For many Americans, the art of enjoyment and entertainment is best found online. Whereas in the past we were limited to what was on TV, the on-demand era is now well and truly upon us. This is one of the most important parts of modern internet usage, offering us total freedom over what we watch, view and read – and when. However, with so many different streaming services to pick from, you might be unsure of where to even start.
If you feel like this is the case, then we have some solutions for you to consider. Take, for example, the below streaming services. These are seen as some of the best on the internet and should really ramp up your entertainment options.
We’re sure just about everyone in the country has at least heard of Netflix. The popular streaming system is the go-to starting point for many people looking to find top quality entertainment. It’s got hundreds of shows and many Netflix exclusives. From finding awesome cartoons for the kids to a horror flick to watch on Halloween, this is a streaming service that you can love using.
However, you should be aware that Netflix loves to eat up your bandwidth. Like any good streaming service, you should be using high-speed internet to help make sure you can enjoy a good quality watching session. Also, keep an eye on problems with your bandwidth – if you start to notice needless buffering, you might be getting throttled by your internet provider. If that happens, you might want to consider enjoying Netflix on a new form of internet provider for the best results.
While most of us will use Amazon for shopping, some of us use it for streaming – especially movies. It’s quite a lot like Netflix, with some of the most popular and well-watched shoes on the internet appearing on it. Amazon Prime is growing all the time and shows no signs of slowing down. New content is added all the time, bringing in even more opportunity to enjoy the wider experience. You might soon find that Amazon Prime has a larger catalog to pick from than Netflix.
Given who backs up this amazing streaming service, it’s size and scale should be of surprise to nobody. It’s growing all the time at an incredible rate and shows no signs of slowing down. With so much to view and so much to enjoy, Amazon Prime Instant Video is probably one of the most upwardly mobile streaming services that you can access right now.
For a large chunk of Americans, sport dominates much of their social lives. Being able to cheer on your beloved teams at the sport of your choice is always a hugely enjoyable pursuit. However, for many of us, choosing the right way to watch them can be tough. One of the best streaming sites for sports fans at the moment is to use ESPN+, where you can get a huge amount of content to pick from.
There is a growing amount of live and replayable matches that you can watch from just about any kind of sport that you love. Most of us have a team in one of the big US sports, and you should be able to catch them on ESPN without a huge deal of issue. This is a site with a huge amount of content, and it looks set to become even bigger as American sports fans continue to be open-minded about new sports to watch.
FUBO TV is getting a lot of positivity from sports fans who love their sports from other continents. If you are a soccer fan, for example, you’ll love to have FUBO TV – it’s much more diverse than the ESPN+ offering. They cover major leagues in soccer like Serie A, Ligue 1 and La Liga. They also cover a lot of other sports, like the MotoGP and also various other college sports. This is why, for sports fans, FUBO TV is the best alternative to using ESPN+.
Though both are very much well-respected options, many fans are turning to FUBO TV as it has a touch more variety. With the easy control of the packaged add-ons, too, you can pick and choose what you went, when you want it, making it super-simple to get affordable, on-demand sports TV.
Though very much the outsider in many ways, Sling TV is hugely popular with a lot of users. It’s an ambitious project that has grown very quickly in terms of its size and scale in the last few years. With very cheap live TV packages, they allow you to get a lot of variety in what you watch. The fact that it comes with so much opportunity to change contracts, and it has no long-term commitment, makes this a common choice for those who don’t wish to be weighed down with contracts and other such headaches.
Streaming services such as Sling TV are growing all the time. Like most other streaming services like this, too, it does offer a decent trial experience that you can give a shot. With the affordable nature of its live TV offerings, though, those who still like to watch TV on a schedule will love Sling TV for sure.
Getting the most out of each streaming service
Of course, you should always look to make sure that your streaming service is backed up with high-speed internet. Through companies like Easy Internet Now, you can dodge the bandwidth throttling, buffering-causing internet issues that so many Americans face. This is the perfect way for you to get online and to enjoy modern entertainment without feeling trapped or constrained.
With the fact they reduce the need for things like credit checks and contracts, too, EIN is a fine place to start for those who like to stream. High-speed internet is very important for everything from watching your favorite shows to streaming your most beloved games. Quality counts, so don’t accept second best!
