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Media Streamers

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    cable cutting guide
    A breakdown of the top Streaming TV Packages that Really make you save money!

    We already outlined the media streamers or top-set boxes to perform all of the streaming tasks you want - for free. If you are uncomfortable with the jailbreak-savvy options we recommend in our media streamer reviews, don't despair!

    The following tips will help you to avoid the dark side all together by assembling the perfect, cost effective entertainment package that best fits YOU - completely legal and future-proof!

    So now it's time to get a grasp on the streaming services providers out there so that you can figure out which one best meets your TV viewing needs. After all, you if "cut the cord," can you still get the shows you want to watch?

    4 benefits of cord cutting:


    • Save money. Cable connections can be costly!
    • Avoid paying for channels in subscriptions that you don't even watch (tsk, tsk, how wasteful)
    • No pesky long-term contracts with cable companies. Cancel at any time
    • Little advertising (annoying and distracting)

    Cord cutter packages have hit the mainstream. People are saying goodbye to traditional TV and hello to streaming services, with popular players including Hulu and Netflix. Is it time for you to abandon pay TV and instead get your "television" online or from Internet-based services?

    Making the shift from cable to online viewing doesn't need to be complex (although many guides we've read on the web seem to think so). We're breaking it down for you here, with the ins and outs of the top 7 streaming packages for the cable cutter in you. To make it easier for you, we used personas to better illustrate the guy or gal we think each package would be best fitted for. Here u go:

    armchair quarterback

    1.The armchair quarterback

    So you say you want sports? Absolutely! Check out Sling TV from Dish. Just be aware that getting local games isn't a reality at this point with streaming services, whether that be Sling TV or not. As well, the service might not be stable every time (just one of the drawbacks of Live streaming sometimes). Okay, now onto the awesome sports talk.

    Sling TV

    Package

    $25/month*

    Price

    $600/year

    Saving

    * Our recommendation: $20/mth Get The Best of Live TV (base package) + $5/mth Sports Extra pack

    ​Pick up two specific Sling TV packages to cover your sports needs. The core package, for $20/month, is called The Best of Live TV. It features 20 channels, including (and most importantly) ESPN and ESPN2. Then add in the Sports Extra bundle for only $5 more to give you SEC Network, ESPNEWS, ESPN Bases Loaded, ESPN Goal Line, Universal Sports, beIN Sports, and more.

    If you want to get network sports broadcasts too, then add an indoor TV antenna as the perfect accompaniment to your streaming package. If you have a good signal then a basic indoor antenna will do. But if it's a weak signal (feel free to curse here) then invest in in an outdoor antenna and move it around for a better signal to get the broadcast games.

    How Can you get sling tV?


    1. Subscribe at Sling.com and create an account
    2. Install the app on your device (see #3)
    3. Sling TV works on these media streaming devices: Roku (TV, box or stick) Amazon Fire TV (box or stick), and Xbox One
    4. Tip: You can also set up Sling TV on your mobile device (Android/iOS phone or tablet), your PC and your Mac
    5. Sign in and watch anywhere in the US, using a stable Wi-Fi, wired or cell Internet connection
    media streamer reviews trendsetter

    2.the untouchable Trendsetter

    You want the latest, hottest shows, and you want them right now. You are not to be outdone, and missing out on the trendiest TV shows, like Orange Is The New Black, is simply not an option for you. Then you're going to want the ultimate custom package of Netflix (US), HBO Now, Showtime, and Amazon Prime.

    Netflix US, HBO Now, Amazon Prime, and Showtime

    Package

    $42/month*

    Price

    $380/year

    Saving

    * Our recommendation: $8.99/mth Netflix plan + $15/mth HBO Now plan + $8.25/mth Amazon Prime + $11/mth Showtime

    First step: get on the Netflix bandwagon. It has movies, true, but if you want content that goes past the two-hour mark, then you'll have a whole wack of the most buzzworthy shows to fill the void called the weekend. Did we mention you won't have to deal with commercials?

    Get the two-screens streaming plan for $8.99/month (so you can watch on two HDTVs or share the account with someone else). Some of the best shows on Netflix right now include Better Call Saul, Sherlock, House of Cards, Archer, and Fargo.

