The Best of the Year for Media Streaming Devices
If we learned anything in 2016, it’s that the fight for streaming dominance is far from over. Every major player is working tirelessly to create sleeker, more portable, and more capable media streaming devices. With the market so thoroughly saturated, it’s truly difficult for the average consumer to keep up. As this year comes to a much needed close, we compare our top 3 media streaming devices and discuss the future of in-home media consumption.
These devices offer varied capabilities and consequently alter the common understanding of media streaming. On the one hand, they all represent a collective desire to stream content on a television. They bridge the gap between your TV and computer. They are drastically changing the traditional view of the home media space and thoroughly contributing to the slow demise of standard cable TV. On the other hand, there is still a divide between optimizing for SVODs and optimizing for owned or downloaded content. Regardless, the producers of in-home media consumption tools are focusing less on how to curate the best channels and more on how to offer maximum consumer control and on-demand satisfaction. Media streaming devices provide a relatively inexpensive means for creating a smarter home theater environment.
3. Amazon Fire Stick
Amazon has quickly become one of the most recognized names in the media streaming industry. They compete with the likes of Netflix and Hulu to dominate media consumption at the level of a content provider. Unlike other software based streaming services, Amazon has also successfully broken into realm of media streaming devices. Their competitively priced and hugely popular media streaming hardware and software make Amazon a particularly troublesome industry competitor. Still, their products are not at all free from flaws.
The Amazon Fire Stick is small, portable, and easy to setup. It includes an HDMI dongle (similar to Chromecast) and a separate Alexa-enabled remote. The remote allows users to voice control their television like they would with Amazon’s Echo or iPhone’s Siri. While not completely necessary, Alexa can certainly minimize the time it takes to type content titles into those particularly annoying search bars.
Unfortunately, the Fire Stick lacks 4K and HDR compatibility. It also doesn’t provide a very good interface for viewing your own content. Sure, the 8GB of internal storage allows users to stream a limited amount of personal content. However, the Fire Stick is primarily meant for consumers who desire to see Netflix or Amazon Prime on their big screens.
Overall, the $40 price tag and Alexa-integration make Amazon’s Fire Stick one of our favorite media streaming devices of 2016.
2. Roku Streaming Stick
Roku was an early leader of the cable cutting revolution. It demonstrated to consumers en masse that they could control the content on their TVs. Roku continues to provide quality media streaming devices at affordable prices, and their most recent Streaming Stick is no exception. Sticking with the HDMI dongle-based hardware trend initiated by Chromecast, the Streaming Stick is highly portable and easy to setup.
Roku’s $40 Streaming Stick is almost exactly the same as Amazon’s Fire Stick, except it doesn’t have built-in voice control with Alexa. So why did we place it higher on our list? Mainly because of Roku’s mobile companion app. The Roku app enables users to search for titles with their voice (similar to Alexa) and to plug headphones into their mobile device for a private listening experience. When you couple that with Roku’s more enjoyable user interface, it makes perfect sense that we would place it as number 2 on our list.
Still, Roku lacks 4K and HDR compatibility, and doesn’t contain any internal storage capacity. Like the Amazon Fire Stick, Roku’s Streaming Stick is designed for SVOD (subscription video on-demand) users and fails to provide a reliable interface for watching downloaded or private content.
1. Chromecast Ultra
Google’s very first Chromecast release was slightly underwhelming. Essentially a glorified wireless HDMI hookup, the original Chromecast left plenty to be desired. Since then, Google has seriously upped their game and they have 2016’s Chromecast Ultra to show for it.
The Chromecast Ultra is lightning fast, highly versatile, and is compatible with 4K and HDR content. It turns any device that you’re using into the remote, providing an optimized user experience for every situation. Given the nature of Chromecast’s media streaming, it’s difficult to directly compare it to the others on our list. Instead of streaming media solely through Internet-based apps, the Chromecast Ultra wirelessly connects your computer or mobile device to your TV with ease and efficiency. This is exactly why we love it so much…
Using Chromecast Ultra with younity
With Chromecast Ultra and younity combined, you can turn any TV into your personal media theater. The younity app organizes all of your content stored on all of your devices. It provides a single interface for viewing every file that you own, regardless of what device it is on.
younity works by scanning your computer’s hard drive and “serving” your files to your other devices. As a media server app, younity creates a private network between all of your devices and presents your files in a neat and orderly fashion.There is no limit to the amount of devices and the number of files that younity can unify for you. You can access, stream, download, or share any file that you own, from any of your devices. And, with Chromecast Ultra, it only takes a few clicks to start casting your content onto your big screen TV.
Chromecast Ultra and younity are a match made in heaven. Pairing the two provides you with the unfettered control over how you enjoy your media. You can move effortlessly from device to device, without ever having to worry about where your content is stored. And, whenever you’d like, you can use Chromecast to enjoy your content on your TV. The future of home media includes ultimate control and seamless device interactions. Using younity and Chromecast turns that future into a present reality.
Click here to learn more about younity.