A local resident recently sent an email to the community email list asking for advice on what options are available for streaming TV.
As a user of streaming services through my TV and an avid listener of technology podcasts I was in a position to respond and offer some advice.
I thought it would be a good subject for a blog. So below I have listed some of the more popular and well known options.
There has never been a better time to take advantage of the latest technology which is incredibly cheap and easy to set up. The latest really cool devices come in at only £10. And with streaming content providers like NetFlix I am hearing of more and more people ditching their Sky or Virgin Media accounts altogether as the streaming TV gives them everything they need. Netflix has an awesome catalogue of Children’s content so if you have a satellite or cable account just for the kids, then this is a seriously viable and much cheaper option. A Netflix subscription is only £5.99 per month.
I am the owner of Apple TV. I have had it for about 7 months and love it. In my view, of all the options out there, this is the best one. The only three draw backs as I see them are:
- You are tied to the Apple eco system. So if you buy movies or music in iTunes, then you can only view/listen to that content on an Apple device such as Apple TV, iPad, iPhone or iTouch or through iTunes on a PC or Mac.
- Then there is the cost. Any Apple product is more expensive than the competition. The cost of Apple TV is £99 which I think is very good value for money considering what it does. But it is still 10x more expensive than the cheapest available option
- No real chance of ever getting Spotify as a baked in service as it directly competes with iTunes. However, with iTunes Radio on the horizon this is not at all a deal breaker. In fact I may even be tempted to ditch my Spotify account when this is released in the UK which I predict/hope will be in September/October 2013 with the release of iOS7.
For your Apple TV to work you will need an iTunes account, but if you are a current Apple device owner you should already have one of these and if not you can sign up for an account through Apple TV set up.
Of course if you already have an iTunes account and have purchased movies, TV shows or music then you can watch/listen to all of these through your Apple TV. It also supports multiple users which as far as I am aware no other Apple device offers this. So if you have several members of your household all with their own iTunes accounts, you can easily change the user so they can have their own content streaming to through Apple TV.
Apple are updating Apple TV so I expect it to have more cool features soon. But it has NetFlix baked in so its just a matter of putting in your username and password and away you go. If you dont have a NetFlix account you can sign up for one through the Apple TV and get a free month no strings attached trial while your at it.
There are other really cool features that come as standard with Apple TV. I love that I can watch Youtube & Vimeo videos on my TV and also have access to literally billions of video and audio only podcasts that I can stream directly into any room in the house with a TV.
The other benefit of Apple TV, if you own an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch is the AirPlay feature which allows you to stream or mirror content on your Apple device onto the TV screen. This is very cool when I am on Skype to my family in Spain as everyone in our living room can see them on the TV screen. Its like having them in the room. There are also some great games available that utilise airplay really well and allow you to use an iPad or iPhone as the game controller. One of my favourites is Storm Raiders which is optimised for AirPlay and is very cool.
You can also use an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch as a remote control.
One of the latest apps to hit Apple TV is Sky News. This allows you to watch Sky News even if you are not a Sky subscriber. Sky News is the only channel on Sky I really watch a lot. If it were not for my Wife & Daughters viewing habits, with this latest App, I would do away with Sky altogether.
There are too many benefits and features of Apple TV to mention here. But I can say hand on heart I am not at all disappointed with my Apple TV.
Here is a great video review of Apple TV – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKUbmlC7Yeo
This is the direct competition to Apple TV. It more or less does everything the Apple TV does, but I think the games available for apple devices to stream through Apple TV are better and if you are already hooked into the Apple Eco System it makes sense to pay the extra to own the slightly better device. The UI is not as attractive as Apple TV in my view.
The latest Roku device is only £50 and works in more or less the same way as the Apple TV. Again all you need is a TV with a HDMI port and a router. The Remote control is better than the Apple TV in my view. Mainly because the Apple TV remote is so small and slim, I keep loosening it down the side of the Sofa.
If you are not tied into the Apple eco system then I think it makes complete sense to go with a Roku over the Apple TV. I get asked a lot Apple TV or RoKu. If you want this questions answering then watch this cnet Prize Fight episode.
Here is a good review on the Roku – http://www.wired.co.uk/reviews/tvs-and-home-cinema/2012-02/roku-2-xs
This is the latest streaming media device to hit the market. It literally has only just come out. It is exceptional value for money too. Currently only available in the USA for $35 (about £23) but I predict it will be released in the UK in the next couple of weeks.
In my view this device is the only real competition to Apple TV at the moment. I still think the Apple TV is better having read and watched several reviews on the Chromecast but it’s the perfect impulse buy at the price point. There is an App for Apple devices that will work with the Chromecast so there is no real reason not to go for this option.
At the moment, there are only a couple of apps that support Chromecast, but Google have indicated it is working hard with its 3rd party developers to bring out some killer apps which will make it irresistible. Spotify is high on my wish list and I am willing to bet will become baked into the Chromecast as it matures.
With the Chrome browser support it is possible to utilise any cloud based service that can be viewed on a Chrome browser so it is possible to get Spotify on your TV with Chromecast but achieving that might involve a little more faff and I am not convinced the quality wont be compromised.
One other thing I really love about the Chromecast is that it can be powered by USB, which means if you have a TV with a USB port, you can use that to power the device so less power wires to be bothered about.
Google can’t be making any money on this device and if it is then it can only be pence. Advertising is Google’s business model where hardware is Apples. Therefore, the cynic in me makes me think that Google will serve up AdWords based on your streaming habits. I just hope that it does not find its way in or beside any of the streamed content.
Ill be buying one of these as a streaming device for our bedroom.
This is a good report from BBC on Chromecast – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23514400
Sky has launched a set-top box for its Now TV service. The set top device is actually a re-branded Roku box and works in exactly the same way although the services that come baked in are different and more aligned to Skys own services.
At the moment there is only iPlayer, Demand 5, Sky News and BBC News. 4OD, ITV Player, Netflix & LoveFilm are likely to be added with future firmware updates.
Included is a free thirty-day pass for Sky Movies. When that expires users will have to pay £8.99 pm and commit to a three-month contract for a film pass, and sports fans I think £9.99 for a day’s access to Sky Sports is not a bad way to consume sports content without the commitment you currently have to give with Sky satellite services when you might only want to watch the big games every now and again.
I also like that you can log into Spotify and Facebook accounts to stream music and photos.
At only £10 for the device, I think this is actually something seriously worth considering and by far the best value for money of all the technology out there right now.
Had blockbuster video done this 18 months ago, it might not have gone boobs up so spectacularly.
Sky are manoeuvring into the streaming market space with the release of a Sky HD satellite set top box that has WiFi and streaming capability so if your due to upgrade this might be a viable option too although you will need a Sky subscription with this which is quite expensive. I have no idea when it will be available at this point but I doubt you will have to wait long.
The only other equipment you will need in order for any of the devices mentioned to work:
- WiFi router, which most people with internet already have
- HD ready TV with a HDMI port
In my view, Apple TV is the best product on the market at the moment. However, the relatively low cost of these streaming devices means you can own every device I have mentioned in this blog and have the best of all worlds.
The only other thing anyone thinking of adopting this technology should consider is their current broadband package. If you want to consume a lot of streaming media then it will seriously bite into your data usage allowance and you could very easily find yourself having to pay extra for broadband if you go over your package limit.
I have an unlimited data package with BT so its not an issue for me, but it is something you should give some careful thought too.
You can buy Apple TV & RoKu right now in Camberley Town Centre which is why I have assigned this blog to the #LoveCamberley category.