10 Streaming Set Top Boxes, Dongles And Casting Devices For All Tastes

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Nvidia Shield Android TV set up Screencap: Nvidia/YouTube

We are in the era of streaming entertainment. It started with streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Then cable channels began providing TV content online. Most recently, channels are now providing standalone online streaming services, which can be purchased without a cable subscription.

But for most streaming services, there needs to be a middle man. Many users don’t want to be stuck with a computer screen, or worst yet, a tiny smartphone screen to watch their favorite televisions shows and movies. Let’s face it, in this situation a phablet just doesn’t cut it.  There’s nothing like being able to veg out and binge watching “Game Of Thrones” on a full sized television screen.

This has spawned a plethora of streaming set top boxes, dongles and other devices, which allow users to cast video from a mobile device to a TV or to access streaming apps from a streaming device and cast on to a TV.  

But which do you choose? Take a look at our rundown to decide which streaming device is best for you. 

The High-Tech Techie: Nvidia Shield Android TV

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Nvidia Shield Android TV Photo: Screencap: Nvidia/YouTube

If you require the highest quality in all of your technology, then the Nvidia Shield Android TV is for you.

The Nvidia Shield Android TV is now on sale through Nvidia’s online store and through Amazon.com. The console will also soon be available at Best Buy locations. The Nvidia Shield Android TV is available in two models, a  16GB model model selling for $199.99 and a 500GB pro model, which will sell for $299.99 when it releases June 3.

Both Nvidia Shield Android TV models include a Shield controller, support for 4K video, a high-speed HDMI cable, voice search, over-the-air updates from Nvidia, MicroSD expansion, USB 3.0 ports, gigabit ethernet and 802.11ac WiFi.

The consoles will both sell with a number of perks, including $30 Google Play gift card and a 90-day free trial to Google Play Music. The pro model of the Nvidia Shield Android TV will also ship with the video game Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel for Android, which is set to release in July.

Users have access to applications including Netflix HD, YouTube, Pluto TV, UltraFlix, HBO Now and other standalone streaming services. Users will also have over 200 game titles from which to choose, powered by Android TV, while 20 titles will be Nvidia Shield exclusives. 

The Smartphone Junkie: Lenovo Cast

 

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Lenovo Cast Photo: Lenovo

If your entire life is on your smartphone or tablet, then the Lenovo Cast is for you.

The Lenovo Cast will go on sale in August for $49. The casting device is intended to work with mobile devices, particularly those running Android 4.3 or later. But it also works with Miracast or DLNA-enabled Windows 8.1 devices and iOS devices.

Like most streaming devices, the Lenovo Cast connects to a TV via an HDMI cable, providing 1080p video. It will cast on and off line content, such as movies, videos and games, wirelessly from a smartphone or tablet with a Wi-Fi connection.

The Lenovo Cast is compatible with 5GHz Wi-Fi and 2.4GHz Wi-Fi  signals, giving it more compatibility options than rival devices like Chromecast. The device is 70mm wide, 15mm high and shaped like a puck, it can cast content up to 65 feet and through at least two walls. 

The Apple Purist: Apple TV

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Apple TV Photo: Apple

If you require a device with an Apple logo, the Apple TV is for you.

The Apple TV was one of the first really popular streaming devices on the market. It released in 2013 and since then Apple fans have been anxious for an update. Currently, the Apple TV sells for $69.

The Apple TV is compatible with the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Mac computer and allows users to stream content from a number of apps, mirror content from an Apple device to an HDTV or turn your Apple device into a controller for a dual screen experience with your TV.

The Apple TV was the first set top box to host the HBO Now standalone service and also hosts many other services and content from other a host of providers. Users can also cast music and videos from iTunes and iTunes radio onto a TV through Apple TV.

The device is 98 mm wide and 23 mm high and works with a Wi-Fi (802.11a, b, g, or n) wireless network. It connects to a TV via an HDMI cable, providing 720p or 1080p video.

The Google Purist: Nexus Player

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Nexus Player Photo: Google

If you’re all about the pure Android experience, the Nexus Player is for you.

The Nexus Player released in 2014 as Google’s answer to the many streaming devices already on the market. Currently, the Nexus Player sells for $79.

The Nexus Player has a high compatibility, and can be used with an Android or iOS device, Mac or Windows laptop, or Chromebook. The device allows users to cast content from their primary device and also provides users with content recommendations.

The Nexus Player will also sync content across Android devices, so a user can continue watching a TV show on a tablet or smartphone once they’re finished streaming from the set top box. Users can also use their Nexus Player remote to say the name of the content they wish to find without any other prompt.