    As for HBO Now, it is well-known for having some of the most talked about shows on it. It's a close second to Netflix but you want it too so you can stream Game of Thrones, True Detective, The Wire, Silicon Valley, Oz,Veep, and much more.

    Here's what else rocks about streaming HBO Now. You get it for only $15 per month, which is about the same price as the HBO pay TV channel, yet you get more of the best, newest shows. Um, hello good deal. You could even get a free 30-day trial upon sign up with HBO Now the last time we checked.

    what you need to know about hBO Now:


    1. You cannot sign up for HBO Now from just any device. Account sign up occurs through 3rd parties; currently only Apple and Cablevision are on board
    2. You can, therefore, sign up using Apple TV, an iPhone or iPad. If Cablevision provides Internet service where you live then that's another option.
    3. BUT once you have an account, you can watch it on more than just Apple products. You can see HBO Now shows on any desktop web browser (just use your related account password).
    4. An Android app released in mid-July. Obviously you can't use it on rooted phones or tablets. Get a 30-day HBO Now trial when you get the app in the Play Store.

    And, no, you're not done there. I mean, you need an Amazon Prime Instant Video subscription too. Then you can keep up with The Walking Dead, Downton Abbey, Transparent, Vikings, and Rome. Did we miss one? You would know as you keep tabs on the latest shows!

    With its top shows, it's no wonder that Amazon Instant video has grown to be more than just an extra service from the web giant, now proving to be a major competitor in the streaming business. It costs $99 per year, which is about $8.25 per month. Note: The Amazon downloads are fast, and if you're a Prime member then you get to stream commercial free for certain content.

    It's Showtime! Enjoy cable-free TV streaming of those shows everyone is eagerly awaiting, like Penny Dreadful. In the US, the news only gets better as you can stream it through your Apple TV or Roku media players for just $11 per month. Get on-demand and live access to the shows so your friends won't tell you the ending of the episodes before you get to see them. Check out Ray Donovan too if you want to binge-watch a great crime drama.

    binge watcher guy

    3.binge viewer extraordinaire

    This selection is for the TV viewer who likes to binge-watch full seasons of shows. Your tastes vary, so one month you might be into crime dramas while the next month you want to lighten it up with a comedy. The only consistency for you is that you want to watch it all, the total season of the show that catches your attention at the time.

    Go with a la Carte TV Instead

    Package

    $30/month*

    Price

    $540/year

    Saving

    * Our recommendation: Get one TV show's full season for $30/mth

    For wonderful, binge-watching you, it makes the most sense to go with the a la carte option. You can get 30 seasons for $30 each. If you can imagine yourself being satisfied with viewing a season a month, without the need for any other content on top of that, then this solution is perfect for you. The typical season has 22 episodes of 45 minutes each.

    You're going to save big bucks, by the way. You no longer have to shell out upwards of $900 a year for cable when you switch to Internet service. You now spend only $360 a year. How to spend that $540 you just saved? Here are a few options:

    Ways to Use Your Savings, Cable Cutter:


    1. Get yourself a TV antenna so that you can watch big events live, such as the Olympics, the Academy Awards, and the Super Bowl.
    2. Note: You must have a TV made after 2007 for an antenna to work. Plug it into the coaxial port that's at the back of your television.
    3. The Clearstream 2 antenna is a great choice for under $100, with a range up to 50 miles. Get top networks like FOX, ABC, CBS, and NBC.
    4. As for the remaining funds, spend it on snacks and beer for the binge-watching sessions, as well as treating yourself to a few cool finds.
    news junkie

    4.a case of the news junkie

    When you like news and you like it a lot, here's the solution: Sling TV. Why? It offers you a the latest stories on world events, politics, tech stories, and more. Never miss out again on breaking US or global headlines! Included in the affordable $20/mth core package is CNN, which is obviously a huge provider of current news and quality feature stories.

