The Chromecast is a pretty awesome little streaming device, but if you have cruddy Wi-Fi (or no Wi-Fi at all), you’re going to have a really bad experience. Thankfully, it’s trivially easy to add Ethernet support to the otherwise wireless Chromecast and improve the speed and reliability of the Chromecast’s connection in the process.
If you’re having trouble with your Chromecast, you can always work your way through our Chromecast troubleshooting guide to rule out (and potentially fix) a variety of problems. But if you experience poor network connectivity and stuttering video, there’s a good chance the culprit is your Wi-Fi. While you could always upgrade your wireless router in the hope that cranking up the juice fixes your issue, there’s a much cheaper solution that cuts Wi-Fi right out of the equation altogether—you can hook your Chromecast directly to your wired network for superior speed…
So you’ve decided you want a Roku, but there are so many choices. There are currently six different models (not including full TVs with Roku built-in), and it’s not at all clear what the difference between them is. Which one do you want?
Well, to start, there are no bad choices: every Roku device can stream Netflix, Hulu, and thousands of other channels in full HD, not to mention some great free video channels. It’s when you get to other options, like 4K streaming and wired connectivity, that the models differ.
Here’s a very quick summary of the various devices currently offered by Roku:
Roku Express, $30. This is the cheapest option, and probably good enough for most users.
Roku Express+, $40. This is identical to the Express, but comes with an A/V cable for use with older TVs that don’t have an HDMI port.
Roku Streaming Stick, $50. This is Roku in an HDMI stick form factor with a quad core processor.
Roku Premier, $80. This is the cheapest Roku you can get that supports 4K output.
Roku Premier+, $100. The Premier+ Roku’s remote contains a headphone jack for private listening. It’s the cheapest Roku with an ethernet port.
Roku Ultra, $130. This is the only current Roku with a USB port for external hard drives. It also offers voice search via the remote, and optical digital audio output.
That’s just a quick overview. Let’s dive into the complete Roku lineup, starting with the Roku Express and working our way up the price scale. More expensive options (almost) always include every feature offered by the cheaper models, so I’ll only be listing the new features as I work my way up the chain. Our advice: buy the cheapest model with all the features you care about.
The $30 Roku Express: the Cheapest Option
This is it: the most affordable streaming device on the market. If you just want to watch the services you’re already paying for, and aren’t concerned with specs, this is the model for you. Here’s a quick roundup of the features offered:
Support for full HD video: 1920 by 1080 pixels (1080p)
The Chromecast has been out long enough to have several generations of hardware. But what’s the difference between them, and should you upgrade to the newer versions?
Originally released in 2013, the original $35 Chromecast flew off the shelves thanks to its ease of use, excellent app support, and the dead simple way it allowed people to sling YouTube, Netflix, and other popular video sources to their HDTV. We loved the Chromecast then and we still love it now.
In 2015, Google released an updated version of the Chromecast as well as the Chromecast Audio (an equally easy to use tool that turns your dumb speakers smart). Then, a year after that in 2016, Google released the Chromecast Ultra, which isn’t a third generation Chromecast but a whole new Chromecast line altogether that costs $69 instead of $35.
With all those versions and the amount of years between releases, you may be wondering if you should upgrade your first generation Chromecast. Or, if you’re a first time buyer, you may wonder if it’s worth buying the Ultra over the second generation Chromecast.
Let’s take a look at the specs and features of each device and then highlight when, specifically, it’s worth choosing the newer models.
The Difference Between the First Gen, Second Gen, and Ultra
Rather than dive into the minute details between the models (like the trivially important differences between which System-On-a-Chip processors the different models use), let’s focus on the practical features that actually change your user experience.
All three Chromecast models can play 1080p content, and all three support HDMI CEC (which means you can easily control things like Netflix playback on your regular TV remote if your TV…
Getting away from traditional TV service is becoming more and more popular, with streaming TV services leading the charge. Today we’re going to take a closer look at Sony’s take on TV streaming: PlayStation Vue.
PlayStation Vue is Sony’s take on traditional TV. It streams live TV over the internet, with most of your favorite cable and network channels along for the ride.
Despite its namesake, PlayStation Vue isn’t just available on PlayStation devices—there are also apps available for Android, Android TV, iOS, Apple TV, Fire TV, Roku, and Chromecast. It also works in the browser, though the experience is pretty watered down compared to the full application experience. Either way, even if you don’t have a PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, or PlayStation 4 Pro, you can still benefit from PlayStation Vue. Good move, Sony.
When you sign up for Vue, you’ll have to select your home location. That’s probably the biggest thing worth noting about Vue: some channels are geo-restricted. I’m going to assume these are local channels, but restricted channels will only work when you’re inside of the Home Location that you set when you sign up for service. You can modify your home location if you move, but you can only do so once. Otherwise your account may be blocked from service. It’s really kind of bizarre, and something I’ve never experienced with other streaming services. That said, it does make sense—they don’t want you living in Dallas but getting access to Chicago’s local channels.
Otherwise, Vue is straightforward. It offers an absolute ton of channels, along with what I feel is a pretty aggressive pricing model. It’s broken down like more of a traditional TV service with its packages, not a more à la carte structure like some other services offer. Here’s a quick breakdown of what you’ll get with each package:
Access, $39.99/Month: This is the entry-level package, which offers 45+ channels including ESPN, Fox, Disney, and more. At the time of writing, this package is on sale for $39.99 a month, with a normal price of $49.99 a month.
Core, $45.99/Month: All of the channels included in Access, plus access to regional and national sports channels, for a total of 60+. At the time of writing, this package is on sale for $45.99 a month, with a normal price of $55.99 a month.
Elite, $54.99/Month: All Core and Access channels, plus more sports, movies, and entertainment channels, for a total of 90+. At the time of writing, this package is on sale for $54.99 a month, with a normal price of $64.99 a month. This is the service I used for testing.
Ultra, $74.99/Month: All the channels from Elite, plus HBO and Showtime.
If you’re looking for a bit more from your plan, there are also a handful of add-ons that you can tack onto any plan: