What a busy month in the world of internet media streaming boxes what with Jeff Bezos announcing the Amazon ‘Fire’ device and fresh rumors swirling now about a relaunched Android TV device. Where these little boxes were niche and esoteric they are now mainstream. The question is does this mean you can cut the expensive cable or satellite TV cord now, and which one of these devices is best for you?
For the record I am living in the Middle East just now and, not speaking Arabic, I do not watch normal TV. Instead I get all my media via a fast internet connection and use four devices to pipe video and audio streams into my home theatre system. What do I use? I use an Apple TV, a Mac mini, a Chromecast and finally a Roku box. These all feed an Onkyo / Samsung TV and audio surround system and frankly most nights I’m spoiled for choice.
The Apple TV box has loads of odd channels but I mostly use it for iTunes content – movies, TV shows and video podcasts. I can watch the US news shows for example on Apple TV, nicely timeshifted to my time zone. Just subscribe and watch – for free.
The Roku has hundreds of channels, and is the best Netflix box I think. The Mac mini allows me to run a VPN to both US and UK servers so I can watch near anything including BBC iPlayer and yes I still pay for the TV license.
Finally the Chromecast is an amazing little widget that allows me to ‘cast’ any Chrome browser tab from my phone or laptop across the room onto the big screen. I also subscribe to Google All Access music so for a few quid a month I can search and play any of the ten million tracks in it’s library through my surround sound system. All Access is outstanding!
On top of all these boxes is the new Amazon Fire device that I’ll buy just to access Amazon’s deep media library *and* loads of Android games as well. And we’ll see what the yet to be released Android TV will offer and the rumours say that Apple TV is due for a major upgrade this year as well. I could well end up with five or six of these little beauties plugged into my system.
All this sounds crazy complex but it’s remarkably simple. Each media box plugs into the AV receiver and there’s a single HDMI cable up to the television. Each box has it’s own remote control of course but that sounds worse than it is. Keep them all in the same place in your TV lounge and you’ll not get annoyed or confused.
So throw out your costly cable contract! Take down that ugly satellite dish! Save yourself a pile of cash and enjoy media whenever and however you want to watch. It’s simple really.
Editor’s Note: Jeff’ actually has a day job consulting for a major Middle East bank. He doesn’t spend his weekends watching Premier League, Formula One, and reruns of Game of Thrones. Really he doesn’t!