- Audio & Video
Best Streaming Media Player - My Top 5
Media Streaming Players - New Way to Watch TV?
Streaming media players are fast becoming a normal part of the TV setup in our living rooms. Due to the increasing need for on-demand services these boxes allow us to watch internet based shows and movies through our TV screens.
This means there is less need to depend on cable subscriptions.
This is not to say that cable subscriptions are becoming redundant? But it does open up more choice and variety in what we wish to watch. If your not that concerned about watching same day TV shows and sports via cable then changing to streaming only may be an option for you?
Internet based subscriptions can add up, with Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu to name but a few, charging a small fee and some charging per episode and season of a particular show.
These are still cheaper than the majority of cable subscriptions and you have the option of flexibility to watch when you want to.
So how do you decide what the best media streaming player is for you?
What is the Best Streaming Media Player for You?
In order to decide what is the best streaming media player for you, you first have to decide why you want one?
Do you need one purely to stream videos, music and movies from the internet? Do you want to watch shows or movies through a subscription such as Hulu or Netflix? Or is it because you want to stream all the media files you have on your laptop/ tablet or computer to your TV?
To help you decide on why you want a media player I first have to make some distinctions to help make a decision.
Media players can also be known as media streamers, but there is a difference between the two which you don't want to confuse.
A media player is a device which connects to your home network to play media files such as music and video's saved on your computers and hard drives. The media players act as media servers.
A media streamer will connect to online services and will also play your saved media files on your computer, tablet or laptop, although some media streamers may not be able to play some of your files due to compatibility?
For those that can play your media, may have an app which will look through your media library, sometimes these can take a bit of time to set up?
So what's the best way to watch movies and TV shows, listen to music, or play slideshows from online sources or your own stored media files on your home-theater system? Which device should you buy? Or, should you simply get a new TV or other component with streaming services built in?
So which is the best streaming media player for you?
Below are my Top 5, these are my own opinions and based on my own criteria. These are in no particular order. I hope you find something which interests you?
The Boxee Box by D-Link HD Streaming Media Player
The Boxee from D-Link lets you watch full HD 1080p instantly streamed TV shows and movies from the Internet. All you require is a HDMI port on your TV and an internet connection.
It comes amped and ready for instant online streaming from Netflix. Complete with Dolby surround sound and a remote with full QWERTY keyboard for your convenience.
You can also download an app for your iPhone or Android devices so you can use them as a remote control.
You can send anything from your iPad to the TV screen via the Boxee. So if you have movies or music on your iPad you can stream them directly to your TV and enjoy them on the big screen from the comfort of your own couch.
Setting up is fairly easy, follow the onscreen instructions and the Boxee will automatically configure your internet and tune in to your home entertainment system.
There is also interaction via Facebook and Twitter, if there is something you loved watching you can recommend it to your friends via the Boxee. Whether this be a youtube clip or a movie on Netflix, let your friends know.
With the Boxee there are no subscriptions, just a one off fee. If there is nothing online for free, then the Boxee will connect and search options for you with the aim of providing free shows. movies etc.
The Boxee will work with pretty much any type of file (mkv, mp4, mp3, avi...)
There were some issues with the original release of the Boxee with many unsatisfied customers, but there have been several firmware updates which have ironed out the issues of slow streaming and stability. Simplified menu's and ease of use make this streaming media device a well respected option.
If your going to mainly use this device for Netflix, there are other options available to you at lower prices, but the Boxee is a
The Boxee is also one of the more expensive streaming media devices out there. If you don't have any Apple products and have lots of ripped media on your PC or tablet then the Boxee is a suitable buy.
On Amazon, this product has been reviewed by 941 customers (at time of writing) with 531 customers giving it 4 star and above ratings.
Roku 3 Streaming Player
Roku claim the Roku 3 is the "new streaming superstar" and to be fair the statement is not unfounded.
First off it has the largest selection of streaming channels than any other device I know, these include Amazon Instant Video, HBO GO, Hulu Plus, Netflix, VUDU and many others. Music can be streamed via TuneIn, Spotify and Pandora to name a few. There are over 750 channels available to you.
The on-screen menu's have been updated from it's predecessor and includes a one stop search feature. A great feature no available on other streaming devices is the headphone jack. I now it's sounds a little silly but it does make all the difference.
The Roku 3 features an enhanced remote with a built-in headphone jack. So it's close to you while you sit on the couch and watch a blockbuster movie at big volumes without disturbing the other half or the kids. Really well thought out feature.
You can use your IOS or Andriod mobile device to use as a remote, the app is available to download for free.
If you don't want to stream shows or listen to streamed music from your home PC then you can change to playing games. The remote has motion sensors in it so you can have lightning-fast maneuvers when playing your games. It comes with great games such as Angry Birds Space and Wheel of Fortune. There will be more games added in future.
