Devices that stream media to TVs
More viewers are turning to streaming boxes to link their TVs to the Internet. Here are reviews of some of the most popular.
Google Chromecast: $35
This tiny stick, which plugs into a television’s HDMI port, is the cheapest way to view websites and some popular mobile apps on a much bigger TV screen. The device lets users easily beam video, pictures and music from their smartphones, tablets or laptops onto their TV. Chromecast relies on Wi-Fi, so it is not good for households with spotty connections. Customer service is limited. Phone assistance is available, but customers are advised to visit an online message board first.
In short: Cost-conscious
Roku 3: $99
Functioning like a set-top cable/satellite box, the device plugs into a TV’s HDMI port and runs apps that show videos, games and other online content. Roku touts the most content options with access to Hulu, Netflix and more than 1,000 apps. It also offers niche channels, including one dedicated to videos of European travel. The remote control has a headphone jack to listen without disturbing others. Roku offers 24/7 customer service. A downside: inconsistent video quality.
In short: Bang for the buck
Amazon Fire TV: $99
The market’s newest option has the most convenient remote, with a time-saving microphone that lets users search for movies, shows, apps or songs by voice command. Video is clear and crisp, and the on-screen menu is quick and sleek. The device has a parental control setting. A game controller, for an extra $40, makes it easier to play games, though the remote can suffice. HBO Go is not yet available. Support is 24/7.
In short: Simple play
Apple TV: $99
Another box that connects to a TV HDMI port, this one’s hampered by a limited app library. Apple TV’s selling card is that it can display on a TV any content on newer iPhones, iPads and Macs. Personal iTunes music and video libraries are accessible in high quality. It’s one of the oldest streaming boxes on the market, and Apple hasn’t refreshed the on-screen experience much, so it feels outdated compared with newer Apple devices.
In short: Apple to Apple
WD TV Media Player: $99
From Irvine-based Western Digital Corp., the box can connect to computer hard drives via a network or directly, making it ideal for users with large music and video collections in various file types. Whether the content is downloaded illegally through Torrent sites or saved from an old camcorder, the WD TV manages to play just about anything. Apps are limited to the most popular, including Netflix, Facebook, Spotify, SiriusXM, YouTube, Pandora and Sudoku.
In short: For freeloaders
Microsoft Xbox One: $499
For non-gamers, the voice command feature could partly justify the Xbox One’s high cost. Users can start the gaming console and watch a show or listen to a song without lifting a finger. Users can also simultaneously search multiple apps for a movie or music including apps that haven’t been downloaded yet. The controller is easy to use and two apps can be displayed — you can watch a TV show on Hulu and a baseball game on MLB.TV at the same time. It has a limited app selection but is the only device with Skype.
In short: Ultimate console
Sony PlayStation 4: $399
Another box designed for gaming, this one’s not as well built for entertainment as the Xbox. Voice search requires wearing a headset or the $43 PlayStation Camera. The game controller is more complicated than the Xbox’s. An Internet browser is helpful for viewing a website on a TV, but app selection is limited. Wait for the release of PlayStation TV in October.
In short: Skip it
Credits: Photos: Kirk McCoy / Los Angeles Times