Smart TVs have enjoyed a turbulent few years. The initial iterations of these devices had clunky user interfaces that weren’t helped by having to use a standard TV remote, they tended to be incredibly slow when searching for or even playing content, and they had limited apps and channels available. While the situation has improved, greatly in some cases, not everybody is ready to fork out for a new TV just so that they can binge view the first series of Game of Thrones without having to plug their laptop into the TV.
Fortunately, streaming media players are inexpensive and convenient devices that plug into your existing TV and offer similar functions. While they’re certainly not without faults of their own, they do offer a viable means of bridging the gap between a poor quality Smart TV and a modern one, and they are especially ideal if your TV does not have any Smart functionality whatsoever.
There are, in essence, a number of different types of Internet TV. Some people may think of sites like YouTube and DailyMotion, primarily offering user generated clips, but the Internet has much more to offer the TV and movie viewer than this. Subscription services like Netflix and Amazon Instant offer inexpensive monthly packages and provide access to extensive libraries of content, while many channels from the BBC to HBO offer a catch up service, although not all of them are free.
Your Viewing Options
For the most part, people rely on the use of their laptop or computer to watch this content, although it is possible to watch on Smart TVs, through games consoles, and even on mobile devices. Most of these methods do have their problems, however, and it tends to mean that the user has to make do, rather than really enjoy the content that they want.
- Smart TV – The Smart TV should be the obvious and natural choice. The TVs in our living rooms are the largest screens most of us have, they offer the greatest picture quality, and they also provide good quality audio. However, not all TVs offer Smart TV functions, while older ones can be slow and unresponsive. Buying a new Smart TV just to enjoy your monthly Netflix subscription may be too pricey to make it a viable option.
- Games Consoles – The makes of the latest generation of consoles tried to sell their devices as multimedia consoles, and both Sony and Microsoft have launched TV options of sorts. However, not all apps or channels are available and the games console still remains the primary domain of gamers, rather than media viewers.
- Computers And Laptops – Computers and laptops have the distinct advantage that most households already have at least one, the majority of people are comfortable using them, and they are already connected to the Internet. Laptops are mobile, to some extent, while desktop monitors offer a better viewing experience. You can even connect your laptop or computer to your TV to watch on a bigger screen. This is a good option as long as you don’t mind watching on a smaller screen, trailing wires from laptop to TV while sacrificing two devices to watch Internet TV, or you don’t mind sitting at the computer chair to relax and watch.
- Mobile Devices – Mobile devices are, obviously, the most portable option, but both cell phone and tablet have only a very small screen even when compared to a desktop monitor. To get really good quality display, you need to pay a sizeable amount, while good quality audio means plugging into speakers or headphones. Mobile devices really only have the advantage of convenience.
Benefits Of Streaming Media Players
This leaves streaming media players like the Roku and Apple TV. They are designed for the very purpose of enabling users to watch Internet TV through almost any TV in the house, and they have improved in the range of devices that are available as well as the quality that they provide.
- Cheap – These devices are available for less than the cost of a single Blu Ray or DVD. They are infinitely less expensive than buying a new TV, a games console, or mobile device, although those with more advanced features do cost a little more.
- Unobtrusive – Streaming sticks are dongle-like in their design, plug into the HDMI cable, and are hardly visible. Even the set top boxes, which tend to be hockey puck shaped in design, are only marginally bigger than the control that operates them. Their size means that even though they may require an HDMI cable, you shouldn’t have any problem connecting without having a mass of wires across the room.
- Apps And Channels – If you watch many different channels and content from a wide range of apps, then the Roku is probably your best option. They do not offer their own content, which means that they can operate independently. You can enjoy access to streaming services, on-demand, and catch-up services from all of the major suppliers, as well as a huge number of independent suppliers.
- Additional Features – Again, the Roku is the device of choice if you want additional features. You can play motion games, use voice search, and use Universal Search and Watchlist features – although these latter features do need some serious improvement before they can be considered a major selling point.
Pitfalls Of Streaming Media Players
Unfortunately, though, not everything is perfect with streaming media players, and there are some downfalls when choosing these devices.
- Disparate Search – While your subscription and even free view packages enable you to look through the content that is currently on, and even search for on-demand content from a host of providers, this remains a challenge that even the Roku has failed to properly meet. They do offer Universal Search, but it currently only takes results from a limited number of providers, and this really needs to improve before the streaming media player becomes mainstream and popular.
- No Live TV – Although many of us now consume media as and when we want, either by recording it or by using catch up services, there is still a lot to be said for watching the latest episode of Game of Thrones as soon as it airs. Although some channels and apps do offer access to Live TV, the streaming and buffering quality can be below par, while not all apps offer this, and there is no planner that enables you to see what is on every channel at the moment.
There is no doubting that streaming media players, including the latest Roku models, have their problems. However, they are generally the better option when compared to forking out for a new TV, making do with a mobile device, or connecting your laptop to your home TV. This is, at least partially, down to the extremely small price tag attached to them but also thanks to the extensive list of channels and apps that the Roku has to offer.
Visit BestMediaPlayers.com for more information on the latest media streamers, streaming media sticks, and the content and channels that are available on these inexpensive and handy devices.