Too many remote controls

Wherein our editor resigns himself to needing too many HDMI inputs to cover his streaming bases

I don't want that much, really. Just to be able to stream All The Things to my living room receiver. Google content. Amazon content. Netflix. YouTube. Satellite radio, perhaps.

I'm not cutting the cable cord. Life without quick and proper DVR access is not something I want to consider, given the current capacity for patience (or lack thereof) displayed by my 3-year-old daughter. (Don't have kids? You don't get to judge.)

And, unfortunately, I still need something to play DVDs. Again, mostly those (ridiculously cute, lovable, wouldn't trade them for anything) darn kids.

There's still no one platform to stream them all. Each comes close but ultimately is missing one key ingredient.

Xbox One is near perfect. Expensive, but it ticks most of the boxes for me, save for Google Play Music. That's a deal-breaker. I'm not a big gamer, but it's nice to have the option. And the kids (them again!) love them some occasional Kinect action.

Amazon Fire TV is darned close, too. Only, no DVD/Blu-Ray. Or Google Play Music. And as much as I love the idea of some cheap, secondary gaming, I'm not buying apps again just to play them on an Amazon box. At a fifth of the price of an Xbox One, however — plus the savings of not needing an Xbox Live Gold Whatever — it's really hard to pass this up.

I still love Chromecast. It's ridiculously easy to use, especially with Android devices. My 7-year-old figured it out her own with an iPad for Netflix and YouTube. And at $35, you can't not buy one. But ... no Amazon.

I really should have an Apple TV here. The wife and I both use Macs, she's also on iOS. It's a great device, and the price isn't bad, also at $99. But, no Google Play stuff.

It's maddening. And I've resigned myself to the fact that there will be quite a bit of redundancy in my living room. Consider my current setup:

  • LG plasma TV. It's a dumb TV. Three HDMI inputs, of which I only need one. And that's it. I need it to display things, and that's all it does. And it does so pretty well.
  • Onkyo receiver. Six HDMI inputs.
  • Scientific Atlanta cable box. Probably the dumbest (in the connected sense of the word) device I have in the living room?
  • Chromecast.
  • Sony Blu-Ray player. It also does Amazon and Netflix and Hulu Plus and Pandora and YouTube and a host of other things I don't have time to use.
  • Amazon Fire TV. I'm still on the fence for whether I leave this in the living room, or move it to the bedroom. Better for gaming to have it connected to the good sound system, but lousy for redundancy.

That's three devices — each of which mirrors at least some of the functionality of the others — needed to cover all my bases. Each works different, and to varying degrees of success. Each means my wife and kids has to learn a new device. (And, at some point, I imagine my own brain will shout "Uncle!" as well.)

And now we have the prospect of Android TV, as seen in a scoop by Sean Hollister of The Verge. We've heard whispers of the same, leading us to the discussion a day earlier on our podcast.

Something is coming. Something that I'll buy one, of course, grudgingly giving up yet another HDMI port in my receiver. And I'll like it.

A few other thoughts on the week that was ...

  • So ... Galaxy S5 this week, eh? I'm ready to spend a little quality time with it.
  • I'm a little less excited for the Gear 2. Accessories that only work with one manufacturer are pretty much a nonstarter for me, at least in real life. (Work life is another matter.)
  • Gear Fit should be interesting, though. I'm convinved that fitness trackers either need to be in a bracelet form, or just built into your phone. Now where'd my Fitbit One go?
  • The Google Play edition HTC One M8 just doesn't do it for me. Almost like it's trying to be something it's not.
  • Nest did the right thing
  • So did the White House, when it found out Big Papi's selfie with President Obama was a staged Samsung photo-op.
  • On the other hand, Samsung did the right thing, too, from its point of view. Anyone think it particularly cares about upsetting governmental PR protocol?

That's enough for this week. Go enjoy your Sunday.

