A streaming media device, also called by many as media streamer, lets you connect your TV or home theater to the internet, in order to stream movies, songs and other types of videos.
Streaming refers to the delivery method of a media where you can play and listen to some media files even if they're not present in your PC, like YouTube videos.
This method is directly opposite to the downloading where you need to obtain whole file on your end before 'opening' it.
Best Media Streaming Devices 2019
Media Streamers vs Network Media Players
Most people think that media streamers and network media players are two different names for the same thing, but it's not true actually.
In media streamers, you can only stream from online services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant video etc, but in network media players, you can stream content from your home network as well (if you have attached an external HDD or NAS storage to your home network).
It means that while all network media players are media streamers, the opposite isn't necessarily true.
Yes, there are apps that can let your media streamer to stream home network-based content but these apps aren't installed by default and not all media streamers support them.
Apart from that, some network media players also come with USB port so that you can attach your Flash drive or Hard drive to them and stream data.
So, what should you get, a media streamer or a network media player?
It all depends on your usage.
If you only want to do steaming from online sites like Netflix or Hulu, then you should go for a media streamer, such as Roku, or Google Chromecast.
And if you want to do some extra things, in addition to online streaming, then a network media players is the best bet.
Best Media Streaming Devices 2019 Buying Guide
Nvidia Shield TV Gaming Edition
Best Streaming Device 2019 For Gamers
Nvidia is a well-known company among PC gaming community for their graphics cards, but the Santa Clara-based Tech giants are trying hard to make space in new verticals.
Nvidia Shield gaming tablet was one step of this whole plan. Released in 2015, that tablet got some praise for its speakers and twitch steaming ability, but was panned for its high price.
And for those who don't know Shield TV itself was first launched in 2015, but 2 years later 2017 model came with some refinements. And this 2017 model is the one we're discussing right now.
Let's how Nvidia's second attempt goes.
Android, as an operating system is basically present on every tech device right now which is not owned by Apple. From watches to smartphones to tablets, everything is covered.
And now Nvidia shield has come up with Android TV, a variant of android OS designed specifically for digital media players and features Google Play, voice recognition, content aggregation and many other goodies.
And to this date, Shield is the only set-up box to feature this OS.
In terms of design, Shield TV looks a mini gaming console rather than a media player. There are different angular-shaped design patterns inscribed on one side, making a neon-green colored 'V' in the process.
Being equipped with Android TV, this box takes a very little of your time to be set up. You just need to connect it with your TV through an HDMI 2.0 cable, connect it to the internet, upgrade any necessary app and you're done.
Some of the most popular streaming apps like YouTube, Netflix, Google Movies, Spotify, Plex come out of the box in shield TV.
Deep searching functionality has also been improved from the first version, but not all apps and services are compatible with this feature.
A remote controller comes with this device that has a D-pad for navigation, in addition to the home and back button, with a touch-based volume slider.
There are different versions of this device, and since we reviewed the gaming edition here, we got the controller as well.
It looks like a variant of Xbox controller from design, and actually perform very well (but not up to the standard of best controllers) if you're playing games over Shield TV. That being said, this box doesn't support every android game on the play store.
But the ones that it does support, are snappy and smooth, thanks to Tegra X1 processor, and look stunning too. Probably because these games aren't just scaled to TV resolution. It's a proper graphics implementation.
Speaking of games, you can actually use Nvidia Geforce Now service to steam them from Nvidia-powered PC over to your TV through WiFi. You should have a high-speed internet for this though.
Thanks to its powerful process, this box is a step-up from any media streamers out there. And difference is clearly felt in load time of apps, and crashing is practically impossible.
Despite all the goodies, there are some cons in this box such as voice integration which isn't as accurate as some other competitors.
Apart from this, a newer version of this set-up box isn't that big of an update from its predecessor, and on top of that, 2015 model is significantly less expensive than than one from 2017.
These cons are the only thing that prevent the Nvidia Shield from being the best set-top box for gamers and the non-gamers alike.
But sadly, non-gamers won't find too much attraction in this one.
Apple TV 4K
Best Media Streamer For Apple Lovers
Apple TV 4K is the successor of the 4th-Gen Apple TV (2015 model) and is the first one among the Apple TV line-up to support 4K content.
While 2015 model was lauded by many for its Siri integration and intelligent interface, there were some downsides in the form of average touch controls and high price tag.
So let's how the latest Apple TV 4K model goes.
When it comes to Apple TV series, the Apple Inc. haven't really changed the design at all since its inception. Perhaps they know a thing or two about not fixing what's not broken.
Since the original model, the only thing that has changed is the size. Measuring 4.0 x 4.0 x 1.3 inches, it's neither small enough to be placed behind your TV, nor big enough to treated as a separate device.
This makes it a simple yet elegant device, thanks to uncluttered sides.
On the backside, there's a port button and an HDMI port, in addition to a single Ethernet port. There are no Audio and USB ports, which is a shame considering the price you're putting into it.
Coming to its interface, my feelings are mixed, to be honest.
First we'll talk about its positives. Yes it's clean (as you would expect from any Apple device) and customizable. There are different apps with large icons that easily let you know where to find your favorite content.
All of these apps can be accessed through your home screen. You can drag these apps to sort them in whatever order you like, and can even make folders to group a bunch of similar apps.
From the moment you go deeper than the home screen, things start to get ugly, seriously. Apple's own iTunes, for example, has been separated based on three different content types (music, movies, and TV shows) for no reason apparently.
On top of that, there's an unpolished feature called the TV app. It was introduced as a main-hub for all the TV shows you watch on HBO, Hulu and ABC etc, and based on your preferences, it'll suggest you some other TV shows running on those services.
The reality is very different though. More often than not, those suggested shows aren't according to the user's liking. Instead, they're jus the latest/popular shows running on a particular service.
This makes TV app really bloated and messy.
The remote that comes with Apple TV 4K is also different than most of the other media streamers' remotes around. It's because rather than a direction pad, you'll be greeted with a touchpad on which you'll have to tap and slide fingers in order to navigate.
This touchpad is supposed to help you navigate faster as compared to the traditional direction-pad but you'll have to spend a good amount of time adapting to the sensitivity of this pad. First-time users may find it a little too sensitive and inaccurate.
In addition to that, there's circular menu button, a home button, a play/pause button, and a volume button.
As the far as the content-search is concerned, Siri's performance is top-notch. Even if there's some content on a compatible app (and a lot of apps are Siri compatible by the way) remotely related to your search, Siri will find it for you.
To my disappointment though, Siri was actually less awesome in finding out apps from the app store.
One advantage Apple TV 4k have over its competitors (except Nvidia Shield) is the amount of games its offers. There are a lot of games you can play with it, but you would have to buy a separate controller.
Playing games with the remote will be too sloppy.
The other handy feature of this box is that you can use it as your smart-home controlling hub. Any device based on Apples' Home kit protocol can be controlled through this box. Once you would've completed the setup, you'll be able to control these gadgets even when not connected to your home's WiFi network.
In terms of performance, the biggest addition in the Apple TV 4k is the 4K and HDR ability. Needless, your internet connection should be strong enough to load 4K content.
Overall, I have mixed feeling after using it. It has made improvements over its predecessor in some areas, while in others, there are same issues.
So, if you're not into Apple, you can have a similar device for way less money. But if your'e surrounded by the Apple ecosystem, you can now stream content in 4K HDR, albeit in a high price.
Amazon Fire TV Cube
Best Media Streamer For Alexa
Google Chromecast (2018)
Best Casting Device 2019
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