INTERNET STREAMING STICKS :
There are several streaming sticks (Handheld remotes) and devices available but the Roku Streaming Stick and the Amazon Fire Stick are the two major players and, in my opinion, offer the most benefits and support. You won't go wrong with either of these two devices.
Roku is a great unit for those new to streaming media devices. The remote is durable, has a user-friendly on-screen interface, has controls for TV volume and Roku offers a generous amount of both free and paid content. The higher priced Roku and Amazon Fire Sticks have an Ethernet plug allowing the user to plug the stick (remote control device) directly into your internet router. A direct connection provides a more stable and often faster internet connection compared to a wireless (Wi-Fi) connection.
The Roku and Amazon Fire stick were designed to provide TV viewers with a broad platform to receive internet programs, simply and quickly. Prices for these devices start at $20 US and run up to $100 US. More money offers more features. These features may include speaking the name of the movie or program you wish to view and letting the system find the streaming services app installed on your streaming stick with your program choice; plus a streaming remote control locator if you tend to lose those things.
Some sticks can now control the audio volume of the TV (mid 2022). Each device also includes their own internet Home Page that offers an incredible amount of additional viewing options, both free and paid. It is well worth the one-time purchase fee for the device. I used to prefer Amazon's Fire Stick, and that certainly remains a viable choice, especially if you subscribe to Amazon Prime, as this provides you with their Video Streaming services as well. However, Roku's only business is their streaming stick and Roku TV sets. Roku (a California company) has really upped their game this past year with additional free channels and more.
The Amazon Fire Stick also offers excellent performance and a lot of original free programming if you are a member of Amazon Prime (US $139 Yearly in 2022), or have purchased a video service from Amazon, currently (2022) about $10.00 US per month. Amazon's library holds thousands of movies and TV program episodes.
There are some similarities between the Amazon Fire TV Stick and the Roku Streaming Stick. Both have multiple models offering various features. The older lower priced sticks, say $20 US, support standard TV (before 2009) and 1080p TV and streaming (Widescreen from 2009). Today's Over The Air USA broadcast standards should be available to at least 2026.
Newer higher-priced sticks starting at $40 US and up, support Ultra HD and HDR. Ultra HD is a feature that includes increased video and audio quality such as 4K and 8K video produced programing. HDR (High Dynamic Range) improves the contrast between very dark and very light colors on a TV screen. Personally, I would purchase a remote, from either company, that can handle 4K programs. While there are not a lot of programs shot in 4K in October 2022, this is the trend. More TV streaming will be available in 4K, as this format will likely become the new streaming standard. Only remotes and TV sets designed to handle 4K video will be able to view the higher quality video. The Next Gen TV format being eased into our updated broadcast standards for the USA also includes programming code for 8K programs in the future, but no programs designed for general release, that I am aware of, are being recorded in 8K in 2022.
FFor Amazon, the product names are Fire TV and Fire TV 4K and for Roku they are Roku Streaming Stick and Streaming Stick+. Roku added a plus sign + to the name). Some sticks have a voice search feature allowing the user to speak the name of the program they are looking for and may connect with some smart home systems such as Alexa. Speaking a movie title to the remote may speed locating programs over typing in the information when searching through thousands of titles. Voice communication also reduces the need for a computer keyboard, either on-screen or physically next to you.
The sticks come in two parts. One part is your remote control in your hand, similar to your TV remote control. The second device plugs directly into an HDMI port on your TV making them convenient for even wall-mounted TVs. Both Amazon and Roku have mobile apps for your phone that you can also use as a remote. Both devices support most TV and movie internet streaming services. Both players support dual band Wi-Fi, with the higher priced units able to connect with a wired Ethernet port. Use the Ethernet when you can safely run a coax 6 or higher cable from your internet router to the TV. This will become even more important as additional 4K video programs become available. Wireless Ethernet is a great convenience, but for full speed and stability, a wired Ethernet connection just cannot be beat.
The remotes that comes with the Roku Streaming Stick and Roku Streaming Stick+ have buttons for controlling your TV's power and volume. The newer Fire TV Sticks available in 2022 also support this feature. There are third-party devices that can add this control to your device, but it could just be easier to use the TV remote to control the TV volume, and turn the set on and off.
I'm going to sneak a third possibility in on you, though for home TV viewing the Fire Stick and Roku remain the best options. This third option is really for your smart phone. If you have a TV APP or photos on your smartphone that you wish to view on a larger screen such as your TV, then look at Google's Chromecast (3rd Generation). It works differently than our sticks listed above.
Chromecast does not have any video programs of its own. Chromecast only provides a video and audio link between the cellphone and the TV. Think of Chromecast as a movie projector. Your cellphone is the film and your TV is the screen. You play the video on your smartphone using Chromecast to ''project'' the program on to your TV screen. This means you need to have a video or photo app running on your phone, then press the Chromecast button to view your smartphone screen on your TV.
You can also enter your photo gallery and display some or all of your smartphone photos. A downside to streaming movies from your smartphone to your TV is that almost all smartphone movie downloads are transmitted in 480 or 720p rather than the 1080p. So the quality will not be as good as what you will find using the regular streaming available on your TV through Amazon Fire and Roku sticks.
Also, many programs and movies use technology that will not allow their program to be streamed from your smartphone to the TV screen. This is to protect royalty and licensing contracts for the studios. But the Chromecast is a handy APP/device if you're traveling and perhaps at a friend's house and wish to view your smartphone photos on a large screen.
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