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Streaming your way to a great movie experience

May 31st, 2017 | Leave a comment

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Home Theater Lifestyle WiFi and Networking

For those of you familiar with streaming TV and movie content, we’d like to take it up a notch and discuss the different ways to stream. All streaming devices function in a similar manner – they connect to or through your TV and once connected to your home Wi-Fi, they can stream an assortment of content, both paid and unpaid.

There are many ways to stream content to your TV, including set-top boxes, compact streaming sticks and gaming consoles. In this post, we’ll discuss the following streaming devices: Roku®, Apple TV®, Amazon’s Fire TV Stick, and Google Chromecast.

Roku
Roku has three types of devices available for streaming content: Roku streaming player, Roku Streaming stick and Roku TV™. The streaming player connects to your TV with an HDMI cable. You must then connect it to your home wireless network, and create a Roku account. You are then ready to stream! The Streaming Stick plugs directly into an HDMI port.  You then connect to your Wi-Fi network and create an account. And Roku TV is a TV with the Roku platform already built in; no streaming player or stick required. You’ll need to connect your TV to your home network, and create a Roku account.

Roku provides access to over 3,500 free or paid channels, offering more than 350,000 movies and TV episodes. Content choices include full libraries of seasons and series, over 140 sports channels, music, live news and weather, international offerings, hundreds of free channels of TV, and an abundance of children’s content. So, while you have to pay for certain services (Netflix, Hulu, and others) to watch their specific content, there is a huge variety of free content available.

Roku also offers a mobile app for use with your phone or table. Using the app, you can search using your voice, browse and add channels from the Channel Store, send content to your TV and more. And you can send music, photos and videos right from your phone or table to your TV!

Apple TV
For the Apple fans out there, there’s Apple TV. This device also connects to your TV via an HDMI port, and once that’s done, you’ll have to connect the device to your home Wi-Fi network, and then set up a new (or use an existing) iTunes account to use it.

Apple offers more than 1,600 apps for viewing video (news, TV, sports, social media), with a TV app that functions as mission control. It’s the starting point for Apple TV, but it also consolidates everything you are watching from the different apps you use. And—get this—you can get recommendations, find upcoming shows and watch content right from the app. It works on all apple devices—iPad, iPhone, TV. You can even control your TV from your iPhone®, iPad® or iPod Touch® by downloading the Apple TV Remote app!

We can’t mention Apple TV without giving props to Siri. This is where Siri shines. Tell Siri “I want to watch the next episode of House of Cards” and you’ll get taken right there. You can also be less specific and say “I want to watch a ‘90s comedy” and Siri will give you options instantly.

As we said before, there is a large variety of free content available for viewing through Apple TV, but many channels such as Netflix and PlayStation Vue require monthly fees.

Apple TV is also much more than just streamed content. You can stream content from your iPhone or iPad to your TV. Photos and videos from your iCloud Photo Library can be viewed on your big screen. You can stream games too. For a monthly fee you can subscribe to Apple Music and play your entire music collection, view music videos, concert films and more. Apple TV offers a large selection of streaming options.

Amazon’s Fire TV Stick
Amazon’s Fire TV Stick is a flash-drive sized device that plug into one of your TV’s HDMI ports. Once connected, it allows your TV to connect to Wi-Fi. You can then stream content from sites such as Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go and much more. The Fire TV Stick is like Roku, Apple TV and Google Chromecast—all of which serve essentially the same purpose, which is to connect your TV to the internet.

There is however, one difference. Fire TV Stick includes an actual remote that now also works with Alexa, Amazon’s virtual personal assistant. So now, in addition to streaming all kinds of content onto your TV, you can ask Alexa to “Play Game of Thrones” or “launch Netflix.” Pretty cool!

According to Amazon.com, you can launch and control content with the Alexa Voice Remote. There’s a wide range of things you can do including play music, find movie show times, order a pizza and more. With additional subscriptions to certain services, you can also watch live TV and sports, as well as movies and TV shows. For Amazon Prime members, included is unlimited access to Prime Video, featuring movies and TV episodes at no extra cost. Prime members can also add premium and specialty channels (like HBO and Showtime), with no cable subscription necessary. And you can bring your favorite shows and movies with you—plug the Fire TV Stick into any TV’s HDMI port, connect to Wi-Fi and keep watching!

Google Chromecast
Google Chromecast is a small device that plugs into an HDMI port on your TV. After connecting Chromecast to your home Wi-Fi network, you use a smart device (iPhone, iPad, Android phone/tablet, Mac® and Windows® laptops, Chromebook) as your remote control to stream (or ‘cast’) services right to your TV.

Chromecast offers its own set of unique features that make it appealing. By using a device you regularly use (your iPhone, for example), there is essentially no learning curve. It works with multiple users simultaneously—family members can use their own phones to control the TV. You can search for other content (on your smart device) without disrupting what you’re already watching on TV. With other devices, searching takes place on the TV screen. Chromecast is voice-enabled as well. You can control the TV from anywhere within your Wi-Fi network. You can find a show on your iPad and stream it to the kids’ playroom TV, even if you’re in another room. And, even though you’re using your phone to stream, you can still surf online or make a phone call without interrupting what’ s playing on TV.

Chromecast is another attractive option for streaming content while using your smart device as the remote control.

Another option-beware the gray area
But. What if you want more? More movies, more content. You know, like a streaming junkie? Here’s Kodi. Kodi is a free, open source software media center, geared toward the more technical users out there. With Kodi, you can play TV, movies and view photos and more on various devices. Typically, Kodi is installed on a supported device or computer that is connected to a TV. Groundedreason.com posted a detailed account of how Kodi works, from which we are sharing some information.

Kodi can be used on several different devices. The most common (and easiest) ones are Amazon’s Fire TV Stick, and an Android smartphone, or an old desktop or laptop computer (located next to your TV). An official install of Kodi is completely legal. The area that gets gray very quickly involves various video “addons” that are created by members of the Kodi open source community. Kodi users can often unknowingly install piracy addons and watch movies currently in theaters along with other content that is not. IDS does not condone, not encourage users to download addons that offer illegal content.

You’ve now got background info on the more common streaming devices. Decide which is for you and start streaming today! You’ll be amazed—and probably a bit sleep deprived—once you get started and see how much content there is to be enjoyed!

If streaming is your thing, having a robust home Wi-Fi network or having TVs hardwired to your router is a must. Need our help? Contact IDS at 516-625-6060 or by email at scott@idsaudiovideo.com.

Sources: roku.com, apple.com, amazon.com, google.com, groundedreason.com

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