Streaming video content opened the retail market for devices to store or play large amounts of streamed content. Streaming media players, also referred to as digital media players (DMP), have hit the market to further challenge the fledgling cable market. DMPs are either streaming sticks or fully-capable boxes.
The more popular streaming media players are Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku , and Fire TV. DMPs are home entertainment devices that connect to home networks to stream music, pictures, or videos from a PC or other Internet capable media servers to play back on a television or video projector for home cinema. Digital media players connect to a home network via a wireless or wired Ethernet connection. Some digital media players contain Smart TV features that allow users to stream media from the internet or popular streaming services like YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu. Other digital media players also playback locally stored content from a direct attached USB hard disk or external drive. With a DMP, users can customize their digital media library. The capability of a DMP varies, in that some specifically only playback music, pictures, or videos, while others playback all digital media content. The more capable DMPs allow users to browse the internet or control Live TV with the aid of a PC or TV tuner. DMP streaming sticks are smaller devices that plug directly into the HDMI port on a TV. Streaming sticks can also access programming from a device’s USB port. DMP boxes come with extra ports, and for users who do not get great Wi-Fi connection, an Ethernet port is also included. Here is a comparison of the four major streaming media players:
Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV are only offered as boxes, while Chromecast is only sold as a stick. Roku offers both hardware options.
If you are on a budget but want to invest in a streaming device, a streaming stick is the most affordable option. The Chromecast stick retails for $35, and the Roku stick retails for $49.99. If you have a larger budget, the Amazon Fire and Roku boxes retail for around $99 dollars each. The ever competitive Apple company sells its TV box for $93.
A streaming device’s ability to offer video apps, audio apps, major proprietary apps, and sports apps distinguishes it among the competition. At a glance, all four major apps offer video and audio apps. As far as major proprietary apps go, Roku and Apple TV do not offer any. As for sports apps, Chromecast is the only streaming device that offers extremely limited apps.
ROKU vs CHROMECAST
The better streaming stick is Roku. Roku offers over one thousand entertainment apps, more than any other streaming device. Some of the more popular video apps are M-Go, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, PBS, PBS Kids, the History Channel, A&E, Redbox Instant, Time Warner Cable, Crackle, Disney Junior, Syfy and more. For a broader look at Roku entertainment apps/channels, Roku lists 64 sports, 34 science and technology, 142 Internet TV, 41 food, 35 photos and videos, 56 kids and family, 63 specialty apps and screensavers, 58 fitness and outdoor, 128 special interest, 58 travel, 398 spirituality and religion, 36 international, and hundreds of new apps/channels are added regularly. Another aspect that sets Roku apart from other streaming stick is that Roku offers the Amazon Instant Video app. Chromecast streaming stick offers hundreds of apps that serve all types of functions. The major apps offered through the Chromecast store are Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, Pandora, YouTube, Google Play TV, movies, and music, Plex and BBC iPlayer. The Chromecast store updates its directory of all the Chromecast-enabled apps regularly, so users can order the newest apps as soon as they are Chromecast compatible. Recently, Chromecast has added MLB.TV Premium, Crackle, and Rdio. Chromecast has hundreds of specialty apps, which include VEVO (music videos), viki (Korean drama, Japanese anime, music videos and more in 160+ languages), and RealPlayer Cloud (personal video collection).
APPLE TV vs AMAZON FIRE TV
AppleTV and Amazon Fire TV boxes offer the popular video and audio apps, as well as variations of hundreds of other specialty apps. However, Apple TV offers the iTunes proprietary app, which is exclusive of Apple. Proprietary apps are programs that are exclusively owned by their developers or publishers
Other features that potential streaming device purchasers may want to consider are gaming accessibility, parental controls, user ability and control, screen mirroring, and cross platform searching. Apple TV supports gaming, but serious gamers may want to invest in one of the other three streaming devices as they offer much better gaming options. All four streaming devices offer different control options: Amazon Fire TV boxes can be controlled by voice, a physical remote, or an app; Chromecast is controlled via app only; Roku and Apple TV are controlled by a physical remote or an app.