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Which TV Streaming Device Should You Buy?

When it comes to TV streaming, which device will best suit your needs?

By
Eric Escobar,
January 7, 2016
Episode #203

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You’ve probably heard of Smart TVs from one of my previous episodes. In 2015, smart TVs have taken a back seat to streaming devices, such as the Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire Stick, and Chromecast. All of these devices fill the same niche but have some pretty different feature sets and prices. It can be pretty confusing, so in this week’s episode, I’m going to compare each of these devices, and give specific recommendations based upon the content and features you use the most.

Each of these devices is designed to take your dumb TV screen and make it smart by giving you access to apps and streaming content, such as Netflix, Spotify, Hulu, Amazon, and many other apps and services.

Apple TV

First up is the Apple TV. I really like the Apple TV for a number of reasons, the first of which is that it fits perfectly in the Apple ecosystem. If you have any other Apple device, such as an iPad or an iPhone, this is probably the best one of these streaming devices for you. It has support for 1080p at 60fps, which is full HD; however, it does not yet support Ultra HD, which is advertised as 4k.

My favorite feature about this device is that you can mirror your iPhone, iPad, or Apple computer to your Apple TV. This is great when you want to show your family a video, app, website, photo, or pretty much anything on your phone—without 10 people crowding around your phone, you can simply push your screen to the TV and whatever is on your screen will be displayed on your TV over WiFi.

Now this is the only device in the list that will be able to do this with an iPhone or iPad natively, so if your whole family is an Apple family, and you use iTunes, iMovie, and every other iApp, then this is the way to go!

The Apple TV is extremely popular and because of this there are a ton of apps for it that you can install that give you access to all of the popular streaming services. Apps such as Netflix, Spotify, Hulu, HBO you name it. You can expect that if an app comes out for most any of these streaming devices it will first come out for the Apple TV because of the sheer number of users it has.

The last thing I will say about the Apple TV is that the newest edition has Siri. Siri is the personal assistant that comes baked into all new Apple devices, and she makes navigating the Apple TV pretty darn easy. You can do things like turn captions on and off, rewind, fast forward, look up videos, and more. This is great because most other streaming devices force you to navigate using a remote control, which is far less intuitive.

The downside about this device is most definitely its price tag. You can pickup the 32GB version for $150, and if you’re going to be storing a lot of movies and video the $64GB version is $200.

Chromecast

Next up is the Google Chromecast. This is the device you’ll really want to look at if you and your family are Android phone users. This little device looks like a thumb drive, except it just plugs into an empty HDMI port on your TV. After you connect this device to your WiFi, you’ll notice that certain apps on your phone will have a new button in them that looks kind of like a TV.

This button will allow you to push content directly to your Chromecast. This also goes for anything in your Google Chrome web browser. You can mirror the entire web browser from your laptop or smartphone on your TV, and in the same fashion if you have an Android device, you can mirror it directly to your TV in the same way iPhones and iPads can mirror to the Apple TV. Unfortunately this doesn’t count for laptops without some extra software.

The Chromecast also works a bit differently than your Apple TV. It requires that you have a tablet or phone to cast from with compatible apps. The Chromecast itself doesn’t have any apps installed on it; it simply takes your existing apps on another device and can play them on your TV. The cool thing about this is that the learning curve is very minimal: you use your device as the remote control, which is controlling the app the way you normally would on your phone. This reduces a lot of the hardware the Chromecast has to have, and makes it extremely inexpensive coming in at just $35, which is a bargain compared to the Apple TV.

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