When it comes to looking after the list of ‘must haves’ at home in 2019, high-speed internet should be on your list. Quality internet opens so many forms of employment, education, and entertainment for us. However, one problem that you might often have when trying to get good quality internet is the credit check side of things. When you go to sign up for a broadband package, you might be asked to take a credit check. If you do, the credit score that you have might not be enough to get you the contract that you had wanted.
When that happens, you need to be able to find alternatives. It can be frustrating to get rejected for broadband, especially when it comes down to a credit check. Given so many people make a living from the internet today, having slow-speed internet literally limits your employment opportunities. And since we need more money to help improve our credit scores, it pays to be able to have every income stream available open to us.
So, what can you do if you wish to get around the frustration of getting a credit check for broadband?
Why does my broadband application need a credit check?
Given the relatively affordable cost of modern internet services, you might wonder why a credit check is required. Well, if you were to go for even the lowest grade mobile phone contracts, you would need to pass a credit check. Why? Because you are entering into a monthly contractual agreement. It’s the same in any other industry: most companies want to know that you can make your payments.
Therefore, they are within their rights to ask you to show them your credit history. And, sadly, they are also within their rights to reject your application if you are not quite good enough for what they ask for. When this happens, it can feel hugely frustrating. You know that you can afford your bills, but previous credit incidents mean that you might not get accepted.
This leaves you in a perilous position. It means that you are unlikely to get the high-speed internet that you want and need. You could spend less on other bills, such as cable TV, if you had access to internet streaming, for example. So, what can you do if you cannot pass the credit check required?
Look for a broadband provider who does not ask for a credit check
The first – and best – thing to do is to look at your broadband options. You can find that many companies – including Easy Internet Now – make it simple for you to find credit check free high-speed internet. Not every company is going to demand a credit check of you, so keep that in mind. It’s often quite frustrating trying to get broadband, only to find that you are not eligible due to credit frustrations in the past.
EIN is one of the American internet providers that you can trust to give you access to the internet without a credit check being required. If this is something that is off-putting for you when it comes to internet access, then EIN can be the ideal place to start. Unlike other companies, they do not ask you to go through a credit check or undergo an extensive, long-term contract. This allows you to have freedom with your internet options, and to know that you are in a mutually beneficial relationship with your internet provider.
You are under no obligation to accept a credit check – especially if you know you have a patchy history. Instead, you are much more likely to get support and assistance if you turn to a broadband company offering residential broadband without a credit check.
It’s not as hard as you might have first expected. Good quality broadband and Wi-Fi services are not only provided by companies who want you to go through a draconian credit check. Quickly and easily, you can overcome such limits and start using a broadband provider who gives you more leeway and honesty.
It’s hard to get a company to take you on if you are constantly struggling with credit problems. Some companies, though, will not look to discriminate against you in this manner. If you have a poor or middling credit history, improving that credit score can be hard due to constant rejections. With credit check free high-speed internet from EIN, for example, you can build up that credit score once again.
EIN give you the chance to get the opportunity to have high-speed internet without being judged on the past. Why should you always be judged on your financial position in the previous years? The world has undergone massive, global financial flux. You shouldn’t miss out by being caught up in that flux.
Can broadband services without a credit check be trusted?
Yes, 100%. This is a common question of legitimacy that can come up a lot. If someone is not asking you for a credit check, when in the industry checks are common, there is often a hidden or ulterior motive. With a broadband contract, though, companies such as EIN simply want to give you the chance to get back on the ladder.
Not every contract that you sign today should be judged on your actions in the past. With the economic strife that many people have found themselves in beforehand, you might not have been 100% sure where to turn to. There is no reason, though, why you should be put off by a company that simply wishes to be more open-minded about the clients it takes on. If that is the case, then you should look to start using an internet service without a credit check.
The credit check industry has meant that many otherwise successful people have found opportunities needlessly limited. There is no need for that, though. Credit checks only tell part of the story – especially when it comes to getting internet service.
So, if you are someone who has been rejected before, don’t discount a company as they don’t ask for a credit check. They won’t slip in nefarious extra contract shenanigans, nor will they ask for outrageous rates. The main difference is that some high-speed internet providers are happy to give you a chance, even if your present credit score is not quite as high as they might like.
