Cutting the Cord - Popular Streaming Media Players

Overview of Streaming Devices

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

Roku players were first released to consumers in 2008 as a means to view Netflix and other streaming content. Roku devices introduced in late 2020 are known as the ninth generation, and included a streaming sound bar as well as updates to their streaming media players. Prior versions of Roku players were released in the fall of 2019, offering six different players with improved variations over previous models, and the fall of 2018, offering three different models with updated options and features. Roku players are little boxes or sticks that connect to your television’s HDMI port and your home WiFi network. Some older 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, AT&T TV, and Sling TV.

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Chromecast

The newest Chromecast device was introduced in late 2020 and runs the Android TV operating system featuring Google TV. This Chromecast supports 4k video and also comes with a remote that includes voice control options. Chromecast streaming media players were first introduced in 2013, updated in the fall of 2015, and a refreshed again in the fall of 2018. 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. Earlier Chromecast players didn't come with a remote control, instead relying on a smartphone app to function as the remote control.

Content is viewed on a Chromecast player by navigating the Android TV interface with the provided remote. Prior models required casting (streaming over WiFi) from your smartphone, tablet, computer, or other compatible device - an option that is also available on the new model. Prior models required another device that you own to cast the content, and the channels, apps, or subscriptions for casting were associated with your device, not with your Chromecast.

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Apple TV

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, offering support for 4K video, and continues to be popular to this day.

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, AT&T TV, 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.

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Fire TV

The Amazon Fire TV Player was first introduced in early 2014 as a Fire TV Box, and has received several updates since that time. Later that same year, the first version of the Fire TV Stick was released, most recently updated in late 2020. A third variation known as the Fire TV Cube has also become a popular device - most recently updated in late 2019. A unique feature included with newer models of Fire TV devices is the inclusion of the Amazon Alexa Smart Device Platform.

Content for the Fire TV devices includes some exclusive content provided by the Amazon library as well as using compatible apps or channels for other content providers to stream on the Fire TV device.

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Tablo

Tablo is a slightly different type of device that is popular with cord cutters. Tablo is a Personal DVR (Digital Video Recorder) device that can pickup up live Over The Air TV from an antenna. This TV can be recorded onto the Tablo and it can also be streamed on your home network to other devices in your house. While this particular device is not designed to stream apps like the other media players do, it can be a nice compliment to your cord-cutting setup.

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Others

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.

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