    Sling TV

    Package

    $25/month*

    Price

    $555/year

    Saving

    * Our recommendation: $20/mth The Best of Live TV (base package) + $5 World News Extra pack + separate $100 cable antenna

    We recommend you add in the Sling TV World News Extra pack for just $5 more. That bundle gives you Bloomberg TV, Euro News, Russia Today, News 18, and more. As well, invest in a one-time $100 purchase of the reliable Clearstream 2 antenna (see the "Ways to Use Your Savings" box above) to get access to local and network news too.

    Including the antenna purchase in your first year as a cable cutter, you will save $555, with savings for each subsequent year at a whopping $655. Not too shabby at all.

    More Cord Cutting Tips for the News Viewer:


    1. Once you have your over-the-air antenna, you can watch MSNBC and FOX News IF you have a PlayStation 3 or 4. Just get PlayStation Vue. Note: PlayStation Vue is only available in Chicago, NY, and Philadelphia right now.
    2. For the $49.99/mth Access plan on PlayStation Vue, you get 50 channels that include these news-centered ones: FOX News, NBC, CBS, FOX Sports, and MSNBC.
    3. On Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and Apple TV, you can get CBSN, which is a digital news channel from CBS News. It streams live coverage with anchors for 15 hours a day Monday to Friday.
    4. Another option: Try the ABC News app on Roku, Apple TV or Xbox One. It has special reports dedicated to breaking news items.
    news junkie

    5.The Cable-Aholic

    If you like the shows on cable but are tired of the fees, you're not alone. This viewing combination of CBS All Access, Sling TV, and Hulu gives you all the shows you love on cable, like Modern Family, but at a cheaper price. Sounds good? Read on, it get's better!

    CBS All Access, Sling TV, and Hulu

    Package

    $34/month*

    Price

    $492/year

    Saving

    * Our recommendation: $20/mth Sling TV basic package + $6/mth CBS All Access (base rate) + $7.99/mth Hulu (base rate)

    For Sling TV, opt for The Best of Live TV core package; for $20 a month you get ABC Family, TBS, Lifetime, HGTV, TNT, and more. Plus, Sling's "Replay" feature lets you go back and watch programming you might have missed; how far back you can view depends on the channel. A benefit of this service over cable is that it is live TV, playing as it happens, unlike cable TV.

    If you want to keep up with Blue Bloods and binge-watch NCIS, which are both hit cable shows, you'll like having CBS All Access too. It currently has more than 6,500 on-demand episodes of CBS shows; watch what you want when you want to for ultimate convenience. You can't beat the price for $6 a month, especially if you like the ability to choose between both old and new episodes.

    Add in Hulu so that you can watch the best shows that you enjoyed on cable from ABC, FOX, NBC, MTV, and Comedy Central. This subscription service gives you new and past season episodes of Good Morning America,The Daily Show, South Park, Community, Once Upon a Time, and many more. The base price? Just $7.99 a month. Here is more about setting up Hulu:

    How to Start Using Hulu:


    1. You need an account in the US; sign up for the subscription through the Hulu site. Start with the trial subscription offered to you (hey, it's FREE), but realize it automatically rolls into a paid version after the trial ends.
    2. To access Hulu, you need one of these media streamers: Apple TV, Roku, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Google Chromecast or Nexus Player. You can also get the service on your iOS, Android or Windows mobile device. Another option? Watch it from your computer.
    3. For best performance, Hulu recommends your Internet connection has a download speed of 1.5 Mbps (SD videos) and 3 Mbps (HD videos).
    cord cutting guy

    6.I want it all

    You want it all. All that and a bag of chips. If so, then you're a TV junkie who has a wide range of viewing tastes and wants all the content you can get on demand every day. You need an assortment of streaming subscriptions to satisfy your needs: HBO Now, Sling TV, Netflix, Hulu, and CBS All Access.

    HBO Now, Sling TV, Netflix, Hulu, and CBS All Access

    Package

    $58/month*

    Price

    $105/year

    Saving

    * Our recommendation: $15/mth HBO Now, $20/mth Sling TV basic package + $8.99/mth Netflix + $7.99/mth Hulu (base rate) + $6/mth CBS All Access (base rate)

    Get the premium network HBO on the cheap with HBO Now. The online streaming service, for $15 a month, gives you access to every hit HBO series. You can still watch Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, True Detective, Silicon Valley, and Ballers.

