What is a Streaming Media Player and What’s Available?

What is a Streaming Media Player?

A Streaming Media Player is a device that takes digital content either from the internet or a local storage device and converts into sound, videos and pictures.  Modern devices are known as Streaming Media Players as they mainly take content from the internet and stream it down your internet connection and display in on your TV screen.  Media is generally video such as movies and TV shows and also Music that can be played on speakers.

Most media players will support the mainstream music services such as Spotify, Google Music and Pandora as well as video services such as Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, and Netflix.  These are only a few of the ever expanding mainstream subscription service available.

Other functions of a Streaming Media Player include the ability to view photos stored on your local network, flash memory cards, or USB-based external drives. Streaming Media Players also let you play music stored on those same devices as well as let you play videos.

 

What Streaming Media Players are available?

 

Android TV

Google’s Android TV is an operating system designed to give a 10 foot experience to Android.  It takes the Android OS and adds a TV optimized interface and navigation system for easy control with simple remote system.

Google Android TV

If you search for Android TV devices you will find a vast amount of devices claiming to be Android TV devices. In a way, this is true, but the majority of Android TV devices you’ll find are running vanilla Android and are not designed for a simplistic, TV style interface and remote control experience.  Applications designed for Android TV have the same design goals as the applications available for Android TV on the Google Play store such as Netflix.  These are optimized versions of the standard Android application but designed to make use of a larger TV display and cursor key remote controllers. e.g. Installing the Android version of Netflix will not provide the same easy to use interface as the Netflix application specifically designed for Android TV. The Android TV OS has also been licenced to TV manufacturers and you can purchase a TV with Android TV built in such as the latest Sony LCD displays.

Xiaomi Mi Box Android TV with Remote

The original Android TV device was designed by Google and manufactured by ASUS and is called the Nexus Player. The Nexus player has now been discontinued by Google.  Since then nVidia came out with the nVidia Shield TV, which is considered to be the best of the best, and more recently Xiaomi released the Mi Box which can be purchased from their own online store or your local Walmart store.

 

Android Set Top Boxes

Android Set Top boxes are very similar to the Android TV boxes and often called Android TV boxes, but they lack the built in TV interface or 10 foot interface of Android TV.  Many applications will not be completely controllable with a simple cursor remote control and will require either a mouse and/or keyboard or what is know as an Air Mouse that simply acts in a similar fashion to a regular mouse and allows you to control the on screen cursor and point to and select items on the screen.  In essence, it acts like an extension of your hand and allows control of an Android Touch interface.  Most Android TV boxes are made in China and support is lacking, but there are a few made in the UK and the US from more reputable companies that offer much better support.  One supplier is DroidBOX, a UK based company with an excellent reputation.  I would consider these devices great for the more technically savvy device users.

DroidBOX T8 Mini Box and Remote

 

Roku

Roku devices are streaming media players that takes internet content and displays it on your TV screen.  Known to many as the leader in the online streaming media player market, Roku make and incredibly user friendly interface that your grandparents could use.  The Roku OS has also been licenced to TV manufacturers and you can purchase TV with Roku built in.  A great selection of Roku devices are available directly from Roku from an Entry level Roku Stick that plugs directly into your television’s HDMI port to high performance 4K streaming boxes.

 

Google  Chromecast

Chromecast is a Streaming Media Player that plugs into the HDMI port on your TV. Taking a different approach, Google designed a device that has no remote control but instead relies on the use of your mobile device to choose your media and cast it to your Chromecast.  Once you have cast the media to your Chromecast device, the Chromecast takes over and free’s your remote device to do whatever it needs to do.  Chromecast works with iPhone®, iPad®, Android phone and tablet, Mac® and Windows® laptop, and Chromebook.

 

Amazon Fire TV

Amazon Fire TV is available of a few different flavors ranging from a low end Fire TV Stick which is a simple all on one stick shaped device that plugs directly into into the HDMI port of your TV to the higher end Fire TV set-top device which is larger and sits separate from your TV connected via a HDMI cable.  Higher end devices offer additional functions such as RJ45 Network connections so you don’t have to rely on WiFi.

Amazon Fire Stick 2016 with Alexa Remote

The Amazon Fire TV devices run on a customized version of Android with access to the Amazon Android App Store.  What this also allows is side-loading of other Android applications if your into that kind of thing.

Kodi is also available for the Amazon Fire TV devices.

 

Apple TV

More information on Apple TV is coming soon.

 

XBox

More information on XBox is coming soon.

 

PlayStation

More information on PlayStation is coming soon.