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Ask Slashdot: What's the Best Media Streaming Device? 206

The network card died on Thelasko's smart TV -- and rather than spend $65 on a new one, they're considering buying a nice, simple streaming box. I am running a Rygel server on my PC, but rarely use it... I primarily only watch Amazon Prime, Netflix, and YouTube for streaming, and am wondering what Slashdot users have found to be the best option. I'm considering Roku or Chromecast because they are well known and supported. However, I have heard a lot of news about Kodi devices being more hackable.
AppleTV? Amazon Fire TV? The Emtec GEM Box? Building your own from a Raspberry Pi? Leave your own thoughts and suggestions in the comments.

What's the best media streaming device?

Ask Slashdot: What's the Best Media Streaming Device?

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  • by xlsior ( 524145 ) on Sunday January 07, 2018 @12:38AM (#55878413) Homepage
    2nd Gen FireTV: https://www.amazon.com/Certifi... [amazon.com]
    It has more horse power than the 3rd gen. Ethernet, wifi, SD card slot, and a USB port (which can support a 3rd party USB infrared + MCE remote). On top of that, it allows you to easily sideload 3rd party android apps, either by ADB or using the downloader app in their app store.
    The Amazon app store has Netflix, Hulu, amazon Prime Video, and many other streaming video providers.

    Unfortunately Amazon doesn't appear to manufacture them anymore, but they still sell certified refurbished ones.

    (The newer FireTV 3rd gen is similar, but has 2/3 the processing power, no built-in ethernet, no SD card slot, and only supports an Amazon branded external Ethernet adapter in the USB slot, nothing else. It is a little cheaper,though.)
    • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

      2nd Gen FireTV: https://www.amazon.com/Certifi... [amazon.com] ...
      The Amazon app store has Netflix, Hulu, amazon Prime Video, and many other streaming video providers.

      The poster specifically lists YouTube as a platform he watches, though. Will he be happy with Amazon's workaround for the Google/Amazon spat?

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Also, it didn't support 60 FPS on YouTube back when it had the app. If you like video games or other 60 FPS content it's no good.

        Google Chromecast and Kodi work fine.

        • by acroyear ( 5882 )

          if you want video games, don't go for an android-based box. streaming tv and music is 'easy'. being a fast and efficient gaming box is harder.

          If gaming is your primary need, get a gaming box that supports streaming apps, not a streaming device that has a few games on it.

    • I'll second this vote.

      And to answer someone else's question, YouTube via FireFox or Silk is just as good as the crappy app they used to have. I'm not sure how a webservice is a "workaround," though. It's YouTube in a browser.

      If you can't get a 2nd Gen, get a Roku.

  • by HockeyPuck ( 141947 ) on Sunday January 07, 2018 @12:51AM (#55878463)

    Good selection of them. I've got an older model and it does everything fine (supports 4k, but I don't have a 4k TV). Supports all the channels you've specified plus a few others (NFL Sunday ticket etc), and it's not tied to any of the content providers.

    • Seconded. The only complaint I've heard from others (it's not my complaint!) is that it's a poor gaming platform... but if I wanted to play games, I'd get a console.

      I have a Premiere+, which supports Ethernet and 4K. The former I find useful, don't have a 4K TV. It's fast, the UI is easy, it's (currently) content provider agnostic, and it plays media from my "WD MyCloud" (or whatever it's called - it's essentially a consumer NAS box with media servers on it) without any problems.

      Love it.

      • Oh, and the other useful feature, before I forget - it supports the screen casting protocols built into Android and Windows. I've found that useful on numerous occasions. You can also generally move a YouTube video playing on your phone to the YouTube app on Roku, but the casting thing is often quicker and you don't have to fiddle around with accounts to make it work.
      • by tepples ( 727027 )

        but if I wanted to play games, I'd get a console.

        Until you visit the website for the indie game you want to buy, find the console you own, and see the notice "We are seeking a publisher to bring $game_title to $console_name" or "Interested in $game_title on $console_name? Sign up for our mailing list to be notified of when crowdfunding begins."

  • That's basically it. The newer Fire TV stick is perfectly capable, unlike the laggy first gen. Install Kodi, use native apps for everything else, profit.

