Cable TV is one of the worst investments a family can make today. There's only so much to watch, and lot of it is never on when you want it to be. That's why cable cutters are on the rise, and it's easier than ever to say goodbye to your cable TV provider over the holidays.
Cable cutters have a multitude of options when it comes to streaming video solutions with Google, Amazon, Roku and Apple all offering compelling hardware. The question during the holidays is which company offers the best value. For the purposes of this article, we can ignore any potential sales and focus solely on base value.
First off is the Google Chromecast - the $35 streaming stick that connects to your TV via HDMI. It's small and unobtrusive, but it requires that you either own an iOS or Android device. If you have a mobile device, you can "cast" video from Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and many others onto the Chromecast. It also interacts with Google Play so you can watch all the movies and listen to all the music that you've bought via the service. What's that? You haven't bought anything on Google Play? Well, Google is offering Chromecast buyers $20 in Google Play Movies credit and free trials to Google Play Music and Hulu Plus during the holidays.
— Google Chrome (@googlechrome) December 8, 2014
Starting out, Amazon couldn't really compete with Google on price as its Fire TV was a full-fledged set top box that went for $99. That all changed this year, however, when Amazon introduced the Fire TV Stick - a $40 streaming stick that directly competes with the Chromecast. Amazon promises a device with 4x the storage and 2x the memory of the Chromecast hence the $5 markup. It also has access to Amazon Instant Video so Prime members will be right at home with this one. Another benefit is that the device ships with a dedicated remote so users don't have to own a mobile device to use it.
— Amazon Fire TV (@AmazonFireTV) October 30, 2014
Roku, the first company to really nail the set-top box concept, also has a streaming stick in stores this holiday. The Roku Streaming Stick, which retails for $50, is kind of a best of both worlds between the Chromecast and Fire TV Stick. It offers all the same services as the previous two while allowing users to control either via included remote or their smartphone. Roku is also offering a special deal where first time buyers get over $40 of movies, TV and music from Hulu Plus and Rdio Unlimited.
Finally, Apple is offering its premium Apple TV to buyers looking for something that keeps them in the comfy, conformist Apple ecosystem. Staring at $99, the Apple TV is the only set-top box you'll see on this list as the company has not released a streaming stick. It's also likely that Apple will never do so. The set-top box format allows the Apple TV to do a lot more than a streaming stick, like play games. The only problem is that it's a set top box so those looking for something that won't stick out won't find it on the Apple TV.
So, which one of these fine products should you get for the aspiring cable cutter this Christmas? It really depends on their needs, but there's a simple question that can easily decide which to get. Do you or the person in question own a mobile device, and are they comfortable using it? If so, the Chromecast is a great choice thanks to its low price and compatibility with dozens of mobile apps. If they don't own a mobile device, the Fire TV is the next best bet.
Image via Google Chrome, Twitter