With on demand services gaining popularity, it’s obvious that TV is going to have a hard time keeping up. Some premium TV providers give you catch up and on demand programming but it is still limited to service level and whether or not they carry what you are looking for.
This has paved the way for online services such as Netflix to provide on demand services. YouTube is another example of a TV replacement, if you look hard enough you can find people who make shows that you want to watch, some of them even make a living from it, and having so many people producing content it’s easy to tailor you own entertainment from online content.
As the service has evolved however it’s clear that these types of services need to find a way onto the TV from the Internet. This blog highlights some key gadgets that bring web content to your TV without the need of a Smart TV. Each heading is also a link to the products web site so you can get more information directly.
A fairly new product to this market, at only £30, Google’s Chromecast is one of the easiest ways to bring the internet to your living room. At the moment it relies on developers to add the casting functionally to their apps but it already has a few set up and ready.
The Chromecast plugs directly in to the HDMI slot of your TV and is powered by a micro USB which plugs into the mains. You use your mobile, tablet or laptop to then stream to the device.
There is also an app called PLEX https://plex.tv/ that is available on most other platforms as well, at £3 it allows you to stream all your media from a PLEX media server. The media server is free from PLEX and installs on your computer, all you have to do then is tell it what you want to share and the app will pick it up.
Roku has been producing streaming boxes since 2008 and started with a dedicated Netflix streaming box and it is safe to say that by now they know what they are doing. Roku also has a partnership with Sky’s NOW TV and provides Sky Sports and Sky Movies.
Roku devices work like any set top box, when plugged in and set up all you do is use the included remote to browse channels.
At £50 the Roku streaming stick is similar to the Chromecast, it comes with a remote and doesn’t require app support as it has its own menu and apps available to download, and with all the Roku boxes there is also a phone remote control app.
Roku also produce a higher spec box for £99 called the Roku 3. The main differences are that it has a faster processor, Ethernet, USB and microSD card slot and also has a motion controller much like a Wii remote for gaming.
Recently released in the US, Amazon’s Fire TV should be heading our way soon. It has already been praised by technology journalists as the best media streamer on the market. At $99 and at about 3x performance than the Roku 3, it is definitely better value for money. It is also backed by Amazon with a massive library of content and you can buy a controller for games.
You can use the included remote to browse channels or push content straight from a Kindle Fire HDX.
No release date or price has been set for the UK, however its seems very likely that it won’t be log till we can get it. UK price estimates are looking to be between £69 and £99.
As you can see from the other products there is not a lot of difference in what these media streamers do, it’s more about how it does it. For users who prefer Apple over everything else, there is the Apple TV. Priced at £99, it is the perfect media streamer to go with your MacBook or iPad. If you mainly have Apple products then this is probably the one for you and with iCloud integration and AirPlay, all your files are available on it as well.
Apple TV comes with a remote but there is also an app that allows you to control it from your iPhone or iPad and it also allows you to set up home sharing through iTunes.
To me it seems that the Amazon Fire TV will be the best media streamer and worth waiting for. However if you have to have one now and cannot wait, then the Chromecast is a good light weight solution. For Apple heads then Apple TV is a no brainer.
It still maybe worth watching how Roku reacts to the Amazon Fire TV. Roku are a leader and will no doubly put their weight into another release.