With the disintermediation of cable and rise of Netflix, it is no longer necessary for you to be a subscriber to a cable provider when there are so many great options available online. We now all have the ability to choose what we want to watch rather than buying a full package that has extras we don’t need. This change has brought about a new type of product: streaming devices. Streaming devices simplify your television setup by giving you one device that will manage all your entertainment needs.
The main four players in this space are Roku, Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, and Apple TV. There are few factors that determine what makes one streaming device better than another one: variety of services, general performance, and cost. Variety of services is probably the most important as you want to know you have as many options as possible now and in the future if you are going to make the investment in a product. The performance will be a combination of how often there are problems with the device, how easy it is to use, and how soon you might have to replace or update it. Cost is self-explanatory and often forms a balance with performance.
The Roku has been around the longest and has put considerable focus on remaining the simplest option. You can add as many “channels” as you want, so there is no restriction on variety. The Roku is the clear winner on overall content available, and retails at $80 for premiere+ version, which is a pretty good deal.
Chromecast is a little more complicated to use because it isn’t actually storing any data or account information and is instead going through a tablet, smartphone or laptop to access all content. This requires you to have whatever streaming app you use installed on that particular device rather than the Chromecast, which can add complications, but also make it very adaptable since any data you can see on your device can be mirrored onto the screen. The Chromecast retails at $35, which is a great bargain for a device that can enable all your television needs.
The Amazon Fire TV has its own dedicated remote and is similar to the Roku in that way. It supports nearly every channel the Roku does, but puts particular emphasis on Amazon Instant Video, which can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on if you enjoy that or not. The Amazon Fire TV costs about $90 on Amazon, but naturally you are getting what you pay for.
The Apple TV is most suitable for those who are already enshrined into the Apple ecosystem and want to expand their usage of these devices. Many of the top applications are now available on the Apple TV, but it doesn’t have the same variety of the Roku or Amazon Fire TV and costs $149 at the minimum.
Overall, the Roku wins on variety and the Chromecast wins on cost. The choice between those two should be determined by what your priorities are and whether you are happy to run your applications off a separate device.
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