It’s that time of year again: Streaming Week! Over the next five days we’ll be bringing you all the latest information on how to stream the best movies, music and TV shows in Australia using Australian services! It’s the ultimate guide to getting content from your small screen onto your big screen. Today, we show you the best gadgets for streaming content at the best possible price.
TV Movie picture from Shutterstock
Google Chromecast is the newest streaming gadget on the block this year, and by comparison to the other entrants in this list, it’s also the cheapest at $49 from Dick Smith Electronics and JB Hi-Fi.
Chromecast is a small dongle (about the length of your thumb and twice the width), complete with a built-in Wi-Fi connection and an HDMI output. Basically, you plug it into your TV and pair it up with your Android phone or tablet. It also has exceptional cross-platform support, with the ability to stream content from compatible apps on Windows 8.1, iOS and Mac.
You’re able to buy content from the Google Play store to watch on your Chromecast, or you can stream your own.
It works by building Chromecast-compatibility into various apps and allowing them to take advantage of a common network connection to beam your content to the HDMI dongle. There’s an experimental feature whereby you can stream your entire screen to the Chromecast as well.
By comparison to the Chromecast, the Apple TV is the other side of the platform-coin. As the name suggests, it’s built by Apple and for the most part, only supports Apple devices.
Apple TV supports an ecosystem of content from the iTunes Store, as well as a variety of partners (most of which don’t work in Australia due to licensing kerfuffels).
You’re also able to mirror your Mac desktop or any screen/app from your iPad or iPhone to the device via AirPlay in glorious 1080p.
It’s a little more expensive than the Chromecast at $99 from your Apple Store, Dick Smith or JB Hi-Fi, but it does have more options for your audio, including 3.5mm outs and an Optical Audio out.
You’re probably wondering why this is the only console to appear in the list. Good question.
Ever since the release of next-gen consoles like the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and even the Nintendo Wii U, nothing has come close to the streaming ability of the Xbox 360.
It has two USB ports in the front for easy access which support a variety of device formats. The built-in video player supports just about every video format you can think of. The Xbox 360 also supports network-attached storage (NAS) drives to give you access to all of your content sitting around the house.
Tack onto that support for all of the major catch-up TV services in Australia (which we’ll discuss in more detail on Wednesday), and the Xbox 360 is the perfect streaming machine that can also play great games.
And at insanely low prices like $249 and below for the console and a swag of games, you’d be mad not to pick one up.
The Raspberry Pi is a curious little gadget.
It was originally designed as a $35 computer to help teach kids who otherwise wouldn’t get the chance how to code and build cool stuff. Ever since then it has gone into space more times than the Apollo program and crossed the ocean among countless other endeavours.
The Pi allows you to install Linux on an SD card and output the video via an HDMI dongle. It’s been argued that this makes it the perfect device for a low-cost streaming set up using something like Plex.
The possibilities are almost endless.
Almost every TV on the market these days has some kind of “smart” integration. You just have to choose one that’s right for you.
We’d recommend checking out the new LG webOS Smart TV that we first clapped eyes on at CES. It’s super-impressive and dead-easy to set up.
There’s also Samsung’s new Curved range which has one of the more capable Smart Hub updates we’ve seen in a long time.
Fetch TV is similar to Telstra’s T-Box, except it’s more of a free-agent when it comes to who you can buy it from.
The IPTV service and its corresponding box can be picked up at a variety of price points from Internode, iiNet or Optus, and each of those providers will give you access to streaming TV that doesn’t hurt your quota.
If you’re on a Telstra bundle and love movies, you can’t go much further than a T-Box.
It’s free on your plan and plugs into unmetered Telstra BigPond Movies and music streaming services too.
It wasn’t a great device when it first came out, but in a bid to launch itself back into the living room, Telstra has been working hard and stuck Android on there for a more consistent, stable experience.
Netgear Nighthawk R7000
Having good Wi-Fi in your house makes life so much easier. Faster speeds mean you can stream HD video from your PC to TV without tangling cables all over the place. The extra range means you can check emails in your car before you back out of the driveway. Netgear’s Nighthawk R7000 router promises all that and more.
Netgear claims the R7000 is the fastest router available today, and at least on paper, it is — with AC1900-rated Wi-Fi, it has maximum theoretical transfer speeds of 1300Mbps 802.11ac and 600Mbps 802.11n, using beamforming and simultaneous dual-band frequencies to deliver seriously fast performance for plenty of wireless devices at the same time. It’s the equal fastest-rated wireless router you can buy, so if you pick it, you’ll be future-proofing your network for several years to come.
If you need a fast router, and don’t mind having an external modem for your actual Internet connection — and you’re happy to set up the network in the first place — the Nighthawk R7000 fills that role perfectly adequately. It looks good, runs reliably, and has an expanded feature-set that should be an additional selling point for any potential buyer.
Seagate’s latest “don’t call it a NAS” home storage device has landed. Dubbed the Central, it comes in 2TB, 3TB, and 4TB flavours and it allows you to stream content across eight devices, much like the Wireless Plus drives.
What it sacrifices in portability it makes up for in extra features – It provides seamless backup services over the home network that can be accessible over the internet, like your own personal private cloud storage.
While technically it’s a NAS drive, Seagate wants you to think of its Central device as anything but. Central is designed from the ground up to be easy and intuitive to setup and use, nothing like the usual dreaded NAS setup.
To keep the mobile app experience simple, Central utilizes the same Seagate media app as the Wireless Plus. Any content you upload to the drive is automatically organised into relevant categories in an attempt to make it easier to find what you’re looking for. This actually sounds pretty useful if you’ve ever experienced the maze of data when you’re in the terabytes.
The WD My Cloud is a personal cloud drive that allows users to remotely access and backup content across all of their devices. It’s essentially a cross between a traditional NAS and a cloud storage service like Dropbox or Google Drive with nearly unlimited storage potential. All data is stored on your own private device with no monthly fees to worry about.
The WD My Cloud connects to your router via an inbuilt ethernet port — from there, it’s a simple matter of transferring and managing the media on your devices using the included mobile/desktop apps or web interface. The device is roughly similar to Seagate’s Central range, which allows users to stream content across eight devices and access files over the internet.
The WD My Cloud’s main claim to fame is remote file access for practically any Internet-enabled gadget, including Android smartphones and tablets, iOS devices, Smart TVs, PCs and Macs. In the other words, the My Cloud gives you Dropbox-like functionality but on a much bigger scale
What streaming gadgets do you have in your lounge room? What do you recommend? Tell us in the comments!
Chris Jager and Campbell Simpson also contributed to this article.