Making the most of your TV viewing no longer means watching what’s on now. Streaming media players give you lots of options beyond traditional TV channels.
You can connect to services such as Netflix and Hulu, use apps, play games, see photos, listen to music and even use your TV as a second computer screen.
But with all of the choices you may be confused about which one to get. Each of the three streaming media players has a new upgraded version. Each of these has its advantages and disadvantages. The key is to find the one that works best for you.
Features to Look for in a Streaming Media Player
As with buying any tech, you need to balance your desires with your budget. The good news is that media players are available for a wide range of prices so you can decide whether to splurge on the best one for you or compromise and perhaps get multiple players for multiple TVs.
You may have this player for a while so plan for the future as well as for today. While you may not feel you need 4K now, you may want it in the future if 4K becomes the standard, much as HD is now. If the player you like best doesn’t have a lot of apps yet, you may want to wait to see which apps become available.
These players come with remote controls. Your relationship with your remote may become important to you if you’re dependent upon it to use the player.
Consider how easy the remote is to use, especially in the dark, and whether it offers voice control. What happens if you lose the remote? Some players come with remote apps so you can operate them from your phone or tablet.
Do you want your streaming media player to do more than stream media? Consider getting one that has apps so you can do things like shop, play games, plan travel and more.
If you like to play games, be sure to get a player that offers game apps. Check which games are available and read the reviews for those apps.
What to Watch
Think about what you like to watch. If you’re a Netflix fan then you can get any player. If you like to watch Amazon Prime Videos or iTunes movies, your choices are more limited.
Apple TV has been available for a little over a month with new features such as voice control, Siri voice assistant, and search across apps. Ask Siri to search for a movie or TV show and you’ll see where it’s available on your apps.
=> See my full review, Apple TV 2015 Review – Siri, Apps + More!
The App Store has Apple TV apps for videos, gaming, travel, shopping and more. You can connect to apps such as Netflix, Hulu, HBOGo, Showtime Anytime and more for plenty to watch. You can also play games using your Apple TV with the included remote or pair a 3rd party controller.
The app selection is a bit limited now but you can expect more apps to arrive in the App Store in the future. Amazon Prime Video isn’t available on Apple TV, at least not yet.
You can wirelessly connect your Mac computer, iPhone and iPad to use the Apple TV to stream what’s on your screen onto the TV.
The remote control for the Apple TV has a glass touch screen that you swipe and click, plus a few buttons to help you navigate. The remote isn’t backlit, which can make using it in the dark a bit tricky.
Apple TV doesn’t currently connect to Apple’s Remote app for your iPhone and iPad. You can connect a 3rd party remote control though so you’re not totally out of luck if you lose the remote.
Apple TV does not display video in 4K resolution.
Price: Apple TV is available for $149 for 32 GB and $199 for 64 GB of storage. Storage is not expandable.
- Voice Control
- Siri Voice Assistant
- Search across apps
- Apple Music
- Can connect 3rd party game controllers and remotes
- No app for remote control
- Not many apps yet
- No 4K
What Did They Say? – rewinds 15 seconds and turns on closed-captioning when you missed hearing what was said on screen.
Apple TV is best for those who have other Apple devices such as Mac computers, iPhones and iPads.
Amazon’s streaming media player the Fire TV was upgraded in September and now offers voice search, apps and more. This Fire TV comes with Alexa, Amazon’s voice assistant first introduced on the Echo.
=> Check out my full review of the Fire TV: Amazon Fire TV 2015 Review – What’s New?
You can use the Fire TV app on your phone and tablet as a remote, including the voice feature.
Amazon says Fire TV has over 3000 apps available to download, but those include some apps built for Android phones that don’t work ideally on the Fire TV.
The Fire TV comes with the ASAP (Advanced Streaming and Prediction) feature. ASAP learns what Amazon movies and shows you like and pre-loads them onto your Fire TV so they’re ready for you to watch without waiting.
Price: Fire TV is available for $99.99 with 8 GB. A gaming edition is available with a gaming controller and a 32 GB micro SD card for $139.99.
- Alexa Voice Assistant
- Amazon Prime Video
- Expandable storage with Micro SD card
- 4K video display
- Amazon Music
- Can connect Bluetooth keyboard and mouse
- Remote app, including voice search
- Some apps not made for Fire TV
ASAP — Advanced Streaming and Prediction, that preloads videos for you to watch.
Fire TV is best for those who are Amazon Prime members.
The Roku 4 is the latest version of the streaming media player that introduces upgraded hardware and 4K video. The Roku 4 has over 2500 channels, including Amazon Prime Video.
This version has a handy feature called Remote Finder, a button on the player that plays a sound on the remote. No more lost remotes!
The remote is also handy because it has a headphone jack. Plug headphones into the remote and listen to the TV without bothering others in the room.
Roku does have an app for your phone or tablet that you can use as a remote. You can use voice search on the remote or Roku app to find your shows.
If you want to use apps on your streaming media player, then the Roku 4 isn’t your best choice. Roku 4 is mostly about streaming media. Roku has a few apps, including games, but not many.
Price: Roku 4 is $129.99.
- 4K video display
- Voice search
- Amazon Prime Videos
- 2500+ channels
- No voice assistant
- Not many apps
- Remote finder button
- Headphone jack on remote
Roku 4 is best for those who want to watch shows, not use apps on their TV.
Have you been thinking of getting a streaming media player for yourself or as a gift? Which features are most appealing to you? Which streaming media player is the best fit for you?
Share your thoughts in the Comments section below!
* Gold image courtesy of Snapwire via Creative Commons