Which streaming media player is the right choice for your household

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Updated: 10/3/16 for new Fire TV Stick and new Roku Premiere+

With all those different streaming media players out there today and hearing about new ones every couple weeks, how can you be sure which one is right for you and your household? That’s why I put together this list of the ones we use in my house, and why, to hopefully help clear up some of the differences and help you make the right choice for your family.

Roku

Roku is probably the most well known brand in the “streaming” business. They have been around for years and were the first major choice in bringing “smarts” to your family room TV. Roku has made large strides in recent years and offers a wide variety of streaming devices to fit just about everyone’s needs. The major advantages to Roku, usability and large selection of apps. The user interface on Roku is extremely simple. It consists of a grid view that displays the apps that you have installed. No complicated menus to dig through. The remote is also very easy to use to navigate through the app grid and it also has dedicated app shortcut buttons for 4 of the most popular apps. Just click the dedicated app button and up pops that app ready for you to stream your favorite content. Pretty much any service you can think of has an app on Roku. If you don’t consider your self very “techie” or you have young kids in the house, I think Roku is the best option for you. It will give you the best hassle free cord cutting experience out there. Here are the Roku models that I suggest looking at:

Roku Premiere+ – This is the work horse Roku that is lightning fast and comes with voice search, wireless headphones, and 4K video support. It’s perfect for the family room or wherever you watch the most TV.

Roku Streaming Stick – This offers all the apps and streaming features as the other Roku players, but comes in a tiny stick design. It doesn’t have the high specs of the Roku 3, but will stream content just fine. It’s perfect for a secondary TV, like in the bedroom (we have one in our’s!), or if you have a wall mounted TV and don’t want another “box” like with the Roku 3. It’s also a really great value if you just want to test things out.

Amazon Fire TV

Amazon Fire TV Homescreen

Amazon Fire TV Homescreen | Photo Credit: aftvnews.com

Amazon jumped into the streaming business with the release of the “Fire TV” a few years ago. It was the most popular device that Amazon has ever released and it has been gaining tons of support and popularity in it short existence. They even have TV commercials promoting this thing. The main advantage to the Fire TV is that it is heavily focused on Amazon content. So if you are a Prime member or already have a lot invested into Amazon, then this is the perfect pick for you. The user interface can be a little tricky at first, but once you figure out how Amazon decided to layout the menus it’s a piece of cake. Amazon has also included its very popular “Alexa” feature into the Fire TV, so now you can use voice search and voice commands! Aside from that, it runs on a custom version of Android, which, if you are like me and love tinkering with technology, opens up a whole new door with the ability to “sideload” any Android app that’s out there onto the Fire TV so you can enjoy it from your couch. If that last point sounds like Greek to you, don’t worry, that isn’t required to enjoy the Fire TV experience, it’s just one advantage I thought I should point out. Here are the two different Amazon Fire TV models to take a look at:

Amazon Fire TV – This is the top dog in Amazon’s lineup that is blazing fast and comes with 4K support. It’s the one I have in our family room as our primary streaming player.

Amazon Fire TV Stick – This is Amazon’s “more affordable” option. It offers the same apps and experience as the Fire TV, but comes in a smaller package with slightly less performance (and no 4K support). It’s great for a second TV in your house, like your basement TV for the kids (which is where we have ours), or it can be hidden behind that 50″ plasma screen above the fireplace.

The other guys (and why they aren’t my favorites)

Chromecast – This is Google’s cost effective solution for getting your phone or tablet screen displayed on your TV. The only problem is this solution requires you to always have a second device available like a phone or tablet to stream to it. Also, it lacks a little in the app department.

Apple TV – While Apple generally makes very quality products, I have to steer clear of the Apple TV. It’s is one of the most expensive streaming devices and it has a limited app selection.

Nexus Player – Google really tried to bring Android TV back from the dead with this, but they failed to support the device in an ever evolving market and have discontinued support.

Generic Android TV Boxes – These boxes are all over Amazon and Ebay. They look great on the surface, low price, boast thousands of apps and even “free TV”. However, most of these boxes perform poorly once in use and lack support from their developers. Also, the claims of “free TV” usually mean they have tweaked things so you can watch pirated content on the Internet.

 

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