Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Cut the Cord.

We're reaching the end of 2017 and there's really no excuse to not be streaming media at this point. It's so accessible, cheap, and abundant, especially now that there are multiple services competing for your business. Cable, on the other hand, is expensive, because you have to buy a block of dozens of channels just to get the handful of ones you actually watch. Sure, DVR is a nice technology that lets you watch what you want when you want to watch it, but so does streaming, and with streaming you don't have to worry about filling up a hard drive.

Chances are, if you're reading this article, you binge Netflix like the rest of us. What about your parents, though? What about your grandparents, for that matter? Whether you need a streaming device for yourself or a loved one stuck in this past, we're here to help you make the right decision and cut the cord for good.

Streaming Sticks

Sticks are the easiest and cheapest solution. They don't offer the feature sets you'll find in set-top boxes, but if you're just looking to watch content, you likely don't care about any of that. I would bet that most older folks getting into streaming want less options, not more. Also, it's worth noting that some of the sticks mentioned here have pricier, more powerful counterparts, but my goal with this section is to get

Amazon Fire TV Stick

For just $35, the Amazon Fire TV Stick gives you access to tens of thousands of channels and apps, with options to watch live TV as well. And since Amazon offers digital content well, there are often times special deals for Fire TV users. The big upside to the Fire TV Stick, though, is the integration of Alexa, which lets you speak into the remote to search for content. Having to type things in the on-screen keyboard using the hunt-and-peck method is no fun at all.

Google Chromecast

The 2nd generation Google Chromecast costs $35 just like the Amazon Fire TV Stick, because in the streaming wars, people don't mess around. While the Chromecast isn't a stick per se, it's definitely not a set-top box, so in with the sticks it goes. It's actually a little puck-shaped device that just dangles from your TV, which should drive you crazy if you obsess over order and neatness. The Chromecast doesn't have a remote; it's 100% controlled from your smartphone. This means that it's super-portable. This also means that if you're buying for someone who doesn't have a smartphone (and this guide is partially directed towards those who aren't yet tech-savvy enough for streaming, so it's a possibility), than the Chromecast isn't an option.

Roku Express

When it comes to in-home streaming, Roku is the household name of the group. It never quite encompassed everything else, like when your grandma calls every video game console ever a "Nintendo," but even folks who don't understand streaming know that a Roku is something that helps you watch things. The Roku Express stick lets you use the included remote or your smart device, and it's only $29.99, making it an easy recommendation.

Set-Top Boxes

If you're serious about streaming, you're going to be looking at set-top boxes. This is where you're going to find the best quality and the most features. They're slightly less portable and slightly more expensive (in some case, much more) in exchange for much more power.

Amazon Fire TV

The Amazon Fire TV costs $54.99, only twenty bucks more than the Fire TV Stick, but it offers 4K Ultra HD, HDR, and Dolby Atmos audio. For quality snobs like yours truly, that extra twenty is a no-brainer. It also offers the same content as the Fire TV Stick, as well as the Alexa Voice Remote. The Amazon Fire TV is definitely the way to go if you're an Amazon Prime member.

Apple TV 4K

Like with the Fire TV products, if you're an Apple user, it makes sense to use an Apple TV to do your streaming. If you want to watch iTunes content on another streaming device, it's possible, but only through certain workarounds. This is where the competition gets ugly. Apple TV does not support the Amazon Prime Video app, and Amazon Prime is definitely a library worth having. That said, the rest of the content from the streaming services can be browsed from the Apple TV interface, without having to switch apps to view different libraries. It's a super convenient feature, made all the more helpful with Siri's voice commands. It's also $179 for the cheapest model.

Chromecast Ultra

Google's Chromecast Ultra was $69, but the price has been lowered to $54 to compete with the Amazon Fire TV. The Chromecast Ultra brings 4K Ultra HD and HDR to the already impressive Chromecast. If you want your smart device to be an integral part of your streaming experience, the Chromecast is for you.

Roku Ultra

The Roku Ultra is considered by more than a few to be the ultimate streaming device on the market right now. 4K Ultra HD, HDR, and a blazing fast quad-core processor that makes navigating the menus a breeze. It's got an HDMI port, Ethernet port, and a microSD slot for additional storage. The coolest feature? Night mode, which balances the sound so that dialogue is loud enough for you to hear, but explosions aren't so loud that they wake up everyone in the house. The Roku Ultra is usually $99.99, but if you hurry you can grab it for ten bucks off.

Gaming Consoles

Here's the third option. All current generation video game consoles stream in some capacity. The Nintendo Switch, which was released in March of this year, was left off the list due to a lack of streaming channels, but eventually it will probably be a good streaming option, too. If you're a gamer, there's no need for a dedicated streaming device, because your console already does it really well. If you're not a gamer and you're just looking to stream, you can just ignore this whole section, because you'll be paying a hefty premium for a function you'll never even use.

PlayStation 4/PlayStation 4 Pro

As of the time of this writing, you can grab a PlayStation 4 slim console on Amazon for $281. You can get a PlayStation 4 Pro for $349. Both can stream, both give you access to all the popular streaming services. The PlayStation 4 Pro can stream in 4K.

Xbox One/Xbox One S

Where as the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro sell side-by-side, the Xbox One S more or less replaced its predecessor, and you can get a bundle on Amazon for as cheap as $229. For the rest of this section, I could probably just copy and paste what I wrote about the PlayStation 4. The streaming experiences are almost identical, but the Xbox One S does have a slight edge in the number of apps available. That, combined with the lower price point, make it an easy recommendation over the PlayStation 4, at least as far as streaming goes.

NVIDIA SHIELD TV

The NVIDIA SHIELD TV can be had for only $149, if you buy it without the gaming controller, which adds another $50. That said, if you're just in it for the streaming, a set-top box is a much cheaper option. At $199, however, you'll get a powerful gaming console that can stream all the popular channels in 4K UHD, as well as many more in regular old HD. It runs on Android, so all of the Google apps are a given, but it also comes with Amazon video, which is somewhat rare for Android.



So what should you get? Well that's up to you and your specific needs. If you're just looking for a streaming device, don't get a gaming console. They're considerably more expensive and they take up a lot more space. If you're brand new to the streaming scene, a Roku device is an easy recommendation. Roku was the first big name in streaming devices, so it's been proven as an effective service to cut your teeth on. The Roku Express is only $29.99, which makes it an affordable option to find out if streaming is right for you. We also have a review up for the device, so you can learn more about it.

Pin It on Pinterest