You're tech-savvy, it's likely you prefer watching your favourite movies and television shows on demand, via the internet, rather than waiting around for them to play on broadcast television. They all allow you to pick and choose what you want to watch and when - no more sitting through advert breaks or Shortland Street reruns to get to the program you want!
With services like Netflix, Lightbox, NEON & TVNZ OnDemand now having been available for several years, the technology that goes with them has improved also. Gone are the days when you would hook up your computer or laptop to the television with an HDMI cable, now tapping into all this wonderful stuff is built into a range of Smart TVs, and in some cases, our phones have become our remote controls.
Now, other video-themed websites such as YouTube allow us to access both pre-recorded content and live video streams at the click of a button, offering a much greater variety than would ever be available on mainstream TV.
Convenience is key here, and with the options below you can bring the world wide web straight to your television. Here's a quick guide to the best media streaming devices currently available today.
Smart Features Built-In
The easiest way is usually the fastest, and in the case of streaming TV Shows and Movies, it's as easy as installing the APP you want onto the TV itself.
The process is pretty much identical to getting an APP for your phone, many of the most popular ones are pre-loaded and if you want something new simply find it in the TV APP Store and click "open", it will install itself onto the TV so you can log in and start watching what you want.
App ready TV options are available from Philips, Samsung, LG and Sony to name the big ones, but the APPS available for each sometimes varies a bit - so if you want a real smart TV, these Smart TV will work with Google Assistant.
Apple TV, perhaps the best-known tool for streaming your favourite online content onto your television.
This little black box is designed to integrate seamlessly with the iTunes Music and iTunes Movies services, but also works perfectly with YouTube, Vevo, Vimeo, and a number of sporting channels like MLB.TV, UFC.TV and NHL GameCenter.
One of Apple TV's biggest selling points is that it can play media from your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch using AirPlay Mirroring. This makes it one of the best tools for accessing content that you have previously downloaded or made yourself, however, you'll struggle to unlock the device's full potential without an Apple device.
Apple TV's biggest competitor in New Zealand today is the Google 4K Chromecast. Smaller and lighter than Apple TV, the Chromecast looks like a simple USB that just needs to be plugged into your TV and a nearby power source. From there, it can be used to stream a number of apps as well as content straight from the Chrome web browser.
Chromecast also offers screen sharing functionality, allowing you to stream whatever is on your computer screen straight onto your television. However, this feature is still a little experimental and one that tends to lag a little bit, making it not ideal for video. As streaming technology has developed, the latest Chromecast comes with built-in Google TV! This means you'll be able to take your older non-smart TVs and utilise all the latest streaming apps and media.
Xiaomi TV Stick and Box S
Xiaomi has two streaming options, both of which are massively popular. Both of these Xiaomi devices have built-in Chromecast, support for Dolby and DTS surround sound, feature Google Assistant, and come with an easy-to-use remote. They're also both capable of making Bluetooth connections, which allows you to, for example, set up a Bluetooth keyboard so you don't have to go through the pain of logging in with a remote control. Android TV powers both devices, giving you access to the Google Play Store so you can download you're favourite streaming and gaming apps.
The Xiaomi TV Stick is a great option for any use case but really shines for those travelling. WHile the Stick only runs at 1080p, all you need to do is plug it into an available HDMI port and you're streaming. Weighing in at just 30g, you can easily pocket this while moving between hotels or AirBNBs, forget about cables, plug the stick into any TV, monitor or projector with an HDMI port to turn it into a smart TV!
If you're after something more permanent, that is capable of 4K, the Xiaomi TV Box S is for you! This device is a great option to stick in behind the living room TV. The Bluetooth connectivity means you can have a wireless keyboard, mouse, or even a controller plugged in to enhance how you experience your content. The TV Box S features the latest 4K HDR technology and high-speed 4K processing for up to 60fps playback. Enjoy an ultra high-definition, lifelike viewing experience.
DishTV SmartVu and SmartVu+
Turn any TV into a smart TV with either of DishTV's options. With SmartVu and SmartVu+ you'll be enjoying your content in 4K Ultra HD with built-in HDR. Android TV powers both of these devices, allowing you to download your favourite apps from the Google Play store.
Chromecast is built-in, so you'll be able to send any supported content from your phone to display directly on your TV. There is also support for Voice Search if you're not feeling like using the great remotes! Here is where we get to the key difference that separates these devices from the other streaming options, Freeview support. The SmartVu can only handle NZ Freeview Live, while the larger SmartVu+ is a Freeview Certified Receiver. This means it is compatible with a UHF Aerial or satellite dish. This option is great for those with slightly temperamental internet!
Steam Link and More Options
There is also something quite wonderful for those in the world on PC Gaming right now, an App called STEAM LINK works wonderfully on a host of major devices and platforms! This technology allows you to stream games via your home network, from your Gaming PC to your TV! The PC itself is still running the game so it's not about having the fastest, most powerful TV available, but instead, the quality here falls largely on how good your internal network is.
It's now possible to stream games with the Android and iOS APP version of Steam Link.
Which one is right for you will depend on personal preference. If you're really stuck, look to your smartphone - iPhone users will probably get the smoothest experience using the Apple TV, while the rest of you may enjoy the Chromecast more.
We'll continue testing more great streaming options out, keep your eyes on this article for most of the latest and best! In the meantime, check out the full range of streaming media at PB Tech!