    If you still want to get the cable networks ESPN and ESPN2 for great sports coverage then you have to add in Sling TV; it is the only subscription service carrying it. Those channels are included with a ton of others in the basic $20 a month package. You'll still be able to watch big shows like Family Guy, Chopped, and Conan. Watch TBS, TNT, Food Channel, and more assorted shows, all included within the base package.

    Add $8 a month for your Netflix subscription. Why? Steam shows in HD that range from Orange is the New Black to Daredevil and House of Cards and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. The most talked about shows are on Netflix, duh. There's a ton of TV shows, and you can watch them as much as you want.

    Hulu has the shows you are used to watching on cable, such as Modern Family, Scandal, and Empire. Get full episodes and full seasons of them. If you want to watch entire seasons of your favorite shows on the cheap (only about $8 a month), then Hulu's for you. It even works on Android or iOS mobile devices. Play it on your Apple TV, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Chromecast, or Nexus Player too.

    When you add in CBS All Access, you get all of the current shows PLUS older ones you can watch on demand. You can get live streaming! Plus, CBS show episodes are available days after for you, in case you want to rewatch them or missed them the first time around. Sync your devices and you can watch shows like The Big Bang Theory and The Good Wife on the go on your smartphone.

    You can use two of these streaming services or all five of them, depending on the television shows that you normally like to watch. The point is you will get an assortment of content whenever you want it and are unlikely to run out of shows as news ones are always being added to them.

    another option: get showtime through hulu


    1. In the above section, we suggested HBO Now, but if you're not into Game of Thrones or any other series on there, you could opt instead to get Showtime through Hulu.
    2. On Showtime, you'll get Homeland and Ray Donovan as soon as they air. 
    3. Get live stream shows as soon as they air on your desktop computer, commercial-free content, and more. Watch anything and everything on your TV, PC or mobile device.
    4. Sign up through Hulu by going to your account settings, select Manage Premium Add-ons, and you'll see the Showtime option there.
    cord cutting guy

    7.the film Buff

    If your reason for wanting to keep cable has primarily been your love of movies, then this is what we recommend for you. Get any movie you want on demand by selecting the newest flicks one by one from Amazon or iTunes. These flicks are only $5 each. In addition, you can get Netflix and HBO Now.

    HBO Now, Netflix, and Single Film Picks on iTunes or Amazon

    Package

    $44/month*

    Price

    $376/year

    Saving

    * Our recommendation: $15/mth HBO Now + $8.99/mth Netflix + $20/mth for 4 movie picks (Amazon or iTunes)

    On Netflix, stream the most buzzworthy movies, as well as the little-known ones. Netflix suggests movies for you, based on what you have watched, and you will find that the New Releases category frequently updates. There are comedies, dramas, thrillers, kids movies, romance, foreign films, and more.

    Add in HBO Now for even more of the latest movies, sometimes faster than you could get them on Netflix. Current selections include Gone Girl, The Fault in Our Stars, Divergent, and 12 Years a Slave. For all your movie needs, any time of the day, you'll be covered.

    iTunes vs. Amazon for Movies: Which is Better?


    1. Amazon Instant Video is easily accessible via Xbox, Roku, iPad or PlayStation 3 or 4 while iTunes is limited to Apple users (iOS devices, such as the iPhone and Apple TV).
    2. If you're an Apple fan, however, you want to support the brand likely, so you're going with iTunes hands down. Plus, your music is only a click away while you're there.
    3. Both Apple and Amazon offer about 50,000 movies in their libraries, so there's plenty of content to choose from either way.
    4. Rental and purchase movie prices on iTunes and Amazon are similar (identical in many instances). For example, the movie Insurgent is $19.99 to buy from each store.
    5. Bottom line: Which is "better" depends on what factors you use as a comparison between the two stores and what you consider important to meeting your viewing needs.

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    Best Media-Streaming Player
    The Ultimate Guide To Choosing The Best Media-Streaming Player and save BIG on your cable bill

    So, you think cable TV sucks? You're not alone.

    A growing number of Americans are choosing to cut the cord on cable and instead watch video on demand that is streamed to their screens over the Web.

