Many consumers are engaging in “cord cutting” in which people are ditching their cable TV subscriptions and purchasing online streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc. This is a rapidly growing trend and we’re expecting it to continue to increase within the future. If you don’t have a smart TV that doesn’t include these streaming services or ones that you can easily download, you’re going to have to purchase a streaming device you can easily connect to your TV. If you’re on the market for a streaming device, take a look at these top competitors and how they stack up against each other.
The latest Apple 4K TV supports 4K videos with HDR10 and Dolby Vision. It also features Apple TV App Store and a voice remote with Siri. While it does have every major streaming app, it doesn’t carry as many apps as Roku and comes at a hefty price. At $180, it is almost twice and three times as much as other streaming devices on the market. For a cheaper alternative, Apple provides an Apple TV without 4K support or HDR10 and Dolby vision for $30 less. Consumers have raved about the overall look and feel of Apple TV; sleeker controls, better-looking menus, and superior voice search and control. You can discover and pair with Air Pods for a private listening session. Although these are great features, Apple still doesn’t support all music streaming devices like Spotify and Pandora, which can be a huge drawback for music lovers. The standard Apple TV offers 32Gb of storage while the upgraded 4K version offers 32GB and 64GB options.
● Pricing ○ Apple TV: $149.99 ○ Apple TV 4K: $179.99(32GB), $199.99(64GB)
Amazon Fire TV
Since this is an Amazon product, the device is geared towards Amazon media, like Amazon Instant Video and Prime Music. You’ll still be able to download popular streaming apps like Hulu, Netflix, Youtube, etc. This is great for consumers who like having access to their prime account in the palm of their hand. Note: You don’t need Amazon Prime in order to use the Amazon Fire TV; you’ll still be able to access other apps like Netflix. Hulu, Youtube, etc. Like the Echo, the Amazon Fire TV has Alexa integration, included in the voice remotes in their latest Fire TV sticks. If you want the luxury of voice control at any point in the room, you can opt for the Fire TV Cube that uses the same voice command technology as the Amazon Echo. The Cube also has a built-in speaker, unlike the Fire Sticks. The downfall to the Cube is that it does not support Google Play content and doesn’t have Dolby Vision Capability. The Fires stick comes in two versions, the non-4K version which is the cheaper alternative or the 4K version that also streams with HDR10 and Dolby vision. The downfall to the Firestick is that, again, they don’t support Google Play Content. If you still want to enjoy live TV, Amazon Fire has Fire TV Recast, which is a Fire-Tv powered OTA tuner with DVR. This allows you to stream live TV and DVR recordings on any Fire TV device. You’ll also be able to watch and record local programming. If you already have a different live TV streaming subscription, Fire TV supports some already like Sling TV, Hulu Now, and DirectTV Now. The Fire Stick comes with 1GB of internal memory and 8GB of storage while the Cube has 16GB.
● Pricing ○ Basic Fire TV Stick: $39.99 ○ 4K Fire TV Stick: $49.99 ○ Fire TV Cube: $119.99
Roku offers thousands of choices you’ll be able to purchase from the Roku Channel Store. It carries a wide variety of streaming services like Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, Netflix, Sling TV, Twitch, and a plethora of apps for movies, music, sports, weather, and news. The most affordable streaming device on the market is the Roku Express. This is for your Average Joe or Basic Betty. These are perfect for those who aren’t concerned with the specs and want a budget-friendly option. The Roku Express offers 1080 support, connects via HDMI, Dolby Audio compatibility via HDMI, Basic Wifi Connectivity, and screen mirroring for Andriod/Windows devices. If you have an older model TV, you can opt for a Roku Express+, which is compatible with older TVs without the HDMI, with the support of an included A/V cable. The Roku Streaming Stick is a step up from the Express. The first difference is that it directly plugs into the HDMI port instead of using a running cable. As if the setup process couldn’t be any easier. It also offers 802.11ac dual-band MIMO wireless connectivity, a quad-core processor, and a voice search remote that can turn on your TV/adjust your volume. And of course, Roku offers a plus version of the streaming stick that offers 4K and HDR support and better wireless range via a wireless receiver that plugs into a USB port. The Roku Ultra is a step up from the Express. The Ultra offers an ethernet port, for wired connectivity, 4K support, a micro USB port to aid in speeding up channel load times, a USB port that allows you to play from external hard drives, a remote that includes a headphone jack for private listening, earbuds in case you don’t have any, Night Listening Mode to adjust volume control when others are sleeping in the house, and a lost mode for your remote that creates a sound until you find it. None of the Roku streaming devices carry any internal storage.
