Streaming TV or movie content over the Internet has become a global thing and it’s now a question of when and how.
A subscription to Netflix has become a common thing among households in certain countries, add to that YouTube, Twitch and many other video streaming services and you find yourself in need new ways to get that stuff from your computer to your television. Of course you can do that with a video game console, a smart TV or just via a HDMi cable hocked directly into the TV, but there are many stand-alone set-tops available on the market that you can use. In this article we chose three devices that transform your TV into an internet portal. Roku 3, the Apple TV and the Chromecast are our three picks and their main job is to stream Internet video into your TV, except that there are a few more issues to consider, and we will give you more details on the matter.
The Roku 3 is a pretty cool entry level device and comes at a decent price, around $100. With that money you get yourself a dedicated Netflix box that is similar enough to conventional TV or media players and it wouldn’t be a problem for someone who’s never streamed content before.
The media library on Roku is pretty big, with a lot of content, for some of it you have to pay a monthly subscription while other is ad supported, and of course U.S. customers have a much larger library to choose from than other users. Another cool thing about the Roku was the remote, which has quick-start buttons taking you straight to Netflix, and it also has headphones that plug straight into the remote, if you ever find yourself watching movies while other are asleep.
The downside of the device is that is quite a drag installing it. First you have to sign-up on your computer into your Roku account after that to select homescreen channels and you have to get a separate subscription for news channels. It will take you about an hour from when you unpack the device until you will be able to watch Netflix. Also you don’t get any other apps except video streaming, which is a shame.
Apple TV, or the television of the future, as the company calls it, is an app-centric service from Apple. It has a rich library in paid content but it is not the improvement on traditional TV Apple was talking of. This update version of the 2008 Apple TV comes with a few pre-installed TV apps, but you will still have to install Netflix yourself.
Signing in looks easy, that is if you already have an Apple account, if not it will take some time since you cant download or buy anything without it, if not you will have to set up iTunes on your computer which is a bit of a pain.
One of the cool features that Apple TV brings is the possibility to download lifestyle apps build on entertainment, fitness and education.
The gaming apps on Apple TV are good in theory, in reality the saving time is really painful and certain iPad games have a different paid version for the Apple TV, even if you have already bought the app for your iPad.
Another good feature which has turned bad, is Siri, which you can use on the remote, but is not much of a help.
Chromecast is the simplest, cheapest and easiest to install of the three devices. For $45 you get a dongle that you attach to your TV and you are done. The device is not a stand-alone device, but you only need a smartphone to install apps on it and also use as a remote. Chrome cast works with both Android and iOS.
It only takes you five minutes since you plug it in the back of the TV until you can watch Netflix. Of course, there are a lot more apps except Netflix that you can use to cast on your TV like Twitch, Vevo, Haystack TV and of course, YouTube. This looks a lot more like the TV of the future that Apple was talking about, having control over your TV with your own phone. And there is more, you can enable guest mode, so your friends can cast content on your TV.