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5 cool video streaming devices to check out

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Image: Vicky Leta/Mashable

When you start researching video streaming devices, the first ones you’ll find will likely be Apple TV, Google Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV. Between those three there’s a decent price range, so your search can just stop there, right?

Wrong. While the most popular video streaming devices out there will likely be a good fit for many users, there are other options you should look at. 

Perhaps you’re looking for more versatility? Maybe you’re a power user that wants something extremely tweakable? Are you looking for a cheap PlayStation alternative? Or you’re just looking for the cheapest possible option out there that also does 4K?

We’ve rounded up some of the lesser-known video streaming devices out there to ease your search. 

Cheap with 4K: Xiaomi Mi Box ($69)

Image: Xiaomi

China’s Xiaomi has a reputation for delivering solid products with top-notch specs for an impossibly low price. The company has done it with nearly every gadget you can think of — from smartphones to smart TVs to scooters, and with the Xiaomi Mi Box, it entered the video streaming space as well. 

And yes, for the features it offers — Android TV 6.0, 4K streaming, HDR video support, DTS/Dolby Digital Plus support and a Bluetooth voice remote — the Mi Box is pretty darn cheap at $69. Add to that the elegant, simple, Apple-like design, and you get a pretty sweet deal. 

Since the device is Android TV-based, you get a ton of apps, including Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, Vevo, Vudu Plex, and Google Play Movies & TV. Google Cast is built in, so you’ll be able to send content to your TV from phones, laptops, tablets and more. 

The specs are decent: quad-core Cortex-A53 CPU, MALI 450 GPU 2GB of RAM, 8GB of flash storage (expandable via a USB port). And this is where you might find chinks in Mi Box’s armor: While these specs are decent, especially for the price, some users might want more powerful innards to power 4K playback. 

Great for gamers: Nvidia Shield ($179)

Image: Nvidia

Starting at $179, the Nvidia Shield is one of the most expensive video streaming devices, but hear us out. This device is an absolute powerhouse, with an Nvidia Tegra X1 processor, 3GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, which should be enough for smooth 4K playback. It also supports HDR playback, Dolby Atmos/DTS-X audio, and comes with a remote, Gigabit Ethernet, two USB 3.0 jacks, and an HDMI 2.0 jack. It runs Android TV, meaning you get the Google software experience and all the nice apps that go with it. 

But besides being a great media-streaming machine, the Shield’s greatest strength is that it’s also a game console. Add $20 to the base price and you get a game controller (for $299 you also get 500GB of storage instead of 16GB). So what can you do with all that? Play games, of course! For $7.99 per month, you can subscribe to GeForce Now, which lets you play Android titles such as Outlast 2, Obduction, and The Surge as you would with a GTX 1080 GPU, and stream them to your big screen. 

Obviously, you do not need this device if you only want a media streaming device, and that’s perfectly fine. But if price is no issue, and you’re not a big fan of Apple TV, the Nvidia Shield is pretty powerful, and one of the most versatile media streaming devices you’ll find. 

Dirt cheap: Roku Express ($29.99)

Image: Roku

Roku sells quite a few video streaming devices, so you’ll be forgiven if you’ve overlooked the Roku Express. Its specs are nothing special: You get 720p or 1080p resolution, a single HDMI jack, a remote… and that’s about it. 

But where Roku Express wins is the price. At just $29.99, it’s the cheapest option out there (outside of no-name devices from China), and for the price, you also get a remote and an HDMI cable, so you’re ready to go pretty much as soon as you bring it home. It’s the perfect option for someone that’s just not sure whether she needs a media streaming device in their life, or as a secondary device for your bedroom. 

Supported apps include the usual suspects: Netflix, Amazon, Spotify, and Google Play Movies & TV, among others.

If you want all the latest bells and whistles, such as 4K resolution and HDR support, you can also check Roku’s most powerful video streaming device, the Roku Ultra. You’ll have to dish out three times the money, as it costs $99, but it’s still a pretty fair price for what you get.  

Power user’s dream: Minix U9-H ($159.90)

Image: Minix

Unlike the other devices in this list, Minix doesn’t have a big brand behind it, but it does have a pretty big following. This is because its video streaming devices are actually much more than that — they’re pretty powerful little computers with impressive specs and a plethora of connectors.

The company’s U9-H came out in 2017, but it’s still one of the best options for media streaming in Minix’s range. It’s got an octa-core, 64-bit, AmLogic S912 processor, a Mali-820 MP3 GPU, 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of storage. It’s also got a serious array of output connectors: HDMI 2.0, 3.5mm audio, optical audio, Gigabit Ethernet, and three USB 2.0 ports. Add to that a microSD card reader and you’ll see that adding some serious storage to this baby is no issue. 

Its predecessor, Minix U1, had a pretty big software shortcoming, as it ran on now very dated Android 5 Lollipop. Minix U9-H remedied this by switching to the next version, Android 6 Marshmallow, which makes it a lot more future-proof. 

If you opt for a Minix, know that setting things up isn’t as easy on most other streaming devices — for example, installing something as common as Netflix can be a chore. But if you know your way around Android, you should be fine.