● Pricing ○ Roku Express: $24.99 ○ Roku Express+: $34.99 ○ Roku Streaming Stick: $34.99 ○ Roku Streaming Stick+: $49.99 ○ Roku Ultra: $79.99
A couple of years ago, Google came out with Andriod TV, a custom smart TV solution built on the Andriod operating system.
With Andriod TV, not only will you be able to use your phone as a remote, but with the help of Google Casting, you’ll be able to stream video and audio content from your phone onto your TV. The drawback is that this only works with certain apps, but most streaming services support it. They also incorporated Google Assistant, which is basically like Siri for Apple users; it allows you to ask questions, check weather, news, and control smart home devices all via voice command. It offers every main streaming service you can think of, with a generous number of other services you can download. It’s open system also allows you to access apps that Google may not officially approve, but be wary, this can also open your device to dangerous software. It wouldn’t be complete without the Google Play App Store which includes a variety of apps and games. Gamers, you’re in luck, the NVIDIA Sheid incorporates console-level gaming with 4K streaming. You’ll be able to control from a voice search remote or a controller that you can use for games. The controller has a 60-hr battery life in between charges and a headphone jack and mic for voice search. The Shield doesn’t offer as many 4K/HDR apps as much as Roku, but covers all the main apps like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Youtube, Vudu, etc. There are 3 avenues in which you can play games: Google Play games, GeForce Now streaming (monthly subscription or buy individual games), and Gamestream from PC(PC must be NVIDIA Shield compatible). The downfall to the NVIDIA Shield is that it comes at a hefty price tag. The latest Shield offers 16GB of internal storage. Another Andriod TV streaming device is the Mi Box S. The box is very similar looking to the Apple TV in comparison. On top of having access to popular streaming services like Hulu and Netflix, it also has 3000+ channels and apps you can choose from. One disappointment is that it does lack Amazon Video. The Mi Box S is powered by Android 8.1 and offers 4K Ultra HD, voice search, Chromecast, Google Assistant, wireless screen mirroring, high-speed streaming, HD video playback, and Dolby and DTS audio. There is a drawback with Chromecast on the box; you can’t use your phone when the box is asleep. Therefore, you have to grab the remote and turn it on before accessing it on your phone, defeating the purpose of easy accessibility from your phone. You’ll be able to call and text without interrupting what’s playing on your TV. The Mi Box has 5GB of storage.
● Pricing ○ NVIDIA Shield with remote and controller: $169.99 ○ Mi Box S: $59.99
Last but not least, we have Googlecast. The Google Chromecast; It is the simplest form of a streaming device you can find. Simply plug it into your TV and control from your phone. Download and use a Google Cast compatible app on a smartphone or tablet device and you’re good to go. There are no remotes, no on-screen interfaces, and no app stores to separately navigate through. It is crazy simple. It offers up to 1080p/60Hz Video Resolution, dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi connectivity, and integrated HDMI connector. For a step up, you can get the Google Chromecast Ultra that offers 4K and HDR support, faster processing speeds, and a built-in optional ethernet adapter. Both devices do not carry any internal storage. ● Pricing ○ Google Chromecast: $35.00 ○ Google Chromecast Ultra: $69.00