Cheap and versatile media streamers are slowly but surely replacing satellite TV receivers and DVD players as stand-alone living room entertainment hubs. Here are four of the best.
By Laith Abou-Ragheb
Apple’s hockey puck-style streaming box gives you quick and easy access to the iTunes Store as well as a host of apps like Netflix, YouTube, and HBO. The inbuilt Airplay feature also allows you to stream video and photos from your laptop or iOS device.
The bottom line: A must for Apple fans already tied to the tech giant’s ecosystem and a great option for anyone else looking to start getting their entertainment purely online.
Using an Android or iOS device, this wireless video dongle allows you to stream content from Netflix, YouTube, and HBO, as well as films, movies, and music bought from Google’s dedicated online stores. The device’s tiny dimensions and cable-free design make it particularly good for watching your favorite shows on a big TV screen while traveling abroad.
The bottom line: It might lack many of the features of other streaming devices, but at this size and price, Google’s Chromecast is a huge bargain.
You may not have heard much about them, but tech critics the world over have long singled out Roku for making what they see as the best media streaming boxes on the market. As well as boasting all the impressive features of its warmly-received predecessors, Roku’s third-generation device also comes with an updated remote control with voice search and headphone jack.
The bottom line: The addition of a voice search feature (which genuinely works) puts the Roku 3 way ahead of the competition.
Amazon Fire TV
With Fire TV, Amazon has made a commendable first stab at producing a media streaming box. It provides zippy access to Netflix, HBO, Amazon Instant Video, plus a big library of games and music. Like the Roku 3, it comes with a voice search feature and a USB thumb drive that can be used to expand storage for apps and games.
The bottom line: Much like Apple TV, Amazon’s Fire TV seems to gives its own content precedent over everyone else’s. But if this isn’t a problem for you, then Fire TV is a sound choice.