    • Does Kodi then run as an app on the Fire TV? I.e. does Amazon Prime still work? Also what about Netflix?

      Asking because I have a little Kodi box and it's annoying that I need to use my shitty smart TV for Netflix / Prime.

      • Does Kodi then run as an app on the Fire TV? I.e. does Amazon Prime still work? Also what about Netflix?

        Yes. You will still have to drop out to the normal apps for Netflix and Amazon Prime. Last I checked the Youtube plugin for Kodi wasn't very good, but I haven't tried it in a while.

  • AppleTV (Score:4, Informative)

    by nebur ( 5213029 ) on Sunday January 07, 2018 @12:57AM (#55878477)
    AppleTV with MrMC, Infuse or Plex for your media. It has all the streaming services you use. I love it, but on the downside hackability is very low.
    • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Sunday January 07, 2018 @02:32AM (#55878779)

      I love it, but on the downside hackability is very low.

      Sort of true, but programmability is super high and has a great IDE with a simulator. Anyone can register for a free dev account and play with making apps for the AppleTV, that do whatever you like. You can share them with friends via TestFlight...

      • programmability is super high and has a great IDE with a simulator. Anyone can register for a free dev account and play with making apps for the AppleTV

        Only if your current computer happens to be both Apple brand and relatively recent. An old Mac won't work, nor will a Windows PC nor a Linux PC.

        • Only if your current computer happens to be both Apple brand and relatively recent. An old Mac won't work,

          If by "relatively recent" you mean 2009 or so, then yes...

          What makes you think you need a newer Mac? Anything 64 bit will do (even some models of Mac earlier than 2009 will work). More memory is better but I've see developers using a MacBook Air... If you can install Sierra on it it will work for Xcode. If someone had an interest they could find a usable machine for fairly cheap.

          • by tepples ( 727027 )

            macOS Sierra system requirements on Mac mini: Mid 2010 or newer. My Mac mini is from 2009, the last model with the optical drive.

            • Ok, the Mac mini is a little behind some of the other systems (and apparently the MacBook Pro needs a 2010 model, where a MacBook was OK in 2009...).

              But still, those are not "recent" systems. No-one points to a seven year old computer and says "that's a pretty recent model". Basically it means there are a ton of used systems around that could be purchased and used to run Xcode, today.

              The nice thing is that High Sierrra (10.13) minimum system specs are the same, so it's not like any system you buy that can

  • Apple TV (Score:4, Informative)

    by qzzpjs ( 1224510 ) on Sunday January 07, 2018 @12:58AM (#55878479)

    It's easy to setup and it just works. No hacking required and simple enough to use for any age.

    It supports Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, sport networks, and many other TV sources. And if you want to play your own content, just install the Plex app and Plex on your computer for free. And when you're not using it, the screen savers are beautiful.

    • The remote for the Apple TV absolutely sucks [knowyourmobile.com]. Designers can't seem to get it through their heads that the #1 priority for TV remote is for it to be usable without looking away from the TV. So touchscreens and touchpads are out (except maybe for keyboard entry). You want tactile buttons so people can find the proper button to press without looking away from the screen. (The Logitech Harmonies make this mistake too.)
      • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Sunday January 07, 2018 @02:29AM (#55878767)

        Designers can't seem to get it through their heads that the #1 priority for TV remote is for it to be usable without looking away from the TV

        I have not issues with this remote at all. You can tell which way is up by feel, and since you are using the touch surface for most selections you can easily use the remote in the dark, without looking... the battery lasts ages too. The SIRI button is mainly used for searches, and works really well... also if you have an iPhone and a keyboard comes up on the Apple TV, you can just type on your phone.

        So touchscreens and touchpads are out

        Come on, the control is just swiping across the surface that is like an inch wide, or tapping one of the edges or the center - while you are holding it. Who on earth has such poor motor coordination they cannot manage this? Hint: My three year old niece can use it easily...

        You want tactile buttons

        They are all tactile. The buttons of course press, but the touchpad ALSO presses, you can feel if you are at an edge to press, you can feel when you are not near an edge to press. Also a touch surface is WAY WAY better for scrolling through lists of things than any buttons, much faster.

