Picking a streaming-media player to watch Netflix and Amazon on your TV may seem like a simple process in comparing features and prices, but it’s actually rather difficult.
That’s because this isn’t exactly a normal market. Some companies, like Amazon and Apple, run their own digital video stores, produce shows and sell streaming-media hardware, which can push them to restrict content in ways that might make economic sense for them, but will probably annoy you, the paying customer.
This conflict of interest is never more obvious than with Apple (AAPL) and Amazon (AMZN), both of which run major streaming-video services and sell their own streaming-media players.
The situation with Apple fits into its history of limiting its services to its hardware: Enjoying TV shows and movies you rent or buy from iTunes on the biggest screen in your house without fussing with audio-video cables requires a $149Apple TV.
Amazon’s behavior makes less sense. It has long balked at shipping an Apple TV app, even though its iOS app supports AirPlay streaming to an Apple TV. Amazon has been just as recalcitrant about adding support for Google’s Chromecast to its iOS app or its Android app, which you canonly install by disabling a security setting.
But whatever you think of these companies’ conduct, Apple will keep being Apple and Amazon will keep being Amazon. Don’t buy a player hoping either will shed its stripes.
Roku comes the closest to being the Switzerland of streaming players—remember, it doesn’t sell its own video service. So if your taste in dystopian political dramas requires binge-watching both Netflix’s “House of Cards” and Amazon’s “The Man In The High Castle,” Roku is your best bet.
If all the video apps you watch support both Roku and Fire TV, your decision gets more difficult. For instance, both Amazon and Roku offer 4K boxes for ultra high-definition streaming on an UHD TV—provided your internet connection is fast enough to support UHD streaming. Unfortunately, formany Americans that’s not the case.
Fallback options: flash storage, Chromecast, or an HDMI cable
Of course, you can also play your own desktop or laptop’s files on your TV.
If you have a Mac, Apple has a commanding lead because of Apple TV’s built-in support for streaming from iTunes. That also applies if you have a Windows PC and like iTunes… which I realizewill be a stretch.
Otherwise,Plex’s playback app—free with basic features, $39.99 a year or $149.99 for a lifetime subscription to get the app’s full set of capabilities—can handle streaming from a Mac or Windows PC to Roku and Fire TV devices.
The USB ports and SD Card slots on full-sized Roku and Fire TV players (as opposed to their HDMI sticks) offer another way to play what’s in your house. Copy files to a flash drive or memory card—say, a holiday-party music playlist—and then pop that into the player.
That may leave the occasional site that doesn’t have an app for your media player or any other. You may want a cheap fallback option.
That’s where Google’s Chromecast (the regular $35 edition, not the $69, 4K-compatible version) can shine. If a site plays in Google’s Chrome browser, a click or tap on its Chromecast icon sends it directly to that little HDMI stick—although you may lose picture quality if you “cast” from an older, slower laptop.
A humble HDMI cable is even cheaper, costing only a few bucks online. Running one from a laptop to an HDTV may result in you being tripped up by that cable—and the power cord your laptop will need for extended viewing—but at least you won’t be getting tripped up by corporate power politics.
TechDailyTimes is a web blog devoted to technology, science, research and development and everything related to new technological breakthroughs. Our aim is to cover technology news on a daily basis. Articles on technology contained in this blog may concern science news, tech news, applied technology, gadgets, devices etc. All blog entries are published 'as is'. TechDailyTimes waives any responsibility, expressed or implied, in regard to any material, published in the blog. Opinions expressed by our authors may contradict with the official standings of TechDailyTimes administration.