Upgrading your home theatre system and investing in a Smart TV is not always in the budgetary cards. Investing in a streaming device allows you to have the wireless content access you want without the financial sacrifice of buying a new television.
I’ll begin by quickly outlining the two main categories of media streamers: sticks and boxes. Sticks look exactly like USB thumb drives and wirelessly plug into the HDMI port of your television (into an HDMI port). Their small size means that you can take it with you and stream all your media anywhere with a television and wireless network. Media streamer boxes, on the other hand, are about the size of the palm of your hand and their bigger size means that they tend to be slightly faster and more powerful, but their size makes them annoying when you have a wall mounted television because there is nowhere to easily put it! However regardless of the type the function is the same: they give your television access to your home’s wireless network and let you stream content from either the device’s media streaming services or your personal laptop, tablet or smartphone.
Speaking of media streaming services, I feel as though it is important to mention how living in Canada effects your ability to access specific media streaming services. All of these devices offer access to great media services such as Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant and HBO Go, however these services are not available in Canada! This doesn’t mean that they never will be, but for the time being if your wireless network is connected to a Canadian IP address, you will not be able to access these services.
Here are our top rated and reviewed media streamers that will let you stream content like a pro:
There’s a name for people that have all Apple products – it’s said that they have an “Apple ecosystem”. If you are one of these people, the Apple TV is a great media streaming option to add to your Apple collection.
There are three main features you have access to with Apple TV. First, you can purchase and then instantly play anything from the iTunes store. The purchases are also stored in the cloud so they can be accessed from your other devices. Second, you have access to a wide selection of media streaming services, including Netflix, where you can watch hours of movies and TV shows. Lastly, you can connect your iOS device to your television using AirPlay and browse through your personal pictures, videos and other saved media. In addition, if you are using Mountain Lion, you can play any web video from your iOS device using AirPlay Mirroring. If you are unable to access a wireless network, you can plug in your devices using HDMI, Micro-USB or Ethernet cables. This media streamer box is also equipped with Apple A5 processor, which results in consistently smooth video streaming without excessive buffering or skipping.
Roku offers both types of media streaming devices, a streaming stick and media box. I will talk about the stick now and the media player next. The Roku HDMI Streaming Stick is a compact stick that plugs into our television’s HDMI port. Once connected, you have access to 700+ sports, movies, television and kid’s channels in crisp 1080p HD resolution. You can also “cast”, or play, video from various apps, including Netflix and YouTube, on your Android or iOS device. An advantage of this streaming stick is that it has duel band Wi-Fi, which provides a smoother streaming experience when compared to single band devices. Controlling the Roku stick can be done either with the included remote or on your Android or iOS device using the free Roku app.
This small media box will give you access to over 450 channels full of movies, games, music and sports. Don’t worry about skipping or freezing as the Roku 3 has processor that is 5x faster than other Roku products, making it their most powerful media streamer. This streamer will also allow you to hear your media in Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 surround sound when passed through the HDMI cord. You can control your Roku 3 with either the included remote or through the free Roku app on your laptop, tablet or smartphone. This remote can also be used as a controller when playing games. Your devices can be plugged into the media player using the Ethernet, USB or micro SD slot if you don’t have a wireless connection. What I love most about this media streamer though is that you can plug in your headphones to the remote. This allows you to play the audio from your movie or TV show through the headphones and not disturb anyone!
As part of their expansion into the greater tech world, Google recently released the Google Chromecast media streaming stick. This stick is the simplest of all the options and also sits at the lowest price point. The media streamers listed above have a main menu when you start them up that let you browse and select different media channels. The Chromecast however, is completely controlled through your media device, such as your laptop, smartphone or tablet. You can stream media in crisp 1080p HD either through a Chromecast app, that is available for iOS and Android, or you can mirror your content through your Chrome browser. Though this may seem like the simplest of all the options, it may be all you need. I personally own a Google Chromecast and love it! I chose it because all I wanted was to be able to cast Netflix and other streaming TV shows, for example from the CTV or Global website, to my television so that I could watch them on a bigger screen.
Are you currently crouched in front of your laptop or tablet binge watching a television series on Netflix and wish you could be laid out on the couch watching it on your big TV? It’s time to invest in a media streaming device! Media steaming devices give your television wireless access and allow you to stream thousands of TV shows, songs, movies and games straight onto your television, either from the device menu or through an app or browser on your laptop, smartphone or tablet. So pick one up, plug it in and start streaming media like a pro!