Don’t let yourself be judged so much on the actions of the past. If you think that previous credit decisions might preclude you from having high-speed internet, think again. If you cannot pass a credit check, look at an internet service who won’t denigrate you for that.
When using the internet, one of the most frustrating problems that you can run into is a poor-quality internet service. You are working away, enjoying your evening streaming, gaming or just reading cool content. You start to notice, though, that your internet starts to produce less and less consistency in its results. Your favorite TV show starts to lag uncontrollably. You start missing clear headshots online in your favorite first-person shooter. Next thing you know, you’re respawning because someone you never have seen coming has popped you in the back of the head.
Sound common? Welcome to the horrible world of bandwidth throttling. If you use an internet service that provides bandwidth throttling, you should really consider an alternative. The prospect of bandwidth throttling can seem horribly draconian. It is, though, a problem that many Americans put up with day-in, day-out. What, though, is ‘bandwidth throttling’ in the first place?
What is bandwidth throttling?
The concept of bandwidth throttling is one designed to limit, basically. It’s an intentional, purposeful slowing down of the amount of bandwidth that you can get access to. It’s used for many purposes, none of them helpful to you, the customer, in any way. It’s a form of speed lowering used by internet service providers that stops your internet speed from reaching its peak potential.
Bandwidth throttling can happen on desktop and mobile devices, across wired connections or wireless via Wi-Fi. It can happen at various points during the connection process from your PC/mobile device to the website or online service that you are using (like an online game or streaming platform).
It’s a system that is used that, really, never benefits you as a consumer. Paying for high-speed internet that does produce consistently high speeds is a massive frustration. It means that you literally cannot access the information that you wish to access as quickly as you could or should.
So, why does bandwidth throttling happen?
As is often the case, the company who offers your internet supply is the clear winner here. They manage to get a lot out of reducing our bandwidth allocation. Doing this at certain periods of time during the day – often the time that you need/want good connectivity the most – helps to reduce server loads. It means that the company is having to invest fewer resources in processing data. The less data you can process at speed, the less they have to process on their end.
This allows the company to have to spend less on servers but also on equipment to manage the internet at the speed you need. Another reason why bandwidth throttling takes place is a lot less wholesome – it’s purely down to cost. If they hit you with a frustrating, evening-ruining throttled speed, you might just upgrade to the next package up – the one that promises less or no throttling.
Those who are using the internet professionally or for most of their entertainment, then, are essentially bullied into paying even more than they should. It’s a common part of the market and a rather unfair practice. It’s become part of the process, and one of the many reasons why US internet service users are watching their monthly costs for the internet go higher, higher and higher. This, naturally, produces negative results long-term.
Why else might my bandwidth get throttled?
Another reason why you might have the frustration of bandwidth throttling is the fact that you are using a service the ISP does not like. This happens when you are picking up data from a platform that the ISP would rather you did not use. Many of these are somewhat legitimate reasons, such as stopping you from using excessive internet speed to download torrents via a peer-to-peer file sharing platform. It will also be used to help reduce the amount of time that you can spend on things like Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime. The solution, of course, is to simply spend more. If you want access to the best things that the internet might be able to offer you, you will have to pay a premium fee to your internet provider in terms of going with a higher rate of an internet service contract.
But I thought my internet plan was unlimited?
Sadly, unlimited has become a term of meaningless usage when it comes to an internet service. Many ISPs manage to fit in unwritten rules regarding how much of the internet you can use on that one given day. Artificial limits – which are never made clear – can really impact and inhibit how much you can get out of your day when using the internet.
This is a common frustration. Bandwidth caps are often in the smallest of small print, or not mentioned at all. That can mean that you often see your internet usage throttled and weakened, ruining any potential plans for the evening. At this point, you have two options. You can pay even more for high-speed internet that you should already be getting. Or, you look for an alternative supplier of your internet service. If you cannot find a way to reduce bandwidth throttling with your present plan, it’s time to consider the latter.
