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best streaming devices

The Best Streaming Devices in 2021

Author: Robert Wilson

Electronics & Peripherals Expert

A streaming box is a companion device that provides access for many uses. In many households, it is connected directly to the TV.

Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

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Roku Ultra 2020 | Streaming Media Player

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Roku Express | HD Streaming Media Player

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Roku Streaming Stick+ | HD/4K/HDR Streaming Device

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Roku Streaming Stick+ | HD/4K/HDR Streaming Device
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NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV Pro 4K HDR Streaming Media Player

NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV Pro 4K HDR Streaming Media Player
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Xiaomi Mi Box S Android TV

Xiaomi Mi Box S Android TV
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Frequently Asked Questions: Streaming Devices

What is a streaming device?

A streaming device is also called a streaming media adapter. It is an audiovisual device that is mainly used in consumer electronics.

The streaming device is connected to the home TV, a stereo system or an output device. The device networks the output devices with a router or a PC.

Most devices are used to transfer audio or video data from a PC to the TV. This provides a special comfort.

Movies or music can be enjoyed at any time of the day. The range on offer is very diverse and varied.

How does a streaming device work?

Nowadays, series and movies are streamed online. The best thing is when a flat rate is used for this. A user can choose between providers like Amazon Prime, Netflix or Watchever.

The streaming devices are used to play the movies or videos from the Internet onto the TV.

Before buying, it is important to make sure that the device supports the desired service. Many streaming boxes or sticks look very unimpressive. They are small and compact.

Despite everything, they are considered the centerpiece of the living room in this day and age. Without any detours, Fire TV, Chromecast or Apple TV can play the desired series, videos or movies on the screen.

Technical requirement

Not every household needs a streaming device. The providers’ service can be used directly via some TVs. Statistically, the boxes can be found in around one in ten households. The trend here is upward. Compared to previous years, however, the number of purchases has doubled. When buying a streaming box, you have to reckon with a purchase of around US$100. The costs for a box are manageable.

With most devices, the technical requirements are also right. Fast Internet access for smooth connections is becoming increasingly popular. A wide range of connections for the small boxes is available. This means that the right model can be found quickly for every household.

For whom a particular box is suitable depends primarily on the streaming service that is to be used. Many modern smart TVs now have up to four HDMI ports. Some devices provide even more ports. With many boxes, especially the own offers are supported.

For example, Amazon’s Fire devices focus on Prime, a Nexus on Video Player, Chromepast on Google Play Store, and Apple’s TV on iTunes.

Advantages of Streaming Devices

A streaming device is a companion device that provides access for many uses. In many households, it is connected directly to the TV. This is mainly because users want to watch movies and videos on the TV. This makes the picture much larger and clearer than through the PC’s monitor. A good device is characterized by the fact that it is perfect for transferring videos, movies or games from the PC to the TV without any problems. There is not always something interesting on TV on Saturday night.

Then it is particularly advantageous if a streaming device is available. Providers like Apple, Amazon or Nexflix always deliver a huge selection of series and movies via the Internet. Even with a 6-megabit Internet line, good HD quality is already feasible. The video streams can be watched not only on the tablet, computer or smartphone. It is much more comfortable to sit down with friends or family to watch the movies together.

Many current smart TVs bring corresponding apps and Internet access some major streaming providers directly to the screen itself. If the device is not user-friendly or lacks this equipment, then only a streaming box can help.

The boxes can be easily connected to any flat-screen TV via HDMI. Series and movies are accessed via WiFi.

Special features of a Set Top Box

A Set Top Box is available in a wide range of variants. Some devices are able to communicate with each other. A special feature of these boxes is that they do not even need some of the functions of the base unit. This is the case, for example, when they can record separate satellite receivers.

Other subtypes of boxes are the devices that are able to receive data sent by weather stations and present them in graphics on the TV. A few devices are already equipped with Internet access. Most streaming devices are visually rather inconspicuous. They have their permanent place in many households.

Through Apple TV, Fire TV, Chromecast or other providers, a variety of movies, series or videos are available. This means you always have the option to take advantage of a variety of offers. Youtube can be streamed from almost all boxes.

But Dailymotion and Vimeo are also very popular. Special apps for services like Maxdome or Watchever as well as media libraries of major TV stations are not possible with all streaming boxes. The range of music streaming providers also varies. If the TV does not support a service, the content can also be streamed to the tablet or smartphone and from there directly to the box via WiFi.

This is often very shaky and not quite as convenient, but at least a way to watch movies or videos.

Different devices for streaming movies and videos

The user-friendliness of many devices is on a high level. This is one of the biggest advantages of streaming boxes compared to other streaming options. Media libraries and apps for video platforms are available for most Internet-enabled TVs. The devices do not need to be set up in a big way, but are simply connected to the TV via cable or WiFi. Many devices can be controlled with a remote control.

