted by:

Robb Thurston
29 May 2018

Re: Kenneth Heikkila. Here are some references, to Chrome OS, as well as Asus Cube.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chrome_OS;
https://www.asus.com: Asus Cube: Home Entertainment O!Play Digital Media Player.


Posted by:

Egbok
29 May 2018

Bought a refurbished Roku in Jan. 2014. It's been a solid unit, I use it every day, free movies, news broadcasts, best $30 I've spent in a long time.


Posted by:

JimM
29 May 2018

As far as I'm concerned services like Netflix and Amazon prime are shoot themselves in the foot with producing their own series. It started out as a service streaming movies and it should remain that way. I'm on the verge of cancelling my Netfix because all I'm getting is foreign movies and series. Definitely not what I wanted.


Posted by:

Ralph Bruechert
29 May 2018

Bob, hate to burst your bubble, but Smellevision is here. Have you noticed how many of the broadcast shows stink?


Posted by:

Jay R
29 May 2018

By gooly, Ralph, you're right! Altho I think Stink-a-Vision might be more apropos. Thanx!


Posted by:

Bob K
29 May 2018

Some channels that are available streamed, you need permission from your cable TV provider to watch. Fox News is one, the Discovery channel would be another. When I had Spectum TV service, they would not provide that permission. Don't have any cable TV now, anyhow.

And, I subscribe to MILB for minor league baseball games. That is great, but can only watch it on a computer -- not on a TV. Haven't been able to cast it to the TV. Not sure how to turn that around.

The TV does have Roku built in, and that is truly fantastic.


Posted by:

KD
30 May 2018

Re: Bob K - "can only watch it on a computer"
Can't you hook your computer to your TV with an HDMI cable to watch?


Posted by:

bob k
30 May 2018

Re: KD - The computer is about 50 foot (cable run) distance from the TV.

Computer is running Win 7, and haven't found yet how to watch MILB except with Firefox with Adobe Flash.

Maybe invest in a second computer to locate at the TV :-) ?


Posted by:

LouDamelin
30 May 2018

Hi Bob K. Makes no difference what o/s you are running. Just use the correct cable: hdmi, vga, or a special cable with different ends that will connect your computer and tv. In your computer go to video or display preferences and set up the tv as a second monitor. Enjoy.


Posted by:

GJ
30 May 2018

Kenneth Heikkila was having trouble posting. He got cut off twice after posting the left side of a bracket (
- is that the cause of his getting cut off? Just wondering...


Posted by:

Richard C
30 May 2018

Bob & KD, that 50' run isn't much of a problem to overcome. You could go w/two 25' HDMI coupled or straight VGA & audio side by side. If the 50' VGA or HDMI is too spendy, go VGA over ethernet & audio side by side. If you choose the VGA over ethernet, use shielded Cat5e. I've successfully created the necessary cabling & run 75' ethernet without distortion or loss of signal.


Posted by:

Bob K
30 May 2018

Oh, maybe I should look at a RaspberryPi local at the TV. Already would have HDMI output -- just a matter if I can get the MILB to display.

But, thanks for the suggestions.


Posted by:

SysOp404
30 May 2018

Great timing for taking a fresh look at the current crop of streaming gadgets, as having just subscribed to YouTubeTV streaming service, am considering options for watching content, on something larger than tablets and 17" notebook computers. Rather than using HDMI-wired connections, one of these would be more preferable (for awhile), until deciding which massive-screen smart-TV to throw coinage at in the future. Am wondering what others have found to be most YouTubeTV-friendly.


Posted by:

Robert Hall
30 May 2018

Roku SAYS free streaming but all free ones I have seen so far require you to sit through commercials, no skipping. This is not free, its coercion TV. I must pay attention to those commercials and there are often lots. Netflix is free, no commercials. Amazon prime's shows are commercial free. Rokus are not.


Posted by:

RockyPerkins
30 May 2018

I just had to upgrade DVR Directv box with new Genie. You can download programs, but the catch is that you must watch the commercials. Fastforward and rewind don't work. I hate commercials during a movie! Anyone know a way around this? I have Roku box, but the fees to watch Amazon or Netflix keep going up. I, too, dropped Netflix--nothing of interest to watch. Some of the other movie channels offered on Roku are loaded with commercials--more commercials than movie time--its painful to watch. Soon as something comes up "free" there is a price to pay! On directv you pay for movie channel to see 1990's films and then an extral $12.99 to see a recent movie! What a rip.


Posted by:

RandiO
30 May 2018

Wow! So, this is what that whole "cutting the cord" cult is about.
"Your Google-connected life starts with the Google Assistant. It’s your own personal Google, always ready to help."
Appears that google has also cornered this cult market. Boggles the imagination what they will do with even more of our data! As if...


Posted by:

Therrito
04 Jun 2018

Nvidia Shield would be great for some hardcore people but otherwise just an Xbox would be fine for most others imho.
I cut the cord several years ago and with just an antenna I get 29 channels, most are HD, and it's just laying on a table by the window (20 ft. coax).


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