Streaming devices for TVs are the perfect solution for today’s modern family that’s always on the run. Between soccer practices, camping trips and school functions, it’s almost impossible for active children to catch their favorite family-friendly shows on TV. Streaming devices, however, allow the entire family to watch TV programs on their own schedule. Not only can kids watch educational shows and cartoons at any time of the day, parents can enjoy adult-oriented channels such as HBO Go after the kids have gone to bed.
What do I need to get started?
In order to use a streaming device, the owner needs to have an HDTV with an HDMI input, a high-speed Internet connection and an available power outlet. In order to watch some channels, such as Netflix and Hulu Plus, the owner also needs a user account that often requires the payment of a monthly fee.
Comparing the most popular streaming devices
The most popular streaming devices are the Amazon Fire TV, the Google Chromecast, the Roku and the Apple TV.
Amazon Fire TV
Amazon is the most recent company to hop on the streaming device bandwagon with their Fire TV. The Fire TV is a $99 box with a remote that includes voice controls. In terms of kid-friendliness, the Fire TV has a feature called Amazon FreeTime, which allows children to create their own profiles and allows parents to implement parental controls. In order to get the full FreeTime experience, which includes subscriptions to Nickelodeon and PBS Kids, however, parents will have to pay a $2.99 monthly fee. The Fire TV also features numerous games controlled through compatible tablets and phones or an optional controller.
The Chromecast is a budget-friendly $35 stick that plugs into your HDTV’s HDMI port. While the Chromecast has the most limited channel options of the four front-running streaming devices, it has games and can “cast” certain Web pages to your TV. It has no physical remote and must be controlled through your phone or tablet.
The Roku has the largest variety of options, including boxes and sticks ranging in price from $49 to $99. It has the most available channels, including the kid-friendly PBS Kids and Disney. It also allows the user to play games; however, the library of games is not as appealing as those of the Fire TV and Chromecast. One excellent feature of the Roku is a remote with optional wireless headphones that allow the viewer to listen to content without bothering others in the room.
The Apple TV is a $99 box that features many channels, including kid-friendly options such as Disney. It has parental controls so that parents can feel at ease. Its “AirPlay” feature allows users with Apple devices to play content from Mac computers, iPads and iPhones on their TV. While the current iteration of the Apple TV does not feature games, some speculate that future versions will.
Streaming Device Comparison Chart
|Price||$49 - $99||$35||$93||$99|
|Video Apps||PBS Kids, Disney Channel, Netflix, YouTube, HBO Go, Amazon Instant, Hulu Plus, Showtime Anytime, Vudu, Vimeo, PBS, Redbox Instant, Time Warner Cable, Slingplayer, and more||Netflix, YouTube, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Vudu, and more||Netflix, YouTube, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Crackle, Vimeo, PBS, Disney Channel, more via AirPlay||Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Instant, Hulu Plus, Showtime Anytime, Crackle, Vimeo, more|
|Box or Stick||Box or Stick||Stick||Box||Box|
|Propriety Apps||N/A||Google Play||iTunes||N/A|
Streaming devices for TV are a no-brainer purchase for today’s busy families. With so many options out there, however, it can be difficult to choose which is the best for one’s needs. Hopefully, the guide above provides some guidance that allows families to choose the device with the optimal balance of feature set and affordability.