I won’t say I’ve tried them all, but I’ve tried more of them than most people. As usual, there is a back story and a lot of history as I am usually an early adopter. Here are my streaming platforms in the order that I purchased/used them and my overall impression. I’ll end with some musings on where all this is going.
Tivo – Pause live TV, rewind, save for later with and season passes.
Tivo was early into the DVR game. I still can’t use my sister’s DVR and I’m a technology nut. Just like Apple made the smart phone smart, Tivo pretty much invented the DVR. I convinced my parents to get one and I upgraded from the SD version to an (HD) XL several years ago and it’s still saving my TV. Granted, I’ve gone from cable to over-the-air and over-the-top using other streaming platforms, but the Tivo was what I used to watch Netflix on my TV starting around 2007 or so. It worked, was mostly HD but the interface was crap. Today my Tivo is saving over-the-air shows that my wife and I like and (up until very recently was) downloading content from Amazon which I had purchased.
- Pros – works with your current TV provider and allows pause/rewind of live content
- Cons – outdated, mine takes 5 minutes to reboot, the interface is clunky
- Exclusives – no Apple or Google content, can download Amazon purchased content (but being phased out)
Slingbox – I even had a Slingbox classic attached to my Tivo SD. I used it while traveling for business in 2006-2007. I would watch shows that my Tivo had recorded in my hotel room. It was streaming media, but not from Netflix, Amazon, or the others.
- Pros – watch your content from home while on the road
- Cons – looks like an ugly metal ingot
Google TV (in my Sony Blu-Ray player) 2010
I think this one may have actually been a Woot purchase. I did have another older Blu-Ray player that was junk so I needed the update. It came with Google TV built in and I was hooked and impressed. In addition to the better streaming options and a browser, it came with a qwerty keyboard (which Apple actually gave the hideous design award for). As the google TV did have an Internet browser, the full keyboard remote made sense. However, using that remote to just watch TV is a pain. Finding the pause/rewind buttons requires finger dexterity and glancing away from your programming and due to the two round buttons on the top left and top right, I often get confused and it takes a while to get back to where you were.
The guts of the Sony Blu-Ray player is Google TV which is an Android platform, but has lots of limitations. Many of the apps available on the Android platform are not available on Google TV (and to make things confusing they show up on the search but you can’t download them).
The Google TV tries to do everything and does some things very will and others it does (just not well). As an example of something it does, just not well, you can watch your Amazon Instant Video content, but you have to watch it via the browser.
- Pros – full browser, full keyboard
- Cons – remote is confusing and ugly
- Exclusives – none, lacking Apple content, can watch Amazon content via browser but not via app
Roku (S1 (refurbished 2013) … upgraded to S3 more recently) 2013
I purchased a Roku S1 from Woot. It was a refurbished and I just wanted to see if it was worth it. It sat next to my Google TV and I used the Google TV and the Roku just sat there sucking down electrons until I went cord free and started purchasing seasons from Amazon (namely The Walking Dead Seasons 4 and 5).
The Roku is highly functional and plays all content that you want (but Apple). It has many apps and there are even some that aren’t published via Roku that you can find instructions for adding on Web sites (such as pirate or adult themes).
The new Roku, I purchased the S3 for a specific reason, has a slick remote with game buttons and headphone jacks. The latter is the reason I purchased the upgrade as our new home is a very open floor plan almost loft style and it’s impossible to watch TV without everyone in the home watching as well. My wife was doing some studying for a very important test, and the headphones allowed that to happen (she also can’t stand zombies).
- Pros – plays all streaming content but Apple; has apps for Netflix, Google, Amazon, and more, gamer remote
- Cons – clunky interface
- Exclusives – none, lacking Apple content
I purchased this for travel and it didn’t work out so well. I wanted something I could throw in my suitcase for hotel watching on TV (vs. the laptop or iPad). However, due to the security that most hotels implement, it was a (small) brick in the suitcase as the Hotel WiFi usually prevents you from setting up the Chromecast as it requires your laptop to converse with your Chromecast to get through the authentication and set it up correctly. It was cheap (I think I paid $35) so nto a huge issue.
It may be more useful for in the home and if you have Android devices (phones or tablets), but I didn’t use it much at all.
- Pros – None, kind of a waste of money
- Cons – Didn’t do what I needed (hotel)
- Exclusives – none, lacking Apple content
Amazon Fire Stick (want to buy it from me?) late 2014
I liked the Fire Stick. It was cheap and played Amazon content and Neflix (and a few others). It has qutie a few apps, but is notably lacking Google content. It also heavily favors Amazon content and if that is most of what you watch it wins on the interface alone. It’s fast and pretty. You can navigate (to your Amazon) content quickly and visually. The most anoying thing was that it kept logging me out of Netflix. I’ve had the Google TV for 4 years and a Roku for 3 and I’ve never had to re-log into Netflix. I had to at least every two or three weeks. I use strong passwords, so this is a PITA. In fact, I started to think that Amazon did this intentionally to steer you to their content. However, there are some thigns that just aren’t available any place but Netflix (Dexter, Netflix originals (House of Cards, Lillyhammer).
- Pros – slick interface, very fast
- Cons – kept logging me out of Netflix, favors Amazon content
- Exclusives – Doesn’t play Google or Apple Content
Apple TV (I want my, I want my, I want my Game of Thrones) 2015
As soon as HBO Now was announced and was indicated that it would be an exclusive on Apple devices (at least initially), I purchased an Apple TV. As it hadn’t seen a hardware update in over 1100 days when I purchased it, I knew it was out-dated but I want my Game of Thrones and I want it in HD on my TV. With that said, Apple has a HW update in the works but it looks like it will be late in the year. It may even come with an Apple TV branded TV line-up (for a fee).
It’s slow, it takes a few seconds to load an app and start streaming while the Fire Stick and the Roku seem almost instant.
- Pros – Plays Apple content, simple remote
- Cons – old hardware (hasn’t seen a hardware update in 1200 days), very slow, limited app availability
- Exclusives – Apple Content and (coming soon) HBO Now, does not play Google or Amazon content
Musings – they all play Netflix, Apple TV has an exclusive on Apple content but does not play Google or Amazon content. So, you will need at least two devices if you want Apple content and either Google or Amazon content. I’ve ended up with the Apple TV and the Roku. The Chromestick hasn’t been connected in months and the Fire Stick was removed as I was out of HDMI jacks on my TV.
I have cut the cord. I have over-the-air TV and stream content. The NYT had a content budget exercise with I completed and I’m spending a lot less than I was before, but that figure is creeping up, I do not believe it will ever reach what I was paying my former cable provider for all the stuff I wasn’t watching anyway. Here are a few others….1, 2, 3, 4
My content (and monthly budget):
- Rdio – $9.99/month
- Netflix – $8.99/month
- Amazon Prime – $99/year (but I have Amazon prime for free shipping as I live rural and will keep it for that alone)
- SlingTV – $20/month (will go up when I purchase the SEC Network during college football season)
- HBO Now – $15/month (coming soon)
- Apple TV package – $??/month (coming soon)
- Apple iTunes – purchased or rented content
- Amazon Instant Video – purchased or rented content