    Now you too can use a media-streaming device to watch what you want, when you want it, whether you watch TV shows and movies occasionally or ​are an avid viewer.

    If saying buh-bye to cable entirely gives you the jitters, keep your subscription and simply supplement it with a media streamer instead to give you a broader range of content to watch in your downtime.

    But, now that you know you want a media-streaming player, here comes the next hurdle. With several boxes on the market, how do you decide on one? Many people feel overwhelmed by the number of choices. With that issue in mind, we off this review post to you.

    What The Hack?

    We don't call ourselves 'Man Cave Masters' for nothing! In order to elevate your personal space to the ultimate Media Center experience, you would want to do it at the lowest cost possible, right? Well, we got you covered!

    True, there's no such thing as a free lunch, but you could watch most of your content for free by busting out your hacker chops. You can "hack" some media streamers more easily than others, making them in to mindless slaves of your ever-thirsty remote.

    Hacking or "jailbreaking" means you get even more content and services than what the manufacturer offers you! Many hackers are all about Kodi (formerly called XMBC), the cool software you can get on your media player after you jailbreak it.

    review of the top 5 media streamers

    Kodi is essentially an entertainment hub for playing videos, music, and even podcasts. You can also record and watch TV because it allows PVR functions. When you hack your media streamer (as the ultimate freeloader, who would have thought it?), you can customize the box just for you.

    For the ultimate "free lunch", Kodi will allow you to install apps such as ​1Channel and Genesis that give you access to an infinite collection of TVShows and movies - FOR FREE!

    DISCLAIMER:
    Nobody hates your freeloading nature as much as the manufacturer of your media device - especially Apple and Amazon. Tampering with your device could "brick" your media box, making it unusable for good. In addition, watching stuff for free might have legal consequences in the future! At time of writing this, "streaming" content is not illegal, as long as it isn't stored or distributed.

    To be on the save side, we recommend using a VPN service, such as Cactus VPN. It will hide your IP address and lets you stream your content anonymously. You can sign up for their free trial here. If you are in the US, their $4.99/ month service should have you covered. The service offers easy to follow instructions on how to set it up with your streamer box.

    Below, you will find our individual reviews of the five most popular streaming players in the US.

    Side note: we have excluded the smaller, "stick" versions of some of the devices. Reason: they can't be jailbroken and are therefore not suited for our review purposes.

    Read on to learn the features of each box, pros and cons,​ and - unlike other media streamer reviews - ease of hack-ability, and which one we ultimately recommend to you.

    Top 5 Media Streamers

    This post focuses on streaming media devices or set-top boxes, as they are also known. The five streamers, in order of discussion, are Roku 3, Apple TV 3, Amazon Fire TV Box, Google Nexus Player, and the new kid on the market, G-Box Q.

    NameMatricom G-Box Q Media StreamerGoogle Nexus PlayerApple TV 3Amazon Fire TVRoku 3 Streaming Media Player
     Matricom G-Box Q Quad/Octo Core Android Media Streamer Reviewgoogle nexus streaming media player reviewapple tv 3 streaming media player reviewamazon fire tv media streamer reviewroku 3 streaming media player
    Amazon Rating
    MSRP$259.00$99.00$$99.00$99.99
    Lowest Price$102.00Amazon See it$74.99Amazon See it$89.00Amazon See it$99.00Amazon See it$99.00Amazon See it
    BrandMatricomGoogleAppleAmazonRoku
    TypeMedia StreamerMedia StreamerMedia StreamerMedia StreamerMedia Streamer
    ModelG-Box QNexus PlayerLETV3FTCL11304230R
    Weight0.55 pounds18.7 pounds1.3 pounds0.61 pounds0.31 pounds
    Dimensions4 x 4 x 1.5 inches16.8 x 11.4 x 8.6 inches6.4 x 6.4 x 4.5 inches4.5 x 4.5 x 0.7 inches3.5 x 3.5 x 1 inches
     Read the ReviewRead the ReviewRead the ReviewRead the ReviewRead the Review

    These players are generally within the $60-$100 range (excluding the G-Box Q) and come with built-in Wi-Fi to fetch content that's then displayed on yourTV using an HDMI cable. In other words, setup is a cinch, even if you are not a tech guru.

