Cutting the Cord? You’ll need a device to stream video. Here’s a look at four of the most popular.
If you’re among the millions who plan to cut the cable or satellite cord this year and switch to streaming, you’ve got a lot of questions. Do you Hulu? Netflix? Amazon Prime? All 3?
Before you even get to that point though, you’ve got to have some way of getting those services into your house and onto your television or display. There aren’t as many options for this: about 4. The Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast and the Amazon Firestick. Each one is different and one may be more right for you.
Apple TV is the most expensive option at $150. It is a set-top box and remote that pulls in most streaming options. You can also stream content you’ve purchased or rent on iTunes. If you own an iPhone, the interface will look familiar to you. It is super easy to connect to your television and the remote controls are simple to understand. After opening the box, you’ll be watching programming in a matter of minutes.
Live TV is possible through a cable, satellite, Hulu or HD HomeRun package. So you’ll pay extra if you don’t have an antenna for your local channels.
Amazon’s Fire Stick is a no-brainer if you’re a Prime Member
Amazon’s line of Fire devices are a popular option, especially for Amazon Prime members who watch content from Prime Video. The interface is simple to understand a control either through an app or remote control or voice control through an Echo device. There are many apps to add content choices including many local TV stations from around the country. A Firestick is more affordable than an Apple TV and starts at $30 or cheaper when you find them on sale.
A huge (for me) downside of a Firestick is the inability to watch YouTube through the YouTube apps. Amazon and Google do not play nice with one another (Amazon currently doesn’t sell Google Chromecast products). You can download a third-party YouTube app but it isn’t the same. This is supposed to change this summer.
Google’s Chromecast is entirely different from the others
Speaking of the Chromecast, it is quite different than the other options. A Chromecast is a dongle that connects to a TV through the HDMI port. In fact, all of these devices connect this way. What makes the Chromecast different is that you cast the content from a smartphone or a computer. There is no native control panel and the phone is the remote. You can add content by downloading the apps to your phone.
Casting Netflix or Hulu, for example, requires opening the app or website on your phone and simply tapping a button. You can also cast anything on your computer screen to the TV so photos and videos stored on your computer are easily streamed on the screen. Like Amazon does with YouTube, you cannot stream Amazon Prime Video content on a Chromecast.
There are two versions of the Chromecast. One is around $30, but is often on sale. The Chromecast that costs $65 or so streams 4K content.
There is a clear winner
The Roku is both the oldest streaming device and, in my opinion, and for several reasons, is the best option for most people.
First of all the Roku has the simplest interface of streaming devices. It comes with a remote (that can be voice controlled and connected to Google Home or Echo devices). It can stream virtually any content from the streaming services. Watch YouTube and Amazon Prime video with a Roku.
You can also stream live TV through the Hulu app and download apps from local TV stations from around the country.
On top of that is the free content available from The Roku channel that has ad-supported movies and TV shows that regularly change each month. Roku devices are in the same price ballpark as the Chromecast and Fire devices. There’s also a Roku with RCA plugs so you can connect it to older televisions without HDMI inputs.
There are also Amazon Fire and Roku smart TVs made by TCL and Toshiba, meaning you won’t need one of the streaming devices to watch available content.