Best Ways to Stream

smart TVs are passé. There are cheaper and smarter ways to stream con­tent from the web onto your tele­vi­sion set.

Gadgets and Gizmos (India) - - CONTENTS - By Nidhi Sin­gal

En­joy lat­est shows and movies with th­ese stream­ing de­vices

When smart Tvs came into the mar­ket, Anil Thomas, a banker, was one of the first few to spend a for­tune and ac­quire one. In­ter­net-ready TV was too good a propo­si­tion to let go. How­ever, the ex­cite­ment wore off as the smart TV in­ter­face was cum­ber­some and did not sup­port the apps and fea­tures he wanted. He wasn’t too pleased when he learnt that, to­day, you can turn any TV with an HDMI port into a smart TV, more im­por­tantly, with­out burn­ing a hole in your pocket. En­ter stream­ing de­vices. Th­ese af­ford­able de­vices can connect your non-smart TV to con­tent stream­ing ser­vices such as Netflix and Ama­zon Prime Video, and of­fer a host of other fea­tures. The mar­ket is brim­ming with stream­ing de­vices launched by lead­ing tech giants as well as start-ups. We picked three of the best ones – Google

Chrome­cast (2nd gen­er­a­tion), Ama­zon Fire TV Stick and Ap­ple TV (4th gen­er­a­tion) – and eval­u­ated them on five key pa­ram­e­ters. Read on and choose the best way to stream.

De­sign: Google Chrome­cast is a com­pact de­vice, with a cir­cu­lar de­sign, that can be tucked be­hind the TV. It comes with a small, flex­i­ble HDMI ca­ble that plugs into the TV’s HDMI port. There is no ac­com­pa­ny­ing re­mote, but it can be con­trolled us­ing the Google Home app. Ama­zon Fire TV Stick re­sem­bles an over­sized pen-drive. It plugs into the HDMI port on the TV and comes with an HDMI con­nec­tor and re­mote. Aside from ba­sic con­trols, the re­mote has a ded­i­cated but­ton for voice search. Both the de­vices have a mi­croUSB port for pow­er­ing the don­gle which can be connected to the wall charger or even a free USB port on the TV. Mean­while, Ap­ple TV is a small square­shaped box that can be connected to the TV us­ing an HDMI ca­ble (not in­cluded in the box). Its sleek re­mote has a touchpad for quick nav­i­ga­tion. Ap­ple TV has a pro­pri­etary charger that can only be plugged into a wall socket.

set-UP: Set­ting up th­ese de­vices is a no-brainer; doesn’t re­quire any tech­ni­cal know-how. All one needs is a free HDMI port on the TV, a power source and high-speed in­ter­net. To set up Chrome­cast, you will need the Google Home app which is avail­able for An­droid and iOS de­vices. The don­gle first cre­ates its own wire­less net­work to pair with the app and then con­nects to the Wi-Fi net­work for stream­ing con­tent. Use the guest mode to connect the Chrome­cast to a sec­ond de­vice. Once done, you can start stream­ing con­tent or down­load com­pat­i­ble apps.

The Ama­zon Fire TV Stick needs to be connected to the Wi-Fi net­work first, and then you need to log into the Ama­zon Prime video ac­count (`499 for an­nual sub­scrip­tion) to pro­ceed. If pur­chased from Ama­zon In­dia, the cre­den­tials are pre­loaded on the stick. Once done, you can start stream­ing con­tent from Prime’s video li­brary or from other apps.

There are two ways to set up Ap­ple TV – ei­ther man­u­ally, by log­ging in in­for­ma­tion us­ing the on­screen key­board and re­mote, or us­ing an iOS de­vice – bring­ing it close to the Ap­ple TV will trans­fer set­tings and in­for­ma­tion such as iTunes ac­count de­tails, iCloud, Game Cen­tre and Wi-Fi pass­word to the smart box, with iTunes con­tent dis­played on the home­screen. cover’ tab that lets you browse and down­load Chrome­cast-com­pat­i­ble apps across en­ter­tain­ment, gam­ing, mu­sic, video, photography, TV shows, etc, on your de­vice (phone or tablet). The num­ber of apps com­pat­i­ble with the 2nd gen­er­a­tion Chrome­cast is much higher than the 1st gen­er­a­tion Chrome­cast. YouTube, Netflix, Hooq, Saavn, Eros Now, Viki, Twitch, TED, Crunchy­roll, NBA and Pixlr, are some of the apps that work on Chrome­cast.

