5 On Your Side

Streaming sticks transform all TVs into smart TVs

Posted October 26, 2015

WRAL 5 On Your Side

People who want to stream video from the Internet but don’t own a smart TV have a simple and inexpensive way to access streaming video in the form of a streaming stick.

Consumers can make almost any TV a smart TV with a streaming stick. They’re about the size of a USB thumb drive, plug into the TV’s HDMI input and connect to a home’s Wi-Fi.

“If you want to access Netflix and other streaming services, these are the lowest-cost options,” said Jim Wilcox of Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports looked at three streaming sticks: the Amazon Fire TV stick, the Roku streaming stick and Google Chromecast.

Priced at about $35, Google Chromecast is the least expensive, but a smartphone or tablet loaded with the Chromecast app is required to operate it.

“Chromecast is a bit different in that you use your own device (en dash) a tablet, a smartphone, or a laptop computer (en dash) to access the content like Netflix or HBO, and then you wirelessly send it, or cast it, to your TV,” said Wilcox.

The Roku Streaming stick, priced at about $50, allows users to download a remote-control app for their phone or tablet, but it also has a Wi-Fi remote. Roku offers the most channels of any of the sticks and lets users know when new movies are available to stream.

“Keep in mind that, with any of these sticks, you’re still going to pay for any content that’s not free,” Wilcox said.

One advantage of the $40 Amazon Fire stick is that users get Amazon Prime movies and music at no extra cost if they’re already an Amazon Prime subscriber.

The Fire stick works with either the included remote or with a phone or tablet for features like voice search.

Consumers who prefer a more conventional set-top box-style player might want to try any of the three Roku boxes. They earned the top spots in Consumer Reports’ ratings of streaming devices.

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