Get an internet service who respects your decisions
You have no reason to put up with bandwidth throttling. At Easy Internet Now, you can find a high-speed internet provider who avoids any form of bandwidth throttling. For the reasons that we’ve explained above, you can see why it’s such an unscrupulous, unfair experience. Why should you be punished so heavily?
Don’t allow yourself to be taken for a fool. With an internet service which prioritizes consistency, you can enjoy a far more robust, enjoyable internet experience day-to-day. Don’t put up with second best, and never accept bandwidth throttling. With so many alternate internet providers who make it easy to avoid such practices, you can stay clear of this frustration. If you are someone who wants to help improve their internet usage, you should start here.
Microsoft has now announced their plan to take care of screen flicker issues with the Surface Pro 4. According to a recent article on Microsoft’s Support site, they will be replacing many of their Surface Pro 4s that have the screen flicker issue.
According to their post, Microsoft has noted that a “small percentage” of their Surface Pro 4s have a problem with the screen flickering. Customers have been posting about the issue in Microsoft’s Support section for months. Back in February, The Verge wrote about how some customers were putting their devices in the freezer so they might stop the screen flickering problem (an issue that was referred to by some as “Flickergate”). In The Verge’s article, they noted that at that time, flickering issues had been going on for at least a year, and hundreds of people had been dealing with the issue.
Now Microsoft is doing something about it. Surface Pro 4 owners who go through the replacement process within three years of buying the device can now get a full replacement for free. They do note that the device must be fully updated (to make sure the screen flickering actually does still occur) and that if the device has been damaged through other means (like having someone else try to work on the device) it won’t be eligible.
But if a customer has the screen flicker issue on their Surface Pro 4, they can contact Microsoft, get verification that they’re eligible, send the device back, and get a refurbished device within around a week after Microsoft has received the damaged one.
They also note that if a customer has “already paid an out-of-warranty fee” to take care of this specific issue, the customer can get a refund for the repair. This means people who didn’t wait around for this replacement program won’t be out a lot of extra money that other people didn’t have to pay.
If you have a Surface Pro 4 that’s been plagued with the screen flickering problem, take a look at Microsoft’s article and start taking the first steps toward replacement.
Developers of Alexa skills now have a way to make money off their offerings.
Alexa skills can now include money-making features, according to The Verge. If you use Alexa skills, you have probably noticed they’re all free. This is a refreshing change of pace from other services, like app stores on phones that can offer apps for large amounts of money. With Alexa’s available skills, you never have to worry about whether a skill you’ve found is going to end up costing you.
But now the developers of these skills do have some small ways to make money. The Verge notes that now skills can offer one in-skill purchase. This means they can have extra content or special features available for a cost. This can be a one-time fee or a subscription that continues. Compared to many apps, having one in-skill purchase is still a nice change of pace, since so many apps lock feature after feature behind a pay wall.
Developers can also now allow users of their skills to buy items. With Alexa, users could already use their voices to buy products from Amazon. But now they’ll be able to ask to buy things within other skills. This new feature will make use of Amazon Pay, letting developers offer a way to order through the skill. The Verge mentions that TGI Fridays and 1-800-Flowers are already making use of this new feature. With these skills, you can now directly place orders for the companies’ products.
While the skills themselves are still free (and there seem to be no plans to change this in the near future), adding a way for developers to make money through in-skill purchases and the use of Amazon Pay could end up being a big change. It could make Alexa skills seem more appealing to other developers who have yet to bring their ideas to the Alexa skill format. It may also make ordering items from companies other than Amazon much easier. Keep watch on Alexa’s skills to see which ones begin making use of these new capabilities.
Alexa has gotten an interesting new addition, and in the near future the smart assistant may also be able to continue a discussion without using a wake word.
To correspond with what’s known as ‘Alien Day,’ Alexa has a new skill called Offworld Colony Simulator. According to Fortune, you can use the skill on all devices that have Alexa. The skill is a game that’s similar to roleplaying games and that uses voice prompts and responses to challenge you to get away from a Xenomorph. There have been other voice-based RPGs available on Alexa (like The Magic Door). This one, though, is for sci-fi and Alien lovers.
There’s also news that Alexa may soon gain some more useful abilities. TechCrunch reports that Alexa users will be able to talk with Alexa more naturally and have Alexa remember certain things they choose.