This means you don’t have to get up from the couch when switching to another movie or starting a video. So that the remote control is well protected, it should be provided with a protective film. These are available directly from most manufacturers. Through the protective film, the remote control is optimally protected from dust, dirt and moisture.

What some boxes do not support is streaming your own videos. Many devices do not provide this service. In this case, users have to go directly via the manufacturer’s cloud services. An alternative can be apps like Kodi, for example. These can be installed on the streaming device with a few small detours. USB ports, which are needed to connect sticks or hard drives, are also not available via every box.

If you place a lot of value on such a function, you should use a so-called media player. With a media player, the focus is on playing your own videos, but not on streaming movies from the web. But there are solutions for this as well. Small streaming devices are often called media hubs. These are offered by rather unknown manufacturers. At the moment, however, these boxes are still something for tinkerers and hobbyists. However, this may change in the future.

Rules for streaming providers

Some time ago, video streaming providers changed their rules. In the field of music, the CD is still far ahead on the market today. But streaming is also becoming more and more trendy. The provider Spotify is one of the largest providers and also wants to show their success on the New York Stock Exchange.

Consumers have been able to use the paid streaming portals such as Amazon Prime, Spotify, Maxdome or Netflix in other EU countries for some time now. Previously, this service was not possible at all due to geoblocking. Geoblocking is a special technology that blocks content from the Internet for certain regions and allows it for other countries.

If the streaming goes beyond the national borders, then the respective providers are not allowed to charge the user for this. In this case, the enabled use of the corresponding services is only suitable for temporary places of residence, such as on vacation. Free streaming services such as the media libraries of major TV broadcasters are not affected by these changes.

As a rule, the services cannot be used abroad, in which case an online service must be used that is able to change the IP address.

Types of Streaming Devices

Streaming boxes are available in a wide variety of designs. Most boxes are compatible with Netflix, Youtube, Vimeo or similar. Apps from other services like Maxdome, Watchever, media libraries from major TV stations or Maxdome, on the other hand, are not supported by every device.

Thus, the music streaming offer can vary. If the device cannot support a service, then users can also stream the content to the tablet or smartphone and from there to the box via WiFi. For this reason, it is even more important that the box is compatible. At first glance, streaming devices do not differ much.

The user-friendliness of the devices is actually all on the same high level. Many users see this as the advantage over all other streaming solutions. Nowadays, an app for a video platform or media library is available specifically for Internet-enabled TVs. But Blu-ray players or game consoles can also be easily connected.

For these devices, an app is not enough. In this case, it is important to have a box in between that ensures fast transmission.

How are streaming devices tested?

Streaming devices have some differences. Many tests have closely examined the individual devices. Among other things, the quality and workmanship of the streaming boxes were tested. Furthermore, user-friendliness and convenient operation are in the focus of the tests. At the same time, there is the question of features and performance. However, the price also plays a big role for many buyers.

Apple streaming devices

With the Apple TV 4 K, the manufacturer Apple does everything right. The picture quality and performance are just right in the 4K age. The HDR format makes videos and movies look very realistic.

Many testers only criticize the higher price. A switch to the Apple device is only worthwhile for many users when the manufacturer offers exclusive content. This is mainly because many owners of a new 4K HDR TV will provide the corresponding picture material via some feed apps anyway.

Apple’s advantages are mainly in the areas of setup, performance and picture quality. The disadvantages can be found in the missing audio output, an only marginally overarte remote control and the higher price.

The Apple device has pushed itself to a top position in the best list despite some disadvantages. The streaming service Amazon Video will soon be available with Apple TV 4. At the moment, a small detour through AirPlay has to be accepted for this. The player currently does not have an audio output. Apple TV devices currently cost around US$200.

Amazon Fire TV

Amazon streaming boxes are also inspected closely in many tests. The Amazon Fire TV model series is also one of the most popular streaming players. This is mainly due to the low acquisition costs.

The devices are much cheaper, like the models from Apple. The operation of the devices is very intuitive. The app selection can be seen as satisfactory, since many movies are also available via Amazon. Instead of the old Apple TV 4K, the Fire TV is now available to all users.

The device is available with the latest technology. Unlike its predecessor, the model also comes without exclusions. Additionally, an interface for memory expansions, USB devices and an audio output have to be dispensed with. Great care must be taken when handling the streaming device.

The box is very sensitive to scratches. Even though it looks similar to the new Fire TV Box, the new model is rather considered a successor to the practical Fire TV Stick.

Chromecast

If you can do without a user interface well, then the Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra is very suitable. The picture and sound quality of the device is very good. In Nvidia Shield Android TV you can find very sophisticated games in the area of movies and series. The chip manufacturer’s streaming device offers a variety of apps. Thus, a good overall package is available. The advantages are found in flexibility, performance and ease of use.

