The fake snow is starting to appear in shopfronts. Black Friday just passed. The roles are being cast for the seasonal pageants. The season of goodwill to all cordcutters is almost upon us! Likely many of you reading will be picking up deals in the pre-Thanksgiving rush, or are working from a detailed Wishlist of items requested by your nearest and dearest.
If you’re perhaps struggling to come up with something that will really knock their socks off this December 25th, or need a guiding hand in the right direction, worry not. We at VIDGO are here to help ensure peace on Earth — or at least in your living room.
You might not have heard, but 2017 is the year that you abandon TV as you knew it. It’s the 21st century! Time to get serious about streaming. Here is our guide to the best streaming devices, so you can be set up for the ultimate home viewing experience, no matter your budget.
The best budget experience…
One of the great things about streaming television is it opens the previously prohibitively expensive world of cable to those who might not have been able to afford it. VIDGO will allow users to build their own packages of local, national and prestige programming, according to their needs and budget. If you’re looking for the cheap-but-cheerful end of the streaming spectrum, here’s what we’d recommend.
True to form, Google revolutionized the home streaming game with their Chromecast device. Instead of needing to buy another set-top box to add to their crowded living room set up, the Chromecast allows viewers to simply plug into any HDMI port on your TV. From there, it simply taps into your existing Wi-Fi network to stream video from the Internet connection.
Apps or various catch-up and on-demand services can be loaded onto the device, with newer versions expected to carry HD and even 4K resolution for the video content. If you need music in your life, then Google’s streaming service has got you covered there as well. Plus you can “cast” the screen from any Android device (i.e. phone, tablet) or computer you connect to the stick as well, making it a great all-rounder.
Amazon Fire TV Stick: $39.99
Not to be outdone, Amazon quickly got in on the basic streaming device game also. Their Fire TV Stick is similar to the Chromecast. In fact, it also uses Google’s Android as its operating system! Along with all the usual streaming apps, the big draw of the Fire Stick is the access to Amazon Prime Video, with a selection of on-demand TV and films including original productions like Transparent and The Man In The High Castle, which rivals that of Netflix.
The most recent model of the Fire TV Stick has had its processing speed increased considerably, with unparalleled loading times for its apps and a stronger WiFi connection than ever before. No more time waiting for things to buffer at a crucial moment! Its greatest innovation has to be the inclusion of their voice-operated Alexa search function. The remote that comes with the Fire is good, but when you’re stuffed full of more pine nuts than the turkey, you don’t want to be reaching for it to bring up the post-dinner viewing of A Charlie Brown Christmas.
For the audio/visual tech-head in your life…
Okay, so say you have a little more money to play with. The person you’re buying for is somebody who’s been particularly good this year. Maybe they simply have more exacting standards. Either way, these gift ideas are a step up from the budget fare. This is if you’re looking to drop a little more and, in return, have access to higher-definition video and audio, faster loading times, and more robust streaming experiences.
Roku Ultra: $129.99
Before Google and Amazon began to muscle their way in, the territory of home streaming was the sole preserve of Roku. The trailblazers have come a long way since their box was simply a Netflix device, a key figure in bringing the streaming giant to prominence. The modern day Roku is a brilliant bit of kit — oh, and it’ll be compatible with VIDGO.
Roku offers a number of products, depending on the customer. The $29.99 Roku Express is not unlike the Chromecast or Fire TV Stick. The Roku Premiere is a box that offers a great device that will give you even better sound and video quality, even over a WiFi connection, for under a hundred bucks. For the ultimate streaming experience, you’ll want to go for the Ultra, which offers 4K and HDR picture quality and full access to the companion phone and tablet apps.
Apple TV: $149-$199
Of course, there is one other tech giant which has been noticeable in its absence so far. It would be beyond remiss for us to not mention the Apple TV, which retails at between $149 and $199 depending on whether you want 32 or 64GB of internal storage of downloaded content and apps. For those living in a primarily Mac household, this is the smart option, since it also offers all the “casting” and connective capabilities the Google products have to Android devices.
Besides being compatible with streaming apps like VIDGO, the Apple TV gives you the chance to search through your video library — both purchased and streaming — using Siri’s voice controls, as well as giving access to the App Store library of games. In more recent times Apple has been pushing wireless game controllers for the TV device, modeled after the likes of the Xbox One. That kicks the Apple TV into a higher echelon where it’s not only a device for movies and television streaming. It’s also a decent budget console for all of the family (the young and the young at heart) to enjoy on Christmas morning.
Samsung T32E390SX Smart TV: $350
With that in mind, all of the above is rendered completely redundant if you don’t have actually anything to watch plug these devices into and watch your TV and movies on. You need, well, a television. In fact, with the way things are going, you may not even need to plug a separate device in to start watching streaming video in the first place. Smart TVs often come with the apps and capability built in, with many of them using the same Android operating system of both the Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV Stick.