Currently, when you want to use Alexa, you have to use a wake word (like “Alexa” or “Echo”). But in the future, Alexa will not always need you to use the wake word when you’re asking follow-up questions. So if you ask a question and then need more information, you won’t have to wake Alexa up all over again and form a complete new question. This will make conversations with Alexa flow more smoothly and be a little easier to manage.
As TechCrunch notes, you’ll also be able to ask Alexa to remember things. You can ask her to remember peoples’ birthdays or other important pieces of information. Then you’ll be able to ask her about that information in the future and retrieve it easily.
All of this is meant to give Alexa a more expansive and useful memory. It will make her more personal to each user’s account and it will make conversations with her feel a step closer to a conversation with a human (though, of course, we’re not fully there yet).
Offworld Colony Simulator is available to play now, while Alexa’s new memory updates are coming soon (TechCrunch says there’s not yet a launch date).
Have plans to travel? If you’re like a lot of other people, you might be headed on vacation this summer. Or you could have business trips planned. Whatever the case may be, traveling can be fun. But it can also have its own stresses and issues. Whether you’re driving a car or heading to an airport, it can sometimes seem tricky making it to a destination.
Thankfully, there’s some great technology available to make trips a little easier. You might need something to keep kids distracted during family trips, something to help you find your destination more smoothly, or something to give you peace of mind while your home is empty. All of these worries and more can be taken care of with some devices you’ve already heard of (and perhaps some you haven’t).
Tech For Traveling
Don’t lose your stuff
Want to keep track of your luggage or other important items? Tile is one way to do that. Luggage can sometimes get lost. And while you’re away from home, being in unfamiliar places can make it easier to lose things like your keys or your wallet.
With Tile, you can easily track important items, whether it be a suitcase or your rental car keys. All you have to do is attach Tile to whatever you want to keep track of, then use Tile’s app if you need to locate the item. There’s the Tile Slim, which is a thin version of the device that isn’t too bulky in a wallet. There’s the Tile Mate, which has a small hole in the corner so you can attach it to anything, like purses, backpacks, keys, and more. These two are most likely to be helpful during your travels. There’s even an accessory for the Tile Slim that is specifically made for traveling: the Tile Slim Luggage Tag.
There’s also the Tile Sport, which could come in handy if you’re going on a trip that might get a little rough (like if you’re camping, hiking, biking, or doing things outdoors). And there’s the Tile Style, which adds some extra flair to the device for a more fun appearance.
Prices vary for each Tile device, and there are also combo packs. You can buy 4-packs or 8-packs to pay a little less for each device, or you can mix it up and buy the different devices separately.
Keep your passengers entertained
If you’re traveling with impatient kids or adults who aren’t fans of road trips, keeping them distracted can be a great way to eliminate some stress. The answer is simple: bring a tablet. Using phones can be a drain on the battery and run the risk of not having enough battery life if your car breaks down. And using a tablet can seem like a special treat if your kids don’t already use them regularly (if they do, I’m sure you already know how entertaining they can be).
Even if you don’t already have one, buying one for your trip doesn’t have to be expensive. There are pricey options out there, but it can be as easy as buying a Kindle Fire for just $49.99 (and sometimes for less during a promotion). You can easily set up a kid-friendly account and choose which apps they can use. This should make it easier to pass the time.
A tablet can also be a useful way to save space. If you like to read during your relaxing vacations, you don’t have to pack any bulky books—you can just read them on your tablet.
Find your destination with no problem
We all know about apps like Google Maps and Waze. You likely use Google Maps to find your way on a regular basis. But for some, this isn’t the most convenient way to travel. If you’re traveling alone, or if you are particularly uncomfortable driving on busy interstates, through tricky areas, or at night, having a GPS system in your car might work a lot better than having to look at your phone while on the road.
Navdy is one way you can integrate navigation into your vehicle. Information is projected onto your windshield with a transparent display, so you don’t have to look down at a phone. It also dims or brightens appropriately. It uses Google Maps, so that will be familiar to you, and you can also set up a dashboard that shows things like how much gas you have left.
If you can’t quite afford a system like that at the moment, you can also consider Garmin. Garmin offers many different GPS systems, some for less than a hundred dollars. Their website lists their many different products, and you can also find them on Amazon.