What to look for when buying a streaming device?

With a TV streaming box, audio and video content can be streamed from the local network or via the Internet. The most popular streaming services are Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast and Nvidia Shield. With a streaming box, the most diverse possibilities are available. On the one hand, you can stream video content from video streaming providers.

For this reason, the boxes are probably needed for the most part. Of course, most streaming devices are also available with a web browser or numerous apps. This provides access to a wide variety of games played directly over the TV.

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Instead of games, movies, photos or music can also be streamed. Media library apps are very popular with many users. They allow you to access your own media library. Often, interesting content and documents from one’s own program can be found. If a program was missed, then the program can be watched via the media library app. This means that you no longer have to miss any movies.

Operating System

Buying a streaming box needs to be well thought out. After all, it is a purchase that will be used for many years. An important purchase criterion is the operating system. Users who already used an iPad, iPhone or Mac should purchase the Apple TV, because the Apple TV streaming device also offers the advantage of AirPlay.

This has the advantage that all content from the iPad, iPhone or Mac can also be streamed on the TV using the App TV. Additionally, the device has a good integration of a photo app. For users of Android, these advantages are not available. In this case, it is much cheaper to resort to other providers.

One of the main arguments for this should be the higher acquisition costs, which were noted in many tests.

Hardware

Nowadays, the voice recognition also has a permanent place on some streaming players. In many tests, the voice search has proven to be very advantageous. All users who only want to stream app content from the tablet, PC or smartphone with a Chrome browser should prefer the Chromecast model.

Before buying a streaming device, every user should carefully consider whether the purchase is actually worth it in terms of the current generations with 4K playback. After all, many TVs that support the corresponding picture quality and resolution standards already offer many functions and many entertainment apps. A new streaming player hardware requires, above all, a high-resolution TV.

Those who are not yet in possession of a new 4K TV are much better equipped with a cheap previous model. Youtube videos can also be watched via any large TV with the help of a streaming device. Depending on the manufacturer or model, screens from smartphones or tablets can also be played on the TV via the streaming device.

This can be an important function for some users. Streaming boxes that are equipped with a voice search via remote control offer a big advantage.

There are some quality differences here. Some manufacturers establish the streaming boxes as game consoles. Amazon has offered a gamepad for the Fire TV for some time now. When the new Apple TV was presented, the use as a gaming console was even the focus. Despite the versatile usability, a streaming box will not be a serious competitor for the Playstation or Xbox.

Streaming Device Accessories

To be able to enjoy movies on the TV via the PC or the Internet, some accessories are needed. If the connection is not to be established via WiFi, then a connection cable is required in any case. This cable should be laid well so that it does not become a tripping hazard. But a wall mount for a streaming box can also be very practical. Thus, the device is not in the way when not in use.

Remote controls are available for some models. Usually, however, these are supplied with the purchase of the streaming device. Suitable protective covers are available for the remote controls. These protect the devices from dust, dirt and moisture. Protective covers for the remote control are available in black or transparent.

There are bulges or holes in the appropriate places for pressing the buttons. This does not restrict the operation of the remote control. Cables can be purchased for charging, which are also ideal for traveling. Many cables have a length of 1.5 m.

The USB A connector is equipped with a 90° Micro USB connector with a size of 0.2 m. Other cables and adapters are available for a perfect transfer of data as well as for a good fixation. It often makes sense to buy the cables directly from the manufacturer of the streaming devices.

Then you can be sure that they are compatible with the device. Through the accessories, every user has the possibility to build their home theater in the way that is best suited for their own purposes. If one’s TV set is equipped with an HDMI connection and no Smart TV is to be purchased, then the previous TV set can also be easily upgraded.

This is easily possible with the help of streaming boxes, which is connected to the TV with an HDMI. The TV is connected to the Internet via WiFi.

Streaming Device Alternatives

An alternative to a streaming devices is a smart TV. The majority of new TVs are smart. A smart TV can connect to the Internet via a network connection. As a rule, this works via the built-in WiFi. Depending on the manufacturer, a large app selection can be installed. The selection is much larger for most manufacturers of smart TV devices. LG, Panasonic or LG s, for example, have Amazon Video, Netflex or Maxdome available in addition to the streaming offers.

Besides YouTube, Vimeo and Dailymotion are also well received by users. Games are also possible via apps on the Smart TV platform. Smart TVs from Sony or Philips work with the Android operating system. The smart function is similar to an Nvidia Shield, but has a slower working speed depending on the manufacturer.

On many smart TVs, videos and photos can be controlled via Android or iOS devices. Additionally, you can get media data from network hard drives or computers on the TV via the home network, depending on your taste.

If it should be fast and uncomplicated, then movies, photos or music should be played from USB sticks. Only older TVs require the use of additional external streaming boxes.

Last product update on 2021-01-16 | Source: Amazon Affiliate