High definition is something we take for granted now. Heck, you can get that sort of image quality on your average smartphone. You need to have that sort of set up in your house, too. For our money (and possibly yours too), the best Smart TV for those wanting to spend a reasonable amount is the SAMSUNG T32E390SX. With built-in WiFi connectivity, two HDMI connections, Dolby speakers built in and the company’s patented Wide Colour Enhancer, this is the best all-around television for its price in terms of image, sound and streaming quality.
The big ones…
This is the primo product. The cream of the crop. The best of the best. The most expensive, in other words. We’re getting to the point where physical media isn’t necessarily the sole route to the best image and sound quality you want. For the audiophile or, ahem, videophile in your life, this is where you want to be looking. This is where you will find 4K, HDR visuals and the sort of surround sound you’re used to at the cinema. All through streaming video services like VIDGO. We’re living in the future!
PS4 Pro/Xbox One S: $399.99
The flipside of the conveniences streaming offers is you now have a whole host of devices jockeying for a place underneath your television. Your living room could quite easily become a tangle of HDMI wires and power cables. There’s certainly a market for an all-in-one entertainment device that does everything, which is the direction that video game consoles have started heading in. Microsoft and Sony aren’t stupid. Both the Xbox One S and Playstation 4 Pro, announced earlier this year with the release dates perfectly timed for the holiday present market, allow you to watch movies and TV as well as providing cutting-edge graphics and gameplay.
The consoles are both upgrades on the companies’ current choice of consoles. The Xbox adds support for HDR, 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, and 4K streaming video. It’s also about half the size of the original Xbox One, freeing up some prime living room real estate. The PS4 Pro, meanwhile, adds HDR and 4K streaming, but not the Blu-ray. Sony has gone all in with VR this Christmas though if that’s your bag. For around four hundred dollars, you can gift somebody top-of-the-line streaming video, a huge library of existing games and much more. It’s a gift that keeps on giving! Especially when VIDGO launches on both consoles.
LG 55EG960V Curved 4K TV: $1,787
The best in streaming demands the best in something to watch that streaming video on. LG’s OLED 4K TV uses pioneering technology to produce some of the most crystal clear imagery possible at home. OLED means there’s no motion blur when watching action movies or NASCAR races. The 4K resolution has a resolution four times that of regular HD. Naturally, you can enjoy 3D capabilities right out of the box. The smart TV aspect comes in with a proprietary LG webOS that comes pre-loaded with on demand, movies, sport and music services.
That’s all an easy sell, really. What’s new about this LG, and a new trend in high-end televisions in general, is the curved screen. It may seem like a gimmick. In fact, it adds a heck of a lot to the viewing experience, so long as you can afford it. The curved screen allows for greater image depth, immerses you more fully in what you’re watching (since it almost surrounds you, there’s no drifting your attention to the space around the TV), and it might actually be better for your eyes to boot.
If money’s no object…
Now we’re just being silly. If you can afford anything in this section, chances are you’re either a billionaire or you’re the assistant of a billionaire who is being tasked with outfitting your employer’s new home cinema setup. This is the true top-of-the-line home entertainment gear, which most of us can but dream of owning. Nothing wrong with dreaming big!
LG 84LM9600 TV: $20,000
Obviously, for the full home cinema experience, you’d be installing a theater projector, proper screen and some comfortable audience seating in a spacious basement room. The LG 84LM9600 is as close to a cinema you can get without having to do all that pesky building work. With a screen clocking in at 84″ wide, boasting all the streaming and other apps listed above, and with 3D built in, this ultra high-definition LED television is the absolute best product that’s commercially available.
Naturally, that means it’s among the most expensive, retailing for a cool $20,000. In the package, you also get a ten three-way speakers, with built-in settings for watching movies, live sports, television, and video games. Through all the five-star reviews on LG’s website, the only valid criticism of the TV we can find (besides those grousing over the RRP), comes from one happy owner who notes that “getting it up a flight of stairs can be a challenge. The thing is massive.” You get what you pay for!
An actual home cinema: $200,000+
If you have got a neglected rec room that could do with a makeover, you could do worse than going the whole hog and actually build a cinema in your home. Conservative estimates for actually recreating the experience of going to a movie theater — except better, no overpriced food or chattering teens ruining your night out — run between $50,000 and $200,000. That might seem like a steep price (even compared to your average cinema ticket these days), but just look at what dropping that much scratch will get you.
You will start with a 1080p video projector with lenses that will allow for high resolution, anamorphic (super-widescreen) images, on a screen shaped perfectly for an immersive viewing experience. Customizable masking would make sure the screen and projector are always showing things in the correct aspect ratio. Your films and TV shows would be stored in a Blu-ray server that can store hundreds of movies digitally, which would also accommodate 4K streaming. When you do watch things, it will be from comfortable seating, the room acoustically treated for the best sound and insulation. And of course, everything would be motorized, so with a remote control you can open the curtains, scroll through your viewing choices, and generally revel in being the lord or lady of your domain.
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