TV Streaming Devices 101
TV Streaming Devices 101

by Jeremy Cleland

These days it’s commonplace for consumers to “cut the cord” on their cable TV services and instead stream their favorite sitcoms, dramas and comedy programs via the web. Nielsen reported “a nearly 20% year-over-year increase in digital video growth among U.S. adults.”

If you’re also ready to stream shows via Hulu, Netflix, Amazon or other content providers, but still want to use your traditional big-screen TV (vs. just watching on your tablet or shelling out for a smart TV), here’s how to get started:

1: Review the streaming players

There are more than a dozen streaming devices on the market now. The options include set-top boxes like Roku and Apple TV that work similar to your old cable box but work via WiFi. Apple TV’s remote allows you to “swipe” through shows and Roku offers premium content subscription, such as Showtime. Also, gaming systems like Xbox can also serve as a set-top box.

Then there are lower-cost “sticks” like Google Chromecast — these are HDMI sticks you plug into the back of your TV to stream shows from Internet services.

2: Double-check your TV

To use TV streaming devices you need a display device with an HDMI input, which looks similar to a USB port — high-definition TVs (HDTV) will definitely come with this port. (By the way, technically you can also connect a laptop to a TV via an HDMI cable to stream content.)

3: Get easy access to your content

Before you buy a set-top box, check out which one will give you the easiest access to your existing subscription services. For example, if you already have an Amazon Prime account, you may just want to get the Amazon Fire TV set-top box, which will give you easy access to your favorite service while still enabling you to log on to Netflix, YouTube or other sites to stream other content. Or you can use its video-game control to play online games too.

Jeremy Cleland has been a spokesperson for several Silicon Valley startups, like Tesla Motors, and spearheaded global stories about technology featured in media like Vice, Time magazine, Forbes and He’s also the dad to a 5-year-old who is already more tech-savvy than him.

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