Streaming media players, or media streamers, are simple little devices that plug into a standard TV, and convert it into a smart TV. They enable you to stream the content that you would ordinarily watch on devices like laptops directly onto the TV in your living room or any room of the house. This means that you can watch content from Netflix, iPlayer, and even YouTube on a full sized TV instead of watching it on a 15″ monitor.
The key to a good streaming player is that it must be simple to use. Most people opt for a streamer because they don’t want the hassle of plugging a laptop directly into their TV, navigating the laptop, and eventually buffering the content onto the TV screen. They want to be able to view the content they see online, but they want the ease and convenience of using a TV and set top box in the living room.
As such, streaming media players are designed to be simple and intuitive. They should be easy to install, easier to use, and have very little to master in order to offer their benefits to users.
Channels Are Everything
The media player itself is, in a lot of cases, inconsequential. It is the quality and breadth of channels, or content apps, that are available on the chosen device that really determines whether it is a good deal or not.
Devices like the Chromecast, the Apple TV Player, and even the Now TV Box, are geared specifically towards the content of the companies that they represent. The various Roku models that are available, on the other hand, offer access to more than 700 channels regardless of whether you buy the cheap, entry model, or the overly advanced Roku 3 player.
There are free channels available, including terrestrial catch up TV services, but there are also premium subscriptions services such as Netflix. The latter will typically offer access to a greater range of content, and will enable you to choose from a larger selection of films and TV series.
Check the channels and the media streamer itself to ensure that you can enjoy HD content through your device. You will obviously also need an HD compatible TV, but most devices work through HDMI so this will be a given in most instances. The Roku 1 player is the exception, because this can be used even on TVs that do not have an HDMI connection.
Some players require the use of your smartphone or other mobile device in order that you can change channels, mess with the volume, and navigate the menus. Some buyers will like this feature, but many people that are buying a streaming media player want a TV-like experience so they will prefer a standard TV remote. The Apple TV Player offers a stunning looking remote, and all Roku devices include remotes.
Some devices offer additional features. The Roku 3 player, for example, offers motion gaming with access to a free Angry Birds game, and it also includes a USB port so that you can watch, view, or listen to your own content on the device.