It won’t be long before the cable box suffers the same fate as the land-line phone — dead forever, relegated to nothing more than an object of nostalgic fascination. “Ha! Cable boxes. Those were the days.” The device that will take its place (and mostly already has) is the streaming device. There are tons of streaming options out there, and they’re getting better by the week. But they’re all different, as are the needs of the TV viewers who use them. If you haven’t been seduced by the lure of streaming devices, 2017 should be the year. Whatever your needs, one of these streaming devices is right for you.
For the All-Around User (and Apple Loyalist): The latest iteration of Apple TV has the same sleek look it’s always had, but adds a slew of new features, smoothing out some of the kinks from the the last version: a faster processor, a touch-pad remote, tons more apps, 1080p HD video, Siri and an all-new OS. And of course there’s still AirPlay, which, if you own an iPhone, iPad or iMac, makes mirroring content to your TV as easy as pressing a button. Simply put: it’s the best Apple TV yet.
For the Viewer on a Budget: One of Roku’s five all-new streaming devices for this year, the Express, the most affordable of the bunch, lies somewhere between basic streaming stick and full-on 1080p HD streaming box. It provides access to several thousand TV streaming channels, has a smart search feature that surfaces the lowest-priced content at the top, a “night listening” mode that automatically muffles loud scenes. And since it’s no bigger than a salt shaker, you’ll hardly notice it sitting near your TV.
Amazon Fire TV Stick
For the Binge-Watcher On the Go: Not much bigger than a thumb drive, the Fire TV Stick is meant to be carried around from room to room. It has access to over 7,000 TV channels, games and other apps, it streams 1080p HD video and, most importantly, it comes loaded with Alexa for easy voice navigation.
For the TV Enthusiast Who Wants It All: A ridiculously high-powered cable/satellite recorder, plus all the features of a premium streaming box — and then some. There are many things that put the Bolt+ far above anything else on the market: 4K Ultra-HD resolution, a function for searching all broadcast and streaming options at once, ability to skip entire commercial breaks (for recorded shows only), six tuners for recording six shows simultaneously, screencasting and more. Think of it not as a “streaming box,” but as a super-mutant add-on limb to your existing cable or satellite box.
For the Traveling Cable/Satellite Subscriber: The Slingbox isn’t a “streaming device” in the traditional sense; rather, it’s a way of accessing your cable or satellite subscription, anywhere you go. All you need to do is hook it up to your cable box, connect it to you wi-fi, and it’ll cast your shows in 1080p HD to any connected device, like your phone or a separate TV. The best part: no monthly fees.
Google Chromecast Ultra
For the Minimalist: The latest iteration of Chromecast boasts faster-than-ever speed and 4K HDR video capability, but it’s still just as easy to use. There is no fancy remote; the remote is whatever device you’re holding in your hand — a smartphone, a tablet, a laptop — which can control more than 200,000 TV shows and movies, in addition to casting to your TV whatever YouTube video or Chrome tab you have opened on your device. Simple, yet elegant.