      • I would not go that far but it is polarizing. I like it (but I dont positively love it either) but my dad hates it. Generally I like it better than a hordes-of-buttons monster remote and I can actually type fast with the onscreen keyboard.

      • I agree. I ended up using an old school Harmony remote to control the AppleTV, since that's what I had anyway to control the TV, amp and Raspberry pi w/ Kodi
      • The remote for the Apple TV absolutely sucks [knowyourmobile.com]. Designers can't seem to get it through their heads that the #1 priority for TV remote is for it to be usable without looking away from the TV. So touchscreens and touchpads are out (except maybe for keyboard entry). You want tactile buttons so people can find the proper button to press without looking away from the screen. (The Logitech Harmonies make this mistake too.)

        There are 6 buttons on the Apple TV remote. Are you saying you can't manage 6 buttons without looking down? How do you touch type? With my Roku, I am stuck hitting the navigation buttons like 100 times to navigate anywhere and the navigation is painfully slow. With the Apple TV, I start a swipe and hold it and it keeps scrolling. The Roku is so much better than the Apple TV for a lot of things (like using a proxy to stream blacked out sports games, etc). The UI is not great at all, however.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Rather expensive though.

      Just get a Raspberry Pi, install Kodi (literally 3 minutes) and share media via Windows shares, NFS, Plex or whatever you like. Your TV remote will control it seamlessly.

      You are in full control, no walled garden, and it costs about â40 for everything. Future proof as well.

      • Last time I checked, some of Kodi's clients were pretty bad compared to the official ones. It's amazing that it works as well as it does, but a lot of those plugins have historically been pretty awful. Has the situation improved recently?

      • Thelasko specifically asked for Netflix and Amazon Prime, though. Nvidia Shield TV supports them all, including Kodi with Windows/NFS shares, Plex and also acts as a Chromecast.
  • by locater16 ( 2326718 ) on Sunday January 07, 2018 @01:08AM (#55878497)
    Rokus just support everything. You name it, it's there (well Youtube TV "eventually" but hopefully soon). Fire TV doesn't support Youtube (stupid fight over it). An Apple TV costs twice as much as a Roku Streaming Stick+, no the stupid "horespower" blah blah blah blah shit doesn't matter. It's a streaming thing, you stream, it works or it doesn't, your not mining bitcoin or curing cancer with it.
    • by asylumx ( 881307 )
      No, I'm sorry but you're incorrect about the streaming stick and whether its horsepower matters. It performs very poorly, and as a result is not very responsive to user input -- even just highlighting different channels is laggy let alone changing to those channels. Yes, it works, but not very well. If you spend a little more to get an actual Roku box, you'll save more than that much in anger management bills later on.

      The streaming stick's best use case is on a TV where you can't place an additional b
  • by Wycliffe ( 116160 ) on Sunday January 07, 2018 @01:12AM (#55878505) Homepage

    Chromecast is great if all you want to do is stream from a PC or phone but is fairly limited. It is basically a dumb device.

    Roku on the other hand just works. It supports every major platform, is content provider neutral and you can even create your own channels. It is easy enough for kids or the technically challenged, and you don't need a separate device to control it.

    • I love my Roku. Simple and works.

      Free apps for your phone/tablet to control it.

      Just a great product.

  • Bit old but still my favorite.

  • For a long time I ran an AppleTV and lived in the iTunes world. It was fine, a long time ago, but new/cheaper/better options exist. I personally rip all of my media to a Synology NAS and have started working with 4K media files. If I didn't have the 4k HDR h.265 media and the large digital collection I've amassed, I'd probably have gotten a FireTV - incredibly capable, plenty of streaming options, and cheap. But the 4k files that I have require a whole lot of horsepower, and I wanted to try to future-proof myself for a few years so I got an Nvidia Shield. Love the Android app options (it's fully rootable if you wanna get real custom with it), I run Plex on my Synology NAS with my own media, Kodi/Netflix/Prime all stream well, RetroArch works flawlessly with the Shield game controller so game emulation is super easy. All in all the Shield is pretty much a MPC replacement for fraction of the cost.