Track down your car
You might be worried you’ll forget where you parked at the airport. Or you might be parking on unfamiliar streets in a city away from home. You can take a picture of your surroundings, but that isn’t always enough to find your way back where you started.
Fortunately, there are many apps that you can use to track down your car when you’re ready to leave. The simplest solution? Drop a pin on Google Maps and save your location. By placing a pin at your current location before leaving your car and then saving it to your places, you can easily make your way back.
There are other options if you don’t use Google Maps or want a more streamlined way to get back to your vehicle. Find My Car is a well-known app that saves the GPS location of your car and navigates you back to it later. You can find it on iOS and on Android. There’s also ParkMe, which can not only help you find your car, it can also help you figure out where to park in the first place.
Keep your home safe while you’re gone
If you’ll be away from home for a while and there won’t be anyone staying behind to house sit, there are ways to make yourself feel less worried about your empty home. With smart devices, you can keep watch on your home and make it look as though it’s not actually empty.
Smart security systems are also great for peace of mind. There are a lot of options out there, so of course, research carefully before investing in a system. With these systems, you can typically set motion alerts so you get a notification if the camera catches movement. You can also usually check in on a live feed. Nest offers some popular devices, as well as Frontpoint and Canary. Just make sure you know what the initial installation cost is as well as how much it will cost every month.
Amazon has now given Echo users a new way to make Alexa even more personalized. Skill Blueprints, added this past week, allow Alexa users to program their own customized skills for personal use.
Amazon announced the new ability for Alexa on their Alexa blog last week. Skill Blueprints is a feature that makes it easy to further personalize an Alexa device by creating your own trigger phrases and setting Alexa’s response, building your own trivia game, making personalized stories, and more.
On the Alexa Blueprints website, the feature is explained and the many different Skill templates are described. After logging in to the Amazon account that’s connected to your Alexa device, you can choose from a template and customize your personal skill. These skills are only available on your Alexa devices and aren’t publicly published. You can also have as many Skill Blueprints as you want.
Alexa is known for having some silly quips and fun easter eggs when she’s asked the right phrase. Now you can make your own fun responses with the Q & A Blueprint. You can set up a phrase like “Who’s the best basketball player?” and program Alexa to respond however you’d like. You can also have fun with other Blueprints like the one that “roasts” your guests with custom insults. There’s Family Jokes, which lets you put in your own jokes, as well as Compliments, Trivia, Inspirations (with your favorite quotes), and much more.
Plus you can use these Blueprints to make your smart home easier to navigate. You can use the Pet Sitter Blueprint to enter all the information someone might need to care for your pet (like where to find the food, how often to feed your pet, who to call in an emergency, etc.). And Houseguest has you enter information about staying in your home (and the nearby area) so that if someone is house sitting or visiting, they don’t have to keep texting you with questions about where to find extra paper towels or how to turn on the dishwasher.
There are many other Blueprints available, as well. In fact, there are currently 21 different Blueprints to choose from. Whenever you’ve created a Blueprint, you can go back to it and edit it whenever you want. Amazon’s blog says that your newly-created skills show up on your Alexa devices “instantly,” though it’s important to note that it takes a moment or two for the skills to actually be created. (The Blueprints website asks you to wait as the skill is actually finalized and ready to use—this seems to typically take less than a minute.)
Alexa Skill Blueprints are now available for use in the US. For more information, take a look at the Alexa Blueprints website.
Music and TV lovers, good news! You can now bundle Hulu and Spotify and save some money.
Currently only available to Spotify Premium subscribers, you can currently try Hulu for only 99 cents a month, says TechCrunch, and after this three month trial, you will be able to get both Hulu and Spotify for a combined total of only $12.99. This saves about 5 dollars a month on the popular streaming services.
The bundled Hulu subscription will be the version of Hulu with ads, but this is still a great deal and good news for people who already use one or both of the services anyway. And if you don’t currently use either one, this summer you’ll get a chance to start trying them both for quite a bit less than before.