The Minix Neo U9-H can be had on Amazon for $159.90.

Super-versatile: Evanpo T95Z Plus ($104.99)

Image: evanpo

Evanpo’s hexagonal box, the awkwardly named Evanpo T95Z Plus, probably offers the best bang for the buck in terms of sheer specs. It comes in several variants, and the most powerful one sports an octa-core processor (same one as the Minix U9-H), 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, Android 7.1, a remote, and a wireless keyboard — and you get all that for $104.99. 

The T95Z Plus can play 4K videos at 60fps, which should result in a very smooth picture. It also has both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support, meaning you can connect all sorts of peripherals to it. And did we mention the wireless, full-sized keyboard? No more fidgeting five seconds per letter on a numerical keyboard. 

On the connectivity side, you get two USB 2.0 ports, a HDMI port, optical port and a Gigabit Ethernet port. 

The biggest downsides of Evanpo are that it’s a lesser-known brand and that sometimes, getting everything to work as you want might be a more complex than, say, plugging an Amazon stick into your TV. But you’ll be rewarded with a myriad options that very few devices on the market offer. 

New Movie Tech

Amazons IMDb launches a free streaming service, Freedive

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“Amazon’s IMDb movie website today announced the launch of a free streaming service, called Freedive. The service offers viewers in the U.S. access to an ad-supported collection of TV shows like  Fringe, Heroes, The Bachelor and Without a Trace, as well as Hollywood movies like Awakenings, Foxcatcher, Memento, Monster, Run Lola Run, The Illusionist, The Last Samurai, True Romance, and others.

The content is free to watch without a subscription, and can be viewed on a phone, laptop or a big screen by way of Amazon Fire TV devices.

IMDb was already the home for some video content, including trailers, celebrity interviews and short-form original series such as The IMDb Show, Casting Calls, and No Small Parts. These are now being bundled into Freedive, says the company, and will remain free to watch.

The new service will also feature X-Ray, the IMDb-powered service that offers details about the title’s cast, crew, music, and more.

“Customers already rely on IMDb to discover movies and TV shows and decide what to watch,” said Col Needham, Founder and CEO of IMDb, in a statement about launch. “With the launch of IMDb Freedive, they can now also watch full-length movies and TV shows on IMDb and all Amazon Fire TV devices for free………………………………………………..”

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2019/01/10/amazons-imdb-launches-a-free-streaming-service-freedive/

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New Movie Tech

Plex plans to offer ad-supported movies and more premium subscriptions

Charmaine Blake

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“Media software maker Plex is preparing to take on The Roku Channel and Amazon Prime Video Channels, possibly as soon as this year. The company is in discussions with rights holders and content providers, with a focus on bringing free, ad-supported movies to the Plex platform – similar to how The Roku Channel got its start. It’s also talking to premium networks and content providers about offering their programming and subscriptions through Plex.

The talks follow the company’s recent partnership with music service TIDAL.

By working with TIDAL to sell bundled subscriptions to its streaming music service along with the Plex Pass subscription, Plex had to build certain transactional capabilities into its platform that it didn’t have before. That has paved the way for Plex to expand its subscription offerings to include new partners in the future.

“Now we have the ability to sell other services and bundles,” noted Plex co-founder and Chief Product Officer, Scott Olechowski, in a discussion this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. “We’re bundling a Plex Pass with TIDAL. That took a little bit of backend work,” he continued. “You can imagine a bunch of different premium [content] that comes together in a single or multiple bundles, potentially.”

In Plex, content is organized not by source but by type – like music, movies, TV, etc. So when Plex rolls out premium content and subscriptions, it would show its users what sort of movies they have access to based on their subscriptions within the app’s movies tab. The same goes for TV and so on………………………………………………………..”

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2019/01/07/plex-plans-to-offer-ad-supported-movies-and-more-premium-subscriptions/

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New Movie Tech

Jennifer Garner and J.J. Abrams are making a limited series for Apple

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“More than a decade after the end of “Alias,” J.J. Abrams and Jennifer Garner are teaming up on a new limited series for Apple.

The show, titled “My Glory Was I Had Such Friends,” will be based on the Amy Silverstein memoir of the same name, about how Silverstein’s friends supported her as she waited for her second heart transplant.

As reported in Variety and elsewhere, the series will be produced by Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television. Karen Croner will write and executive produce (she previously wrote “The Tribes of Palos Verdes,” which Garner starred in last year), Garner will serve as both star and executive producer and Abrams will also be an executive producer.

“Alias” first aired in 2001 — Abrams created, wrote and directed, while Garner starred as double agent Sydney Bristow. The show helped make Garner a star, while also landing Abrams his first gig as a feature film director, “Mission Impossible III.”

Garner recently returned to television on the HBO series “Camping.” Abrams, meanwhile, has remained involved in TV despite his commitments to Star Wars, but usually just as an executive producer. Earlier this year, Apple was reportedly bidding for “Demimonde,” the first series that Abrams co-created since “Fringe,” but it lost out to HBO.”

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2018/12/13/jennifer-garner-and-j-j-abrams-are-making-a-limited-series-for-apple/

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