If you are in the market to build your non-smart TV smart or enhance the capabilities of your smart TV, chances are you are looking at a streaming device like the Chromecast or the Fire TV stick. But today, the options go far beyond the Chromecast and the Fire TV Stick. We have a number of options such as the Apple TV, Android TV-powered smart boxes and more. A new addition to the streaming device portfolio is the Xstream Stick and the Xstream Box from Airtel. Today we will take a look at some of the key features that each device brings and help you decide which is the right device for you.
The Chromecast is the simplest of the lot. It is a plug and play device that hooks into the HDMI port of the TV and your phone becomes the controller. You can “cast” content from your smartphone to the TV. The device is compatible with a host of apps including Netflix, Hotstar, Voot, Prime Videos and many more. The Google Home app is available on iOS and Android devices and highlights apps compatible with the Chromecast. You can also view content like photos and videos stored on your smartphone on the TV via the Chromecast. You can also mirror your smartphone on the TV. While casting from the smartphone, the user can continue to use the smartphone to answer calls and send messages. The only catch is that the Chromecast needs to be on the same wifi network as the smartphone at all times for seamless connectivity.
The Chromecast can stream content in 1080p at 60 frames per second. There is a 4K HDR-capable Chromecast available in the market called the Chromecast Ultra, but it hasn't officially launched in India. The Chromecast, currently in its third generation, is available for Rs 3,500 approx. in India. The Chromecast is the most basic of these devices and a lot of other devices in this list support everything the Chromecast can do and then some.
Just like the Chromecast, the Airtel Xstream Stick is a small device that fits in the HDMI port of the TV. It runs on Android 8 and comes with a single subscription plan, which will enable users to access over 10,000 movies and shows from top OTT content partners like ZEE5, Hooq, Hoi Choi, Eros Now, HungamaPlay, ShemarooMe, Ultra and Curiosity Stream, along with songs from the Wynk Music library. It also comes with Google Play Store support, which means one can download apps on it like Netflix, Hotstar and Amazon Prime Video, among others. It comes with Chromecast capabilities built-in, so you can do everything you could with a Chromecast on this device. It also comes with a remote control. The remote control has a voice button that brings up the Google Assistant for voice search. It has also has volume controls along with a home button and directional buttons and a dedicated Netflix button. The remote is quite reminiscent of the remote control we have seen come with Xiaomi TVs. You cannot watch live TV on the Airtel Xstream Stick.
The Airtel Xstream Stick is priced at Rs 3,999 and supports FHD playback.
The Fire TV stick and the Fire TV stick 4K have the same functionality, form factor and come with the same remote control. The only difference between the two is the fact that one supports FHD and the other 4K. Just like the two devices above, the Fire TV stick fits into the HDMI port of your TV and hides behind the TV. Through the Fire TV stick, you get access to a host of streaming apps, once again the same available (Netflix, Hotstar, Amazon Prime) on the devices above. The catch is the user interface which lists Amazon Prime Videos content front and centre. You can use the Alexa voice-enabled remote to control things like the volume, playback, navigate the UI and more.
One thing to note is that you don't need a Prime Membership to use the Fire TV. You will be able to use the other services, but without a Prime Membership, Prime Video content won't play. The FHD Fire TV stick is priced at Rs 3,999 and the Fire TV Stick 4K is priced at Rs 5,999.
When a user applies for Tata Sky Binge, he or she gets an Amazon Fire TV stick (FHD) free but has to subscribe to the Tata Sky Binge service to keep the stick. If you stop paying for the service, you have to return the stick. If you have an existing fire TV stick, you simply cannot add the Tata Sky Binge to the app's library. Also, you need to be a Tata Sky Subscriber to get access to the Fire TV stick and Tata Sky Binge. The Tata Sky Binge subscription gives users access to four premium apps - Hotstar, Eros Now, Hungama Play and Sun Next. All of this available is for Rs 249 per month. The price of Rs 249 is deducted from your Tata Sky Wallet, so there is no need to pay in cash. You cannot watch live Tata Sky TV from Tata Sky Binge but you do have access to broadcast content from the past 7 days. This, of course, is available only for the channels that you have subscribed to. You can check all the features of tata Sky Binge in the video below.
Now we are moving over to the box that sits under your TV. The Airtel Xstream Box is a 4K Hybrid Box that brings satellite TV and OTT content together. It is powered by Android 9.0, features Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, supports Chromecast and claims to deliver over 500 TV channels to choose from. The device comes preinstalled with several apps like the Airtel Xstream app, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube and Airtel Store. It also comes with a universal remote that features Google Assistant based voice search and dedicated buttons for Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube. The Airtel Xstream Box is priced at Rs 3,999 and it comes with a one-year free subscription to all Airtel Xstream app content, along with one month of subscription to an HD DTH pack.
The remote control that comes with the Airtel Xstream Box has more functionality. It has dedicated buttons for Netflix and Prime Videos, has a number pad, volume and channel controls, a Google Assistant button and more. It is for those that want to mix OTT services along with their collection of Set-top-box channels.
ACT Fibernet has launched the ACT Stream TV 4K. The streaming box will be available in four cities - Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai. In the box, users get the streaming box, a remote control, a power adapter, lan cable, HDMI cable and an RCA cable. The box runs on Android 9 Pie. Speaking of pricing, the ACT Stream TV 4K box is priced at Rs 4499, and as a special launch offer the device will be available at a refundable deposit of Rs 1500 on select plans across the four cities mentioned above. According to the press release, users will also get complimentary 1 month of Zee5 and 2 months of HOOQ subscriptions and access to premium Live TV channels on a complimentary basis until 31st of December 2019. The ACT Stream TV 4K is available to ACT customers and to know whether you qualify, you can click here.
Apple TV 4K, as the name suggests, supports streaming and playback in 4K resolution with support for HDR 10 and Dolby Vision. The device comes with a minimalistic remote control that supports Siri Voice search and had a touch-enabled trackpad at the top. The Apple TV 4K is home to Apple’s library of content from iTunes movies along with giving users access to OTT platforms like Netflix, Prime Videos, Hotstar and more. The device is available in 32GB and 64GB storage options priced at Rs 17,430 and Rs 19,430 respectively. With Apple’s subscription service around the corner, it may be the time for you to think whether you need one of these.