I gave up satellite TV subscription three years ago. Since then I have relied exclusively on Apple TV with Netflix and Hulu subscriptions and this content on-demand model has worked really well with my family. But, then, I live in the US where streaming content has been easily accessible for the last few years. There are more options now, both of devices and web content, including a new wave of Smart TVs that connect to the web on their own. However, the interface and offerings on many such Smart TVs are still not at par with what standalone media streaming devices offer. Here are the top options:
Whether you have invested in the Apple ecosystem or not, the Apple TV is a great living room companion. The sleek looking Wi-Fi device attaches to your TV and streams video, music and photos from any device over your wireless or wired home network. Apple TV streams Netflix, YouTube and Flickr. So, you can easily play videos on YouTube and Vimeo, browse through your friends’ Flickr photos, watch HD podcasts and listen to Internet radio through your home speakers.
AirPlay is what makes Apple TV a must for Apple device owners, allowing you to push videos, music and photos from an iPhone or iPad, including content from most third-party apps. And, Apple TV’s user interface is the best in the category. Rs 8295
Content Availability: As of now, iTunes India store offers a wide variety of movies – both Indian and international. The store is regularly updated with new releases. Unfortunately, TV shows are completely missing.
Think Apple TV with a gaming engine powered by a beefy quad-core processor, 2 GB of memory and a dedicated GPU – that’s the Amazon Fire TV for you. The Fire TV gives you access to your favorite media streaming services — including Amazon’s very own Prime Instant Video and others like Netflix, Hulu, Watch ESPN and Pandora as well as hundreds of games. It also comes with a remote control which has a built-in microphone for voice search to avoid struggling with on-screen keyboards. $99
Content Availability: The main reason to buy the Fire TV is Amazon’s Prime Video Streaming, which unfortunately is not available outside the US. Luckily, there is a way around that. By using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) connection, you can make Amazon think you are located in the US and thus be able to stream content.
Chromecast is the easiest way to stream internet video to your TV from any source. All you need to do is plug this thumb-sized device into the HDMI port of any HD TV and control it with your existing smartphone, tablet or laptop. Set it up with a simple mobile app and then send your favorite online content to your TV. It’s easy to set up, works with both iOS and Android ecosystems and for Android devices, you can control Chromecast without unlocking the phone. That, I think, is pretty nifty. Rs 3228
The third generation media streamer, Roku 3, is the most technically equipped media streamer in the market right now with more than 1000 channels, upgraded processor and improved user interface, an intuitive cross-platform search that scours several major TV and movie services to find content and a cool new remote with a built-in headphone jack. $99
This media streamer shaped like a USB thumb drive is essentially a Roku 3 sans some features. And if space and cost is an issue, this will do the job just fine. It’s easy to use – plug it in, turn it on, set up the Wi-Fi connection and you are ready to browse. Unlike Chromecast, the Roku stick comes with a remote and so, you are not dependent of the phone for navigation. $49
By Madhulika Mathur