Are you ready to cut off the cable TV cord?
This is the Golden Age Of Media and immense databases – both free and paid – have made the accumulated archives of humanity’s best (and worst, and everything between) art, music, movies, and literature available in nanoseconds.
The downside? Until recently, trawling the archives meant being yoked to a computer or tethered to tiny mobile screens. Luckily, over the last couple of years almost every major digital technology manufacturer has introduced their take on digital streaming TV. While this is good news for consumers – competition keeps the prices down and the quality up – but it also raises the confusion. Which TV streamer is best for your needs? We’ve compiled a short round-up, to help you answer that very question.
Streaming TV Round-Up
There’s a wide variety of TV streaming options available, to suit every conceivable media need and price point. Here’s a detailed analysis of the most popular TV streaming solutions at the moment. (Note: we show list prices, but lower prices are usually available on online sources, such as Amazon.)
For the largest selection, with the most minimal set-up, the Roku 4 is likely to be the best bang for your buck. The Roku is also the undisputed champion, when it comes to content. The Roku 4 offers more than 2500 channels, including Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, as well as specialty channels with public-domain movies, original Web series or even 24/7 surveillance cameras!
The Roku is also one of the easiest to use, with minimal set-up, and a versatile search engine, which can be configured for voice search. The Roku features a dedicated remote, to help you step away from the screen and remain away for the evening and a headphone jack, for late-night viewing without disturbing your roommates..
List Price: $130
The Google Chromecast is the smallest, most affordable, most minimal streaming stick on the market today. If you’re looking to get your media on a slightly bigger screen for less than $50, the Google Chromecast is for you.
The Google Chromecast has recently been updated by Google, in a bid to become the best streaming stick on the market. It now supports 802.11ac, as well as features an adaptive antenna system. Google has also updated the Chromecast app, making it more searchable. In addition, it integrates Spotify support, for all your streaming in one place.
List Price: $35
For the open-source media enthusiasts out there, you’re going to love Android TV. Like most open-source software, Android TV is free of the bells and whistles, giving you a lean, clean interface to enjoy your streaming without a ton of ads and updates. The Nvidia Shield is specially designed to take advantage of the interface.
The Nvidia Shield supports all of your favorite streaming services – Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Plex – as well as high-end streaming video games. Popular games, like Borderlands, are available via the Nvidia Grid platform, which can be played with the included video game controller.
As a final shiny bow for the Nvidia Shield, the Android TV streamer will offer the ability to record regular network TV, when tuners become available, in addition to all of your streaming. Considering that the Nvidia Shield also allows playback of your private media library, via USB, the future of TV streaming might be open source.
List Price: $199.99
Apple TV was one of the first TV streaming boxes on the market when it was unveiled in 2007. It’s remained relevant by being the best possible way to get your iTunes content in the highest-possible quality, with the least amount of setup.
Those who’ve grown used to Apple’s layout will feel right at home with Apple TV. It offers a powerful Siri search, allowing for fine-tuned search results using only your voice. Apple TV is also optimized for Apple Apps, of which there are thousands, to help you further customize and streamline your media. It also offers a dedicated remote, to help you remain laptop-free when you’re trying to enjoy your evening.
List Price: $149.99
Amazon Fire TV
Amazon threw their hat in the TV streaming ring with the Amazon Fire TV, in a gambit against iTunes. The Amazon Fire TV offers built-in support for Amazon’s extensive digital archives, with the extensive Amazon Instant Video Library, which features a wide variety of movies, classic television, as well as the usual bevy of original series. The downside of the Amazon Fire TV, however, is you have to be a Prime subscriber to take advantage of their services, which costs an additional $99/year.
However, this device great for dedicated Amazon users looking for easier access to their Amazon library, but not quite as exciting if you don’t already belong to Prime. It does come with a remote, making it a good value for Amazon lovers looking to get away from their desktops.
List Price: $99.99
The XBox One is a little pricey, if you’re only looking to stream videos, but if you’ve been contemplating a new video game console, here’s your chance to kill two birds with one stone.
With more than 50 streaming apps; a built-in library of games; native Blu-ray support; and the ability to run your cable or antenna through the console, the Xbox One is a one stop media center. It also features a wireless remote, with the XBox controller.
List Price: $357
Which is your favorite TV streaming device? What do you like about it? Let us know in the comments!