Setting Up Your Streaming Device

So you ditched your cable, and signed up for some streaming video services. Your next step: Read our guide to the five best set-top streaming device options to decide which is right for you—plus, get foolproof set-up tips

chromecast apple tv amazon fire tv streaming tv box

Roku 3
The features: Comes equipped with just about every major app (Amazon Instant Video, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Netflix—more than 1,000 in all), so if a show is available online, you can watch it. The remote control has a built-in headphone jack, so you can watch television without disturbing anyone.

The cost: $100, roku.com

The downsides: Typing in titles can get tedious. There’s no voice search, so you have to use the remote to select each letter individually from an on-screen alphabet. But there is a workaround: Download the Roku app to your smartphone or tablet, which then acts as a remote control so you can type more quickly.

Amazon Fire TV
The features: Lets you access Hulu Plus, Netflix, YouTube, in addition to streaming Amazon Instant Video. It has voice search for Amazon’s entire video, game and app catalog (and for additional apps soon), which means you won’t have to type in titles.

The cost: $99, amazon.com)

The downsides: Currently, the voice-search option brings up only Amazon results. Say you search for "How to Get Away with Murder." The box will pull up episodes to purchase from Amazon but won’t tell you that you could stream the show for free on Hulu.

Chromecast
The features: This Google HDMI stick—about the size of a pack of gum—costs one third less than most players. It lacks the extra ports of set-top boxes (an Ethernet port helps if your Wi-Fi connection is poor), but it has good apps. Chromecast can project what’s on your Android device’s screen to your television.

The cost: $35, bestbuy.com)

The downsides: It’s the only player on our list without a remote, so you need to download the app to your phone or tablet to make selections on-screen.

Apple TV
The features: Apple TV is the only box that works with iTunes, so if you've bought TV shows and movies on iTunes, it's your only option for watching them on your TV. Apple TV also lets you access programming through Hulu Plus, Netflix and other content channels. Cool feature: With a swipe of the AirPlay function, your TV displays content from your Apple phone or tablet, such as photos and YouTube videos.

The cost: ($99, apple.com)

The downsides: Like Amazon Fire TV’s voice-search option, Apple TV prioritizes iTunes shows and movies over content on your other apps. There’s also no Amazon Instant Video app.

HD indoor antenna
The features: According to Nielsen, 94 of the 100 most popular TV shows are broadcast over the air—which means you can watch those shows for free with an HD indoor antenna. Think of the antennas as modern versions of old-time rabbit ears—only better-looking! (Most are slim and discreet.) The broadcast signal locator at tvfool.com can tell you which broadcast signals are available in your area, how strong the signal should be and what you can do to improve reception.

The cost: There are a number of models, but we like the Mohu Curve 50 ($80, store.mohu.com) and the RCA Ultra-Thin indoor HDTV antenna ($70, amazon.com), which also can be mounted on a wall and painted to blend in. Another great budget option is the RCA Basic indoor antenna ($10, walmart.com), which isn’t as pretty or powerful but can get the job done. The Mohu Curve 50 can get signals from towers up to 50 miles from your house, and the RCA Ultra-Thin will get a signal from 60 miles away.  

The downsides: HD indoor antennas only pick up TV broadcasts—so, whatever's on the major channels is what you get. And remember: There’s no DVR, so you have to tune in live—just like in the old days.

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