The television is getting smarter and better every day. From the boxy, monochromatic setups we had decades ago, today we see manufacturers plonking a myriad of features in a stick-thin and sometimes curved OLED screen that can play in 4K and HDR. But what’s the use of having a TV with all the accompanying jargon if the features you want aren’t available? That’s where streaming devices come in handy.
A streaming device, when plugged in to your TV or your projector, lets you have more control over the type of content you want to see. Which means sports fans can prioritise channels like ESPN and WWE, movie buffs can go on a marathon of their favourite flicks, and parents can ensure their young’uns aren’t browsing through the darker side of YouTube.
Also, all streaming devices are capable of supporting online streaming networks like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO NOW. Sure, we can view award-winning shows like Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, and The Handmaid’s Tale on our personal gadgets, but there’s nothing more satisfying than to be able to see and appreciate the tiny details on a bigger screen. You can also catch up with your favourite telenovelas instead of waiting for cable channels to syndicate them locally.
The portability of these streaming devices should also be mentioned. All they need are a working Internet connection and a TV, so you can continue watching your favourite programmes in the cosy confines of your penthouse suite after a long day at the Parisian shopping belt.
There’s a streaming device for everybody, whether you’re in Club Cupertino or just an everyday fan of television. Here, we’ve compiled the 5 best streaming devices for you to take your pick. Now all you need are a subscription to the relevant networks and a compatible TV — so you can take advantage of the 4K and HDR capabilities many of these devices offer.
For those invested in the Apple ecosystem (or as we call it, Club Cupertino), the Apple 4K TV is a big upgrade from its predecessor. Finally supporting 4K and HDR, viewers now have access to all the content available in the highest resolutions on iTunes. There is also support for Siri built in, so you can search and control the Apple TV using just your voice. If you have friends over for a celebration, you can share moments and memories straight from your phone to your television with AirPlay. The latest tvOS 12 update elevates your cinematic experience with support for Dolby Atmos. That means more immersive sound from your favourite movies like Black Panther and Blade Runner 2049.
There is a lot of power packed into the small frame of the Roku Ultra. Support for 4K Ultra HD means you will be able to notice even the individual hair follicles on Daenerys Targaryen’s head, and with the Roku 4K Spotlight Channel there will be no shortage of 4K-ready shows for you to browse. You can also customise your homepage for easier access to your most-used apps. And if you happen to misplace the remote control in the crevices of your sofa, there’s the Lost Remote Finder button that you can trigger on the box.
This nifty gadget is one of the most affordable 4K and HDR players on the market. The Chromecast Ultra doesn’t ship with a remote controller, as your phone is the one that’s doing all the magic with the Google Home app. The attached ethernet port will also ensure that your videos don’t buffer — crucial when streaming 4K videos due to the larger bandwidth required, because no one likes watching a loading screen. The small size also keeps it out of sight and out of mind.
Made with the gamer in mind, the Nvidia Shield is a beast of a streaming device. Powered by Android TV and developed by a company that specialises in graphic cards, the Shield can not only stream your favourite TV shows, but double up as a gaming device (for some games) too. While the setup box is bigger than the others on the list, it does require the added power for more high-intensity programmes that it will be running.
The Fire TV Stick from Amazon is one of the most portable streaming devices available, as it is the size of a thumbdrive. You can bring it along with you on your business trips or beach holidays, and continue watching your movies from where you left off. The built-in Alexa support within the Alexa Fire Remote lets you find what you want to watch with just your voice. And if you have an Echo at home, you can pair it with your Fire TV, syncing up your entire home with the Alexa network too.