A Spotify and Hulu bundle is certainly not a new concept. As I wrote last year, the Spotify Student Hulu Bundle became available for students. This bundle gives students both Spotify and Hulu (with ads) for only $4.99 a month and is available right now. Students simply have to follow the verification process to prove they’re currently enrolled in an institution.
Of course, $12.99 is a bit more than what students pay. But it still saves a decent amount of money. According to TechCrunch, the deal will be available to everyone in the summer. For now, if you have Spotify Premium, you can head to their page and add Hulu for an additional 99 cents during your three-month trial.
And for those of you using Hulu, there’s even more good news: for a limited time, you can add HBO to your subscription for only $5 a month. CNET reports that the add-on, which is usually $15 a month, is currently available at a huge discount. If you sign up for HBO during this promotion, you’ll get the $5 a month price for six months before it goes back to the normal $15 a month.
Long gone are the days when people had to wait for a show to air and watch it live. For many years now, TV shows and movies have been available to stream online. There are too many streaming services to even remember them all.
Whether you have Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Vudu, or any other streaming service, it’s very likely you’ve streamed an episode of your favorite show or a full movie in the not too distant past. You might have watched it by using your phone, your tablet, your computer, or perhaps something like a video game console connected to your TV.
There are many different streaming services and streaming options. One option is to use a streaming device (or a streaming stick). These streaming devices are focused solely on being small, unobtrusive, quick, and easy to use. You’ve likely heard of the most popular devices on the market.
You also might be wondering what the differences are between the devices. For those looking to get a streaming device, it might be difficult to choose. Or you might be wondering why so many people want to use these devices. In this article, I’m going to cover the basics as well as some of your options!
What is a video streaming device?
The video streaming devices this article talks about are typically small devices that plug into your TV. They can be tiny plugins that work with a remote, larger sticks, or other forms. While using one of these devices, people can stream videos from different places depending on the device: from specific services (using apps) or even from absolutely any service or site (using screen mirroring).
Some devices are more limited in what you can watch. Others (that use screen mirroring to let you display your phone, computer, or tablet on your TV) are nearly unlimited in what you can decide to watch.
Keep in mind that you’ll still need to subscribe to services separately. If you buy a video streaming device, you don’t get subscription services included (for instance, you’ll still need to pay to use Netflix).
Which TVs can use these devices?
Video streaming devices use recent technology to work. They typically need to be able to plug into an HDMI port on a TV. For this reason, you’ll nearly always need to have a fairly modern TV. Some devices specifically require you have an HDTV. If you have a pretty old TV that doesn’t have HDMI ports, you’ll very likely need to upgrade to a slightly newer TV.
You can check your TV’s manual to see if you have an HDTV with HDMI ports. Or you can look on your TV to find the TV model and look up its information online.
What’s so great about them?
Video streaming devices like those in this article are fairly popular at the moment, and they have been for years. One reason they are so well-liked is that they typically offer a wide range of streaming options. With most of these devices, you can choose between just about any service you use—Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, Vudu, YouTube, you name it. This means your video streaming might be entirely controlled through one device.
They’re also great because they’re usually very small and portable. They’re typically small sticks that can be quickly unplugged and used in a different TV. So if you buy a new TV, there aren’t a bunch of confusing cords to figure out. Or if you’re going to watch TV with someone else, you can easily transport the device to their home and set it up there.
Another positive is that there are some pretty affordable options. You don’t have to buy a new computer or use a gaming console to stream your shows. Those can be kind of pricey (though, of course, they do a lot more than just stream shows). If your main concern, though, is to stream TV and movies, you won’t have to splurge on an expensive, larger product.
And with these devices, controlling them is easy and convenient. Some of them have small remotes for controlling what you watch. Some of them also work through apps on phones. It’s no trouble at all to use the devices.
What are the most popular options?
There are a number of streaming video devices out there. If you’ve heard people talking about them, though, you’ve most likely heard them mention one of the devices listed below. The four devices in this article are some of the most popular and well-liked choices you have. Of course, they’re not your only options. But these devices are probably your likeliest contenders.
Apple, of course, has a streaming video device. They have more than one model, in fact. They offer the current model of their regular device (the 4th generation Apple TV) as well as the new Apple TV 4K (for use with 4K televisions). The 4K version is specifically designed to work with 4K TVs. If you have a 4K TV, you’ll want this model. It’s designed to run faster and display 4K video.
