This Roku3 is the third version of the US-based company’s streamer and has been dubbed as the best to date. It sports more than 2,000 channels, a smart cross-platform search utility and a user friendly interface. The pebble sized entertainment box is attractive and equipped with non-skid rubber to prevent it from shuffling around on the shelf. The remote is simple, but allows snappy navigation of Roku’s extremely smart and intuitive channel-based interface. An extra amazing feature is a built-in headphone jack for wireless listening when turning up the volume is a no-go. Wi-Fi is built in, but use the Ethernet port if a faster connection is needed. A microSD slot for additional app and game storage is a feature unique to the Roku3. At amazon.com from RO34.50.
Google returned to the set-top box field in mid-2014 with the Asus-made Nexus Player after its first flop. Nexus offers similar capabilities to Amazon’s Fire TV, allowing for voice-activated searching and personalised recommendations, along with integrated gaming if you decide to go for an optional gaming controller. The Android-powered and Google-backed device has been slowly but surely adding apps and makes it easy for friends and family to share content from their Android smartphones and tablets. The only downside is it has no Ethernet port, which is an issue if your Wi-Fi has hiccups and drops connections often. At google.com from RO46.50.
Microsoft’s Xbox One received an Emmy for its industry-leading television-on-demand and media centre capabilities. Since then, younger consumers have started to rank video game consoles as the most popular devices for streaming content to their TV. With that in mind, other top choices include the Xbox 360, both the PS3 and PS4 and the Nintendo WII. The systems conveniently give you access to scores of programmes from the likes of HBO Go, NFL Network, Netflix, and Hulu (if are on an American IP of course). In the near future you can expect the next-gen consoles to blow your mind. Consoles range in price, depending on brand and supplier.
Don’t let the size of Amazon’s Fire TV Stick fool you. The device packs nearly the same punch as its larger cousin, essentially functioning as Amazon’s answer to the Roku Stick and Google’s Chromecast. Perfect for the budget-minded cord cutter, the Fire TV Stick streams stunning 1080p HD video and provides rich Dolby Digital Plus surround sound in the process. As sleek as it is inconspicuous, the black-matte Fire TV Stick also discretely plugs into any HDMI port without becoming an eyesore. You do forefit the voice-search feature here, but it can still be activated using a Fire Phone or Kindle Fire, all of which act as remotes on their own. Amazon’s Advanced Streaming and Prediction technology (ASAP) learns your viewing habits and allows you to skirt buffering sessions on Amazon-hosted content. At amazon.com from RO15.50.
If you’re looking for something small but are ultimately concerned with affordability, then Chromecast wins the award. The HDMI dongle doesn’t offer a user interface, instead allows you to initiate streams with the use of your smartphone, tablet or PC. When commanded, the Chromecast will pull content down from the cloud, leaving your device’s resources alone and acting as a good battery saver. The device is simple and user friendly which explains why it’s been so popular. At amazon.com from RO13.50.
Apple TV first launched five years ago, followed shortly after by the second generation, which was based on iOS and included some subtle app changes. The newest version comes with a faster processor and instead of being based on iOS, it’s now branded as TVOS. TVOS is a fine-tuned version of iOS and is better aligned with Apple’s other current iOS products, optimising the interface for HDTV display and smooth software. Users can still buy and install apps, switch between them and terminate running apps largely the same way as on an iPhone or iPad. The remote uses wireless Bluetooth rather than the direct beam IR used in previous Apple TV remotes, meaning the new model won’t require pointing the remote at the set top box to control it. This allows the box to be placed anywhere on a shelf rather than directly under your TV. What’s really good about the new Apple TV is that it now accommodates serious game playing capabilities and supports “gameplay moving” from Apple TV to mobile devices. Available at Apple.com from RO76.50.
Nowtv is a perfectly capable media streamer, with dedicated remote control, for only £10 (RO5.8) if bought in the UK. It’s light and geared towards Sky’s content with a month to month contract for movies and entertainment (TV series and programmes), with choices being catch up and live TV or a fuss-free way to watch the occasional football match on a day pass. The box itself costs from around RO3.50 and monthly subscriptions for TV or movies cost around RO2.80 each. At nowtv.com