If you're like most folks, the back of your home entertainment center is a hive of HDMI cables, USB cords and power adaptors, not to mention the HDMI switchers necessary to cope with this cornucopia of entertainment providers. Thankfully, there is a solution: The increasingly popular streaming stick.
These Internet TV streaming devices will be the savior of every gadget-obsessed, cable-cluttered geek out there. These chewing gum-sized streaming devices can pipe the whole wide, weird and wonderful Internet into your television, with a lot less of the cable mess than you're dealing with now.
Currently available in one of three flavors — Roku's Stick ($50), Google's Chromecast ($35), and Amazon's Fire Stick ($39) — these three devices can deliver pretty much any online content you could wish for directly to your living room. Here's a look at what these sticks have to offer:
* Less Cable Clutter. Each streaming stick fits into an HDMI port on your TV and can be powered similarly through those ports. That means no wires dangling down behind your TV, and no need to call the drywall guy. For those of us who still cling to cable TV, an extra long HDMI cable such as the CE Tech 15 ft. Premium Super Slim HDMI Cable, enables you to tuck your cable box completely out of sight — even in a different room if your provider offers a remote app on your smartphone (which don't need line of sight to operate).
* Enhanced Functionality. Beyond the simple design, all three streaming sticks provide previously unrealized functionality. The Roku offers more than 1,800 channels (the same as its set-top box big brother, but at half the price and size), and the Fire TV stick effectively turns your TV into a giant tablet with the addition of over 200 mobile games (there goes my Wii) and lifestyle apps for cooking, education and finance, as well as entertainment. The Chromecast allows you to watch anything you can find online on your TV by virtue of casting from your tablet, laptop or phone to the TV.
Roku is the granddaddy of Internet TV, boasting the largest complement of content sources, making the Roku Stick a must have if you want to keep your content options as open as possible on as small a device as possible. By way of comparison, the Fire Stick doesn't support HBO Go and Chromecast doesn't support Amazon Instant Video content. Roku, on the other hand, supports just about any content you can dream of (as well as some you really don't want to). There are also some free apps available for Roku that are paid options on Fire, and Roku is the only device to offer cross-platform content search.
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