Want to ditch your cable TV service without replacing your TV? Consider a smart media streaming device.
You can now enjoy all your favorite shows and movies using the internet as long as there’s a HDMI port on your TV. There are several options available on the market today.
With these devices, you can use the massive projector in your home theatre to watch films and TV shows online. Some options even come with a headphone port, so you won’t disturb your family when watching your late-night shows.
But, what is the best media streamer for you? Below we’ll briefly look at each of the top media streaming device brands.
Meet the Brands and Devices
Roku wins the top spot as the best media streamer for most users. It is a versatile entry-level media streamer. Almost all apps you can think of can be found on the Roku Channel Store.
You can play content from Amazon, Google, YouTube, Apple,Amazon’s ecosystem, and more (except for iTunes). Plus, you can rearrange all the apps on your home screen according to your preferences for quick and easy access and a better user interface.
Its devices cut across a wide budget range. The high-end options offer better and smoother operations. Their wireless connectivity is impressive, and they have a 4K video resolution for excellent viewing. Most will also have an Ethernet port that comes in handy when the Wi-Fi signal is weak.
The remote comes with a headphone port in some options, allowing you to enjoy a movie theatre experience without disturbing everyone else at home.
Amazon Fire TV
Amazon Fire TV has a bias towards Amazon Prime media. In fact, Prime Music and Prime Video are integrated permanently into your device’s menu. However, you can also access other standard services/apps such as Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and more.
But the best part? The Amazon Fire TV streaming devices come with an Alexa-enabled remote control. You can now issue voice commands to your TV or projector for hands-free control. The remote operates just like any other Alexa-enabled smart device.
The devices are also reasonably priced. However, these do not support 4K viewing. Its maximum resolution is HDR10, which is a decent resolution for the price tag.
Apple TV, on the other hand, is a dedicated streamer for Apple users, and like any other Apple products, these are not the cheapest options out there.
These media streamers have a slight edge over their counterparts in that they’ll allow you access to the App Store, AirPlay mirroring, and iTunes.
The latest streamers have excellent 4K HDR video streaming. These come in both 64GB and 32GB versions.
However, the future of these devices as stand-alone streamers seems a little dim. Recently, Apple has been incorporating the new and better Apple TV+ app. It comes preinstalled on most Smart TVs.
If you already own an iPad or iPhone, you can access iTunes without requiring a streaming device. Some high-end options come with a Siri-enabled remote for voice commands.
If you’re a dedicated Android user, the Android TV media streaming device is ideal for you. This streamer comes with numerous pre-installed apps such as Netflix, YouTube, and other video on-demand services.
What’s more, just like with your Android tablet or smartphone, you can access the Google Play Store to download more apps or update the existing ones.
Thanks to their compatibility with Google Cast, you can also use your tablet or Android smartphone to stream media content directly to your projector or TV.
One of the most recent Android TV streamers is the Nvidia Shield. It is integrated with Google Assistant for voice control.
The inclusion of the Dolby Vision HDR picture, Dolby Atmos sound, and the 4K resolution this media streamer will give you a cinema experience at the comfort of your home.
Google Chromecast is an enhanced kind of Android TV in that it offers a better and more user-friendly interface. Unlike previous models, it now comes with a remote for an improved user experience.
You can use the remote to control the streamer as well as for your main TV. Want to switch to your gaming console? The Google Chromecast has an input button and will come in very handy.
This media streamer is affordable, as well, and allows access to all apps and channels. What’s more, Chromecast also supports Dolby Vision and 4K video.
Features to Consider
If you are looking for a home cinema experience, then your streaming device's resolution is crucial. You want something that will give you images of the highest quality within your budget.
Fortunately, most current devices will have a resolution of 1080p, which is decent. Its images are also of excellent quality. However, always make sure that your pick is compatible with your TV.
If your TV has a 4K or 4K HDR video resolution, it’s only logical that you should pick a device that supports the same.
We have talked about each of the smart streamer brands above. Each brand has at least one device that supports 4K videos with HDR. Also, TVs with 4K HDR capabilities are often smart, with integrated streaming services.
But a 4K streaming device may still come in handy, especially if you want to access additional 4K HDR services. The streamer may also outdo your TV in terms of performance.
Media streamers are either dedicated or neutral. The dedicated media streaming devices, such as Android TV and Apple TV, are only compatible with devices with their respective Operating Systems.
So, before buying any media streaming device, double-check to make sure that the Operating System of the media streamer you choose is compatible with that of your other devices at home.
Alternatively, purchase a neutral streamer, such as Roku. These types work with all Operating Systems, including Apple and Android.
Some high-end smart media streaming devices come with convenient remotes that take all the work from your hands. These usually have an integrated microphone. So, you can issue voice commands via Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri, depending on the brand of streamer you’re using.
Your choice of remote should also be easy to use. It should have special buttons dedicated to the most commonly used services on the streamer for quick and flawless access.
However, some streamers, such as Google Chromecast, do not come with a remote. You’ll only need to download an app on your smart device for remote control.
Finally, choose a media streaming device that is easy to install. Better yet, choose one with an Ethernet port. In cases when your Wi-Fi is weak, you can use the latter for a stable connection.
The only way you can find out whether installing a device is easy is by reading online reviews. What are people saying about it? Some great options come with installation instructions that are easy to follow for a seamless installation process.
Smart media streaming devices give you access to video-on-demand services on your TV via the internet. While some are compatible with TVs of all Operating Systems, others are only compatible only with a specific OS.
You can also control your TV or projector using your voice as some streamer remotes come integrated with Siri, Amazon Alexa, or Google Assistant.