Let’s face it: Cable TV is not a necessity like it used to be. In fact, it is being outdone by set top boxes which offer more bang for the buck: your personal little entertainment system where you could do all that Cable TV had to offer and more. This year, all the big players in the Set Top Box market has something new to offer, and we will take a look at them. This list will fill you in on only those which are the best of the best, and finally come to a verdict of which one outshines them all and deserves your hard earned dollars.
The Google Chromecast series definitely deserves a first mention: primarily because it changed the way we look at Set Top Boxes. Previously an incredibly slick device, the second generation makes the device go through a revision in design. This time, it is a somewhat circular disk attached to an HDMI cable. The Chromecast can be controlled by your PC or mobile devices, and will have to be as it does not come with its own remote. The second generation of the device improves significantly on the first. Videos load much faster on the new Chromecast, the new wireless antenna is nothing short of amazing. The Chromecast app will make sure that the device offers much more functionality than its predecessor. At $35, the price tag is insanely low so it might not be the best Set Top Box you can buy, but definitely the one with the most value for money.
2. Roku 4:
After all, this is a “Best that Money can Buy” list: so the 4k streaming beast that is the Roku 4 will have to come into the equation. If you have a 4k TV, this is likely to be the perfect accessory for you. The comparatively large device comes with a beautiful-looking remote, complete with a headphone jack with which you could listen to the audio in solitude. The remote also has a voice search, and an interesting “finder” function with which you can find it if it ever goes missing within your house. You simply press a button on your Roku 4 and the remote emits an alarm sound to aid you in finding it. Roku’s interface is one of the best we’ve seen, combining a large selection of applications with the simplicity of usage that is unparalleled. The best part about the Roku 4 is that it supports more apps on 4k video than any other set top box. It has apps for Amazon, Netflix, YouTube and Vudu among others. With a price tag of $149, it is a bit on the expensive side but nonetheless a great device for streaming.
Amazon has finally entered the Set Top Box market with an impressive device. A bit bulkier than its competitors, the Amazon Fire TV has a great selection of applications and features to offer. There is a Netflix app, although its not particularly easy to find. The most attractive feature of the Fire Tv is the fact that it is loaded with Amazon originals, exclusives that you won’t find in any other streaming device. The series are nothing to scoff at either, as the exclusive Sublime has already garnered a lot of attention and great reviews from the critics. This is a selling point which without any doubt will influence the future of set top boxes. Moving to the hardware itself: it is more powerful than the average streaming device. It packs 2 GB of ram and also a discrete GPU for casual gaming. Like the Roku 4, it comes with a remote, but this one connects via Bluetooth so that you won’t have to worry about line of sight issues. A Gaming Edition of the Fire TV is available which comes with an Xbox-like gaming controller, but essentially with the same box and specifications. You can also buy the controller separately. Amazon has big plans for its gaming functionality as it announced to form their own gaming development team, as well as garner the support of top developers like Sega, EA and Ubisoft among many others. Its quite clear that it wants to compete against the likes of the Nvidia Shield in this aspect. For a price tag of $79, the Amazon Fire TV is a great buy with amazing functionality and added gaming support.
4. The Nvidia Shield Android TV:
Speaking of Gaming, it doesn’t get much better in a streaming device than the Nvidia Shield. With powerful contents that can rival even some consoles, it packs a vehement punch to all other streaming devices when looked at solely for the purpose of playing games. The Nvidia Shield contains some serious firepower for gaming: a Tegra X1 processor with 256-core Maxwell GPU and comes along with a massive 3 gigabytes of RAM. The Shield has a great and varied selection of games, from AAA titles ported from consoles to casual android games on Google Play. The Nvidia Grid, which is Nvidia’s own game streaming system lets you choose between a wide array of both paid and free to play games. The device comes with a controller which is somewhat identical to previous Shield Tablets that Nvidia made. It feels rock-solid in the hands, and is a pleasure to play with. Moving away from gaming, the powerful components mean that the Shield packs more than enough power for 4k streaming. It Runs on Android TV, which is still missing some of the big streaming services. However, HBO prime and Amazon Now running on the interface and more are likely to follow. When it comes to sheer power, no other streaming device is even close to beating the Nvidia Shield, and the pricing at $199 shows exactly that.
After two long years, Apple has finally updated its streaming device. The 4th generation of Apple TV has everything one needs in a streaming device. It has powerful hardware, with tvOS being as functional as ever. The app range is large: with iTunes, YouTube, Netflix being among the common ones that consumers look for. The remote contains a Siri button, which directly brings your favorite phone companion to the Apple Tv. You can ask Siri to perform a varied amount of tasks from going back 40 seconds in the video to launching a particular app for you. App functionality is crazy, you’ll never run out of applications to run thanks to the gigantic library from the Apple’s app store. The QVC app is the most innovative software that supports the device, you can actually look into more details of a product while watching a QVC tv-channel, as well as buy it instantly with the click of a button. The company has even picked up from the likes of the Nvidia Shield and Amazon Fire TV and decide to include a plethora of games that support the Apple TV. The only drawback of the amazing device is the fact that it does not support 4k, but that can be easily overlooked considering that Apple has perfected the functionality of the streaming device like no other while overlooking the 4k hype. The basic variant comes with the price tag of $149, whereas a 64 Gigabyte storage version is available for $199.
Tell us what you think below. What’s your favorite media streaming device?