More and more people are giving up cable and making the switch to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Why? They’re easy to use and, if you already have internet service, these services can save you a ton of money when it comes to your cable bill while still allowing you to watch all your favorite shows and movies.
Most people access these services using connected devices. If you plan on buying or giving one of these devices this holiday season, Town Tech has you covered. We make it easy to get an installation quote or set up an installation appointment to make sure your new connected device will be set up properly and work flawlessly.
We also want to make selecting your new connected device easier for you, so we’ve compiled some information on the best devices that are easy to use, include all the features you need, and fit your budget.
What is a Connected Device?
“Connected device” is just a fancy, technical term for a piece of technology that plugs into your television (link to television buyer’s guide) and allows you to use the countless streaming services available on the internet. Connected devices usually use HDMI ports and can essentially give any television “Smart TV” capabilities.
Most connected devices are geared towards video streaming services, but some include features that allow you to download other apps, like web browsers and games as well.
Easiest to Use Connected Devices for 2017
When it comes to ease of use, there are three big players regarding connected devices: Chromecast, Amazon Fire Stick, and Apple TV. Let’s take a look at each of these devices, their features, and their price.
The Google Chromecast is a nifty little dongle that plugs into your TV and piggybacks off your wifi in order to give you access to streaming capabilities. It’s easy to use and only requires you to download the Google Home app to set it up. Plus, because it’s lightweight and small, you can take it with you wherever you go.
The Chromecast is unique in that it doesn’t have its own app to control streaming. Instead, you simply open the app you want to stream from (YouTube, Spotify, etc.), click the “cast” button, and the app will automatically connect with your Chromecast and TV to start streaming. That means you can not only stream from your phone, but from your computer or tablet as well.
Right now the Chromecast 2 is the basic option and sells online for just $35. If you have a 4K TV, we’d strongly recommend purchasing the Chromecast Ultra for $70. Both devices give you features like:
- 802.11ac wireless networking support
- Adaptive antenna systems
- Screen mirroring
- Voice control using your mobile device
- Connectivity with programs like YouTube, Netflix, Spotify, Hulu, Pandora, HBO GO, Google Play, and more
Amazon Fire TV
Amazon sells several streaming devices geared toward different kinds of users. If you’re an Amazon Prime member already, using one of these devices is the simplest way to stream your favorite amazon movies, shows, and games. You can control your Amazon Fire device through one simple app, making using it as easy as plugging in and pressing play.
For those just looking for basic streaming abilities, the $40 Amazon Fire Stick is all you need. At $70, the Amazon Fire TV allows you to stream in 4K and play games, and, at around $140, the Amazon Fire TV Gaming Edition is even more well equipped to give gamers everything they need for hours of play.
These devices all have some great features, including:
- Gaming access (Fire TV and Gaming Edition)
- Voice controlled controllers and Alexa compatibility (note: The basic fire stick doesn’t have this but you can get these features buy purchasing an additional Fire Stick remote)
- Bluetooth connectivity
- Dolby Audio
- Internal Storage
- Access to thousands of apps and integration with streaming services like Netflix, HBO NOW, Amazon Video, Hulu, and more
Both of the devices we mentioned before run on Android-based operating systems, but the Apple TV uses Apple’s own operating system, which makes it more familiar and easier to use for the millions of people who are already utilizing Macs and iPhones.
After installation your Apple TV, controlling it via your mobile device is as simple as installation the Apple TV App. You can also control Apple TV and search for your favorite apps and shows using the Siri Remote.
There are two versions of Apple TV currently available. The 4th Generation Apple TV is the more basic option, and will provide you with everything you need (including the controller and cables) for only $149. If you have a 4K TV, you can invest in the Apple TV 4K for $179, which comes with HDR compatibility, a controller, cables, and the option to buy countless accessories like gaming controllers.