    • I got an NVidia Shield with the 500GB HD expansion. Couldn't be happier. Expandable. I can write software if I wanted with no issues. Comes with Amazon Prime, Vudu, and a host of other options. If I remember correctly it is also 4K ready!
      • Another nice feature is that you can set the Nvidia Shield to handle volume control internally so that things like using projectors and bluetooth speakers that don't understand volume control commands over HDMI can still have their volume controlled directly via the Nvidia Shield.
        I also got a second game controller and the tv remove as well. I put it to sleep, my projector goes to sleep automatically. I hit the center button on the remote and it all "just wakes up" and is ready to go.
        Oh, and no batteries
        • And yes.. VLC works just fine... along with Mupen64 and all the rest of the standard Android goodies....
        • Another nice feature is that you can set the Nvidia Shield to handle volume control internally so that things like using projectors and bluetooth speakers that don't understand volume control commands over HDMI can still have their volume controlled directly via the Nvidia Shield.

          I also got a second game controller and the tv remove as well. I put it to sleep, my projector goes to sleep automatically. I hit the center button on the remote and it all "just wakes up" and is ready to go.

          Oh, and no batteries for the remote or game controllers... all usb rechargable.

          The AppleTV also lets you set up its Remote to control your TV or Receiver's volume control, too. Even ones like mine that no idea how to use anything but an IR remote! Took me about 5 seconds to set my AppleTV up to control my oldish, kinda obscure, Receiver's volume.

  • my Nexus Player. $50 3 years ago, well spent...

    But I am kind of waiting for a working Amazon Prime/

    Netflix and Kodi work well with my home NFS server with a ton of transcoded files from old time radio shows, ,movies and tv shows.

    I did add an ethernet/multi-port USB hub and a 2.4 ghz wireless keyboard which made things much, much better...

  • My observations, not from direct experience (except Roku, which I own), but from stuff I've read. I follow this space fairly closely.

    Roku: for simplicity and the largest amount of (legal) streaming options. Some of the UI may not be as slick as the competition, but it's fine. Only some older/smaller channels have pretty old-looking UIs.
    Android TV: if you want to pay more and have less simple, legal streaming options, but more general-purpose options, like web browsers, games, and yes, apps that facilitate a

  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Sunday January 07, 2018 @02:04AM (#55878707)

    We've got two of them - they work well, support AirPlay, every streaming service we watch, and the price on the refurbished units was good. The new ATVs cost twice as much and don't really give the average person anything substantial over the third-gen units (unless you care about 4K).

    But if you're not in the Apple ecosystem, there's really no strong argument for any Apple TV over a Roku box.

  • Just finished ditching Kodi, definitely would not recommend it unless you like constantly maintaining something and it doesn't work well with stuff like Netflix and amazon prime. I am using a combination of Fetch and Chromecast here now (Australia), Though if I was overseas I would go towards roku. if all you want to do is watch content then stick with the pre canned devices like Roku.
  • 10 years later, I still can't find anything better. Maybe I need to learn to like stutters and hiccups though...

    • by rossz ( 67331 )

      Yep, except I've upgraded to the PS4. It handles Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, and Youtube perfectly. It also talks to my Asus RT-N66U router with a built in media server so I can view videos that I've downloaded.

  • I find just a suitably specced computer connected to one of the HDMI ports on the TV is suitable for all my media needs.

    • Same here, put an old XP laptop to work for this, run VLC and pull video files from a shared drive. (It's one of the HP's that came with a little remote, so can turn on and off easily, and a wireless mouse.)

  • by pots ( 5047349 )
    A Cubox [solid-run.com] is not substantially different from a Raspberry Pi, it's just slightly more compact and comes pre-assembled. You can put Kodi on it, though it looks like that might be installed by default now.

    Just bear in mind that it has the same limitations as a Raspberry Pi: it can be a fine media player, but it won't handle the DRM'd stuff. So no Netflix or Amazon Prime, but it does have a Youtube plugin (unless the situation with Netflix has changed?). It's also more expensive than a Raspberry Pi, but not i
  • Everything else is riddled with crashes, UI slugishness, missing apps and buffering. Roku just does one thing - playing video, including 4K/HDR on a USB powered stick - and does it really well. I have Android TV too - for Steam streaming with Moonlight and emulators for retro games - but I always use Roku remote for actually watching TV.

