Cutting the Cord - Popular Streaming Media Players
Overview of popular streaming media devices
There are many different devices which can be used as streaming media devices. There is one thing in common that every one of these devices will require in order to stream content: a good reliable broadband internet connection. More information on that and related topics can be found at the end of this article.
Roku players were first released to consumers in 2008 as a means to view Netflix and other content. The current (seventh) generation of Roku players was introduced in the fall of 2018, offering three different models with updated options and features to fifth generation Premiere, Premiere Plus, and Ultra devices. The previous (sixth) generation of Roku players were introduced in late 2017, offering five different models including the Streaming Stick and Streaming Stick+ which are still very popular today. Roku players are little boxes or sticks that connect to your television’s HDMI port and your home WiFi network. Some models can also connect to older composite video connections and / or use an Ethernet connection if necessary. Roku devices are controlled by their own remote control - an optional smartphone app is also available.
Content is viewed on a Roku player by selecting channels from the Roku store – this is similar to but not exactly the same as changing channels on your TV. To watch a channel on your Roku, you first need to download and install its app from the Roku Store. There are literally thousands of channels available to choose from, with new channels being added regularly. Many if not most of your favorite traditional TV channels are available in the Roku Store, in addition to more specialized channels targeted to very specific audiences. Roku channels are usually free to install, and a very large number offer free content as well. There are also many Roku channels that require subscriptions from their provider, including some of the most common pay TV channels, as well as streaming only services like Netflix, Hulu, DirecTV NOW, and Sling TV.
Chromecast streaming media players were first introduced in 2013, a second generation in the fall of 2015, and now a refreshed third generation device in the fall of 2018. The Chromecast Ultra was introduced in late 2016, adding support for 4K video. Current Chromecast streaming media players look like a little round disc with an HDMI tail that plugs directly into your television’s HDMI port. Chromecast players require a connection to your home WiFi network. Chromecast players don't come with a remote control, instead relying on a smartphone app to function as the remote control. Chromecast also offers an audio only version player.
Content is viewed on a Chromecast player by casting (streaming over WiFi) from your smartphone, tablet, computer, or other compatible device. Chromecast relies on another device that you own to cast the content; the channels, apps, or subscriptions for casting are associated with your device, not with your Chromecast. With this type of design, Chromecast can also display pretty much anything that you can see on the screen of your compatible smartphone, tablet, or computer.
Apple TV was introduced in early 2007 as one of the first digital media streaming devices. When first released, they had to rely on compatible devices to stream the content from, however newer generations made the Apple TV into a stand alone device. The fifth generation of Apple TV was introduced in late 2017 and began offering support for 4K video.
Content for the current Apple TV generation could include buying or renting episodes from the iTunes Store as well as downloading apps from the tvOS Store for many popular services including Netflix, Hulu, DirecTV Now, and Sling TV. Apple TVs can also be used as media players to display your family photos and videos on a connected TV. Apple TVs come with a specialized remote for controlling the devices; some remotes have additional features like the inclusion of Siri for voice operation. Apple TV connects to your home WiFi network, and can use Apple AirPlay to stream content from compatible devices as well. Newer Apple TVs are also able to interface with some home automation devices or Siri.
The AirTV Player was introduced in early 2017 as a single platform for streaming services AND local TV on the same device. The current AirTV Player Bundle includes the OTA AirTV adapter necessary to integrate your local OTA stations into the streaming experience. AirTV Player features now include recording options by adding optional USB storage. A dual-tuner AirTV Streamer box is also available that allows you to connect an OTA antenna to the AirTV Streamer, connect the Streamer to your home network, and enjoy your local stations on authorized devices both in and out of home.
Content for the AirTV Player focuses on Sling TV, Netflix, and Google Play, while offering an option to integrate your local stations into the SlingTV platform. Content for the AirTV Streamer collects your local OTA stations and integrates them into your SlingTV app for streaming you can watch in and out of home.
There are many other devices available today that can serve as streaming media players. Some are dedicated to this purpose such as the Amazon Fire TV line, while others might be as gaming devices such as the Nvidia Shield, Microsoft Xbox, or the Sony PlayStation. Others who want to cut the cord are satisfied to simply stream on their existing smartphones, tablets, or computers. The options are many – the choice is about what is the best fit for your personal preferences.