With the Apple TV, you simply plug the box into your TV with an HDMI cable (not included). The Apple TV comes with the Siri Remote so you can control what you watch. Once you’ve purchased Apple TV, you also get access to tech support for 90 days, plus you can get help from the Genius Bar.
Apple TV has many different apps to choose from. The product description specifically lists Netflix and Hulu. It also works with the other apps you’d expect, like YouTube and Amazon Video. It’s difficult to find a comprehensive list of all the available apps, but if you’re wondering whether your service works with Apple TV, a quick Google search should tell you. If you have an iOS device, you can also either cast an app to your TV or even mirror your iPhone’s screen to the TV.
Apple TV is currently $149. If you want the 4K version, you have two options: 32GB for $179 or 64GB for $199.
Chromecast is a little different from the other devices. It’s focused on casting from your other devices. Instead of having a remote that lets you choose between different apps, you use your phone, tablet, or computer to pick what you want to watch. Then you press the “Cast” button on the app and it’s displayed on your TV. It works with a number of devices, including those that use iOS, Android, and Windows. And there are many different apps that work with it, including the typical ones like YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and Google Play.
Screen mirroring is also big with Chromecast. If you have an Android device or use the Chrome browser on your computer, you can display your device’s screen. This means you can watch anything with your Chromecast. If there’s a streaming website that doesn’t have an app, you can simply open it on your Chrome browser, mirror the browser using Chromecast, and watch on your TV.
A regular Chromecast 2nd Generation device is currently $35. Chromecast Ultra is $69.
The Fire TV Stick plugs into an HDMI slot and can be controlled with the included remote. The remote, called the Alexa Voice Remote, lets you control what you watch by either using the buttons or by using your voice. For instance, you can say “Alexa, open Hulu” to launch the Hulu app, or ask Alexa to play a specific show or pull up a genre of shows. And if you don’t want to use the remote for some reason, you can also use your Amazon Echo device to control your TV.
This device from Amazon doesn’t just play Amazon content (I did mention Hulu above). You can launch many different apps, including the ones you’d expect, like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video (of course), and HBO NOW. You can also open web browsers and find content that way.
The Fire TV has some slight differences from the Fire TV Stick. The Fire TV isn’t the same kind of stick—it has a “pendant” design, so it looks a little different. It’s also designed to be faster, which is a definite plus. And, of course, it can display 4K content, so if you have a 4K TV, the Fire TV will be superior to the Fire TV Stick.
The Fire TV Stick is currently $39.99, while the Fire TV is currently $69.99 (or $74.99 if you get the bundle that includes a TV antenna).
Roku offers a number of different video streaming devices, each a little different. There’s the standard Roku Streaming Stick, the Streaming Stick+ (intended for 4K TVs), the Roku Express, the Roku Express+, (which works on older TVs!), and the Roku Ultra (intended for 4K TVs).
With a Roku device, you simply plug it in and set it up by creating a Roku account (or using an existing one). Depending on which device you choose, you’ll have some different features and options. Here’s a brief rundown of what’s different with each device:
- Roku Express is designed to be easy to set up (for those who are new to video streaming devices); it still has access to the same apps and it has a remote, but its performance may not be as high, and the remote doesn’t have voice control ($29.99)
- Roku Express+ is meant to be able to be used on older TVs; it comes with a composite cable as well as the typical HDMI cable, so if you don’t have HDMI ports, you can plug in the oldschool red, white, and yellow cords ($35)
- Roku Streaming Stick is the standard stick, with access to all the typical apps; it comes with a remote that includes voice control ($49.99)
- Roku Streaming Stick+ has the capabilities of the regular Streaming Stick, but it’s higher quality (it can stream 4K) and it can work well when further from your internet router, so it’s more easily used throughout your home ($69.99)
- Roku Ultra is meant for intense streaming and can stream 4K content; it’s designed to be faster, clearer, and it comes with some extras, like headphones, a feature for finding the remote when it’s lost, and other audio features ($99.99)
Though Roku’s devices all have some things in common, like access to typical apps such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video, they all have some slight differences, so make sure to consider each one before deciding.