Video was made for TV
Not all streaming devices were created equal. Let’s breakdown the best and the rest.
Sure you’ve got access to a growing plethora of streaming services. You’ve got apps all over your phone. With just a few taps you can watch videos on YouTube, Netflix, Hulu or 1SpotMedia. But where is the fun in that?
Video is larger than life. Video was made for the big screen.
Yeah, you may have a smart TV that has built-in apps with an ok interface. But you can upgrade any HD TV, smart or otherwise with a dedicated streaming device. Like streaming services, there are many streaming devices. Let’s take a moment to break down the options.
A streaming device is a separate, stand-alone digital media hub in the form of a stick, box or cube that connects directly to the internet. No cable subscription or antenna is required. To my mind, Roku, AppleTV and Amazon Fire TV rule the roost. Android TV and Google Cast are worth mentioning (and then perhaps forgetting).
Depending on the specs, expect to pay from US$35.00 up for these convenient set-top boxes. Also, expect to get almost all the streaming services across most devices. Great HD and 4K video quality are practically a given at this point and so too is an intuitive navigation system.
My personal favourite is Roku. With multiple options including the Roku Streaming Stick+, Roku Premiere and Roku Ultra, for me, Roku offers the best bang for the buck. Except for AppleTV, you’ll get it all - Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Twitch and more. The interface is clean and easy to use.
Some Roku devices offer voice commands, remote headphone jacks and wired connections including composite video.
As good as Roku is as a set-top box, the technology is also natively available in some TVs. As a TCL/Roku owner, I can say, I love the integration. My Samsung SmartTV (which I love for another set of reasons) just can’t compare to the variety of streaming options available in an integrated Roku TV.
There is no denying that I am an Apple Fanboy. So much so, I’ve owned and used every iteration of the Apple TV. As good as it is, I expect so much more for one of the pioneers of streaming video devices. Oh well.
Apple TV 4K, like all other premium players at this point, supports HD and 4K video. Apple TV also offers Dolby Vision. It’s Apple, so Siri is on hand to listen to your voice commands. It’s Apple, so it comes in one configuration; no sticks or cubes here. It’s Apple, so the interface is both beautiful and intuitive. It’s Apple, so it’s not cheap.
If you live in an Apple ecosystem (like I do), the Apple TV offers seamless integration with Apple Music and HomeKit. It’s also the only game in town to access Apple TV content because unlike Netflix and Hulu, Apple TV videos do not play on non-Apple streaming devices.
Amazon Fire TV
Chances are, you already have an Alexa device in your home. After all, Amazon is so easy (read: addictive). If this is your story, stepping up to an Amazon Fire TV device is a no brainer. Amazon Prime, video and music are already built in.
Of course, like the other players, Netflix, YouTube and other popular services are readily available. Like Apple TV, Fire supports HD, 4K and boasts Dolby Vision.
As you may have guessed, Android TV and Chromecast are Google products. Chromecast is unlike any other streamer in this category because it requires a handset (aka phone or tablet) to navigate. It’s inexpensive and easy to use.
There is no reason to limit yourself. Lean back and enjoy the video experience large and in living colour.