Do you have a non-Smart television sitting idle at home? Well, it can very well double down as a holistic entertainment hub, provided you pair the same with the perfect streaming solution.
Streaming and conventional TVs! Why not
While it might sound counterintuitive to some, there are quite a few streaming devices capable of converting your non-smart television into a home entertainment system. Moreover, with technology making giant strides in the streaming arena, find the right streaming device has never been this easy.
Relevance of Streaming Devices in 2021
Streaming isn’t an era-intensive technology. Still, quite a few individuals judge streaming devices and look down upon them, owing to the incessant rise of OTT platforms, Smart TVs, and touch-friendly resources.
However, in reality, streaming devices are more relevant than ever in 2021. While OTT platforms offer restricted services and streaming support for on-demand content, streaming devices go one step further and also allow you to enjoy Live TV, whilst eliminating cable TV, if necessary.
Streaming devices are also getting cheaper with 50-dollar being the usual sweet spot for picking up a pretty competent gadget. Plus, you can choose the variant as per your requirements, integrated preferences, existing ecosystem, and other factors.
Starting from a snazzier interface to improved voice control, streaming devices have it all, provided you know where to look for them.
In the subsequent sections, we shall talk about 4 of the best streaming devices that deserve our attention. While each of the mentioned gadgets is good enough, they all vary when core competencies and standout attributes are concerned.
So, let’s waste no more time and get straight to the list of offerings that excel:
1. Apple TV 4K
Apologies for putting the TV 4K at the top as we are heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem and after reading through this review, even you might.
Despite being laughably overpriced, Apple TV 4K does have an audience of its own. The interface stands out. The Dolby Vision caters to a wide range of services. And, the Dolby Atmos support isn’t app-centric, which means every application associated with this device will get the requisite benefits.
Plus, there is the famed Apple Arcade, provided you are willing to pay for the same. A good thing about the apps is that with Apple TV 4K, you automatically get the best experience from each. Also, the privacy safeguards are out of this world and Apple respects your need for confidentiality unlike some of the other streaming platforms.
Apart from offering an exceptional streaming library, the Apple TV 4K also allows you to connect the HomeKit security essentials with the same, precisely for a holistic smart home experience. Our only gripe is the tricky remote that doesn’t actually take customer experience seriously.
2. Amazon Fire TV Stick
Nothing works better than the Fire TV Stick when versatility and streaming options are concerned. Starting from offering Prime Video OTT support right out of the box to making it easier for you to use web streaming services like USTVGo, the Amazon Fire TV Stick has resourceful options to rely on.
Plus, the interface is extremely intuitive and interactive, allowing you to take a content-based streaming approach instead of working frantically towards looking past a grid-based collection of apps. Despite Amazon pushing the Prime Video more than usual, no corners are cut when Live and web streaming services are concerned.
Besides, this is probably the only streaming device on the list that allows side-loading of third-party applications, provided you are fine with the minor workarounds, including Jailbreaking. Also, the wide-range of free streaming services is pretty much in sync with the Amazon Fire TV Stick.
For streaming fanatics, Amazon also offers the Fire TV Stick 4K and TV Cube to choose from. However, the Alexa-compatible remote control works perfectly, regardless of the streaming device you choose.
Honestly speaking, the Chromecast is one of our personal favorites, considering the aesthetics and the intuitive Google TV that comes paired with it. With Chromecast, Google brings back the content-first strategy, which relies more on offering unbiased services, unlike Apple TV 4K and Amazon Fire TV Stick, which willingly push forth their own shows and services as a marketing approach.
The interface isn’t as clean as a Roku device and you need to surf through the multiple rows before getting to the desired point. However, certain users have actually started liking this slightly cluttered yet resourceful interface, where you can also get hold of relevant movie and content-related information with ease.
That said, we were most impressed with the software, or rather the streaming UI. Needless to say, it is Google who actually cracked the code of the perfect streaming platform, where the app selection isn’t simplified deliberately to accommodate seamlessness.
The tasteful fonts, subtle background colors, and the concept of highlighted content stand out. However, owing to the multiple elements, the software and UI tend to slow down at times.
4. Roku Stick
No streaming device is perfect but with Roku, you can at least try and imitate perfection. To start with, the streaming services are pretty straightforward and filled with minimalism.
Roku persists with a grid-based content layout where the modernized yet minimal UI is exceedingly easy to use and understand. However, it is the excellent streaming library that has our heart.
The Roku stick is easily one of the few devices in the market to feature Peacock and HBO max, which seem to be pretty elusive resources. Besides, there are several channels to experience, with each feature ad-sponsored and free movies, as per subscription plans.
If all the streaming devices are to be evaluated, Roku strikes the perfect balance between price and gadget performance. Therefore, for 50 dollars, you get Dolby Atmos functionality followed by HDR visuals and ultra-fast performances. Although you miss out on Dolby Vision, you can get the same if you choose to go with the premium set-top-box, priced at 100 dollars.
However, if we are forced to find the grey areas on a gunpoint, we would point out the voice search. While the entire setup works well, we liked the support offered by Google and Amazon sticks more.
In addition to these 4 innovative and resourceful streaming devices, you can also invest in the Shield TV from NVIDIA. While it isn’t as popular as some of the mentioned devices, it is still an excellent resource for someone seeking a gamer-friendly streaming device or additional Home Theater support.
At present, this tube-shaped streaming device runs Android TV right out of the box, with the Google Assistant integrated within. It also wouldn’t be wrong to tag this as the most ergonomic gadget of the lot. Regardless of the device you choose, it is necessary to conduct extensive research to understand more about the features on offer.
Plus, it is always recommended to use a VPN for streaming, to stay out of the prying eyes of the attackers and ISPs.