Buyer's Guide - Video Streaming Devices

This document is intended to help you pick the perfect streaming device based on your needs.

Roku Devices

Huge variety of streaming apps - When it comes to app selection, nobody beats Roku as they have over 1,000 apps (called channels).  They're often the first to get new channels and the company is known for updating boxes for a long time after they're released.
Fast chip - The knock on previous generations of Roku was the relatively weak chip powering it which could make some apps feel sluggish.  The Roku 2 is as fast as the Roku 3 and is much improved and feels very responsive.
Cross-platform search - Roku can search for a movie, TV show, actor or director on any supported video service (currently Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant, HBO Go, Vudu, Crackle, M-Go and Blockbuster On Demand).  This makes it easy to find the title you wanted to watch on the most affordable or convenient service available.
Small size - The Roku is only 3.5 x 3.5 x 1 inches, which is about the same as the Apple TV  It does require a power cable with a larger plug.
Price - At $70, it is fairly inexpensive for a full-featured streaming box.

Not easiest to push content from phone/tablet to TV via Roku - You can push photos and personal video to your TV from your phone or tablet via the Roku app but you can't push all apps to your TV through it.
Personal media requires Plex - If you have a video file on your computer you want to play on your TV, you need the Plex channel and software on your computer.  It's powerful but another piece of software.
4K requires higher end - If you need 4K content you will need a more expensive device.
Headphone jack in the remote - The high end models have a headphone jack in the remote which allows private listening.

Recommended for:
The Roku ecosystem is perfect for people who use a wide variety of streaming services and want the easiest way to access them.  The remote with headphones is also ideal for those who want to watch TV without disturbing others.  There are also other models if you want to pay less and don't need all the features of the flagship model.

Apple TV
Works great with Apple ecosystem, especially iTunes - If you purchase most of your content through iTunes, AppleTV is going to be the easiest way to get that content on your TV.  If you subscribe to iTunes Match, you can also get your cloud music library to play as well.  You can also access iTunes Radio.
AirPlay is easiest way to get your iOS app to the TV - Nothing beats the AppleTV for ease of use in getting your iPhone/iPod/iPad screen to the TV.  Screen mirroring also works very well if you have a newer Mac.
App library is growing - Apple had previously been lacking in app selection but it has improved greatly over the last year.
Small size - At 3.9 x 3.9 x 0.9 inches, the AppleTV is roughly the same size as the Roku 3.  It does require an external power cable.

Fewer apps than Roku - While the app selection has improved, it is still a significantly smaller library than the Roku's library.
iTunes-centric - If you're not purchasing your music and video through iTunes, you'll have trouble getting your content to the screen, particularly if you use Amazon or Vudu - they don't have an AppleTV app.

Recommended for:
If you're an Apple and iTunes user, this is the perfect streaming box for you.  If you purchase your content through other sources, you might want to look at a different option.

Cheap price - At $35, the Chromecast is the cheapest option of the three presented here.
Very small size - The Chromecast is about the size of a USB flash drive.  It does need power from a USB port on your TV or from an external power adapter.
Covers major apps - The Chromecast covers most of the major apps like Netflix and YouTube

Extremely small app library - While the major streaming apps are covered, it doesn't have the thousands of options that the Roku has covered.
No cross-platform search - The Chromecast has no way to search through multiple video services for a specific title.
No on-screen UI or remote - Since the Chromecast doesn't ship with a remote, you use your smartphone or tablet as the input device.
Screen mirroring doesn't work well - While this feature will likely be improved in the future, it is currently in beta and has some bugs.  You can use to to project any content from a Chrome tab to your TV.

Recommended for:
The price makes the Chromecast ideal for people who want to get the major streaming services to their TV at the lowest possible cost.

Amazon Fire TV
Voice search - A built-in microphone on the remote allows for voice search.
Parental Controls - Easily limit the amount of time and content than children can access.
Small hardware size - Competes directly with the Roku Streaming Stick
Price - At $39, very cheap option to get your media onto a screen.

Relatively expensive - At $99, it is on the high end of cost for streaming players.
Personal media requires Plex - If you have a video file on your computer you want to play on your TV, you need the Plex channel and software on your computer. It's powerful but another piece of software.
Apps - While the app selection is better than the AppleTV and Chromecast, it is significantly smaller than the selection on the Roku
Speed - The Fire TV Stick is rather slow and may see occasional lag when selecting items.

Recommended for:
There are three major groups that this would appeal to - Android gamers who want to game on a TV, people who are heavily invested in the Amazon ecosystem and/or own a Kindle Fire, and parents with children that they want to have access to the Fire TV but limit their time.

Keywords:roku roku3 appletv chromecast apple tv   Doc ID:37752
Owner:Nick R.Group:DoIT Tech Store
Created:2014-02-19 09:12 CSTUpdated:2018-02-05 08:40 CST
Sites:DoIT Help Desk, DoIT Tech Store
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