 
There are 61 comments

Justin Stepp says:

I love my chromecast ps4 combo. It streams all the services I need.

And I think Samsung did the right thing about the selfie. All they did was post the picture on their social media outlets. If I took a picture of Obama with a cell phone are you saying I couldn't post that on my Facebook?

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TomW093 says:

It's more of the fact that it was used as an advertisement in the same way Ellen used her Note. It makes it appear that the White House is officially endorsing a product.

benthe1 says:

Eh....

Justin Stepp says:

But it wasn't really a traditional ad. Where is there a law saying you cannot share pictures of the president on social media sites? Corporations have a right to free speech as well.

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notedude3 says:

Big papi was a genious ....loved it

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A895 says:

I have a Xbox 360 and a Windows 8.1 Convertible that covers all my streaming needs. I own a good number of movies on Xbox Video, and I use Netflix alot. That covers all the days when my favorite shows aren`t on TV.

TomW093 says:

I think the best set up to cover all your bases will be an Xbox One with a Chromecast plugged into its HDMI-in port.

Skyway says:

Lol

Edit: thought you were joking, I didn't realize there was an hdmi input on the Xbox one. I've got a ps4

TomW093 says:

Why Lol?

xlDeMoNiClx says:

Because PS4 > XB1

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ScottJ says:

XB1 > PS4

Bwahahahaha says:

Subjective...

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enoch861 says:

Actually, just the Xbox One will do. Use the Cast to UPnP/DLNA app to stream All Access music to the Xbox One! That's what I do and it's worked wonderfully.

I know how you feel with this, in my living room my tv has these devices connected:

Xbox One
PS4
Apple TV
Chromecast
And My cable box

If it wasn't for the HDMI in on the Xbox one I'd be 1 port short as my tv has 4 HDMI ports, it's kinda frustrating

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Phil,
I too have a 3 year old. No TV at all in the living room and an LG not smart TV in the bedroom. Chromecast and a thumb drive drive all content to the LG and a pair of tablets, one iOS and one android.
The 3 year old doesn't ask for screen time and runs with the best of them.

Wildo6882 says:

Phil, what about the Roku 3?

And can you explain what you don't like about the GPE M8? How does it try to be something it's not?

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drhere says:

I have Roku 3 and a Chromecast, I still lean on my Roku 3 for 98% of things like Amazon Video and Netflix, but if an Android TV came out, I would probably get one. I am waiting for more apps to come to Chromecast. BTW I don't have cable TV, no kids and it is too expensive.

droidhead_1 says:

I go cable free with a kid and she's all over chromcast with her own nexus 7. It's a better experience than cable for her in my opinion.

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TenshiNo says:

Same here. I cancelled cable about a year ago. My 7-year-old has his own (kid-mode) profile on Netflix that he can watch on the living room big screen with the tablet, or he can get on the WII in his room and watch Netflix or an endless supply of Minecraft videos on YouTube. I can't remember the last time he complained about not having "live" television.

No more channel surfing, or worrying "what comes on after this?" if I need to go do stuff in the other room. I don't think I will ever have cable again.

Netflix and Hulu is still cheaper than a monthly cable bill.

NoNexus says:

I haven't had one long, gpe m8, in my opinion it is half assing trying to be a nexus and half assing trying to be a sense version.

Failing at both mostly

-------------------------------------------
You really should see the crap I don't post. Sorry if honesty offends you

tcmeiss says:

I went with the Roku Streaming Stick. Two of them actually for the same price as the Roku 3. I don't need the gaming, but adding all the streaming services to my two TVs was great.

There is some redundancy with the PS3 also on the one TV, but I need the Blu-ray player and I do game on it once in a while.

