This is a brief rundown on the Best Streaming Media Boxes for cord cutters: Roku 3, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV.
Each device costs less than $100 and is easy to setup and use. They all attach to a HDTV or monitor with a HDMI connection, and each box is small enough to still be portable and thus can be used at various locations as long as the user can connect to an internet provider.
So what are the differences, and how do you know which one will work best for you? Read on!
Left: Roku 3 home screen | Right: Roku 3 box & remote
The Roku 3 is the latest streaming media box from a company that’s been around since 2008. I use a Roku 3 every day right along side my Mohu Leaf 50 HDTV antenna and I love it for the large number of apps available and its easy to use navigation.
The Roku 3 is ideal for cord cutters who want to enjoy Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu Plus, who also have a personal collection of music, photos and movies they want to enjoy via their streaming media box.
Roku 3 users have the option to add over 1,800 apps (some are free and some require a subscription), use the remote to privately listen with the included earbuds, and connect an external media storage device via USB or by a micro SD card.
A Roku app is available that allows your smartphone or tablet to used as a Roku 3 remote. You can also beam music, photos and videos from the Roku app to the TV to share with friends and family.
The Roku 3’s remote has Motion Control, which allows users to enjoy Roku games that are also on the device.
Sling TV is due out later this month and should be available on the Roku 3 streaming media box, giving users even more reason to enjoy this streaming media box. In the meantime, check out this hands-on sneak peek of Sling TV courtesy of our friends at Cord Cutters News.
The Amazon Fire TV has the first-ever voice activated remote which works very well. The device itself is very speedy, and users will have very little lag time between choosing a program and having it launch on the screen.
The Amazon Fire TV is the perfect streaming media box for cordcutter families who like the idea of an all-in-one streaming media box that has both significant game play and parental controls.
Amazon Prime users will get the most bang for their buck with the Amazon Fire TV. When you purchase your device it’s already pre-registered to your Amazon account, allowing you to seamlessly start enjoying Amazon Prime content within minutes of setting up the device.
An optional game controller is available for the Fire TV, and with a free Amazon app you can mirror content from your smartphone or tablet to a connected HDTV.
Sling TV is also expected to be available as an app on the Fire TV.
Left: Apple TV home screen | Right: Apple TV box & remote
The Apple TV is a must-have for anyone with Apple devices who uses iTunes as a media hub. If you have an iPad, iPhone, Macbook, or all of them, this is the box for you!
As with all Apple products there has been great care taken to give this streaming media box a clean, sleek look that also performs. However, it doesn’t have an Amazon app, which is a big consideration for some users.
The Apple TV uses a very small remote control, that’s easy to lose, but you can get a free Apple TV Remote app to put on your iPad or iPhone, and use a Bluetooth keyboard or trackpad for some operations.
Having your Windows PC with iTunes or Mac computer in sync with your Apple TV is great. Particularly if you have lots of music, movies, TV series or other media associated with your iTunes account that you want to enjoy on a HDTV.
AirPlay, which is similar to mirroring or beaming on the other boxes, is a feature that will allow Apple TV users to see Amazon Instant Video content. If you have an AirPlay connected device such as an iPad with the Amazon app installed, you can log into your Amazon account and start the video you want to see on your iPad, then connect to the Apple TV via AirPlay. Since Apple TV lacks the Amazon app, this is a work-around to this problem.
Sling TV is expected to be available for iOS and Mac operating systems, but no word directly as to whether or not Apple TV will have this app when it launches. However, in a recent reddit AMA, Sling TV CEO Roger Lynch shared that AirPlay mirroring will work with Apple TV (similar to the workaround above for Amazon Instant Video).
Andrea Polk hails from Oregon and is a wife, mother, writer, Amazon Top 50 Reviewer, and more. She’s also the author of the Simple Guide to Over-the-Air Free TV as well as the avid deal-seeker behind SavvySleuth.com, where she scours the web for the best online deals.