The Nexus Player includes several streaming apps, including Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Google Play Movies and Sling. But many have criticized its lack of apps like HBO Go. However, Google announced at its recent I/O conference that the HBO Now standalone service is coming to Android compatible device during the summer.

The device is 120mm wide and 20mm high and works with a 802.11ac 2x2 wireless network. It connects to a TV via an HDMI cable, providing 1080p video.

The Gamer: Razer Forge TV

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Razer Forge TV Photo: Razer

If you want a streaming device with a gaming focus, the Razer Forge TV is for you.

The Razer Forge TV sells for $99.99 by itself and for $149.99 in a bundle with the Razer Sevral controller. It runs the Android TV operating system and allows users to connect up to four controlled to a Razer Forge TV console.

The Razer Forge TV doesn’t come with many apps, those included are Google Play, YouTube, Red Bull TV, Crackle and Plex come standard. But the device will soon include a feature called Razer Cortex: Stream, which will allow users to cast games from a high-powered PC to a Razer Forge TV console. The Razer Turret PC gaming keyboard and mouse will also soon release, furthering the PC gaming feel.

The device is 105mm wide and 17mm high and works with a 802.11ac 2x2 wireless network and Gigabit ethernet. It connects to a TV via an HDMI cable, providing 1080p video. 

The Amazon Primer: Amazon Fire TV

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Amazon Fire TV Photo: Amazon

 

If you need to make sure that you’re getting your money’s worth from Amazon Prime, the Amazon Fire TV is for you.

The Amazon Fire TV released in 2014 as a consuming device for Amazon content, especially content available through Amazon (Prime) Instant video. Currently, the Amazon Fire TV sells for $99.

The Amazon Fire TV has an extensive app library, including many you may not find on rival streaming devices, such as Amazon Instant Video, Fox Sports Go, Twitch, and Plex. The device also supports over 700 games titles. Users can also mirror content from Fire OS or Android devices to Amazon Fire TV and vice versa. It will soon also be compatible with iOS devices.

The Amazon Fire TV comes with a remote that is popular for its voice control feature. The device also has a special feature called X-Ray, which allows users to research information about the content they’re streaming, such as actor’s and singer’s names, song titles and trivia.

The device is 115mm wide and 17.5mm high and works with a 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi networks. It connects to a TV via an HDMI cable, providing 720p and 1080p video. 

The Frugal: Amazon Fire TV Stick

 

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Amazon Fire TV Stick Photo: Amazon

If you want a low cost option for streaming Amazon Instant Video (and other Amazon apps) to your TV the Amazon Fire TV Stick  is for you.

The Amazon Fire TV Stick is a fraction of the cost of the Amazon Fire TV set top box at $39 and provides almost all of the same features. Users have access to all of the same video and music apps and about 500 game titles.

It also works with Fire TV remote control, allows for mirroring on Android devices and also includes the X-Ray feature. It connects directly to a TV via an HDMI connector, providing 720p and 1080p video.

The Minimalist: Chromecast

 

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Chromecast Photo: Google

If you want an extremely simple and low cost option for streaming from any device, the Chromecast is for you.

At just $35, the Chromecast is one of the cheapest streaming devices on the market. It has a high compatibility, and can be used with an Android or iOS device, Mac or Windows laptop, or Chromebook. The device allows users to cast content from their primary device.

Using only a USB port, the Chromecast is a simple plug and play device. Plug it into your TV, connect it to Wi-Fi and you’re done.

Apps include Netflix and YouTube, HBO Go, Showtime Anytime, Starz Play, Hulu Plus, Pandora, Google Music, Plex, Vevo, MLB TV, Crackle, Rdio, Vudu and others. Because Chromecast works solely through a connected smartphone, tablet or computer, it is fairly easy to cast most apps.

The App Junkie:  Roku 2/Roku 3

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Roku 3 Photo: Roku

If you want access to apps that feels unlimited, the Roku 2/Roku 3 is for you.

The Roku 2 is comparable to the Apple TV in price at $69, but with considerably more content. The Roku 3 adds voice search to the remote and a built-in headphone jack for $99.

The Roku set top boxes feature over 2,000 apps and over 250,000 movies and TV episodes, providing more video content than its rivals. It also includes considerable apps and content from its rivals. However, the Roku streamers are light on games.

Users can also mirror any mobile device to TV through Roku, but it is not compatible with native mirroring features like AirPlay or Google Cast.

The device is 88mm wide and 125mm high and works with a 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi networks.  It connects to a TV via an HDMI cable, providing 720p and 1080p video.

Questions, comments or issues? Email me at f.agomuoh@idigitaltimes.com.

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