TV is no longer about passively sitting and waiting for the TV networks to send programs over the airwaves. We’ve shown you the best social TV apps and legal streaming services, but which devices should you pop underneath your telly to make it all happen?
Most streaming services will send to a PC, but that can be an uncomfortable and rather anti-social way to watch TV and movies. A simple set top box can solve that issue, turning your TV into a fully fledged entertainment portal.
It’s the product that Apple spends the least amount marketing, but it’s also an elegant way to access iTunes for movie rentals and purchases, as well as Airplay streaming from iOS and Mac OS devices. Pick up anything but the third generation Apple TV and a world of jailbreaking options including XMBC open up as well.
Sony Internet Player with Google TV
Google TV took a very long time indeed to reach Australian shores, with Sony the first off the rank with the not-always-brilliant Internet Player device. That’s mostly to do with content agreements that don’t exist in Australia, and certainly if you got the Internet Player bundled in with a Sony TV, it’s a decent product.
Belkin’s $199.95 TVPlus reverses the usual streaming arrangement, offering remote streaming of whatever media you connect to it (with the obvious idea being that you’d use it for watching TV while you’re away from home. There’s support for Android or iOS, with the tablet app yours for nothing, but the smartphone app carries a somewhat annoying $14.99 price tag.
Western Digital’s WDTV Live looks rather like a low budget Apple TV in external design terms, but looks can be deceiving. The WDTV doesn’t look as slick, but it makes up for it with excellent format support for your own streaming files, as well as the easy ability to add storage capacity.
Boxee’s streaming box offers up a unique design — that probably won’t fit into your home AV cabinet, but does make a nice talking point if abstract design is your thing.
Microsoft’s Xbox 360 will attach to DLNA sources for video streaming with a limited range of supported formats, as well as Microsoft’s own rental TV and movie services.
Sony’s Playstation 3 offers similar DLNA streaming services to the Xbox 360 — and again, a rather mixed range of supported formats — as well as inbuilt movie rental services and, naturally enough, plenty of games action. The same XMB layout is also used on Sony’s Blu-Ray players, some (but not all) of which offer limited streaming over a local network.
After a low-budget streaming solution? It’s hard to go past the excellent Raspberry Pi; while it’s not the most powerful streaming solution, but matched with XBMC it’ll handle most formats and files.
What if you don’t want yet another box underneath your TV? Most Smart TVs offer at the very least access to streaming media services such as the ABC’s excellent iView and SBS On Demand, with many also capable of DLNA direct access or remote screen streaming, especially if you match up tablet or smartphone brands with TV brands.
Telstra’s T-Box is about as simple as a home streaming box can get, and that’s both its best feature and its defining limitation. If you’re an existing Telstra customer there are some good deals to add a T-Box to your home. It’s also capable of working as an IPTV Foxtel box as well, but as a standalone player if you’re not subscribing it’s rather hard to recommend.
Fetch’s services are offered via IPTV, and make the most sense if you’re a customer of Internode, iiNet or Optus, as they’ll offer the box itself relatively cheaply on monthly contract, and mostly quota free to boot.
What’s your favourite streaming device? Tell us in the comments.