At first glance, streaming devices might all seem the same, but they can range in make from a simple HDMI dongle for your TV to a sophisticated box with several features. Choosing the right device really depends on your specific service subscriptions, hardware needs and the way you want to use it. Let’s identify which features to look out for when deciding which device is the best addition for your home.

Service Subscriptions

When using these devices, it all comes down to satisfying your entertainment needs. One of the most important factors to consider before making a purchase is which services you’re looking for. Start by making a list of your current streaming service subscriptions and which shows you want to access. Then check that list against the services offered on different devices you’re checking out. If some devices offer too limited a selection of services, that device might not be the best fit for you.

Hardware Considerations

Now that you’ve identified the services you want, let’s look at the hardware you need in a device. If you have a newer television with an HDMI input, you should be good to go! An HDMI input is the fastest and easiest way to get connected.

If you have a fully functional TV that lacks an HDMI input, you can upgrade it with a streaming device. In this case, look for a device that has an RCA output with yellow, red and white connectors. An RCA output lets digital information pass through, allowing a program to be properly streamed. A device with RCA outputs can be especially useful if you’re hosting an outdoor movie night and want to connect a streaming box to externally powered speakers. The RCA output will send a clear audio signal from the TV to the speakers.

On the other hand, you might have a sophisticated surround-sound system that your nerdy cousin set up. To get the most out of this sound system, you should look for a device that has both plenty of 4K HDMI inputs and an optical output so you get the proper signal needed to deliver the best sound quality when you stream your favorite shows.

Finally, for power users, if you’re a person who has most of your movies on a hard drive, flash drive or network storage, look for a streaming device that supports an array of file formats to ensure maximum compatibility.

Control Considerations

Now that you have the setup covered, consider how you’re looking to control this device. When it comes to controlling your streaming device, the remote controls can vary dramatically. Some come with remotes while others rely solely upon you using your phone or tablet. Streaming devices that use your smartphone or tablet for controls are typically the least expensive options.

If you’re using a smartphone or tablet, you can control the programs through streaming apps that can directly play your shows on your TV. These types of streaming devices might be a good fit for a guest room where they’ll be used less frequently, but will still allow people to easily play the shows and movies. This type of streaming service is also very useful if someone already has an app and a subscription to their preferred streaming service. That way, they can easily continue watching their shows from their account. This function will also keep viewers on their own accounts, which prevents the streaming service from recommending shows to you, based on your guest’s past viewing habits.

If you’ve already transitioned your lights and outlets to voice control, you might want to look into a streaming device that works by voice commands, too. While only a few streaming services support this function at this time, these voice services offer you more convenience and resources while you’re watching a show. For example, you can ask the virtual assistant to play a particular show or movie, to repeat what an actor just said, to rewind to a specific scene or even to identify who is starring in the movie. This voice control can greatly cut the time you spend trying to type long titles into the search bar.

Advanced Display Considerations

If you’re past the basics, you might want to know how to get the best picture when streaming content. More sophisticated streaming devices can display TV content in 4K and in HDR using powerful processors. Remember, if you want to take advantage of these capabilities, the program of choice must be offered in 4K with HDR, which more and more streaming services are starting to offer.

After identifying these needs and seeing which devices are most compatible, you will be able to more closely identify which type of streaming service is right for you. If you take the time to consider your options, you’ll be content with both your purchase and viewing experience.

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Nan Palmero

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Nan Palmero

He is an experienced business leader, coach and consultant to CEOs and executives. Nan's technological expertise and common sense approach have made others tap him as their Nerd to English translator. He's an award-winning photographer, committed to the development of both mind and heart, and a newlywed to the most patient wife.

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