If you are adding internet or file streaming services to your televisions you should be aware of all of your choices before you make an investment. There are many different offerings out there and today we will take a look at the differences between a device like the Google Chromecast or Roku plugin devices and a Media Player.
The first thing you should decide when looking at a television upgrade is what type of content do you want to display and where do you want to stream the content from.
If you would like to connect your television to the internet so you can play your Netflix videos many of these devices will do that pretty well. It seems that this was the primary reason to design these devices since so many people are moving to Netflix for content.
On the other hand if you want to stream Amazon Prime, Hulu Standard not Paid Hulu Plus or video from content providers like LiveStream that feature live TV then you really have to take a close look at the feature list and how that content is provided.
Whats Required to add Internet to your TV?
You will need a broadband internet service such as provided from your Cable TV company or local Telephone Company. You can not watch this over your cellphone because of the data limits so don’t even think about it even if your media player says it can stream from your phone to the TV.
You will need a WiFi Router if your device does not have a Wired Ethernet port. This means adding WiFi to your network if you don’t have it now.
You will need another way to connect your current Cable TV box to your television if the Internet device only has HDMI with no Pass Through. This means you either lose those options or maybe have to back your HD Cable / Dish back down to Composite 480p.
You will need accounts and monthly bills for any paid service such as NetFlix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime. This can add up to a lot of money. Those three services alone could cost more than a full HD account from Verizon, Dish or your Cable TV provider.
Sharing files from a drive to the rest of the house
One of the biggest drawbacks of the smaller plugin devices is that they do not allow you to stream content from your local hard drives without a lot of quirks and intervention. Chromcast says that they have the ability to stream from your computer if your computer is using google’s Chrome Browser however results are often poor and it also means your computer is being takenover just to display content on your TV.
If you want to display videos from your hard drive that you saved from your camera you often have two options. Setup a Media Server on your computer which will only stream specific types of files or the better option of being able to share a drive or folder on your computer to your network then allow connection to that drive over your wireless network. The ability to share directly from your hard drive as you would to another computer on your network is not available in many devices.
HDMI Pass through
If you have a smaller or older television it is very likely that you only have one HDMI port on your TV. Because the Stick Devices require that you plug it into your HDMI port it means you might have to live without your dvd player, cable TV or Dish or other devices.
HDMI Pass through is the ability to daisy chain your HDMI Devices by providing a in and out connection.
If you need this then it is important that you look for it. Another option is a switching device where you can plug many devices into a box that is then plugged into your television. These switches are pretty expensive and they don’t all work that great. Some require manual intervention to switch to another device and others have remote controls but unless you have one of those multi-device remote controls you can expect dropping another $30 to $50 on one of them for each TV.
Cost Vs Benefit
The expense can get rather high to connect different types of media players to your television. At the minimum you may be looking at an upgrade or adding a wireless router to your network. If you have more than one television you should probably look at buying the fastest WiFi router you can get. You may also need WiFi Repeaters to get signal from floor to floor or into the basement.
If you select a cheaper device that can not play your locally stored media such as content shared from a Blueray drive on your computer or home movies stored on a drive then you have limited yourself to the options provided by the specific device.
Most online content streams provided by these devices are paid services .. well put that another way. Most of the content that you will enjoy watching is paid. You may be able to find a lot of garbage that is free but if you want content that is high quality then expect to pay a lot of money for it.
If you do choose a stick like the Roku or Chromecast then make sure you can live with the selections provided. If you have amazon prime make sure you can get amazon prime free content. If you like hulu on your computer but there is no way you would pay to watch half of that old or poor quality stuff.. then make sure you can get it free and not have to pay another $10 a month.
A lot of people are moving to internet provided content and dropping their cable tv video service.
You should remember that most of these services are paid only if you are using an Android Based or proprietary device.
Media devices with Windows or Linux may be more expensive, harder to manage and setup but in the end may save you hundreds or thousands a year.