The right media streaming for your home theater
As 4K/UHD, HDR and Dolby Atmos have the home theater world all abuzz, many enthusiasts are asking the question critical to taking advantage of any new home theater technology: where will we get compatible content? In the past, content was slow to catch up to new technology. Remember when high def TVs came out but there were only one or two cable channels that actually played in high def? Well, that is not the case anymore.
Content is catching up to the high home theater bar faster than ever, and for all of these new technologies that have become available in recent years, the source of the greatest variety of content is the same: streaming. Services like Netflix, Amazon, Vudu, etc. have all led the way with commitments to making even more high-tech content available on a continuous basis.
If you’re planning on purchasing a 4K/UHD/HDR TV or installing Dolby Atmos sound, you also need a way to access all of those content-rich streaming services. That means it’s also time to take a look at the many media streaming devices—also called media players—that can provide the movies and TV shows to make your investment worthwhile.
Roku: A widely praised favorite among all media streaming devices, Roku is called by many tech reviewers the “gold standard” in streaming. Speed, ease of use and simple navigation have always made this media player a favorite, and with the introduction of the Roku 4 ($120), delivering access to some of the widest range of 4K content, and the Roku 3 ($99), Roku now offers a much buzzed about feature: voice-controlled searching. Roku offers access to all streaming services with equal easy (no favoritism here), and it offers a number of apps as well. The Roku 3 no longer offers an analog port, so if you’re still using any non-HDMI devices, it might be worth investing in an older Roku 2 for those occasions.
Apple TV: Apple is famous for its slick, user-friendly interfaces, and the Apple TV is a seamless extension of that reputation. It comes at a heftier price tag ($189-$210), but many people, particularly those who are looking for integration among several Apple devices, are not deterred by the price. Once again, design is the top reason. Users love the ease of the thumb touchpad remote and voice-controlled searching. Another favorite feature works especially for iTunes users: if you own an extensive library of movies and TV shows through iTunes, this is simply the easiest way to access them. Users also have access to the full Apple App Store, but there’s one caveat: no Amazon. If you want to access shows you own or rent through Amazon, or free Amazon Prime content, you’ll have to make use of a third-party app. And one more critical caeat: as of yet, Apple TV does not support 4K.
Amazon Fire TV: Amazon offers two media streaming devices, its cheaper Amazon Fire stick and the much faster Amazon Fire box. We’re going to stick with the box here, since it is the only that supports 4K and it is much more suited to the high performance demands of a sophisticated home theater system. The least expensive of these three options at $85, this one, not surprisingly, heavily features Amazon’s streaming network. You can still access other streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu, and Amazon Fire TV also comes highly rated parental controls and the new voice-controlled Alexa digital assistant.
These are three of the best home theater options among a wide and growing variety. Fortunately, in the home theater world, these are relatively inexpensive devices, so you’d do well to choose the best device for your needs right now. Contact us at Jackson Hole AV -- we'd be delighted to help -- and keep checking Tips from the Top to stay updated on this exciting technology as it develops.