Thanks to the internet, we have changed the way we look at media content over the years. Instead of enjoying video or audio content on the monitor connected to a personal computer or on the screen of a laptop, now we have the chance to buy and use a streaming media player. However, the market is overflooded with good-quality units, so which alternative should you pick?
If you find yourself puzzled when it comes to the vast variety of products that are available out there, you’ve come to the right place. Have a look at the buying guide we’ve put together for your consideration.
What is streaming media, anyway?
Streaming media is composed of a plethora of types of content nowadays, as it can range from video games to good old video and audio files. This content is automatically connected to the player and displayed according to the user’s viewing preferences. If you have ever tried looking at YouTube content on a TV or even a monitor, you’ve streamed online media.
The core detail about this system is that it relies on an internet connection. In the absence of a network, the player is incapable of playing anything. It’s true that the user’s preferences are saved into the Cloud, but in the end, the buyer simply must be connected to the internet in order to use the player.
Streaming media services
Services are very varied nowadays. Some of them are free while others can be enjoyed for a fee. The free alternatives include YouTube, Pandora, Spotify, Hulu, and many others. This is content that has been developed by the creators with the sole purpose of entertaining the viewers. Several of these services do offer subscription services, such as Hulu, which can be upgraded to Hulu Plus. It goes without saying that paying for a streaming service gives the user the ability to enjoy exclusive content.
The fee of a subscription should be paid monthly, bi-annually or annually, depending on the settings of the provider. One of the most popular paid services nowadays is Netflix, which is well-known for getting people hung up on TV shows and movies. Netflix takes the game to a whole new level, as it even produces its TV shows.
Other services include rentals and cable and satellite.
Nowadays, streaming media players include a large number of devices, from smart TVs to gaming consoles and even the user’s computer. Each of these types of units can stream media from different sources. For instance, smart TVs are excellent when it comes to accessing smartphone apps and streaming video services.
Actual streaming media players are specifically designed to be connected to the home theater setup. Such a player can look like a plastic box of which the size can vary according to the model and manufacturer. Streaming media players used to be placed on top of the TV set, but with the slim, round-edged TVs nowadays, they’re likely to be located somewhere around it.
Some of the most well-known models out there include Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, Roku and Roku Streaming Stick, and Google Chromecast. Apple TV is less versatile compared to the other alternatives, as it can only stream media from other Apple devices. The Amazon bundle is portable and easy to use, as the Fire TV Stick plugs directly into the smart TV or HDTV’s HDMI port.
Roku players work with a vast variety of apps, ranging from Netflix to Pandora, as well as video games.
Chromecast works with virtually any type of device that you might ever feel like using. From mobile devices to Windows laptops or Apple computers, this one does the trick when it comes to having access to over 200,000 TV shows and movies. All of the apps one might require can be downloaded for free from the Chromecast website.
Connecting the player to your network, TV, or home theater system
Although it might not be rocket science, the setup of a streaming media player could still give you a headache if you are not particularly tech-savvy. Whatever you do, just be prepared and have a little patience. You’ll need to be sure that the internet is up and running and you’ll require access to the password.
Aside from plugging some cables into the devices you have around the house, the player will most likely ask you to create an online account in order to install the apps you need. As Benjamin Franklin used to say it, he that can have patience can have what he will.