The stream­ing ser­vice of Ama­zon’s Fire TV Stick is not re­stricted to Prime Video alone; one can watch con­tent from sev­eral other pop­u­lar stream­ing apps such as Netflix, Hot­star, Air­tel Movies, Voot, Eros Now, Sony Liv, Twitch; in­for­ma­tive and news apps such as TED, NDTV, Bloomberg and NASA, and live TV apps such as Ditto TV and nexGTv, Zoom and Al Jazeera, among oth­ers. It sup­ports games, YouTube con­tent, Ama­zon Mu­sic, and can also be used to down­load third-party apps by in­stalling APK files.

With Ap­ple TV, you can pur­chase or rent con­tent from iTunes, and also in­stall apps from the app store. Ap­ple TV of­fers a much higher num­ber of apps com­pared to oth­ers. There are stream­ing apps, news apps, live sports, events, pod­casts and more. Hot­star, Netflix, Eros Now, Spuul, TED, UFC, CBS Sports, BloombergTV, NBC News, WSJ Video, Young Hol­ly­wood, Vimeo are some of them. There is a good mix of paid and free apps.

ease of Use: On Google Chrome­cast, all the tasks – be it stream­ing or con­trol­ling – are car­ried out us­ing ei­ther the ‘Home’ app or one of the com­pat­i­ble apps. The ‘cast’ icon in the com­pat­i­ble apps in­stantly throws con­tent onto the TV, with­out any buffer­ing or lag. It also streams off­line YouTube videos stored within the app. You can also queue up con­tent to be played and exit the app to use the phone for other things. At times when Chrome­cast fails to cast the con­tent from the apps, a quick re­set usu­ally fixes the prob­lem.

Ama­zon Fire TV Stick has a neat lay­out and an in­tu­itive user in­ter­face. Apps, movies, Prime TV Shows, are all placed hor­i­zon­tally on the home screen. The cir­cu­lar but­ton on the re­mote can be used to nav­i­gate hor­i­zon­tally as well ver­ti­cally. Its big­gest plus is the voice search that un­der­stands In­dian ac­cent ac­cu­rately. Press­ing the voice but­ton and speak­ing into the re­mote throws the re­sults from var­i­ous apps on the TV. The only thing miss­ing with the Fire TV Stick re­mote is the vol­ume con­trol. It can be pass­word pro­tected to ac­ti­vate parental con­trol. It comes with 8-GB stor­age for down­load­ing apps, but can­not be used to load con­tent out­side of the ecosys­tem.

It takes some time to get a hang of the touchpad on Ap­ple TV’s re­mote, but af­ter a while the nav­i­ga­tion is a breeze. The screen but­ton on the re­mote dis­plays the home­screen and the menu but­ton can be used to go to the pre­vi­ous menu. Ap­ple TV re­mote can be used to ad­just the vol­ume, too. As soon as you turn on the Ap­ple TV, your tele­vi­sion switches to the HDMI source, and when put to sleep, it turns the TV off. It has a voice search but­ton pow­ered by Siri, but has not been ac­ti­vated in In­dia yet. You can change your re­gion to US to en­able voice com­mands. Be it stream­ing videos or play­ing games, the ex­pe­ri­ence on Ap­ple TV was great. The apps have not been just blown up, but op­ti­mised for the big screen. It comes in 32-GB and 64-GB stor­age vari­ants, and can be used for down­load­ing apps and stor­ing iCloud con­tent in­clud­ing im­ages, videos and mu­sic, lo­cally.

To type a pass­word or a ti­tle name, a vir­tual key­pad ap­pears on the screen of both Fire TV Stick and Ap­ple TV. Both have re­mote con­trol apps – use­ful in case the phys­i­cal re­mote gets mis­placed – and sup­port Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity to pair con­trollers, key­boards and more.

Price: Google Chrome­cast is the most af­ford­able of the lot at `3,399. Ama­zon Fire TV Stick priced at `3,999 is a good buy as it of­fers a va­ri­ety of con­tent. Ap­ple TV, priced at `13,500 for 32 GB and `17,900 for 64 GB, is a great de­vice for those who own Ap­ple ecosys­tem prod­ucts.

the ver­dict: Ama­zon Fire TV Stick and Ap­ple TV are not only great stream­ing de­vices, but also rich on con­tent, leav­ing noth­ing much to com­plain about. Al­though Google Chrome­cast does a fine job of throw­ing con­tent on to the big­ger screen, it re­quires a phone or PC nearby due to the lack of a ded­i­cated re­mote.

Ap­ple TV

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