Do you know how to choose a TV streaming device?

June 12th, 2016 Back

At Vidgo TV, we are very excited about the launch of the VIDGO app. In the meantime, we have been talking to many friends and family members about TV apps, streaming devices, and the whole technology surrounding the entertainment industry.

Most of the friends seem convinced the future of entertainment will happen over the internet, yet many of them raised some questions about the different alternatives available in the market when you decide to cut the cord, not feeling really sure about what the different terms really mean, particularly when it comes to the streaming devices available in the market.

Nowadays, in an era where technological advancements seem to happen overnight, there’s so much terminology thrown around, we feel we have to update our vocabulary on a daily basis -streaming, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, machine learning. Who can keep up?

 

Needless to say, not many people really understand the true meaning of of some these words, much less its technology, unless you work directly in one of those industries. And even in that case, not many people take the time to sit down and explain to the rest of us, in simple terms, what it all really means, so we can at least comprehend the gist of it.

 

So, to answer some of our friends’ questions at once, we decided to explain to the best of our knowledge the meaning  of TV streaming devices.

 

What’s a TV streaming device?

A TV streaming device is any device that will let you watch TV over the internet. Many people still confuse the term streaming with downloading. To set the record straight, downloading means copying content from one location to another. In the case of a TV show, if you download a movie, you will have to store the entire movie on a hard drive. On the other hand, streaming means that there is a continuous flow of content into your device. In the case of a movie, when you stream, you are constantly receiving content throughout the entire movie.

 

Think about it this way: if you open the water tap to fill out a glass of water, the water will be downloaded to the glass, so you can take it and drink it whenever, wherever you want. If, instead of filling a glass, you are drinking water from a water fountain, that water will be streaming into your mouth. The flow of water into your mouth is very similar to the streaming quality we experience when we watch TV over the internet.

Girl drinking on water fountain outdoor close up

Girl drinking on water fountain outdoor close up

 

When you watch a video on YouTube, for instance, you are streaming the video, not downloading it. When you buy a movie on iTunes, you can download it into your computer and watch it anytime, even without an internet connection.

 

Now that we have established the difference between downloading and streaming, we can look at the differences between live and on-demand streaming. When you are watching a live event like the Super Bowl, the stream comes directly into your device at the same time it is occurring, or, more precisely, a few seconds later. On-demand streaming means you can watch a previously recorded show or movie by visiting a catalog and selecting the content, like all those YouTube pet videos you watch whenever you please.

 

In order to stream content in a satisfactory manner, we need enough internet bandwidth to get uninterrupted flow into our devices. Hence, the importance of a good internet connection to enjoy the benefits of streaming.

 

A “good” internet connection is another subjective term, which can also cause some confusion among users. Different internet service providers will advise you on minimum recommended download speed to make sure you are able to enjoy the show without major interruptions — also known as buffering.  

Before calling your internet service provider to upgrade your internet connection, check your internet speed by clicking here. Then, click on Begin Test to obtain your speed. On the screen you will see a download and an upload speed. Donwload speed is the one you are interested in. To be on the safe side, you should have a minimum of 5Mbps download speed in your streaming device.

Home wifi network

Home wifi network

 

Types of TV streaming devices

After understanding some of the key terms, it’s time to talk about the different devices available. Obviously, your smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop are the first devices that come to mind when we talk about accessing the internet and, in fact, any of those are TV streaming devices.

 

Moving beyond the usual internet gear, we have specialized devices to stream directly into your  big screen, because, for many viewers, nothing beats watching an event on a 60 or 70-inch screen.

 

So, what specialized streaming devices can you use to watch on the big screen? Well, let’s start with the television set itself. If you own a smart TV, you are in luck, because that’s all you need. By the way, a smart TV is just a television set connected to the internet, with its own operating system, and preloaded with some apps.

 

The rate of adoption of these smart TVs in the US has been staggering. As of 2015 “According to NPD’s Retail Tracking Service, 45 percent of TVs sold in the U.S. during Q2 (second quarter) supported apps, up from 34 percent last year and 24 percent two years ago. As more app-ready TVs enter homes, the rate of consumers actually connecting these displays to the Internet also increased. In Q2 (second quarter), 69 percent of all installed Internet capable TVs were connected, up from 61 percent last year and 45 percent two years ago.”