  • by bazorg ( 911295 ) on Sunday January 07, 2018 @03:28AM (#55878927) Homepage

    Those 3 streaming services I can access with my Sony Blu-ray player. It cost £49 and plays CDs, Dvds and Blu-ray. Hopefully Sony is not using it to install DRM malware on the rest of the devices on my home LAN.

  • by theNetImp ( 190602 ) on Sunday January 07, 2018 @04:07AM (#55878991)

    It is the only one I have any experience with. I love that the 4th Gen connects to my plex server, and that I can connect to both my US and Japanese itunes accounts without logging out of either. This is useful since I have purchased hundreds of TV shows and Movies from iTunes US store and have Japanese Netflix and Hulu accounts. With the 2nd/3rd Gen I had to log in and out of accounts to go between the two and that kind of sucked.

    Generally I am ok with the interface, but what I dislike is how many times I have to click play to watch a movie/show.

    Example:

    New movie comes out. I go into moive sna purchase it and it auto loads so I can watch it. That's cool cause the chance I want to watch it at time of purchase is high. I get the splash screen with the menu for Play, extras etc, so I choose play, Then it brings me to another screen where it wants to tell me about the plot of the movie I haven't seen, which irritates me because I do not want the plot of the movie, I want to just watch the movie. So I have to click play again to start the movie (those 2 "play clicks my be reverse order but they are both always there). Then if it's a movie I started to watch and didn't finish it'll show up a "play/resume" screen. Why can't the "resume button just be on the splash screen. Why make it so we have to drill into the movie, it's irritating. They do the same with TV shows.

    When I click play just start the fricken movie...

  • Not a fan of the company but the unit is pretty nice and super responsive. They were $50 off around new years for the one with the controller.

  • It really depends where you live. I love my Roku, but here in Canada several streaming services don't support the Roku (the Canadian version of Amazon Prime, CraveTV). Here the Fire TV stick might be a better choice, even though the Canadian version doesn't support Alexa.

    The AppleTV is badly over-priced, so I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

    So I'd say you should do your research. Decide which streaming services you want to use, then find out which devices they work on in your Country.

  • Get an Nvidia Shield TV [nvidia.com]. It is absolutely great for Kodi and Plex and has native apps for all or most streaming services, like Netflix, Prime and Youtube that you mentioned. It also doubles as a Chromecast.
  • I prefer JRiver's Media Center running on an Intel NUC. Raspberry Pi doesn't seem to have enough compute capability for high-quality HD video. The JRiver media Center is quite good across the board.
  • Another vote for Apple TV, if you're in the ecosystem already. I had a 2nd gen Apple TV that sat in the rack for years, while I opted to use a long HDMI cable between my laptop in the office and the receiver (it helps to have access to a hole saw and the crawlspace). Using a remote control app on my tablet I was able to watch anything I wanted, including the Xfinity web/flash player for live TV -which is blocked from using airplay on the Apple TV screen sharing. Comcast has an app for Roku in beta so I pick

  • Since Nvidia is a high profile player, who also happens to design the SOC and VPU inside, you get the best driver support. They constantly update the system, also the Android version.

    For a comparison to other contenders (incl. Roku) chech out the list at: https://www.nvidia.com/en-us/s... [nvidia.com]

  • I've run XBMC since the original XBox. Then had a home built HTPC with Nvidia GPU acceleration to do 1080p smoothly back in 2010. Now have a Kodi on an Amazon fire.

    The 'player' I use most is the DLNA one built into my TV. With minidlna running in a jail on my FreeNAS machine.

    It's "free". Comes built in. Has been able to handle every codec my TV supports (which happens to be what all my stuff encoded in).

  • RPI3 with kodi (OSMC)
    It is fast, cheap and very flexible. Kodi 18 will support netflix, but it not yet released... but should be near.
    Open, No lock-in, always being updated and improving

Tomorrow's computers some time next month. -- DEC

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