The only downside to the Apple TV family (aside from the higher price) is that you won’t have access to shows from Netflix, Amazon, or Xfinity. That said, you will find some other features that Chromecast and Amazon Fire just don’t have, like:
- A super fast A10X Fusion processor (Apple TV 4K)
- Easy login from your iPhone, iPad, or Apple computer
- Integration and voice command capabilities using Siri
- Seamless integration with your iPhone, iPad, and Apple computer
- Dolby Vision and HDR 10 (Apple TV 4K)
- An extremely easy-to-use controller that uses minimal buttons to provide endless capabilities
- Access to Apple’s extensive library of apps
- Wireless AirPlay
The Cheapest Connected Device
If you don’t have a 4K TV and you aren’t a video game enthusiast, you probably don’t want to waste money on a device with those kinds of features. Chances are, you just want to stream your shows quickly and easily. If this sounds like you, then you need the Roku Express.
At just under 5 inches long, the Roku Express is an extremely compact option that gives you the ability to over 1,000 apps, which is much more than you need if you’re just looking to easily stream video to your TV. The Roku system is also widely regarded as being to use, especially for individuals who don’t particularly care about whether their streaming interface is Android or Apple-based.
At $30, the Roku Express is a steal. But you’ll need to consider that this version uses the older style AV input cables (with red, white, and yellow plugs). This makes it ideal for older TVs that don’t have HDMI ports. Don’t worry though, if your TV doesn’t have these inputs, you can upgrade to the Roku Express+ with HDMI compatibility for just a few bucks more at $39.
Both of these models have features such as:
- Intuitive and easy to use remotes
- Simple search functionality
- No monthly fees
- Integration with Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, PBS Kids, HBO NOW, Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, and more
The Most Well-Connected Connected Device
If price isn’t an issue and you’re looking for a connected device that can do, well, everything, your best bet is the Nvidia Shield. Put simply, this thing is crazy in terms of what it can do.
Basically, the Nvidia Shield is a streaming device, video game console, and media server all rolled into one. Not only can you download apps and broadcast from services like Netflix and Hulu, but for just $7.99/month users can access GeForce Now, a cloud-based gaming service that can stream hundreds of games directly to your TV.
Gamers will also be happy to learn that the Nvidia Shield lets you stream PC games directly from your computer. Plus, you can also buy a high quality, voice activated gaming controller that will last for 60+ hours of gameplay.
The only knock against this device is the price. The base version with 16GB of storage costs $200. If you need more storage, or want microSD and microUSB slots, you can upgrade to the 500GB version for a total cost of $300.
Aside from what we’ve already mentioned, the Nvidia Shield has a ton of awesome features like:
- The ability to function as a media server using Plex
- The promise of the future ability to control certain home automation products
- USB and HDMI ports
- 4K HDR streaming
- A super fast, Tegra X1 processor
- Android 7.0 and Android TV integration
- Support for 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound and Dolby Atmos
- An included voice activated remote
- 4K streaming from Netflix, Vudu, Amazon Video, UltraFlix, and YouTube
- HD streaming with HBO Now, CBS, FOX, Vimeo, and Twitch
- And, live television is available by connecting a TV antenna or using Sling TV or PlayStation Vue.
There are plenty of connected devices to buy, from those that are basic but cheap, those that are in the middle range in terms of price and easy to use, as well as one option that may cost a lot, but will do anything you want it to.
Remember, this holiday season, you can make installing and setting up your new connected device even easier by contacting Town Tech. Our technicians have the experience needed to make sure your device works properly and can install your device in your home quickly and efficiently. All you have to do is select your new connected device and contact us for a free installation quote. Or, if you’re already ready to install, just click the button below to schedule your appointment.
Additional Connected Devices
The technology we mentioned above isn’t all that’s out there in terms of connected devices. If one of the ones we reviewed isn’t right for you, check out these:
TiVo Roamio OTA
Roku Streaming Stick
Sony BDPS5500 3D Blu-Ray Player
Microsoft Xbox One