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jtc276 says:

I'd love to hear/read everyone's personal thoughts on the M8 and Galaxy S5 like you did last year. That was really one of the main factors that allowed me to make a choice between the M7 and S4. Also, I think it would be awesome if Android Central did the "blind tests" with where you just handed people the phones and had them choose. And I'm interested in hearing what you disliked about the M8 Google Play Edition. I bought a Dev Edition and, although the conversion to a GPE is already available, I just don't see the need to do it yet. Sense really has matured a lot.

mtmerrick says:

Well, here's my personal opinions:

Screen: point to the S5, love me some AMOLED.

Navigation Buttons: tie. Onscreen is nice but there's enough bezel on the m8 to make it not win, and Samsung fixed the navigation buttons to get rid of the menu button, so... *shrug*

Physical buttons: S5. Top power button is just no.

Specs: also S5

Feel in hand: S5 here as well. A lot gripper. And after my old Iconia Tab getting wrecked, I'll never get another metal device. That said I don't get what people were saying about it being slippery-er than the M7,they feel pretty freakin' similar to me.

Firmware : sense is (slightly, not that much) prettier and faster, touchwiz is more feature filled. Whatever works for you. This is not counting the launcher, because, well, if you come here for Android geekiness you should be using a custom launcher. I'd be ROMing it anyways. M8 will get faster updates, S5 will probably get more updates Overall.

Camera: S5. The M8 is terribly low res, and ultra-gimmicky

Front camera: m8, definitely

Battery: S5, Bigger capacity and removable. Though the m8 had lipo, which is really nice, so this one is closer

Speakers: M8, obviously.

Other/miscellaneous: waterproofing is nice. So is USB 3.0. Flaps aren't. If you get the S5, invest in wireless charging.

Winner: gonna have to go with the S5 here. Maybe if the M8 had a real camera it'd be better off, but now? Can't recommend it.

Personally? I'm a phablet guy. Holding out for the Note 4/Moto XL/Xperia Z2 Ultra/M8 Max to be announced, and I'll chose from those.

jtc276 says:

Eh, I personally prefer LCD or IPS to AMOLED. I'm also enjoying the on screen buttons of my M8. The bezel doesn't really bother me at all and they disappear in any instance where the extra screen real estate is necessary. And this thing just flies. A little known fact is that HTC actually set a record for touch latency in this phone and it really does show.

mtmerrick says:

Accidentally posted early lol. I hadn't edited in the rest by the time you responded.

jtc276 says:

The M8 ticks a lot of my personal boxes. My biggest focus by far is sound quality and the M8 is by far the best, internally and externally. The camera is fine for me. I've taken some great pics. I still like the screen better than the S5's. It's brighter and more natural looking. And I highly prefer Sense. I'm starting to think I might like it better than stock Android.

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tdcrone says:

I have three kids, I cut the cord when my oldest was 5 (now 10). They very quickly figured out how to work Netflix and Hulu over PlayOn on a PS3, I had everything they wanted on a quick menu.

Youngest is now two and can pick his videos from the graphical menu on the Roku.

To be fair, I copied several multi-hour segments of Spongebob and whatever else the kids were watching onto USBs before I turned in the DVR in case the internet went down. It rarely did, though, and I feel no such need for the 2 year old.

My kids watch TV all the time, and being a bad parent I mostly let them. I've saved many hundreds by having them curate their own shows... Not to mention the thousands in gimmicky toys they haven't begged for!

TenshiNo says:

lol. That is an advantage to cord cutting that I hadn't even really thought about, but you're right. I haven't heard the phrase "daddy, can I get that for my birthday?!" in a while ;)

Synycalwon says:

Ditto on the DVR (DirecTV here). We find it's invaluable to record a bunch of stuff off the satellite feed since we're stuck on crappy DSL service (limits our streaming ability). That way there's always something to watch even if our Internet goes down (no eggs in one basket here!) or in the off chance heavy storms temporarily block the sat feed. :)

xlDeMoNiClx says:

Oh we can judge whether we have kids or not.

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jlczl says:

Wow Phil, talk about clutter.

