Media Streaming Guide for Newbies
What every new streamer should know about media streaming
If you have ever wondered which is the best media streamer to buy, where to find the best streaming content online, and what to do when things don't work the way they should then this guide is for you.
Streaming media on demand by watching it before the entire file has been transferred, is a popular way to watch movies and television shows.
Three Reasons Why Streaming Beats Downloading
1. It saves time. Before streaming if you wanted to watch a downloaded video or listen to an mp3 you would first need to save the file to your computer. This could take from several minutes to several hours depending on the transfer speeds and your internet connection. Streaming video and audio only takes several seconds and can be watched or listened to before the file is completely transferred.
2. No need to transfer or transcode files. Just a few years ago before streaming the only way to play files from the internet was to download them. Many files were not compatible with different media streaming devices. Files would then need to be converted or transcoded into a compatible format first before it would play properly on many streaming devices. Streaming videos will play on many different devices. While individual media streaming devices may have some limitations on the file types they will play, most modern streamers are compatible with a wide range of streaming services.
3. No need to store and manage huge file libraries. Streaming services manage their files for you and give you instant access to all the titles from their library. While some may still like the idea of having a large collection of video files ripped from DVDs that they can store on a hard drive or NAS. Many others are content to simply browse online and choose from what is available from 3rd party streaming service and stream it instantly.
Popular Free Streaming Sites
These sites will all let you stream their content right from your computer's web browser. Many media streamers, smart phones and tablets have channels or apps that will let you access and stream directly from these sites as well.
Hulu - Free version of the paid streaming service Hulu Plus. Their Free service can only accessed from a computer. They have a nice selection of TV shows and movies with commercials
Metacafe - This site offers a large selection of content for 18+ adults. In addition they have a large category of Best Funny Movies and Clips.
YouTube - One of the best user uploaded video content sites. You can learn how to do almost anything by watching videos on YouTube. You can also find some full length movies which are uploaded. Usually these do not last long before YouTube takes them down.
Veoh - Choose from a large selection of Free video clips from TV shows and movies. These are not full length shows and are just short excerpts.
Vimeo - Much like YouTube with a large selection of user uploaded content. Most of it is in high quality HD.
Top 3 Best Media Streamers
Without a doubt one of the most popular media streamers available today is Roku. Their wide selection of over 1700+ channels makes Roku a perfect choice for cable cutters. You will probably never run out of things to watch when you own a Roku.
Roku streamers are stand alone hockey puck sized external media streamers. Even though they make several lower cost models including a HDMI Streaming Stick. We prefer and highly recommend their fastest, top of the line Roku 3, which can be found for $89 on Amazon.
Roku Smart TVs
Recently Roku integrated their media streaming hardware and software into a line of 1080P LED Smart Television sets from Hisense and also TCL. They come in four different sizes from 32" to 55" and are very affordable.
These new Roku TVs come with a new streamlined remote control which has even eliminated the video input button. You can switch between devices directly from the home screen. Much the same as if you were choosing a different Roku channel.
This feature alone makes the Roku Smart TV an excellent choice for an older family member. Often times they become confused by all the buttons on the remote and switch inputs on the TV accidentally clicking the input button only to be greeted by a black screen on an unused input. Then they have no access to watch TV until someone switches it back for them.
The Roku Smart TV is a great idea, hopefully we see more manufacturers adopt Roku as the Smart behind their line of televisions.
Click here to compare Roku Smart TV, get prices and read reviews
If you have a large library of iTunes content, an AppleTV may make sense. They also have some third party apps on the Apple TV platform so you can get Netflix and other channels. Still nowhere near the amount of channels that is available on Roku. You can watch full movies and TV shows by renting them from iTunes. There is no monthly subscription fee and you only pay for what you rent.
