Streaming Media Player Buying Guide

Streaming Media Player Considerations

Test out a streaming player before bringing it home.
Test out a streaming player before bringing it home.
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Because of the variety of options out there, you'll have much to consider when picking out a streaming media player, including the different services offered, additional functionality and, of course, price. Perhaps no streaming media player on the market will be perfect for you or fit your budget exactly, but by investigating the different options, you'll at least be able to get the best bang for your buck.

We've already discussed a little about the available streaming media services you'll want to consider. While most consoles offer Netflix, fewer will include your favorite streaming music service or sports service. The Sony PS3, for instance, offers NFL Sunday Ticket, a service previously only available to DirectTV customers. This is one reason why CNet recommended the PS3 over the XBox 360 or Nintendo Wii when reviewing the best gaming console for streaming [source: Falcone].

Another advantage the PS3 has over other gaming consoles is its ability to play Blu-ray discs, which brings up the issue of additional features. For some, a simple streaming console like Roku is enough for them -- either because they have no interest in gaming and Blu-ray capability, or because they have other devices that fill these needs. For others, these extra features will justify the bigger price tag.

Although price is another important factor, you'll have to look deeper than just the ticket price of the player itself. One disadvantage to streaming media with the XBox 360, for example, is that you need an XBox Live Gold membership, which requires an annual fee. This is in addition to subscription fees that might be required for particular services. If you don't already subscribe to Netflix, for instance, you'll have to sign up for an account with it to get its content on a streaming media player. The same goes for Hulu Plus and most other services.

Another consideration is usability. To see if you like a particular player, test out the interface at a store display or at the house of a friend who uses the streaming player. For gaming consoles, you might want to spring for a remote rather than use the gaming controller to navigate the screen. And not all players include built-in Wi-Fi, which may be important to you if your TV doesn't have easy access to a wired Internet connection.

With all of the options available, now is a great time to jump into the world of streaming entertainment. But don't rush into a purchase until you've considered all the competitors as well as your particular entertainment preferences. For lots more information on streaming media, see the links below.

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  • Carmody, Tim. "Post-PC TV: How and Where We Watch Netflix, Hulu and YouTube." Wired. July 29, 2011. (Nov. 16, 2011)
  • Falcon, John P. "Which Streaming Media Device is Right for You?" CNet. Aug. 19, 2011. (Nov. 16, 2011)
  • Lasky, Michael S. "Western Digital Takes on Roku with New Set-top Streaming Boxes." Wired. Nov. 14, 2011. (Nov. 16, 2011)
  • Svensson, Peter. "Cable, Satellite Companies Lose Record Number of Subscribers." USA Today. Associated Press. Updated Aug. 12, 2011. (Nov. 16, 2011)
  • Warren, Christina. "5 of the Best Streaming Media Services Compared." Mashable. Feb. 14, 2011. (Nov. 16, 2011)