Consumers who opt to quit their cable subscriptions have to face a new challenge — what streaming device will they get that will make them say it’s worth dumping the cable and satellite TV services. Gone are the days when we have to scramble in front of the TV just to catch our favorite TV program on time. Now, we can easily stream our favorite TV program(s) from our smartphones, tablets, and personal computers anytime. But, no matter how convenient our access to various digital contents may be, nothing beats watching it on a much bigger screen at the comfort of your home.
Good thing there’s a wad of set-top box options that you can get at an affordable price. Budget-conscious consumers can weigh their options for each device’s pros and cons versus the unique features they can offer that will definitely suit their needs and network requirements. Check out our top streaming devices you can get at $100 and below.
Roku 3 for $94.99
With its superb interface and fast processor, you would feel that it’s a quicker and more responsive streaming device compared to its competitors. Currently, it supports more than 1,000 channels such as Netflix, Amazon Instant, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Pandora, MLB.TV, Amazon Cloud Player, Vudu, and YouTube. Included in the package is a neat remote with a built-in headphone jack, which is perfect for someone who has roommates or likes to watch movies late at night. However, unlike Apple TV that is tightly integrated with the Apple ecosystem, the Roku 3 somewhat lacks file-format support. So if you’re mostly looking for a device that will stream your personal digital media collection, it’s not the ultimate option.
Overall, the Roku 3 can be considered as the best streaming-video box yet, along with tons of content sources, speedy performance, and a nifty remote that will be too tempting to resist.
Apple TV for $89.99
Truly an “apple of the eye” for solid Apple fanatics, the Apple TV allows you to stream all the video content in the iTunes Store to your HDTV, with purchases stored in the cloud. You can enjoy a number of online media services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Go, and MLB.TV. You can also stream your music, photos, and videos from your iOS devices via AirPlay. Recently, iTunes Radio was also recently added, which gives you a free radio option to your living room. One flaw that we can say about the Apple TV is that it has fewer apps and features compared to Roku 3, cross-platform search, and a remote with a headphone jack. It’s not really a big deal, but it’s not to have these features/accessories, especially if they’re almost the same cost. It’s interface and design are geared towards iTunes content, dominated by iTunes movies, TV shows, and music. This box is perfect if you’re invested in the Apple ecosystem, but won’t be if you prefer to rent and buy content from Amazon or Vudu, where neither are available on Apple TV.
Like we said, if you’re invested in the Apple ecosystem, the Apple TV is an excellent streaming box that’s reasonable for its price.
Roku HD for $61.50
Quite affordable at only $60, it offers hundreds of streaming video and audio services, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, HBO Go, Vudu, Pandora, Mog, Rdio, and MLB.TV. Like with Roku 3 where it gives cross-platform search that allows you to find content among major streaming services, the Roku HD also supports older TVs via its analog video output. Some lacking features of this device is its lack of channels for YouTube and Spotify, as well as the absence of an Ethernet port. Therefore, you’ll have to have a solid Wi-Fi signal in your home theater. If you’re seeking for an ultra-affordable Internet media box, the $60 Roku HD is a top pick because of its ability to stream hundreds of audio and video channels.
WD TV Live for $71
The WD TV Live was introduced by Western Digital as the new diskless version, following the success of the WD TV Live Hub. Among its added features are built-in Wi-Fi and support for Spotify music-streaming. Its great interface only adds to the device’s main attraction, which is the wide file support — a huge appeal to consumers who make heavy use of downloaded video files. Some of the things you may not like about this device is that the best streaming channels will require paid subscriptions or pay-per-view fees, remote buttons are rubbery, the keyboard is difficult to use, and its software still has bugs that is yet to be fixed.
If you have a large library of digital files, you’ll appreciate the WD TV Live. It offers a solid combination of must-have streaming services and has a great USB and network file support, which makes it one of the best devices in its price range.
Google Chromecast for $35
If you can’t think of a more cheaper streaming device, wait till you meet Google Chromecast — a very cheap, small-sized wireless video dongle that is neatly hidden behind your TV. It allows streaming via Netflix, YouTube, Pandora, Google Music, Google Movies & TV, and HBO Go to your TV using Android or iOS tablets as your remote. Other channels included are Hulu Plus, Plex, and Vevo thus, making it one of the competent streamers around. The setup process is pretty easy and only takes a few minutes, with clear illustrations to guide you step-by-step. Unfortunately, the device’s screen-mirroring feature does not provide a solid performance, so you’re only limited to its supported apps. It also lacks a dedicate remote, meaning you always need to have a gadget nearby to use as its remote. And if you add just $15 more, you can already get a Roku box that provides more channels and an onscreen interface, giving you a more traditional TV experience.
If you’re on a tight budget, Google Chromecast is a great must-have for all your streaming needs. But, if you think closely, you can get a better streaming device when it comes to features like the Roku boxes within its price range.