Media streamers

Cutting the cable cord is something many of us dream about, but it's still a big ask. Today's digital media streamers and the content services they provide access to bring us closer than ever, though, and there's a bunch of great choice out there.

It also doesn't necessarily matter which ecosystem you find yourself in as there's a product out there for you. The big players like Google, Amazon, Apple and even Microsoft all have a presence on some kind of product that'll sit in front of your TV. Not to mention it's hard to think of something that doesn't get Netflix in 2016.

So, if you're on the hunt for a new something get your stream on, why not check out this little list. We've rounded up some of Mobile Nations' finest to tell you about what they're using, and why.

Phil Nickinson - Google Chromecast

Phil Nickinson — Chromecast

There simply is no easier — or economical – way to stream music or movies (or apps, for that matter) if you're using Android or iOS. Period. For $35 (there are sales all the time) you get a tiny disk that plugs into your TV or receiver — or into a spare speaker if you're using Chromecast Audio.

And the brilliant move here is that Chromecast does the heavy lifting. Your phone, tablet or computer (Chromecast works with all three) initiates the stream, but doesn't have to remain connected. So you don't have the range issues of Bluetooth for music. And now that Google Play has pretty much caught up with everyone else in terms of content, there's no reason not to use it if you're on Android. That Google has included iOS is just icing on the cake.

And it's simple to use. Once it's hooked up it just lives there, then you look for the Chromecast icon in apps or in your browser. Pairing multiple speakers in Chromecast Audio isn't quite as easy as using Sonos — but it's so much lighter on the wallet. I use it. My wife uses it. My kids use it.

You should, too.

See at Google

Ara Wagoner - NVIDIA Shield TV

Shield TV

I thought the Chromecast was all I needed. I thought not having to hassle with remotes was heaven. I was wrong. I was so wrong. Because with Android TV I can browse so much better and waste so much more time. It's truly a wonderful time to be a procrastinator.

Now, don't get me wrong, the NVIDIA Shield Android TV is still expensive. If it hadn't been a very generous friend's Christmas present, I likely would never have talked myself into buying it. It's expensive, but so worth it. I love using it -- to the point that I have to push the remotes away in order to get my tasks done before I get sucked into another half a season of Good Eats.

And while the bundle with the free remote is excellent, I actually prefer using the controller to navigate the Leanback UI of Android TV. It's much better at quick scrolling, and I like the heft in my hand, even if I don't actually play any games on my Shield TV. Browsing on the Leanback UI is often easier than browsing on my phone, when I would struggle to find something to cast to my TV. And I still have the Chromecast ability built-in so that I don't burn a Google Play Music authorization on the Shield TV.

See at Amazon

Russell Holly - Google Chromecast


I've always got my phone or tablet nearby, so my Chromecast and Chromecast Audio setups are a no-brainer for me. I have multiple Chromecast Audio unist setup as a group throughout the house, and a Chromecast or Google Cast-enabled Android TV box on every television.

The interface is what sells it for me. Every app I use supports Cast. When I have friends over, they can quickly add videos to a public queue and have some fun with it. Video quality is just about the same across all of the apps, and on the off chance that there's enough people to play games it's plenty easy to setup and enjoy.

It's an experience that grows over time, and works with just about everything. It's also dirt cheap, compared to the other streaming boxes. As ecosystems go, Chromecast has everything I need.

See at Google

Rene Ritchie - Apple TV

Apple TV

If you live in Canada, your options when it comes to streaming media are few and far between. Amazon isn't here. Neither is Hulu or HBO Go, Showtime or many others. iTunes is. So is Netflix.

That's why I've been using an Apple TV all day, every day, for the last few years. It does iTunes, which no other boxes can, and it does Netflix better than pretty much everything else. And it does AirPlay, which is awesome.

The new Apple TV has a few rough edges still — it was late in coming but still feels rushed — but even now it has almost everything I want in a streaming box. Well, except for Canadian broadcast apps, which the networks have failed to release.

There's as good a content as a Canadian can get, and iOS games and apps to round it all out. Apple is also iterating quickly, so my investment feels like just that — an investment.

See at Apple

Adam Zeis - Amazon Fire TV

Fire TV

I was always just a cable TV guy. I never dove into Roku or Apple TV or anything like that, but then the Amazon Fire TV came along. I started out with the Fire TV Stick (which offers mostly all of the same features as the box) and quickly upgraded to the full-on Fire TV. It's got the Stick beat in that there's a bit more juice to it, it has more RAM, and it can be hardwired rather than run just over Wi-Fi — which means better streaming and less buffering.

I've been into the Amazon ecosystem for years, so buying into their streaming service was a no brainer. I have plenty of movies for myself as well as a slew of TV shows and movies for my kids. I love that I can quickly run through my watchlist and throw on a show for the kids without being at the mercy of whatever is on live TV. The Plex app on Fire TV works like a champ as well, so I can stream media that's already on my server at home. Renting movies is a breeze too, and even family game night has been stepped up thanks to the Fire TV.

If you really want to geek out, you can go so far as to install Kodi (formerly XMBC) on the Fire TV Stick and Fire TV, giving you a whole new world of streaming possibilities — but we'll save that for another post.

See at Amazon

Lory Gil - Apple TV

Apple TV

I am completely connected to the Apple ecosystem with a MacBook Pro, iMac, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple Watch, and fourth-generation Apple TV. The Apple TV allows me to, not only watch movies, television shows, and music that I've rented or purchased from iTunes, but I can also stream content from Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, and dozens of other channels.

I don't have a cable subscription, so these media streaming apps are my main source of entertainment. On top of streaming content, I can also view pictures I've uploaded to iCloud and listen to podcasts. And, because my computers are all connected to Apple TV via iCloud, I can stream content directly from them without having to plug anything in or perform any additional steps.

See at Apple

Stephane Koenig - Mini PC

Mini PC

A mini-PC, like in my case, a Tronsmart Ara X5, because for around $120 you have a PC that can play most things in hardware and future things in software or hybrid mode. And it can stream from all major streaming services.

It can decode NATIVE content so does not require on-the-fly transcoding (which is usually rubbish). It runs Windows 10 so is mostly familiar. It can run Kodi, Media Player Home Cinema, has no porblem connecting to NAS's or local large hard drives. It can also manage a small network easily and consumes about 2W when idle.

Richard Devine - Xbox One

Xbox One

The Xbox One isn't technically a media streamer, I understand that, but it does combine my favorite video content services with the ability to play games and Blu Ray movies. I still love my Blu Ray collection and if a movie is released that I actually care about, I will still buy it this way.

With the Xbox One I can play games as well as access content from Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime. I rarely bother with digital purchases, though Microsoft's store front is OK if there's something I maybe want to rent rather than buy.

The Netflix and Prime apps on Xbox One are pretty good, I can control it with my phone or laptop if the controller is out of reach and it does pretty much everything I want. I do also have a Chromecast and an Amazon Fire TV in the house, but most of the time it's the Xbox One that gets used.

See at Microsoft

That's what we're using, but what about you? If you're fond of an alternative we didn't feature be sure to share it with us in the comments below!

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