    Here is more detail about the general offerings of each box:

    Apple TV 3

    apple tv media streamer review

    features

    While the Apple TV 3 looks small, it has big features. It's not really a "TV" though, despite the name. Its software is similar to the Mac OS, but it's not a Mac; it streams iTunes and other media content to HD televisions. It is powered by an Apple single-core A5 chip.

    Pros & Cons

    If you're an Apple lover, with an iPhone and iPad already, you'll likely want to add this streamer to your collection. Why? It will be easy to share your content that's already on iTunes, your Mac or iCloud to your Apple TV 3. Now you'll be able to integrate the player with iTunes TV shows, movies, and music.

    While Apple added more services lately, including HBO, Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube, it still lacks Vudu, Amazon, and M-Go. Also, some users say they have to restart the box or iTunes frequently.

    Setting up AirPlay will let you stream whatever's playing on your iOS device onto your TV screen. The quality of movies, TV shows, and movies is excellent with the 1080p high definition. Plus, it's compact, stylish, and an affordable $89.

    On the other hand, if you're not part of the Apple world, ​it will be more difficult to access these options, and they will, obviously, be more limited. Also, the amount of games and other content on Apple TV 3 is less than on, say, Roku 3.

    Hack-ability:


    1. Jailbreak your Apple TV 3 to get new apps, services, and systems that take your cool media player even further. It's actually a simple process to hack into it, IF you have an Apple TV 2 or the original model. However, with Apple TV 3, not so much.
    2. To use Kodi on your Apple TV (3rd generation), what you have to do is mirror your screen. What do we mean by this?
    3. Here's how mirroring will work: Use the AirPlay Mirroring feature of your iOS mobile device, Android mobile device, Mac, or PC. Peer-to-peer AirPlay is available on iOS 8. AirPlay enables you to connect your iPad or iPhone to your Apple TV 3 to stream a range of content, WITHOUT them both having to connect on the same Wi-Fi network. Your mobile device IS the Wi-Fi hotspot.
    4. Note: This peer-to-peer AirPlay feature is only available on the 3rd generation Apple TVs.

    Our verdict on the hackability of Apple TV 3: Installing Kodi is problematic with the third generation model. Instead, use the AirPlay Mirroring feature. Having your Apple TV (3rd generation) is possible with the workaround we've outlined above. But, if you want all of the perks of Kodi then you're best to stick with the two earlier generations of the Apple TV or choose another player instead.

    Roku 3

    roku3 media streaming device reviews

    features

    In theRoku 3, enjoy voice search for finding the movies and TVs you want to watch in no time. Also, get "Roku Feed," so you can follow entertainment that interests you. It's faster than the first generation model and has a new interface, as well as USB ports and a microSD slot.

    Pros & Cons

    The biggest advantage of Roku 3 is its huge amount of content, surpassing all other media streamers. For movies and TV shows, you get to choose from Netflix, HBO Go, Amazon, Hulu, Vudu, M-Go, and more. You can even cross-search over multiple platforms. Also, use Roku Feed's "Movies Coming Soon" section to check if a movie is available yet to stream or not.

    ​The Roku 3 has a wired Ethernet port to connect to a home network, and it supports both 5GHz and 2.4GHz frequencies; got to love dual-band Wi-Fi. Enjoy 1080p HD resolution, as well as a free iOS and Android app to transform your mobile device into a Roku remote.

    However, Roku 3 is more expensive than the Apple TV; current pricing is $100. Another disadvantage is its limited screen mirroring options; it only mirrors your mobile device onto the TV screen if you're on YouTube or Netflix.

    Do you want to stream your own digital media? Unfortunately, you'll have a hill to climb to do so. Regarding customer support, some online reviewers discuss the lack of it. Other reviewers say the remote control locks up sometimes. ​

    Hack-ability:


    1. Sorry folks, Kodi cannot be installed onto Roku 3. That being said, there is a workaround. You can use Kodi on your Android devices, such as a phone or tablet, and then mirror your screen to Roku.
    2. Another option is to use Plex Media Server. One advantage of Plex over Kodi is the simplified data management. There aren't many performance issues with Plex either because it's lightweight. However, Kodi is more flexible than Plex, offering custom skins, etc.
    3. Your best bet? For Roku 3, use a free Plex client and pair that with a free Plex server.

