In 2011, only 25 percent of Americans used Netflix to stream television shows and movies. Today, that percentage has more than doubled as 55 percent now subscribe to the service. Netflix used to be the only game in town, but as the streaming became more popular, the availability of more and more service providers has resulted in streaming options for any budget. With so many available plans, media is available to nearly everyone. Here’s how to determine which of these five quality choices in streaming services, ranging from least expensive to most, is best for your personal wants and wallet.
Determine How You Want to View Streaming
The first step in choosing your streaming service is to consider whether you watch more media on your phone or your computer. If you’re an avid smartphone watcher, it’d be smartest to look into different plans available. You may not be on a plan conducive to streaming shows and movies.
If your plan does not match your needs, there are great smartphone plans available that will pay for the early termination fees your current provider might charge, and also offer perks like no annual service contract and device payoff, which can save you up to $650. That’s more money for media. With your plan optimized, it’s time to look at streaming prices.
Research Streaming Options
The Tight Budget
Roku Express: For those streaming fans who are conscious of every penny spent, the Roku Express provides some bang for your buck. Priced at just under $30, it is the only option for those who want to add Hulu, Amazon, YouTube and additional media streams.
Additionally, most other options are limited to one service. It’s one of the most affordable and easiest to use and is teeming with streaming apps. The Express does not come without drawbacks, though. The is no option for wired Ethernet, so your Wi-Fi signal needs to be consistent and strong.
The Sensible Budget
Google Chromecast: Chromecast used to be the least expensive streaming solution, but it has sense been undercut. Google Chromecast However, it is still a solid choice feature-wise. Chromecast literally “casts” the streaming content from the streaming apps that you already subscribe to onto your choice of device; it does not have its own user interface like Roku or Amazon Fire.
There is no remote baggage as the service is coordinated through an icon on your device, so you simply pull up the streaming service you want, and hit the Chromecast icon and the content appears on the screen. You can also pull up other content to your TV screen from the Chrome web browser on your computer so that anything you view online can be “cast” onto the TV screen.
The Moderate Budget
Amazon Fire TV Stick: Now available with an Alexa Voice Remote feature, the Fire Stick comes in at just under $40. Though not compatible with High Def Resolution, according to FireStickTricks the Fire Stick is discrete in the form of a short stick that you insert into your HDMI port, and no other “stick” offers a full remote that you can sync for voice control.
Another cool Fire TV feature that makes it worth a few more bucks is that if you have an Amazon Prime subscription, the interface is designed to compliment it, though it works perfectly well with all the other major streaming services, too. Plus the voice command feature works across all your streaming apps.
The Upscale Budget
The Nvidia Shield Android TV streaming box: For those of discerning tastes, the Nvidia Shield has nearly every popular app, Amazon Video and Netflix, and many of those include HDR and 4K. In essence, it’s a gaming platform with an awesome controller, and it also features interactivity and voice search that works with both the controller and the remote. Also, it’s rumored to be acquiring the Google Assistant feature in the near future.
Though you can’t gain access to some of the premium games without streaming directly from a PC, it you’re just looking for a deluxe option for streaming, the Nvidia is a luxury.
With more than half of the nation’s population plugged into streaming services, it’s a real shame to let a tight budget prevent you from joining in on the fun. With the right plan and a little research, you can find an option that suits you and your bank account.