You’re in your local (or not so local) electronics store, and there’s a variety of streaming boxes and sticks available for you to pick from. So which one do you pick up and what can they possibly do differently from one another?
There are three main competitors in the TV streaming space; Fire TV, Roku and Apple TV. There are some outliers, like NOW TV boxes, which are just repackaged Roku boxes and lack certain features, and Android TV devices like the Nvidia shield which is aimed towards the enthusiasts and android gaming market. Note: If you already have a games console, they will give you access to all of these services.
Roku gives you the most bang for your buck, its App Store features all the streaming apps that you could want; Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Now TV, as well as all the apps from the major UK broadcasters. Now, Apple TV gives you all these apps too, however, the cheapest Apple TV you can buy is £149.00. Contrast this with what Roku has to offer, with prices starting at £29.99 it becomes apparent that they’re just not in the same league. I don’t think that steep price tag is worth it for the Apple TV. If Apple’s all but confirmed streaming service is, in fact, free for all device owners once it launches, then the Apple TV may become a more reasonable proposal, but currently, I don’t think that’s the case.
Amazon has done a great job of creating an easy to use yet visually stunning interface on their Fire TV devices. When powering on your device by artwork from shows and films from a variety of different sources like Netflix, Mubi and Amazon’s own video service. But, and this is a big but, YouTube is nowhere to be seen. Due to a dispute between Google, YouTube’s parent company, and Amazon, YouTube is absent from Fire devices. You can access YouTube through one of the supplied browsers, but this isn’t an ideal solution. With this major drawback, coupled with NowTV being nowhere to be seen, it diminishes the appeal of the Fire TV.
Roku gives you everything you need. The interface is simplistic, but not to its detriment, all the apps you could want are in a grid shape and easily accessible. Roku is a company that knows what it’s good at; streaming devices. They’re not distracted by creating their own content, or becoming the hub for your home; they stream media to the biggest screen in your house. There are some missteps, like a god ugly Prime video app (which is functional) and the lack of a Spotify app, but these are small issues. The remotes that come with Roku devices have clicky responsive buttons and feature voice controls like all their major competitors (and they’re about to add the google assistant which will only increase the device’s usefulness.) But overall, Roku will get the job done, at a price that is attractive and will get you to the content you want to watch, and isn’t that what a streaming stick is all about?