media streaming devices.jpgWe all want to save money, and especially college students. School is expensive and having little or no income while in school means money is tight. Media streaming is a great way to save money while still having a lot of great entertainment available. I am going to identify excellent media streaming options for students who want the best of both worlds—low cost and lots of entertainment.

These products are not just great for students but good choices for anyone who wants to cut their cable bill. Streaming is one of the best ways to get excellent entertainment variety at a low cost. I was a student for more years than I am willing to admit, so I can relate to how important it is to find creative ways to save money. Streaming is a great option and here are 5 of the best.

slingbox m2.jpgNEW Slingbox M2

The Slingbox is a very unique streaming device because it essentially streams content to your mobile devices from your cable box or PVR. It allows you to watch whatever your cable TV anywhere in the world that you have an Internet connection. For more detail on how the Slingbox works, look at my post on the Slingbox M1. Slingbox makes a number of boxes, but I think the Slingbox M1 was their best one—until now. The new Slingbox M2 is very similar but has a couple of extra features.

The first added feature is it comes with a “free” Slingbox app whereas with the M1 you had to pay extra for the app. The other big added feature is the M2 not only allows your TV content to appear on to your mobile device and computer, but you can now shift that content to another TV by way of Roku, Chromecast, or AppleTV. So you can view your cable content on as many other devices as you want for no additional cost. The Slingbox M2 is exclusive to Best Buy in Canada and will be available very soon—stay tuned!

So how does this help the poor student? It works like this. As a parent, I subscribe to satellite TV with hundreds of channels, plus I have a number of satellite boxes for various TVs in the house. If I attach a Slingbox M2 to a satellite box that I am not using I can give our poor student my entire TV subscription for free while they are at school. They now have TV to watch in their dorm room or apartment without having to pay for it. This is totally legal and a simple way to provide your college studetn a full range of entertainment at no extra monthly cost to them!

Roku 3.jpegRoku 3

Roku is the king of media streaming content, as it has more than 1,500 apps to choose from. In addition to a lot of unique specialized content, you can access all the popular apps like Netflix, YouTube, Crackle to name a few. You will find a huge variety that is well organized into categories making it easy to find just the kind of content you are looking for. Roku makes it even easier to find content with a voice search capability on their remote control. Streaming your own personal content is very easy with a USB and microSD slot.

Other reasons why the Roku 3 is an excellent streaming device for students is that it is a very small box so it will fit in the tiniest dorm room with no problem. You can also connect it to a computer monitor if you don’t have a TV. It has an excellent processor so the streaming speed should never be a problem unless the Internet connection is poor, but that will be an issue with any streaming device.

The Roku 3 comes with a remote control that has some great features in addition to the voice search capability. You can plug a set of ear buds into the remote for private listening, so if you want to watch a movie late at night your roommate can sleep with no problem. The remote also has built-in motion control for gaming that is available on the Roku platform. In addition to the Roku remote, you can control the device on your Smartphone with the free Roku app.

Chromecast.jpegGoogle Chromecast

Google’s Chromecast is one of the least expensive options for streaming. It takes up even less space than the Roku since it is simply a small stick that plugs into the HDMI port on the back of your TV. Control of the Chromecast is entirely through your mobile device or computer. Using the Google Chrome browser you can cast content from your device to the TV and watch to your hearts content.

Although Chromecast is the least expensive, it also doesn’t yet have quite the variety of content of most of the other streaming devices. At least not yet. Having said that, they do have a most of the more popular apps so it may not be an issue for you. Plus using the Chromecast Browser app you can cast all sorts of content you find on your web browser.

Google’s Chromecast will work well with any platform, but if you are already an Android user you may find it to be a great device for you since you are already used to this platform and will immediately see how it works. Nevertheless, it is easy to use on any platform, but since it is Google, Android users will see a few more benefits of seamlessly playing all their Google Play content.

Tablo OTR DVR.jpegOver-the-Air DVR

An over-the-air (OTA) DVR technically isn’t really a media-streaming device, but for college students that are on a low budget I would be remiss in at least not mentioning this option. By getting a digital antenna and combining it with a DVR that is also a tuner, you can pick up a number of high-definition local TV channels for free. A lot of cable-cutters use this to augment their streaming capabilities with a bunch of free OTA channels.

What channels you are able to pick up depends on your location and your antenna. For students I am not suggesting roof-top antennas as that isn’t likely practical, but there are a number of digital antennas that will work well in the dorm room or apartment. For more detail on how it works and some tips have a look at Shelagh’s post on the Tablo and Clearstream DVR-antenna combination. That combination is a good solution that works well in any urban environment.

MyGica.jpegMyGica Boxes

MyGica makes a number of media TV boxes that will turn your TV or monitor into a multifunctional smart TV. They act as a media player, an Internet browser, a video and photo viewer, a game player, and a music player. It has a lot of preloaded apps, but a big additional feature is it comes loaded with XBMC, which is an open source media platform that gives you access to a lot more content through their add-on menu.

To give you an idea of MyGica capabilities, their ATV 1800e streaming media player is an Android TV box that supports 4K resolution. It has an integrated Internet web browser, in addition to a variety of pre-loaded apps. It has a quad core processor so streaming quality is very good, and it has a wide variety of ports including 4 USB ports and an SD slot to add your own personal content.

For a much better idea on how MyGica works and what it can do, have a look at my recent post on the ATV1200. The MyGica ATV1200 is their least expensive box but you will see it is still loaded with lots of capabilities, and a lot of extra content particularly with the availability of the XBMC platform. This is an ideal solution for students as it maximizes the streaming capabilities at a fairly low cost.

I remember what it was like being a poor college student, but in those days there wasn’t any of these excellent entertainment options available. Use some of these streaming options and get the entertainment you want without spending much money!

Tom Brauser
I love to try new technologies and I have a practical approach to techie stuff - it has to be easy to use and make my life better. I have my house fully wired, with a surround sound system in my family room for music and TV viewing, but also drive music throughout the house as well as outdoors. I Internet stream content on all my devices at home, which provides a huge variety of entertainment to enjoy.