WHAT’S ON THE BOX?
ANYTHING YOU WANT, WITH NEXT-GEN MEDIA STREAMERS CASTING THE NET WIDER THAN EVER.
1 Amazon Fire TV with 4K Ultra HD
This is a fast device with over 3000 apps, and unlike the others can handle 4K (or ultra HD) content. We just had a couple of gripes: the voice search function prioritises results from Amazon and we were never able to successfully cast a Youtube video from our handset to the screen. Also, why do they not supply an HDMI cable? $142; amazon.com
WIN: 4K STREAMING. FAIL: PRIORITISES AMAZON SEARCH RESULTS.
2 Google Chromecast
Judge the Chromecast on its own terms. It’s not a fully equipped media streamer in the manner of Roku or Apple TV (Google’s older Nexus Player fulfills that function) but it achieves the same result at a fraction of the cost by streaming media from your phone or tablet. It took four seconds longer to load an iplayer stream than the Apple TV, but we loved the device’s compact size and ‘tuck-away’ clip. $49; store.google.com
WIN: NO FRILLS, HIGH QUALITY. FAIL: HAVE TO PAIR WITH AN EXTRA DEVICE.
3 Apple TV 4
It’s the most expensive on test and can’t handle 4K video, so why is it our favourite? Let us explain. All these devices are pretty good at playing apps such as iplayer, Netflix and Youtube on your living room TV – the difference is at the margins. For us, the touch-sensitive remote was such a joy to use, and the rich voice search so impressive (example: ask it for “that Friends episode with Brad Pitt” and Siri will not only identify it correctly, but also present a range of sources from which to play it) that, combined with the best interface of the group, we had a winner. From $269; apple.com/au
WIN: GAME-CHANGING VOICE CONTROLS. FAIL: LACKS 4K CAPACITY.
4 Roku 3
The Roku could have been great. It has a decent amount of apps (over 1700), offers voice and gesture control and viewers can plug headphones into the remote to listen in private. But it fell short of its potential. That headphone mode is plagued by annoying stutters; it restarted randomly when we close iplayer, and it can’t stream directly from an iphone. Approx. $195; smarttvworks.com.au
WIN: GREAT REMOTE. FAIL: GLITCHY EXPERIENCE.