Most new TVs include smart features that allow you to receive video offered over the internet or a streaming service like Hulu or Netflix. Many of the streaming services as well as some of their features are not available directly thru a smart TV. A possible solution for you would be to include a streaming video device.
The majority of streaming services are available thru the major devices, so the main differentiators will be features and cost.
Streaming devices have been around for several years now and have become a little bit mature and consistent with what they offer. These devices can either augment the offerings from your cable company or they can be used to potentially 'cut-the-cord' from your cable provider. The one thing that we do want to mention for those of you that are thinking in this direction. In order for you to watch most tv-content, you still have to pay someone. Whether you are going to want to watch exclusive content available only on Netflix or Hulu or if you want to watch live television thru SlingTV - someone still gets paid, so bear in mind that tv doesn't suddenly become 'free'.
One of the problems with user reviews is that many, if not most, of them are written by consumers that very recently bought the product they are reviewing so in many cases, they are providing first impressions. We thought that we really needed to test each product for a few weeks in order to really understand the benefits and the pitfalls with each of the devices.
The things that we considered during our testing were: the interface, the speed of the device and the available content provided directly from the interface.
During our testing it was announced that Google would be withdrawing support from Amazons Fire TV line of devices. You will still be able to see videos from YouTube, but the native application will no longer be supported. In order to watch YouTube, you will need to access the Firefox web browser and navigate to YouTube as if you were on your PC.
Our focus in this review is more centered around the brands themselves, rather than the devices themselves. We found that the price points, for the most part were consistent across each of the brands, but we found little real difference in the prices based on the support and features you were buying. The three real price point ranges are $30, $80 and $200. For each of these price points (plus or minus $10 or so) you get fairly consistent video support and device capabilities.
There are a number of other options that are available for video streaming that we haven't included in this rundown.
Google Chromecast is a really good device with several caveats. We didn't really like the fact that the only way to control the application is thru an app on your phone, tablet or PC. It's a little weird for us to say that we do prefer another remote control device, but having the flexibility was preferred.
The Nvidia Shield TV is a great offering from Nvidia and is an amazing add-on for hardcore gamers. The focus for this product is gamer-first and we just felt that this was not the main focus of this overview.
Quite simply, we really love the devices available from Roku. Whether you want to go all-in on a streaming video device with the Roku Ultra or you are just getting going, there's a device that suits your wallet, but most importantly will give you the content selection that you feel you might be missing from your cable subscription.
One of our testers recently "downgraded" his cable subscription because he felt he was just paying too much for what he was getting. He added a device to all 3 of his "non-main" televisions and loves the fact that he has access to most of what he had previously, but it's his choice what he pays for, all for half of what he was paying before.