The Apple TV 3 is their current model and the only one that will display 1080p HD. Just don't buy one expecting to jailbreak it and install XBMC. There is still is no jailbreak available for an Apple TV 3. Apple has not updated the current Apple TV hardware in quite a while. To get XBMC on an Apple TV, you will need a 2nd generation model. You can still get these on eBay or Amazon at a premium price of 3X more than their current model.
Learn more about Apple TV
Android - Media Streamers
This is where things get interesting. Google's Android platform offers a large selection of 3rd party apps that give you access to all kinds of additional software and games which you won't be able to get on Roku or AppleTV. An Android streamer comes with a web browser and is capable of running many apps and games. It is more like a small computer than a media streamer since it can do so much more.
Android boxes are the only ones that come with XBMC preinstalled. They also currently offer some of the fastest hardware available. The fastest Android streamers with best factory support are made by Minix and G-Box.
Click here to learn more about today's fastest Android Streaming box the Minix X8-H Quad Core.
Click here to learn more about the G-Box Midnight MX2 another very popular XBMC Android media streamer.
Benefits of a NAS Box
A NAS Box (Network Attached Storage) is a great way to store files that you want to stream to computers, media streamers, phones or tablets across your network. You can stream both video and audio from a NAS. Plus it will server as a backup for your computer and other devices. You can even access your NAS from outside your Network to stream files across the country or on the other side of the world as long as you have internet access. High quality NAS Boxes are replacing many HTPCs and Media Servers today. Synology and Qnap make some of the best NAS boxes in the industry.
Click here to learn more about Synology and Qnap NAS boxes and try their Free live software demos!
Top Paid Streaming Services
Netflix - As an early pioneer in the streaming industry it was Netflix that took streaming media mainstream. They offer a large selection of TV shows and Movies and for only $9 a month it's like having a video store right inside your television.
Amazon Instant - Similar to Netflix except you get charged approximately $100 for the entire year upfront. In addition to watching many free TV shows and movies you also get Free 2nd day shipping on many items you order from Amazon. Click here to try Prime Free for 30 days.
Hulu Plus - Access to most TV Shows the next day after they air. Hulu Plus costs $8 a month and unfortunately is the only streaming service that makes you sit thorough commercials.
VUDU - If you love renting movies from the video store, you will love VUDU. Their movies are available in near Blu-ray quality. Much like iTunes there is no monthly fee and you only get charged when you rent a movie or TV show.
If you want to cut your cable TV costs signing up for one or more of these streaming services is the best ways to go about it. You won't be bombarded with pop up ads, have to put up with lousy video quality and will rest easy at night in your bed knowing you're supporting a legitimate streaming media provider. Almost all of them will never make you sit through another commercial ever again.
Media Streaming Issues
Like anything streaming media has it's quirks. Often times it's related to a poor WiFi connection. If at all possible, run an Ethernet wire to your streamer. This will give you much better performance, faster speeds and less annoying interference or poor signal strength issues. If you have another Ethernet cable nearby you can use an Ethernet switch to split the connection. This is often easier than running another wire back to your router.
Another common often overlooked problem can arise when the remote control batteries start going dead. Keep a set of fresh batteries on hand and change them often.
Additional Streaming Media Resources
Here is a long list of resources and great places to watch additional free streaming media content. These sites and channels will help you find a huge amount of online streaming content.
Site Index - Large selection of articles on streaming and product information on many different media streamers, media players and HTPCs.
Roku Channels Guide - Huge lists of Roku private and public channels across many different categories. Add and install new Roku channels right from our channel lists.
Internet TV Channels List - Large collection of free streaming internet TV and Music channels. Many sources of great content that can be accessed from a web browser, or some media streamers.
GTVList - 100+ more channels that offer free media streaming TV sites.
Best Apps for Android - Here are the Apps you Need for Streaming with an Android Phone, Tablet or Media Player.
Stop Your Roku From Freezing - Troubleshooting tips for Roku.
FREE TV - Top 3 Ways to Watch Free TV.