Of course it's fully HD 1080p supported so you won't lose quality when streaming.
With lots of FREE channels available to you and the incredible ease of setting up, the ROK 3 must be considered if you are to buy a streaming media player.
This is a serious heavy hitter.
On Amazon there have been a mental 2,076 customer reviews (at time of writing) with 1,698 customers giving it 4 stars and above. This is exceptional.
Google Chromecast HDMI Streaming Media Player
The Google Chromecast is making waves in the streaming market. The newest product on my Top 5.
This device is compatible with the following operating systems:
- Windows 7 and higher
- iOS 6 and higher
- Android 2.3 and higher
- Mac OS 10.7 and higher
- Chrome OS
Currently not supported:
- Windows Phone
- Microsoft Surface RT
You can stream media from any mobile device or home PC, such as your smartphone and tablet. It also supports Google Play, Netflix and YouTube. You get everything you need from the box and setup is easy.
You simply plug the device into any HDMI slot on your HDTV, connect it to your WiFi. That's pretty much it. You will them be able to stream any media from your devices to your HDTV. Watch movies, listen to music, show pictures etc...
Gone are the days of everyone huddling around a small screen to show a funny YouTube clip or your favorite music video. Simple let the Google Chromecast show it on your big screen for all to see.
Anyone in the house can connect to this device, but just make sure you don't all want to see something at the same time on your TV?
Currently the following apps are not compatible: HBO Go, Hulu and Amazon Instant Video. But there is talk of these being featured sometime in the future.
Pretty much any format that you can view via Google Chrome browser is supported, things like flash video's. Plugins like Quicktime and Silverlight may not work.
The Google Chromecast is the cheapest of my Top 5. I personally love the simplicity of this device.
On Amazon, this product has already been reviewed by 461 customers (at time of writing) with 334 customers giving it 4 stars and above.
The Google Chromecast is so far being very well received.
WD TV Live Streaming Media Player Wi-Fi 1080p
The WD TV by Western Digital is a great piece of kit which lets you stream the best in entertainment.
Like the other devices on this list you can view live TV, movies, shows and your own personal collection of media.
You can view a vast amount of formats from your home PC, tablet or laptop to the WD TV so you can watch your ripped movies in HD, listen to your music.
The formats compatible with the WD TV are listed below:
Audio Formats Supported:
- Dolby Digital
Video Formats Supported:
- AVI (Xvid, AVC, MPEG1/2/4)
- MKV (h.264, x.264, AVC, MPEG1/2/4, VC-1)
- TS/TP/M2T (MPEG1/2/4, AVC, VC-1)
- MP4/MOV (MPEG4, h.264)
- FLV (h.264)
The first thing that will surprise you about this device is how small it is. Seriously, this thing is tiny. It will slot in nicely amongst your other audio/ video devices. The setup is incredibly easy and you will be be ready to go in minutes.
One tip though is to download all the recent firmware updates to make sure your device is up to date. Don't worry though this tales no time at all and is painless.
Services like Netflix and Pandora work well through this device and streams without any interruptions or audio delay etc. Although HBO Go and Amazon Unbox and Prime are not compatible.
On Amazon this product has been reviewed by 1,277 customers (at time of writing) with 809 giving it 4 stars an above.
Although a great product and very good in it's own right, the only reason for using this device is the amount of formats supported in viewing video's and audio files form your PC. There are comparable devices out there which will do just as good if it's simply bought for streaming purposes?
Apple TV MD199LL/A
The Apple TV with 1080p HD has been well received over the years with it being a first choice for many. As it links in with iTunes you can choose from thousands of movies and music.
You can also access content from Netflix, Vimeo, YouTube and many more.
With the AirPlay feature you can play your media files via your iPad, iPhone etc on your TV. Or if you purchased the movies etc via the Apple Tv box, you can view these on your mobile device if your on the go with the Apple iCloud service.
Apple TV can also connect to your home computers (whether they be Mac or Windows PC), so you'll be able to stream these directly to your HDTV.
Some Key Features of the Apple TV are:
- Simple setup with a single HDMI cable
- Access YouTube and Vimeo and Netflix, pictures from Flickr
- Buy or rent HD movies from itunes
- Buy commercial-free HD TV shows
- Stream content Apple products such as iPhone and iPad to your HDTV
- Watch live and archived MLB, NBA, and NHL games in HD
Apple are a great company who produce time and time again great products that we want. The Apple TV is no exception. It's easy to setup, great features and is well priced. If you already have Apple products then this may be the one for you?
On Amazon the Apple TV has been reviewed an astonishing 1,999 customers (at time of writing) with an incredible 1,656 giving it 4 stars and above.
Clearly this product is still going strong, even though it has been on the market for some time.
This must be considered as an option!