One of the great things about those long Canadian winter nights is that we have so much more time to catch up on our favorite TV shows. And with all the amazing series being produced these days, it’s actually pretty hard to keep up!
While I love the idea of a real movie theater experience, most winter evenings I find myself ready to don the flannel pajamas at about 6pm, which pretty much rules out the notion of leaving the house. You’re more likely to find me hogging the couch and enjoying my home theater instead. And with all the amazing media streamers on the market there really is no reason not have something awesome to watch at the click of a button!
Media streamers are amazing because they are so easy to install and set up. And within minutes you’ll be faced with a nearly overwhelming amount of content to choose from. BestBuy.ca stocks media streamers from Roku, Amazon, Apple and Google, but is there any real difference between them? Let’s get in depth and see if we can see any daylight between them.
The Apple TV is the most recognizable streamer, and one with a long track record. Now in its 4th generation, it remains one of the most powerful streamers on the market. Aside from all the great streaming services you would expect, it also now has onboard memory, so you can keep the content you’ve purchased on hand. You can also view your own media that is stored in your iCloud account so if your out-of-town visitors haven’t seen the slideshow of your favorite cat photos don’t worry, thanks to the Apple TV you can play it on loop during dinner.
There are a few different 4th generation options available including the Apple TV 32GB, the Apple TV 4K 32GB and the Apple TV 4K 64GB. Remember that the Apple TV is part of the Apple ecosystem, and as such is only compatible with other Apple devices.
Amazon Fire TV Stick
Despite the fact that it looks like little more than a USB stick, the Amazon Fire TV Stick is a surprisingly powerful device. The quad-core processor inside means it delivers excellent performance, and it carries 8GB of storage plus 1GB for apps and games. You just plug it straight into the HDMI port on your TV, and you can start streaming from Prime Video or any of your favourite services, or access your favourite apps and games. The Fire Stick comes with a power adapter as well which you need to plug into the wall because unlike a USB port, a HDMI port does not supply power. In fact all of the streamers discussed here today require an external power supply.
The Fire Stick comes in two flavors; the Basic Edition for HD content, or the 4k version for Ultra HD content.
Another streamer backed by a big name is Google’s Chromecast comes. There are two different options here; the plain old Chromecast and the Chromecast Ultra, and the Chromecast Audio. They all allow you to stream content from your device, whether iOS or Android, straight to your TV or audio system. One of my favorite features of the Chromecast is the option to stream from your laptop to your TV. You can even use voice commands to stream from compatible apps, mute the volume, rewind, and more besides. The Chromecast is in it’s 3rd generation, so you can rest assured that you’re working with a stable and reliable device.
Roku Streaming Stick
Roku is a name you may not be familiar with, but they are a big player in the world of media streamers. With the Roku Streaming Stick you can access over 100,000 movies and TV shows through the popular services like Netflix, YouTube, Google Play and the Cineplex store. The Roku interface is rated as one of the best out there, and it actually allows you to do cross-platform searches, and find the show you want no matter what platform it’s on.
The Roku Streaming stick is small, easy to install and comes with it’s own proprietary remote. A dedicated remote is a nice to have because phone app remotes aren’t always reliable. The Roku remote is designed to work with your TV to allow you to power it on and off and change the volume. You don’t even need to configure anything, the system autodetects the TV’s power and volume commands.
The Roku app does have a feature that I absolutely love: ‘Private Listening’ mode, which streams the audio straight to your phone so that you can listen through your headphones.
The Roku Streaming Stick is excellent value, but it only streams HD content. If you want to watch 4k content you’ll need to stump up a few extra clams and buy the Roku Streaming Stick+.
Logitech Harmony Smart Control
If you’re ever spent more than 5 minutes searching for a lost remote, you know what a terrible waste of precious binge-watching time that is. And with so many separate components in the average home theater system it’s likely that you have a gaggle of remotes to keep track of. With the Logitech Harmony Smart Control however you can control your entire home theater system through one universal remote.
The included Harmony Hub also allows you to control all your other smart home devices too. This is the ultimate accessory to maximize your viewing time this winter by minimizing the need to stand up in order to change the thermostat, turn on the coffee machine or let the cat out. And as it’s compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Home, you’ll never have to lift a finger, although you may have to raise your voice!
Hopefully I’ve given you some gift inspiration here today, and remember—all of these items will fit easily within a regulation sized stocking!