While many people enjoy streaming online content on a laptop, mobile phone or tablet, there’s nothing quite like viewing your favourite flick on the TV, thanks to the bigger screen. Here are our top four picks to get the job done, from cheapest to priciest.
1. HDMI Cable
Connecting a laptop to a TV using HDMI is fairly straightforward. Simply run an HDMI cable from your computer’s HDMI port to an available HDMI port on your TV. Select the HDMI input via your TV menu, and you’ll be able to mirror any content from your computer on your TV screen.
Advantages: An HDMI cable is inexpensive and readily available at electronics stores. This type of connection will allow you to stream movies and TV shows (keep in mind you’ll need an active paid subscription for many streaming services), display photo or video files, browse social media, watch YouTube and more. If you have an older TV lacking multimedia features this might fit the bill.
Drawbacks: You may need an adapter to connect the HDMI cable to your computer, as many newer laptops don’t have a HDMI port built-in. TVs have a limited number of HDMI ports, so you may need to reach behind your TV and free up a slot being used by another device (for example, a personal video recorder / PVR). The physical set up process can be a hassle when you want streaming quickly on demand.
2. Stick or Dongle
Google Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV are compact devices that can turn a “dumb” TV into a “smart” one. Plug them into your TV’s HDMI port and a power source (either USB port on your TV or a wall outlet). Next, connect them to WiFi (download the Google Home app to set up Chromecast via your phone). You’ll be ready to start streaming content wirelessly from your smart phone, tablet or computer in no time. Chromecast and Fire TV are compatible with many popular streaming services – Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video – to name a few.
Advantages: Chromecast and Fire TV stick are tiny, yet packed with features. They can be neatly tucked away behind your TV, out of sight. They can also be voice controlled using Google and Amazon’s voice assistant speakers (depending on your device).
Drawbacks: While Fire TV comes with a remote, Chromecast does not. You’ll need to use an Android/Apple phone/tablet, PC or Mac while it’s connected to the same WiFi network. Before you start using Chromecast and Fire you’ll need to take a few moments to set up a free Google or Amazon account respectively. If you’re connecting to Chromecast with a computer, you’ll need to download and use the free Chrome web browser.
3. Streaming Box
A streaming box such as Apple TV or Foxtel Now allows a lot of flexibility for streaming content. Plug the device into the HDMI port of your TV and connect it to power. You can then select the HDMI input via your TV menu, and sign-in to your preferred streaming services, such as iTunes, Foxtel and more.
Advantages: Unlike Chromecast, a streaming box has the benefit of a device menu, and a physical remote control, for easy navigation. A streaming box like Apple TV supports Apple content plus a wide range of apps, games and streaming services.
Drawbacks: A streaming box is not as compact as a dongle or stick that inserts into the back of your TV and costs a bit more. You’ll need a little bit of space to set it on a TV cabinet.
4. Smart TV
A smart TV boasts a full range of entertainment features, and while costly, makes streaming a walk in the park. Smart TVs contain built-in apps for a wide range of online video and music content. Simply connect the TV to WiFi and sign-in to your favourite services via the smart menu on your remote control.
Advantages: Streaming services can be accessed with a single TV remote from the comfort of your couch, without any additional hardware or cables. You don’t need to worry about commandeering any of your other devices as a controller.
Disadvantages: Browsing the content using a TV remote may not be as user-friendly as a phone, computer or tablet. For example, you may need to awkwardly type on a virtual keyboard to search for content. Depending on the age and brand of your TV, it may not support every streaming service you wish to use. Some smart TVs have the ability to download new apps and updates, but this isn’t always the case – check with your manufacturer.
Are you having buffering, WiFi dropouts or other issues with streaming video content on your devices? Find out about how we can help here.