Think back to just last month when Winter Storm Jonas wreaked havoc on the East Coast. Sure, all that fresh snow was fun at first, but after the initial snowball fight and first shoveling out of the driveway, most of us were already beyond over it. But if you were caught up in the madness of “Snowzilla 2016” and the feet upon feet of snow it left in its wake, then you’re well aware of how much the “winter wonderland” wasn’t done with you.
So, rather than just shivering to stay warm and constantly hanging your clothes out on the line inside to dry, you could have hunkered down with a huge, hot cup of apple cider; grabbed your remote; and started watching every movie and TV show you ever desired— slowly transforming yourself into the most media-savvy snow hermit known to man. But if your stream of TV froze over because you weren’t prepared for the long haul, and thus ran out of DVDs, then we’ve gathered some of the top TV and movie streaming devices currently out on the market – so you won’t be caught out in the cold next time a blizzard rolls into town.
Stream On – Stream Until the Dream Comes True
When you’re going to spend this much time with any one person or thing, it’s good to do your research first. And as the market goes, there is a number of streaming competitors all vying to make a connection with your TV (and for your undying attention as well). However, like lovers, each device is a little different – each with its own eccentricities – so be sure to get to know each of them before picking one to take home and meet the family.
#1) The Slingbox 500
As the first device to pioneer the “TV anywhere” idea – letting you watch 100% of your live channels (in up to 1080p HD resolution) anywhere at all on any internet-connected device (that’s Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G, or LTE), the Slingbox 500 is absolutely worth getting to know.
Let’s say you start watching a movie but want to move to another room in the house. Well, this suave little device lets you take it along on your PC, Mac, smartphone, or tablet – making for a seamless viewing experience no matter how far you roam in your fuzzy house slippers. Without charging any extra monthly fees, the Slingbox 500 beams on over (or shares via HDMI port) your regular broadcast and major networks, as well as your paid premium channels, keeping them all still available both inside and outside of the home. In fact, there are no location restrictions whatsoever, meaning you can take your shows with you all across the world.
And if you want to push all your TV channels to another big screen in the house, you can pair it with a number of streaming devices like the two detailed below, enjoying the Slingbox’s on-screen TV Gallery interface to make for an even easier program-discovery experience.
#2) Amazon Fire TV
You’ve undoubtedly already used Amazon.com before to find, purchase, and ship a gift last minute. But with the Amazon Five TV streaming device, you can now get that same caliber of service for your TV as well. The all-new edition supports 4K Ultra HD video for true-to-life picture quality, but even without a 4K TV, you can still watch high-definition 1080p streams of Amazon Video, Netflix, Hulu, Vevo, YouTube and more. And when combined with the Amazon Alexa app, you can use your Fire TV Voice Remote (which has a superb voice recognition system) to instantly find out sports scores, check the weather, play music, and more.
This new iteration of the device has 75% more processing power than the previous generation, as well as better Wi-Fi support, a dedicated graphics engine, and 2 GB of memory. And if that’s not enough, there’s a slot ready for an optional microSD card of up to 128 GB to expand your storage. And you can use all that extra space to download over 800 games – the most of any other streaming media player – including such hits as Minecraft, Lego Star Wars, and Pac-Man 256.
While you can take it with you when you go – just plug and play on with an HDMI or USB port – the Amazon Fire TV’s one big low point is its lack of universal search across all the apps that can be integrated with the device. However, with the Amazon ASAP system (Advanced Streaming and Prediction), the Fire TV learns your viewing habits, anticipates what movies and TV you’ll want to watch, and then begins caching the video so that it begins without buffering whenever the title is selected. In an all-out race for set-top streamer supremacy, The Amazon Fire TV runs neck and neck with the clunkier Roku family of streaming devices.
And all of this gets even better with an Amazon Prime account, as you can access Prime Video, Prime Music and Prime Playlists, as well as photos stored for free in the Amazon Cloud Drive quickly and easily from the Amazon Fire TV.
#3) The Tivo Stream
Standing in at about the same size of the Apple TV, this little box of wonder streams downloaded recordings from your TiVo Premiere DVR device (which is required) to as many as 4 iOS devices through your local network. For the sake of simplicity (just like its user interface), rather than a bevy of unnecessary of inputs and outputs, this little guy has a wired network jack and a power port in the back – and that’s it. There’s no built-in Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, nor any HDMI or USB ports, and this is completely intentional.
The TiVo Stream works by hooking into your normal DVR device and enhancing it even further. The device operates best when used as a streamer – beaming out something you’ve already downloaded ahead of time – but you can also use it to transfer shows for on-the-go viewing. The download feature is especially necessary, as the TiVo Stream will only work with devices connected to your home network – meaning it doesn’t completely replace something like the Slingbox (mentioned above). Downloading a show beforehand, instead of streaming it on the fly, also means the controls are much more responsive, though the downside is that you can’t resume on the TV where you left off on the iPad.
Overall, the Tivo Stream really only streams recordings, as its name suggests, so selecting “Watch on iPad” while browsing the guide is tantamount to starting a recording in that moment. And as a result, this means you should expect about an 8 second lag before it starts the show, and for the next episode to not begin playing automatically if you’ve selected a series to watch. But these really are minor inconveniences for such a great device.
So as you’re beginning to curl up for the long-haul indoors of avoiding the blizzard outside, remember that the right device can make all the difference. Therefore, take the time to find the TV streamer that fits your needs and allows you to get back to the things that matter most – staying warm and entertained all winter long.