My household cut the cable cord a few years back and it was one of the best decisions for our kids. Netflix, Amazon Prime, broadcast TV, and HDMI out on our smartphones = more than enough digital entertainment. If after all those means of communication we still can't find a reason to be in front of the TV or secondary screens then we enjoy real life. :-)

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xlDeMoNiClx says:

Some people just don't get it I guess. Lol

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jayochs says:

ps4 and chromecast is all I need. they cover it all.

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Chris X1 says:

Only service missing from Chromecast, for me, is Amazon. I have a Samsung Blu Ray player and they are the only service missing from there.

I've tried a Roku, and the experience of using a smartphone or tablet beats a remote ten times out of ten.

Can't cut the cord. Far too much sports that I count on.

Xbox 360 for Netflix Amazon Prime YouTube and of course gaming and the use of Xbox Video.

Got a chromecast but it rarely gets used. It's the lack of apps.

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TenshiNo says:

Out of curiosity, what apps are you wanting that the Chromecast lacks?

mtmerrick says:

In my family's house, if it can't be chromecasted via our phones, then it's MHL'd through our phones or just HDMI'd through a chromebook/netbook

kpluck says:

How about you just buy a computer, a wireless mouse and keyboard and attached it to your TV? It is what I have done and it works great. It makes me laugh when people talk about having $300-$400 (or more) worth of limited streaming boxes attached to their TVs.

miketipton says:

+1 on the computer. My living room has a "server" attached to it and the other 2 tv's have atom based nettop machines attached. Stream anything I want through the respective website, let MCE record from OTA, share it up for the other pc's to play back at will.

Sevenmack says:

Because such an approach is unwieldy, cluttered, and annoys the living daylights out of wives, who hate clutter and complexity. Having done that for the past five years before getting two Chromecasts, I can tell you that this was a bone of contention between my wife and I. And it is true for nearly all my friends who had similar set-ups before getting their Chromecasts and Roku players.

That's the great part of having Chromecast in my home. The dongles take up a really small footprint (y wife can't see a dongle in the back of the TV); any device (including my wife's iPhone and our laptops) can connect to it wirelessly; and we can easily use all of our media services (including Amazon Prime through my laptop, and Netflix). Best of all, the cost of a Chromecast is a mere $35 and I can also use all of our old smartphones as portable media servers. Beats a laptop hardwired to a TV set up any day.

Wicket says:

I agree, each streamer comes close but is always missing one thing to make it the one streamer to rule them all. Personally I am waiting to see what Google does with the rebranded/rebooted/raised from the dead Google TV ---> Android TV. The leak yesterday looked promising and I think Google's going to bring a more focused product this time.

wezi427 says:

PS4 with a Chromecast and Denon receiver.

"How'd you get the beans above the frank?"

OmahaPlaya says:

Cable DVR, Blu-ray player and a Chromecast. All work fine for me. I'm never cutting the cord. I love sports too much to do that. My daughter knows how to use Netflix be it on the tablet or laptop so she keeps herself entertained.

Jordano says:

Go for Xbox Music and the Xbox One will fit all your needs. It also have much more songs, although the number of devices is quite low in comparison to Play Music and there's the user restriction on Microsoft powered devices.

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I used Xbox music for a long time, and it's really good. But I don't use it anymore.

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Jordano says:

I tried it for some time , but I had to go back to Play Music. I can share my account with my girlfriend and (tiny part of) family with no worries. Plus Play Music works amazingly well on Android and, despite the good work of Microsoft on Android and the huge catalog of its service, I'm still on Google's hands. I just need a damn Chromecast now.

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Rabbiddog says:

I guess I'm missing something here because my Vizio CoStar does all this. Google Content, Amazon content, streaming from home computer/devices. It also has Onlive if you want gaming. But you have to buy their controller. The problem with the CoStar though is it's based on Google TV which seems to be slowly dying out and I fear Google will just announce some other version of Android media TV streaming standard and any Google TV devices will be left sitting with little or no support.

tnt118 says:

I think you are pretty lucky and in the minority then. Very few of these devices do Amazon video content (that's what keeps us semi-locked in to the Roku). That and a Chromecast (Google Music All-Access, also HBO Go because of a cable restriction on the Roku) covers everything we need.

