Dorms don’t usually provide any kind of TV service right in your dorm room, so a streaming device is almost a necessity. Unless, of course, you want to cram into the lounge that has the old-school TV and arm-wrestle with everyone else to finally see the show you want to watch. There are quite a number of different streaming options, but to make it simple for you here are the top 3 devices.
Dorm rooms do come with WiFi, or at least an Ethernet connections, so a streaming device is like having your own cable TV in your room. The best streaming devices have three things that you should look for: lots of content, a fast processor to avoid any lag or buffering while viewing, and a reasonable price. My choices have all three in the bag.
Although Roku has a full line of media streaming devices, I think the Roku 3 is the best value of all of them. It comes with the fastest processor so both navigating and streaming is quick and seamless. Roku says it is 5 times faster than the Roku 2 so it is definitely noticeable. Another advantage of the Roku 3 is the remote control that comes with it. It uses WiFi direct rather than Bluetooth to communicate, which gives the remote a lot more range, and no longer requires a direct line of site. The remote also comes with headphones that plug into it so you can listen to whatever you are watching without waking up your roommate.
The biggest reason Roku is on my Top 3 list is that it has the most amount of content of all the streaming devices. Even though it has over 400 different channels to choose from, they have made it easy to find just what you want with a well-designed user interface. It sorts all the channels by category making it easier to find what you might like to watch. In addition, the search capability is excellent because you can search for a movie title or program and Roku will show you all the channels that have that movie or program allowing you to select the most economic channel to view it with.
In addition to the excellent remote control that comes with Roku 3, it has a free downloadable app that is also a remote control. It works with both Android and IOS platforms and will let you select your content through the app. For more detail on the Roku 3 have a . It has great content, a fast processor, all for a very reasonable price!
If you already are part of the Apple ecosystem, then Apple TV may be the best streaming device for you. You don’t need to have other Apple devices make good use of Apple TV, but if you do have them it provides some very smooth capabilities through AirPlay. Having said that, there are now Android apps that emulate the AirPlay function that you would have with an iPhone or iPad. The app is called AppleTV AirPlay Media Player and it works fairly well with Apple TV using an Android phone or tablet.
Although Apple TV doesn’t have anywhere near the number of channels that is available on the Roku platform, the AirPlay capability allows you to stream directly from any IOS device (iPad or iPhone) or newer Mac computers. You can also mirror whatever is on your IOS device directly on to your TV, which ultimately provides a huge amount of content. I have an Apple TV and will often find a movie or program on a website and mirror it on to my flat screen using my Apple TV. Apple TV also works well for playing any music on your computer, looking at your photos or home videos, etc.
Apple TV uses an A5 chip which is very fast so there won’t be any stuttering, lag, frozen frames, etc. – just very smooth streaming. Apple TV has a slight edge over Roku 3 in terms of video quality, in that the picture is slightly clearer if you were to look at them side-by-side. Apple TV has been around the longest of all streaming devices, so it is a proven product that works well, has lots of content, fast processing, all at a very reasonable price.
Of the three streaming devices, Google Chromecast is the new kid on the block. It has only been around for about a year, but it is Google and they tend not to do anything in a small way. Although the device is very small, and has the smallest price of the three, it has a lot of capability. Essentially Chromecast is a dongle that plugs into the HDMI port of your TV and is controlled by your smartphone, tablet, or computer. Setup is extremely easy – all you do is plug it into your TV, connect it to your wireless network, and start streaming content directly through your TV as long as you have already downloaded the free apps.
I like the fact that Chromecast doesn’t have its own remote control. Instead it uses your IOS or Android device to control what you stream on your TV. If you have a Blackberry or Windows phone or tablet, beware, as it won’t work with those devices. Chromecast doesn’t actually stream through your tablet or Smartphone. Instead you use your tablet or Smartphone to decide what you are going to watch and then “cast” it to Chromecast, which then picks up that program directly from the Internet. This frees up your Smartphone or tablet for anything else.
You can still use the tablet or phone to control the movie you are watching – pause, fast-forward, change the volume, etc. and the really nice thing is that it syncs across all your devices. So if you decide to watch the rest of that Netflix movie or YouTube video on your computer later, it knows exactly where you left off. The only catch is that you need to be using the Google Chrome web browser.
Although Google Chromecast is less than half the price of the other two devices, because it is relatively new it doesn’t have nearly as much content available as the other two — yet. It is great if you want to view a lot of the more common sites like Netflix, YouTube, etc. but for specialty channels and more variety the other devices are better. For more detail on Google Chromecast have a look at this previous post on it.
All three of these devices are ideal for the dorm room, and selecting the right one depends on the content you want, to a small degree what platform you are using on your phone and/or tablet, and a little bit your budget – although all three are very reasonably priced! Whatever you choose, it will make the school year that much more enjoyable.