Monday, January 13, 2014

Streaming Video Equipment Does Not Have to Be Expensive

Being skeptical of new technology is something that I regularly deal with.  There are so many gadgets and gizmos running around that it is difficult to keep track of all of them.  Luckily, when it comes to streaming video from the Internet to the television, there are a few great products. 

The big news for streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video on Demand, and even YouTube (which includes Google Play) is that many homes already own a device that will get these shows from the computer or tablet and put them on display on the big screen in the living room.  These devices include:  Blu-ray players, game systems, and even the TVs themselves.  The biggest challenge in these cases is making sure the device can access the Internet through a wired or wireless connection.  While a wired connection is preferable (just because of the speed), many wireless Internet connections, or WiFi, that are presently in homes across the country are more than adequate for streaming video.  The issue of what to do when the game system, TV, or other streaming device keeps buffering the video usually concerns the location of the wireless router to the device.  Still, that’s another article altogether.

Here is a look at a few popular streaming devices:

Small and cheap, the Google Chromecast offers a ton of access to content right through an open HDMI port on the television.  The downside is that so far there is no Amazon Instant Video access (what do expect, it’s a Google device which means they want you to use Google Play for purchasing videos), but Netflix, HBO GO, Hulu, and more are available.  The curious thing about the Chromecast is the lack of a remote control; however, the devices works nicely with Android powered phones and tablets (Google again, surprise, surprise) and iPod Touches, iPhones, and iPads.  If you have a ton of content with Amazon, this one should be a pass, but if you are looking for a cost efficient way of streaming your Netflix account this could be the gadget for you.

While Roku is something of a known commodity in the world of streaming, new users might be a little intimidated by the little black box.  The Roku 3 offers a lot of different options regarding channels and programming.  Some require a subscription, and others do not, take a look at the company’s website to evaluate their options.  This is a simple to use option for folks looking for great value in a quantity kind of setting.  There is enough “free” things to watch to keep you busy, but in the end the best programming is all in the “paid subscription” category.

This Western Digital is a great way to stream movies from the computer to the television.  While it might be a little more complicated to set up than the Roku 3 or Chromecast, anyone with a lot of home movies or edited videos on a media server might appreciate the options included with this unit.  Plus, it also supports, Netflix, Hulu, and more, which is an added plus.

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So the three devices here do pretty much the same thing, with a few major variations in available entertainment options.  The thing about streaming video is that it is always changing and evolving.  Still, odds are you already have a device that offers what many of these devices do, so make sure you are not doubling down on your tech before making that purchase.

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