ScottJ says:

Very few do Amazon? Hardly. Here's a partial list in my home:

Panasonic Blu-Ray
Samsung Smart TV
XBox 360
Roku 2
Vizio Smart TV
TiVo

tnt118 says:

They've added more since the last time I looked. My apologizes. My Samsung Smart TV does not, nor do several other devices I happen to own (or did not 1-2 years ago).

My costar went to my mom, she uses it all the time. My Sony Google TV is in the drawer. May hook it back up for my roommate because Amazon has stupidly not integrated chromecast support. Yet they love Android. lol. I'll never buy anything tech related from them again. I don't want all these devices. It's a cluster f right now.

bevcraw says:

I am also happy with my Roku and Chromecast so far. The new devices will have to demonstrate that they will offer me more before I spring for a new device.

matfantastic says:

I have my Chromecast plugged into the HDMI In on my Xbox one, solves your Google music problem...

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Taz89 says:

Have a smart tv with iplayer, Netflix, lovefilm,YouTube and demand 5(various others like crackle) which I can also cast from my YouTube and Netflix on my phone to the TV. Can also cast Local media off my devices using dlna. Then have a ps3 to watch 4od and ITV player. If Chromecast brings all the major on demand channels in the UK then my smart tv and Chromecast will literally give me everything I need with out needing another device. Don't really play the ps3 if at all, literally only gets turned on for 4od or ITV player. Annoying when I have to turn on the ps3 for 1 or2 shows. If Chromecast gets just these 2 then I'll go purchase one just so I don't have to turn on the ps3 lol. Don't have cable at home, I'm pretty much streaming everything I watch.

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Seems Amazon is shooting itself in the foot without Chromecast support. I know they think that the Fire TV is it but seems like the wrong power play to sell hardware over content. There is a work around on Apple TV for a Google Play Movies, it's in YouTube under purchases.

What I wish Google would do for movies is what they did for music. Let me load my movies to the cloud and watch whenever I want to. I don't want to buy them again, and I shouldn't have too. That would be way too convenient.

wpavlik2 says:

We finally upgraded to a TV with HDMI ports this year. (I know, I know...)
We also got a BluRay player as well. Between the XBox 360, my Chromecast Wii and new BluRay we have multiple ways to watch Netflix (and the built-in app in the TV) We can't watch Amazon on anything except the XBox... I don't want "another" device to plug in. (So I'm not buying Amazon TV)

brendilon says:

OT, but maybe Phil should consider unplugging for a little while. Especially for the kids, the idiot box is probably the worst way to entertain/distract them.

John Nemesh says:

You forgot the best one available. The Sony Playstation 3. Not the 4, the 3. It offers better Blu-Ray playback than the Xbox One (and supports 3D discs), it offers the BEST Netflix experience out there, including 3D streaming (the PS3 is Netflix's LEAD PLATFORM, so it gets the best stuff first as well). It has Amazon, including Prime streaming, MLB, NHL, Crunchyroll, Hulu+, Vudu, Sony's own PSN and Music service...and it can even do Google Play Music through it's browser. At $250 for a new unit (and as low as $150 for a used one), it's a no-brainer. Oh, and you don't have to subscribe to an additional service (Such as XBL on the Xbox) to use any of their media apps or the web browser.

Bwahahahaha says:

Cable free here.. only use one device.. Windows 7 pc with XBMC. Saving money feels pretty damn good.

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evan_adams says:

buy a tivo

scottbeamer says:

Phil, you say you only need a DVD player because of the kids, but where are you getting all your streaming movies from? Only a fraction of the movies available on DVD are available streaming online?