Make us your home page
Instagram

'Streaming stick' comparison test

NEW YORK — Google's much-talked-about $35 Chromecast streaming device is remarkable for its low cost. Its main problem, however: It works with a limited number of video services. Recently, Roku and a few small startups have come out with low-cost devices that allow you to stream video content from Netflix, Hulu and other services to your television. This relatively new class of device is known as the streaming stick. Each is about the size of a cigarette lighter and plugs into your TV's HDMI port. There are more expensive streaming gadgets, such as Amazon's new Fire TV, the Apple TV and the Roku 3, all of which cost about $100 and take up more space — as much as a plastic CD case. I believe all three are better deals than cheaper streaming devices. But streaming sticks will do the job if cost or space is an issue. With all of these devices, separate subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu and other services are required.

Google Chromecast

Price: $35

Take it out of the box and plug it into your TV's HDMI port. There's also a cable to connect to the TV's USB port for power. Download the Chromecast app to your iPhone, iPad or Android device. You then download an app that's supported. There are more than 50 video, game and other apps, and the list is growing. There's no app for Amazon Instant Video, iTunes or ESPN. You do get Netflix, Hulu Plus and YouTube.

Pros: Households with multiple Netflix and Hulu accounts can keep them separate by controlling Chromecast with their phones. It's one of the few to support video and music through Google Play, and it lets you mirror a personal computer's browser tab.

Cons: App selection is small. If your phone loses the Wi-Fi connection with the Chromecast, there's no way to forward, rewind, pause or stop the video on the TV.

Roku Streaming Stick

Price: $50

Just connect the device to an HDMI port and a power cable to the USB port. The Roku stick comes with a remote, so it's easier to navigate. It runs the more than 1,000 apps available, including games and language lessons. The main exceptions are games that require the Roku 3's motion sensor remote. Neither Roku device has iTunes or Google Play. The device's processor also isn't as fast as the Roku 3's, so it may take longer to navigate and open apps. As is common with many streaming devices, expect some audio and video synching issues.

Pros: The stick works with lots of apps, and its remote offers excellent control compared with rival streaming sticks. Its apps include Amazon Instant Video, something other sticks don't offer.

Cons: If you sit on the remote, you may accidently disrupt your viewing.

BiggiFi

Price: $89

Plug it in, then control it with the BiggiFi app on Apple and Android devices. On the TV, you'll see an Android home page with some apps. Get others through Google's Play store. To tap an icon, you have to figure out the corresponding position on your phone. Tap the phone too far to the left and you get the app to the left of the one you wanted. You then have to guess where the back button is. BiggiFi does let you snap a screenshot so what's on the TV appears on your phone, but once you tap your selection, it's out of synch again. There's a mouse mode that turns the phone screen into a touchpad, though I couldn't scroll with the iPhone version.

Pros: There's a variety of Android apps, though that still excludes iTunes and Amazon Instant Video.

Cons: Interface is far from friendly. Not all Android apps work.

'Streaming stick' comparison test 05/23/14 [Last modified: Sunday, May 25, 2014 9:53pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 'Toxic' times: How repeal of Florida's tax on services reverberates, 30 years later

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Long before Hurricane Irma attacked Florida, the state faced a troubled fiscal future that the storm will only make worse.

    Robertson says the tax debate is now “toxic.”
  2. Fewer Tampa Bay homeowners are underwater on their mortgages

    Real Estate

    The percentage of Tampa Bay homeowners underwater on their mortgages continues to drop. In the second quarter of this year, 10.2 percent of borrowers had negative equity compared to nearly 15 percent in the same period a year ago, CoreLogic reported Thursday. Nationally, 5.4 percent of all mortgaged homes were …

    The percentage of Tampa Bay homeowners underwater on their mortgages  continues to drop. [Times file photo]
  3. 'What Happened'? Clinton memoir sold 300,000 copies in first week

    Blogs

    Despite being met with decidedly mixed reviews, What Happened, Hillary Clinton's new memoir about the 2016 presidential campaign, sold a whopping 300,000 copies in its first week.

    The new memoir by former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton sold 300,000 copies in its first week.
  4. After Irma topples tree, home sale may be gone with the wind

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — To house hunters searching online, the home for sale in St. Petersburg's Shore Acres neighborhood couldn't have looked more appealing — fully renovated and shaded by the leafy canopy of a magnificent ficus benjamini tree.

    Hurricane Irma's winds recently blew over a large ficus tree, left, in the yard of a home at 3601Alabama Ave NE, right, in Shore Acres which is owned by Brett Schroder who is trying to sell the house.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  5. Unemployment claims double in Florida after Hurricane Irma

    Business

    The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dropped by 23,000 last week to 259,000 as the economic impact of Hurricane Harvey began to fade.

    Homes destroyed by Hurricane Irma on Big Pine Key last week. Hurricane Irma continued to have an impact on the job market in Florida, where unemployment claims more than doubled from the previous week.
[The New York Times file photo]