A credit card, a television with an HDMI input and a high-speed Internet connection will get you content on demand from across the globe. Here’s what you should be buying
With over a 100-plus channels on Cable and DTH today, there is still a constant complaint — there is nothing good to watch, or when it airs, you are not home.
You can buy a recording box, record the programme and watch it later, but then the programmes are riddled with advertisements. A 30-minute series has more than 12 minutes of commercials. And though TV broadcasting channels may have you believe you are watching the latest season, they end up repeating content. So what happens if you want more? Take your pick from any of these devices to watch your favourite shows uninterrupted:
Apple TV (Rs 7,900, available at Apple stores and online)
A tiny little blackbox which is the size of my palm, comes with its nifty metallic remote control that clearly shows Apple’s design philosophy, with two buttons for a menu and play/pause button with a circular D pad, and in case you have an iPad or an iPhone you can use that too as a remote. Hook up the HDMI Cable to your TV, choose if you want to go wireless or plug in your LAN connection and the setup is a breeze. If you have a home theatre system, use the optic out for a better sound output. Once setup, you can choose to stream media from providers like Netflix, Hulu, HBO go, or the iTunes Store, view your photos through Photostream, Flickr or listen to Internet Radio or Podcasts. You can also stream content of your iPhone/Mac/iPad/iPod Touch using Airplay.
Roku 3 (Approximately Rs 8,000, available on Ebay India)
Though Roku does not sell this box in India, but you will find enough sellers on Ebay who import and sell this. The smallest on the shelf, it is designed like a hockey puck. Hook it up to the WiFi, and HDMI to your TV and you are ready to go. But remember, Roku detects if you are in India, so make sure you have a VPN Service before you plug this in. It comes with a fairly big remote, but has its own advantages. The remote is also your motion controller to play games such as Angry Birds, and has a headphone jack for that late night movie watching. It offers access to all Streaming Service providers like all other boxes here. The fun part of the Roku is that it does not use Infra red for its remote, so you can easily mount it behind the television and have a clean area where your media centre is. Roku also has an App for iOS and Android in case you find the remote too big or just end up losing it behind that sofa.
WD TV Live 1TB (Rs 10,990, available in stores)
It is one of the biggest boxes around, but comes with a 1TB storage already in it. You can download content or copy all those pictures and videos you made while on holiday to streaming services. The additional USB port makes it possible to connect more hard drives or pen drives, and even stream data from a network connected Hard Disk drive. The WD TV Live also works as a Network drive on your home network for you to transfer files. WD TV Live also has analogue connections just in case you don’t have a Free HDMI Port or a television with one. The Interface is clean and nice. Sadly the remote is too big, but that is easily overcome by using the WD TV App on iOS or Android phones. You also get access to services such as Hulu Plus or Netflix for all that online streaming.
Amazon Fire TV (Rs 6,000 available on www.amazon.com)
The latest baby in the market, though not available in India as yet, the Amazon Fire TV is something worth waiting for or calling up that aunty in America to send it over to you. With Access to Amazon’s Video Library which has huge content, and a fixed subscription fee, it also gives you access to Netflix, Hulu and other Video Services. The Fire TV has its own parental control system, so you can block sensitive content for kids or adults (if you want to). Karaoke adds another dimension and it uses voice-based search, so you just say what you want to watch and it will stream it for you. You can buy an optional game controller for the Fire TV to use it as a gaming console for quite a few games. Amazon says that they will add many titles in the coming months.
Apple TV wins hands down currently, with its great integration into the Apple ecosystem if you are a part of it. If not, you can skip and buy the Roku 3, but nothing beats the sheer amount of content Apple has.
Roku 3 stays out of control of large corporates and will end up having all the services. The remote is both a motion controller and a headphone jack for that late night watching, and Angry Birds is amazing on it.
If you like to store your content on a local hard drive or play content of pen drives, the WD TV Live is a great option here, albeit the biggest one on the shelf, and the most complex remote control. It wins hands down thanks to still carrying analog connections that help you hook it up even to the oldest TV you may have lying around.
Amazon Fire TV seems to be the Mercedes of the Set Top Boxes. It has great features — voice search, parental control and a superb gaming console.
Get connected through VPN
Since most of the content you would love to watch is US -Based, and you are in India, to get your Apple TV or your Roku Box working you will need a VPN service. Something that I personally use is Unotelly.com. You can subscribe to their monthly service at US$ 4.99 per month and get access to American content. Setup is easy as each step is explained.