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. Trigaux: Amid a record turnout, regional technology group spotlights successes, desire to do more

    Business

    ST. PETERSBURG — They came. They saw. They celebrated Tampa Bay's tech momentum.

    A record turnout event by the Tampa Bay Technology Forum, held May 24 at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, featured a panel of area tech executives talking about the challenges encountered during their respective mergers and acquisitions. Show, from left to right, are: Gerard Purcell, senior vice president of global IT integration at Tech Data Corp.; John Kuemmel, chief information officer at Triad Retail Media, and Chris Cate, chief operating officer at Valpak. [Robert Trigaux, Times]
  2. Take 2: Some fear Tampa Bay Next transportation plan is TBX redux

    Transportation

    TAMPA — For many, Wednesday's regional transportation meeting was a dose of deja vu.

    The Florida Department of Transportation on Monday announced that it was renaming its controversial Tampa Bay Express plan, also known as TBX. The plan will now be known as Tampa Bay Next, or TBN. But the plan remains the same: spend $60 billion to add 90 miles of toll roads to bay area interstates that are currently free of tolls. [Florida Department of Transportation]
  3. Palm Harbor boat dealer facing litany of complaints of bad deals

    Business

    PALM HARBOR — With an aging father sick in the hospital and a son just graduating high school, Andrew Kashella, in between jobs, knew what he had to do.

    A sign on a front window of Gulf Coast Boat Sales, 37517 Us Highway 19 N, in Palm Harbor, notifies people they are under restructuring  The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office has received 20 complaints against Gulf Coast Boat Sales in Palm Harbor. Complainants say they sold the shop their boats and never got paid and/or paid for boats they never received. Pinellas County Consumer Protection is leading the investigation.
  4. To catch a poacher: Florida wildlife officers set up undercover gator farm sting

    Wildlife

    To catch a ring of poachers who targeted Florida's million-dollar alligator farming industry, state wildlife officers created the ultimate undercover operation.

    To catch a ring of poachers who targeted Florida's million-dollar alligator farming industry, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission set up an undercover operation. They created their own alligator farm, complete with plenty of real, live alligators, watched over by real, live undercover wildlife officers. It also had hidden video cameras to record everything that happened. That was two years ago, and on Wednesday wildlife officers announced that they arrested nine people on  44 felony charges alleging they broke wildlife laws governing alligator harvesting, transporting eggs and hatchlings across state lines, dealing in stolen property, falsifying records, racketeering and conspiracy. The wildlife commission released these photos of alligators, eggs and hatchlings taken during the undercover operation. [Courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission]
  5. CBO analysis: 23 million would lose health coverage under House-passed bill

    National

    WASHINGTON — The Republican health care bill that passed the House earlier this month would nearly double the number of Americans without health insurance over the next decade, according to a new analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

    Demonstrators protests the passage of a House Republican health care bill, outside the the Capitol in Washington, on May 4. The House took the unusual step of voting on the American Health Care Act before the Congressional Budget Office could assess it. That analysis was released Thursday and it showed the bill would cause 23 million fewer people to have health insurance by 2026. Many additional consumers would see skimpier health coverage and higher deductibles, the budget office projected.