    Our verdict on the hackability of the Roku 3: It's not an easy process as the media streamer is made to be secure; it won't let you install Kodi. But, you can make do with Plex instead. Performance is reliable when you pair up a Plex client with a Plex server.

    Amazon Fire TV Box

    media streaming player reviews

    features

    Specific features of the Amazon Fire TV Box include voice commands and a kid-centric environment called "FreeTime," where parents can set controls for their children's viewing habits, such as viewing time limits. Get movies and TV shows from a range of content partners.

    Pros & Cons

    Choose from several content services, including Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu. If the movie or TV show you want is marked "ASAP," it starts quickly, almost as soon as you select it. Fast is a good word to describe the Amazon Fire TV Box; its fast-forward and rewind features are smoother than other streamers.

    It's a quality gaming platform too, offering many titles you'll have difficulty finding elsewhere. The newest version lets you add a USB drive too, giving you additional storage for downloading and saving games. Connect it to "captive portal" Wi-Fi networks too, so you can take it with you to play at your hotel while on vacation or in a dorm or apartment building.

    A slight disadvantage is that the streamer shoves Amazon in your face every chance it gets. Yes, we know there are Amazon Instant videos, but do we need to see it on almost every screen? Show promotion is high for shows that are new additions to Amazon Prime Instant. Also, the game controller is not included; we recommend it for a better gaming experience. It costs $99, which is on the high end of the price range for media-streaming players.

    If you are a Apple user and want to get your iPhone or Mac content on to the Amazon device, there areplenty of AirPlay apps available for that too.

    Hack-Ability:


    1. So you've got 10 minutes? Then you have time to sideload Kodi onto your Amazon Fire TV Box. You DON"T have to hack the player as Amazon Fire allows sideloading.
    2. Obviously, first you will need to download the latest Kodi apk available for Android.
    3. Next, enable ADB Debugging on your player. Go to Settings, select Developer Options, and click ON for ADB Debugging. While in Settings, also go to About and write down your IP address.
    4. Download either the Amazon Fire TV Utility App (for Windows, Linux, or Mac) or the adbFire app (solely for Windows users). The simplest process is to extract the app of choice to your C Drive.
    5. IF you chose the adbFire app, install Kodi following these instructions.
    6. IF you choose the Amazon Fire TV Utility App, follow these instructions: 
      • In Windows, go to File, and select Connect. Enter your IP address, choose Normal Debug mode, and then click the bottom button that says Save and Close.
      • Look for a screen prompt to say that you've connected to the player.
      • Go to the Fire TV Utility app to ensure it says it is connected to your IP (look for the line at the bottom of the page). Then browse and select the downloaded Kodi ARM apk, and then click on the top-right button that reads "Side Load 3rd Party Application." 
      • You will then see a notification that Kodi is successfully installed.

    Our verdict: Installing Kodi onto the Amazon Fire TV Box is a simple process that requires little time. You don't even need to root the player. It's a great non-HTPC option for Kodi, booting up faster than a Raw Mini HTPC. The streamer starts up almost as you soon as you power on. As the Fire TV allows sideloading, you don't need to hack it to install Kodi.

    Google Nexus Player

    google nexus player review

    features

    The circular design of this black set-top box is certainly unique. It is smart technology that easily connects to the Internet for streaming movies, TV shows, music, and other content. Connect to Netflix, YouTube, Pandora Internet Radio, and more. It works with most HDMI-compatible TVs and has an 8GB hard drive.

    Pros & Cons

    Voice search using the included remote and you'll find it is highly responsive. Just as we'd expect from its maker, Google Now, a pro with this type of technology. It can handle complex phrases and returns results easily for titles as well as actors.

    The Nexus player works well with Google's Cast service, as well as TabCast from the browser Chrome. It can mirror screens too, putting what you see on your phone or tablet onto the TV's screen. The streamer also offers a range of games via the Google Play store; although less than game selection than on Amazon Fire, it is ahead of many of the other set-top boxes.

