You’ve made the choice to dive into the world of streaming TV service, and now you need to research streaming media devices. Let’s take a closer look at what those devices do and some of the top options to consider as you shop.
What is a streaming media device?
Streaming media devices connect your TV or home theater to the internet, allowing you to stream content (video, music, movies, and sports) through a streaming TV service provider or app.
Smart TVs are essentially a television with streaming apps built in. In many cases, you won’t need a separate remote or added device, since it’s all contained within the smart TV.
Dedicated streaming media devices, like an Apple TV or Roku, offer an impressive range of options for viewing content on your TV. And, as long as your TV has an HDMI port, you won’t need to but a whole new television. These handy devices typically come pre-loaded with dozens of the most popular streaming “channels” (essentially apps), and you can add more when you want to. When you turn them on, they are fully configured, making these devices a convenient option.
Many Blu-ray players and newer video game consoles also act as streaming devices, with a few limitations. If you already own one of these, it’s worth considering as it may save you buying an additional piece of equipment.
With streaming TV providers like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu, all that has changed. You can now bundle your favorite, channels, and interests, curating a personalized collection of video content. The choices are almost limitless – you can have streaming only, streaming plus cable or satellite, or streaming plus antenna. What’s more, producers are now able to create more diverse shows for a huge range of viewer categories, not only appealing to the masses. This means there are simply more specialized options out there for just about any interest, style, or demographic group. The control not sits with you, the viewer.
How do streaming media devices work?
Streaming devices generally work the same way, though the size and shape will vary. Most of them are simple to set up – you connect the device to your television with an HDMI cable (Or, in the case of a “stick” device, directly into the HDMI port). Then you connect it to your home WiFi service (or your modem/router). The content you subscribe to will now stream through your television set.
A “casting” device (like Google Chromecast and others) works a little bit differently. With these, you play your desired media on another device such as a laptop or tablet. The device then transmits the media over your WiFi connection and displays it on your TV, allowing you to enjoy it on a larger screen.
Most streaming devices also allow you to browse a huge range of additional channels that you can add to access different content. Some channels require their own paid subscription while others are free. You will also find a mix of both live streaming services and on-demand services available on your device. Even better, streaming devices aren’t just for video – most also allow you to listen to music through streaming devices, view your online photos and more.
Top brands of streaming media devices
There are a lot of devices to choose from, and your choice will most likely be based on a combination of price, features, and included services. But in the end, they all serve the same essential function, which is to deliver streaming services to your TV.
Some top brands are:
Amazon Fire: Box-style Fire TV and stick-style Fire Stick (requires Amazon Prime subscription).
Apple TV: HD and 4K options (requires Apple TV subscription).
Google Chromecast: Stick that plays streaming content from another connected device on your TV.
Roku: Multiple box-style options available and Streaming Stick.
Xbox One S: One gaming console that can also stream video.
There are many choices out there for streaming media devices, and new streaming products continue to hit the market each year, which generally keeps prices competitive. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with all the choices available, and not all devices are the same. So do the research to find out what each one offers, what will work with the TV and equipment you already have, and what your budget will allow. With a great set of choices in the marketplace, you’re sure to find a device that’s right for you.
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