Streaming Device Reviews

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John Sciacca  |  Aug 16, 2011  |  0 comments

Wikipedia says minimalism “describes movements in various forms of art and design . . . where the work is stripped down to its most fundamental features.” At Sound+Vision, we generally preach the exact opposite: a “go big or go home” view toward TVs, speakers, and subwoofers. Why settle for 5.1 and a 42-inch screen when 9.2 and a 100-inch screen would be so much better?

Daniel Kumin  |  May 22, 2012  |  0 comments

Who wouldn’t want to play their growing horde of audio files – the same ones that feed the iPod and iTunes — on the “big” system, with big-system volume, quality, and impact?

Nobody, that’s who.

John Sciacca  |  Oct 19, 2011  |  0 comments

Peanut butter and chocolate. Wine and cheese. Lennon and McCartney. Some things are great on their own, but when they meet their perfect counterpart, the result can be pure magic.

Geoffrey Morrison  |  Jan 29, 2012  |  0 comments

As an unabashed fan of the Kindle Fire, anything that adds to its usefulness I'm instantly interested in. 

Already available for iOS, Android, and other devices, the $30 SlingPlayer app for Fire is the second part of the Slingbox system. 

How well does it work? I was as interested as you. . .

Michael Berk  |  May 23, 2011  |  0 comments
Brent Butterworth  |  Oct 18, 2011  |  0 comments

The Rocky Mountain Audio Fest is growing up. A few years ago, it was known as a gathering of small (sometimes one-man) companies demonstrating exotic (sometimes downright wacky) audio products. Some of those guys are still there, but so now are most of the better-known high-end audio companies.

Barb Gonzalez  |  Dec 16, 2011  |  9 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $99 At A Glance: Vastly improved picture quality • More responsive, motion-sensitive, Bluetooth remote • Tiny footprint • Wide variety of content providers

Roku has released its newest generation of media streamers, including the top-of-the-line Roku 2 XS player. Perhaps you haven't given Roku much thought as a serious addition to your home theater. Its earlier models gave more attention to the quantity of media-streaming partners than to the quality of the pictures they were streaming. The Roku 2 XS may change your mind as it changed mine.

Barb Gonzalez  |  Jul 15, 2013  |  First Published: Jan 31, 2014  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $100

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Remote control with headphone jack
Global movie title search
Zippy processor for quick navigation and search
Minus
Can only be connected via HDMI

THE VERDICT
Performance improvements and a new interface make streaming easy and keep Roku ahead of the competition.

Where other companies that make media players seem stuck in endless delays in the release of new models, it seems that Roku rolls out a new option every few months. I’m not complaining. Its newest release, the Roku 3, is my favorite so far. I use a Roku box with my bedroom TV because my tech-challenged partner can easily understand how to navigate its menus. Roku 3 has now added a headphone jack in the remote that mutes the TV when you plug into it. No longer do I have to endure listening to explosions, gunshots, and car-chase scenes while I’m trying to fall asleep. Performance improvements plus a new interface and box design continue to keep Roku ahead of its competition.

Barb Gonzalez  |  Nov 04, 2015  |  2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $130

AT A GLANCE
Plus
4K streaming to UHDTV
Agnostic search finds titles in multiple services
Notifications when specific movies become available

Minus
Remote mic is inaccurate
Search can’t find specific episodes of specific seasons

THE VERDICT
If you own a 4K TV, this is a slam-dunk. If not, the advances in hardware are still enough to step up from a Roku 2.

One must wonder if Roku waited to release its fourth-generation media streamer until the aptly named Roku 4 was capable of streaming 4K content. The newest Roku box can connect to compatible UHDTVs to stream 4K movies, TV shows, and videos from Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, M-Go, and a growing number of 4K streaming sources. And though 4K streaming is the Roku 4’s main appeal, improvements in hardware and the software interface make it the best Roku box yet.

Kim Wilson  |  Dec 01, 2008  |  0 comments
Price: $100 At A Glance: Instant streaming • Ultra-simple interface • No additional service charge for Netflix subscribers • Limited choice of available titles • Requires very fast Internet connection for good image quality • No multichannel surround or HD content yet

Netflix on Demand

What could be better than waiting for your next Netflix movie to arrive by snail mail? What if you could receive it on demand, via streaming technology?

Mark Fleischmann  |  Apr 14, 2006  |  0 comments
Convergence shows many faces to music lovers. If you've got the bucks, you can add a hard-drive-based music server to your system. Or you can pay a custom installer to bring IP-based networking to every room in the house. But if you just want to move music from one PC to one rack, all you need is a simple device and it doesn't have to cost much. One of many possible options is the Roku SoundBridge.
Barb Gonzalez  |  Mar 22, 2013  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Price: $100 At a Glance: Small stick connects directly to HDMI input on TV • Same menus and channels as full-sized Roku Box • No additional power connection; requires MHL-enabled TV

That Roku box is shrinking…again. The Roku Stick looks like a thumb drive and is only about 3 inches long. For the most part, it provides the same experience as the standard Roku boxes—same menus, same performance. But to use one, you’ll need an MHL-enabled TV or other device.

Barb Gonzalez  |  Aug 29, 2014  |  First Published: Aug 28, 2014  |  5 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
PRICE $50

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Direct HDMI connection to most TVs
Extensive content options
Suggested videos and apps on home screen
Remote with direct access to Netflix, M-Go, Amazon Instant Video, and Blockbuster

Minus
Music stops when navigating away from channel
Long start-up time
No option to group channels by category

THE VERDICT
The great features of a Roku box in a stick for half the price.

The second Roku Streaming Stick (HDMI version) is a fit-in-your-pocket HDMI dongle that is basically a Roku box on a stick. Where the previous Roku Streaming stick worked only with TVs that have an MHL (Mobile High Definition Link) HDMI port, the new Roku is compatible with most TVs’ standard HDMI connections. As with its predecessors, the Roku HDMI is easy to use and offers more than 1,700 channels (that is, apps). Notably, these now include apps that stream from pretty much any video source you can think of—the usual online streaming services, plus your home network media libraries, or live TV and recorded DVR recorded content using Simple.tv or a Slingplayer channel.

Kim Wilson  |  Mar 15, 2011  |  1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $100

At A Glance: Instant streaming • Easy installation and operation • Simple, user-friendly interface • Access to multiple services, paid and free • 1080p/24 compatible

Roku’s players have come a long way since I reviewed the first Roku device in our November 2008 issue. All that player did was stream Netflix movies. You had to go to Netflix.com to queue up your movies before you could stream them from your Roku box to your TV via your wireless network. Since every major Blu-ray player now offers Netflix streaming, Roku had to make its box more competitive, and it did. There are three Roku products; for this review, I’ll focus on the XDS, Roku’s high-end unit at a whopping $100.

John Sciacca  |  Mar 01, 2017  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $3,499 ($4,477 as reviewed)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Fast setup/programming
Supports modern and legacy sources
Integrates with many third-party systems
AirPlay gives virtually unlimited access
Minus
NAS streaming has quirks
Native app support is fairly limited

THE VERDICT
Russound delivers whole-home audio entertainment in a single, massively expandable chassis, allowing you to enjoy legacy analog/digital sources or modern streaming.

Streaming and app-based control may be all the rage for music listening, but they ignore the fact that many people still have older, legacy gear they want to enjoy around their homes. Sometimes, whether it’s a CD player, turntable, or cable/satellite set-top box, “stream it from the cloud” isn’t a workable solution. Also, most modern wireless streaming music systems, such as Sonos and Play-Fi, eschew any type of wall-based control, relying solely on a smartphone or tablet interface.

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