Christmas is right around the corner, and if you’re looking for a gift for that adamant cord cutter, you’re in luck for choices of presents. All you need to consider is streaming sticks.
Streaming sticks are no bigger than the USB thumb drive and are offered by Amazon, Google and Roku. They connect to the home’s Wi-Fi network and go into the television’s HDMI port. Once they’ve been configured, they allow the TV-addicted to stream their favorite TV shows, movies and apps on the television, using various free and paid Internet services.
Each streaming stick costs around $50 or less, which is much less than buying a streaming box such as the Apple TV or Roku 3. With this kind of price, you do give up a little power and a remote control, but they do give the user what they want, bringing YouTube or Netflix to their television set.
Which one streaming stick should you consider buying as a present this Christmas?
The oldest and cheapest of all streaming sticks is the Google Chromecast, which connects to a TV through its HDMI port and uses an available USB port to get its power. It doesn’t offer a conventional home screen that allows users to watch videos or pick apps. Rather, it downloads the compatible apps to a tablet or smartphone. You open, in the app, what you want to play and it’ll send the video to your device to the Chromecast and TV.
You’re not limited to a tablet or smartphone either, you can cast things from the Chromebook or Chrome browser. There is no remote and relies on a connected tablet or smartphone.
Amazon Fire TV Stick is the reduced version of the Fire TV, but at half the cost. This streaming device goes into the TV through its HDMI port. It will need an outside power source so the user must have a free power outlet handy. The user still gets access to the same features found on the Fire TV, allowing them to catch up on their favorite shows.
The Fire TV Stick doesn’t have a voice search, so users can’t name actors and pull movies up that has him/her in it. The remote will need to be purchased separately or they’ll need to down the smartphone app. It also doesn’t have HBO Go – want Game of Thrones, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
Roku is well-known for its boxes, which can run around $100. However, the streaming stick is a low-cost gift idea for people who love watching TV and movies. The user will receive the same 1,500-plus apps seen with the Roku 3 box, at half the cost. They’ll also get a remote with customizable buttons for their preferred apps. Videos can be cast from apps such as YouTube and Netflix using a tablet or smartphone to the TV. If the remote is ever lost, a smartphone can be used as a replacement.
The Roku stick isn’t very powerful and some apps may take some time being opened. It needs another USB to get its power so could be another cord mess behind the TV.