Making the most of television viewing no longer means watching what programs TV stations are showing now.
Streaming media players give you more to watch than just stations. You can connect to video services such as Netflix, play games or listen to music. You also can use computer software applications and even set up your TV as a second video screen for your computer.
But with all of the choices, you may have questions about which one to get. Each of the three streaming media players has a new model. Each has both strengths and weaknesses. The important thing is to find the one that works best for you.
Features to Look for in a Streaming Media Player
As with buying any tech, you need to balance your desires with your budget. The good news is that media players are available at different prices. So you can decide whether to pay more for the best one for you or save money and buy a different one.
You may own this player for a while, so plan for the future as well as for today. You may not feel you need 4K video now. But you may want it in the future if 4K becomes the industry standard, much as HD is now. If the one you want has a small number of apps, you may want to wait until it gets more apps.
Most of these players come with remote controls. Your relationship with your remote may become important to you if you depend on it to use the player.
Consider how easy the remote is to use, especially in the dark, and whether it offers voice control. What happens if you lose the device? Some players come with apps so you can operate them from your telephone or tablet computer.
If you like to play games, be sure to get a player that offers game apps. Look at which game apps are available and read reviews of those apps.
What to Watch
Think about what you like to watch. If you enjoy watching Netflix, then you can get any player. If you like to watch Amazon videos or iTunes movies, your choices are more limited.
Do you want your streaming media player to do more than play videos on demand? Consider getting one that can use apps.
The new Apple TV has been available for about a month with new features such as voice control and Siri voice assistant. Ask Siri to search for a movie or TV show and you will see where it is available on your apps.
The App Store has Apple TV apps for videos, gaming, travel and more. You can get apps such as Netflix and HBOGo. You can also play games using your Apple TV with the included remote or pair a game controller.
Not many apps are available for the Apple TV yet. But you can expect more apps to come to the App Store in the future.
You can link up your Mac computer, iPhone or iPad to Apple TV so that your television can show the program running on the device.
The remote control has a screen that you touch, plus a few buttons that help you control what you watch.
Apple TV does not currently connect to the Apple Remote app for your iPhone and iPad. You can connect a different remote control so you can still use the Apple TV if you lose the remote.
Apple TV does not run video in 4K.
A feature called What Did They Say? rewinds video 15 seconds and shows words on the screen when you missed what was spoken.
Apple TV is best for those who have other Apple devices, such as Mac computers, iPhones and iPads.
Apple TV is available for $149 for 32 GB, and $199 for 64 GB of storage.
- Voice Control
- Siri Voice Assistant
- Apple Music
- Can connect 3rd party game controllers
- No app for remote control
- Not many apps yet
- No 4K
Read our full review of the Apple TV here.
Amazon Fire TV
Fire TV is a streaming media player from the American company Amazon. Fire TV has voice search, a voice assistant, apps and more.
You can use the Fire TV app as a remote, including the voice feature. Amazon says Fire TV has over 3,000 apps available. They include some apps built for Android phones that do not work ideally on the Fire TV.
The Fire TV comes with a feature called Advanced Streaming and Prediction, or ASAP. This feature recognizes what kinds of movies and shows you like and loads them onto your Fire TV so they are ready for you to watch without waiting.
Fire TV is best for those who like to watch videos from Amazon.
Fire TV is available for $99.99 with 8 GB. A gaming edition is available with a gaming controller and 40 GB of storage for $139.99.
- Voice Assistant
- Amazon videos
- 4K video display
- Remote app, including voice search
- Some available apps are not made for Fire TV
Roku 4 has 4K and a useful feature called Remote Finder. It is a button on the player that makes a sound on the remote control. No more lost remotes!
You can connect your headphones into the remote control and listen to the TV without anyone else hearing the sound.
You can use the Roku app on your phone or tablet to control your Roku.
The Roku 4 offers over 2,500 channels to watch videos. You can use voice search on the remote or Roku app to find your shows.
Although the Roku 4 has a few games and apps, the player is mostly for streaming videos.
The Roku 4 is best for those who want to watch shows, not use apps, on their TV.
Roku 4 is $129.99.
- 4K video display
- Voice search
- Amazon Prime Videos
- 2500+ channels
- Remote app, including voice search
- No voice assistant
- Not many apps
I’m Pete Musto.
Carolyn Nicander Mohr wrote this story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Have you been thinking of getting a streaming media player? Which features are most important to you? Which streaming media player do you like best? Share your thoughts in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page!
Words in This Story
view – v. to see or watch a movie or a TV show
streaming – v. relating to or being the transfer of data as audio or video material in a continuous stream especially for immediate processing or playback.
application – n. a computer program that performs a particular task such as word processing
standard – n. a level of quality, achievement, etc., that is considered acceptable or desirable
remote – n. a small device that is used to operate electronic equipment (such as a television) from a distance by using electronic signals
screen – n. the usually flat part of a television or computer monitor that shows the images or text
4K - n. a minimum resolution of 3,840 pixels wide and 2,160 pixels high
pixel - n. any one of the very small dots that together form the picture on a television screen or computer monitor
HD – n. provides a resolution that is higher than that of standard-definition television
tablet – n. a very thin, portable computer that is usually battery-powered
assistant - n. a person who helps someone
GB – n. gigabyte
gigabyte – n. a unit of computer information equal to 1,073,741,824 bytes
storage – n. space for placing information in computers
pair- v. to put two people or things together
rewind – v. to make a recording go backwards
feature – n. an interesting or important part, quality or ability
button – n. a small part of a machine that you push to make the machine work