    ​The cons? It's at the higher end of the price range for media streamers; it is $99. Plus, it has sparse connections, with only one HDMI output, which is for connecting to the TV to use it, and its microUSB port is just to get service.

    While it does offer mirror imaging, this option is only compatible with specific Android devices, and you must use a Chromecast app to do so. It shoves its Google services down your throat too, much like Amazon Fire does with its own offerings. In terms of content, there is a smaller selection than on Roku 3.​

    Hack-ability:


    1. As the Nexus Player is essentially an Android device, it can pretty much do anything your smartphone can do, right? Correct. You can install Kodi onto your Nexus Player, and it's pretty stable for Android, especially when you use Kodi 14 Helix or above.
    2. Our inside research reveals the x86 version of Kodi for Android, which is recommended for it, has a packaging problem that is leading many users to have problems with Kodi crashing and video links not playing. What a hassle, sigh. So, try the ARM version instead; it appears to work well with the Nexus Player, without any of those issues.
    3. Kodi is easily accessible from the Google Play store and then by following these installation steps.

    Our verdict on the hack-ability of the Nexus Player: Google doesn't make it easy to sideload Kodi to it. While you'll likely be recommended the x86 version of Kodi for it, packaging issues are causing crashes that are a pain in the ass. Instead, opt for the ARM version and you should have better luck. There are several steps though for the loading process so allow an afternoon to get this one done.

    G-Box Q

    g-box q review

    features

    The G-Box Q from Matricom takes Android TV to its max potential! Enjoy an Octo Core 3D GPU Graphics Processor (see pros section below). It has Ethernet, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, a microSD card slot up to 64GB, and 2 USB 2.0 host ports.

    Pros & Cons

    The amazing 8x 3D graphics of this set-top box deliver outstanding gaming performance. If you're a gamer, you're welcome. Plus, the G-Box Q has smooth playback when you watch movies while streaming live shows is fast and reliable. Its internal storage of 16GB is nothing to scoff at, either.

    Perhaps its most important advantage is it has no restrictions; you don't need to jailbreak it, unlike the other four boxes we spotlight here, as it comes with XBMC/Kodi. It has Cloud Updating too, so you never have to worry about manually updating apps or Android versions.​

    Now for the disadvantages of the G-Box Q. It is more than double the price of some of the other players at $259. However, shop around for discounts and you will find them (who doesn't love saving a few bucks?). Some online reviewers cite issues with audio cutting out and slow wireless connections.

    Hack-ability:


    1. There's no need to hack the G-Box Q Android TV box to get Kodi, my friends. You read that right, no hacking required. The media streamer basically comes pre-installed with Kodi.
    2. How so? The heart of the G-Box Q is its Matricom Media Center, which is based on Kodi stable technology. If you set your player to get automatic updates, then you'll always have the latest "Stable Kodi," as it is known on Play's app page. If you didn't get the update, just find the Matricom Media Center at the Google Play Store. 

    Our verdict: G-Box Q and Kodi are totally compatible. This media streamer is based on Kodi streamer technology, so there's no need to hack it. If you're a general user who's scared by the term "hacker," and has no interest in altering your player, this is likely the one for you.

    Our Recommendations

    So, which is the best media-streaming play for you? If you are a general user who has no interest in hacking a device, then the G-Box Q is the perfect solution. It offers you the Kodi features without any hacking required. Simple.

    If, however, you plan to jailbreak the streamer, then you need to pay more attention to the "hackability" boxes above​ and our details on pros and cons of the other four devices.

    Overall, we recommend the Amazon Fire TV Box. You get a lot of content, albeit less than Roku 3, but it kicks Roku's ass when it comes ​to having all-out access to Kodi.

    Getting Kodi is a cinch too; just sideload it. Also, if you have children, you can change your settings to be more kid-friendly, and that may well be what ultimately gets you to buy it.

    If you're into gaming, Amazon Fire is one you'll love, and you get massive storage for your games too by adding an extra USB drive. It's on the higher end of the price range for media streamers but, in our opinion, it's well worth it with so many great features.

    There you have it. This concludes our epic post on how to pick the right media streamer and save money along the way. If you got some value out of it, please share below!

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