 

Besides smart TVs, consumers can also use video game consoles, blu-ray DVD players, and digital media players  to stream their favorite TV shows and movies.

The concept is simple: you connect one of these devices close to your TV via HDMI cable, connect the device to your home internet connection -plug to your router or connect to your wifi- and you are ready to start streaming into your big screen.

 

What’s available in 2016?

Understanding the concept of streaming and digital media players is the first step. Next, let’s see what’s available in the market should  you decide to stream into your big screen.

Although we have found many websites with plenty of reviews about digital media players and smart TVs, most of them are geared toward die-hard technologists, many of whom use specialized, technical language hard to understand for the rest of us.

We aim to explain in more basic terms the available options you have should you decide to install one of these devices at home.

First, let’s discuss smart TVs. If they are so smart -connected to the internet, preloaded with apps and with their own operating system- why in the world would I need an additional device to stream content? Good question. In fact, most people would be happy enough using their smart TV to stream. For other people, happy enough is not an option.

Let me list a few instances in which you may want to go beyond your smart TV:

  • If you use iTunes for renting and buying movies, you need an Apple TV (digital media player)
  • If you want to play additional content from other devices connected to your home network -files stored on any computer or hard drive in your house, your smart TV will not do the job without additional hardware.
  • If you want more flexibility and freedom in terms of the content you want to enjoy, then you should get a digital media player.
Creative abstract digital multimedia entertainment and media television broadcasting internet business concept: smart TV display screen with color web interface isolated on white background with reflection effect

Smart TV display screen with color web interface isolated on white background with reflection effect

If, on the other hand, you find a smart TV that contains the only apps you need, then, by all means, stick to the smart TV.

Convinced you want a digital media player? Let’s look at some of the most popular options:

  • Roku streaming stick
    • Pros: cheap (around $50), large selection of content, good interface, independent unlike Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV -no need to push its own content- and universal search across apps
    • Cons: cannot play iTunes or Google Play music

 

  • Apple TV
    • Pros: remote and interface, iTunes catalog, incorporation of Siri
    • Cons: basically, you won’t have access to all the shows you may want to watch

 

  • Amazon Fire TV
    • Pros: cheap and fast
    • Cons: limited apps, it pushes its own content

 

  • Google Chromecast
    • Pros: cheap, universal search across apps, no need for remote (it uses your phone), small size (perfect for travelling and displaying content on hotel TV)
    • Cons: no remote (this one definitely can be either a pro or a con, depending on each person)
View of a third generation Apple TV and its remote control. The Apple TV is a digital media player developed by Apple Inc.

View of a third generation Apple TV and its remote control. The Apple TV is a digital media player developed by Apple Inc.

How to choose one?

We have intentionally kept the list short, naming just the most popular options for the majority of people. When you decide to purchase one, just consider a few important questions, and you will be happy enough with your decision:

  • What’s your budget? 
  • What shows are you interested in?
  • Are you heavily invested in one of the ecosystems (Apple, Google or Amazon) or would you rather have a more independent, flexible option (Roku streaming stick)?

 

At Vidgo TV, our aim with this article was to clarify some of the issues that come up when we talk about this topic with family and friends. We do not recommend nor endorse any of the specific devices mentioned in this article. We hope you have found this information helpful. If you have, please share it on your social media. If you want to receive updates on the upcoming VIDGO TV streaming app, sign up at http://www.vidgotv.com

 

Sources:

http://www.soundsupport.biz/2012/02/13/what-is-streaming-and-what-does-it-mean/

 

https://www.npd.com/wps/portal/npd/us/news/press-releases/2015/half-of-us-internet-homes-now-own-a-connected-tv-device-according-to-the-npd-group/

 

http://www.quepublishing.com/articles/article.aspx?p=2101524

 

http://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-media-streamers/

 

http://www.tomsguide.com/us/apple-tv-review-roundup,news-21773.html

 


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