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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

Amazon is looking beyond the small screen with potential cinema chain

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Amazon could be looking to buying a chain of cinemas.

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

“Amazon has already established brick-and-mortar stores selling its products and groceries, and now it apparently wants a slice of the cinema business.

As reported by Bloomberg, Amazon is looking to acquire Landmark Theatres, which claims to be the largest cinema chain dedicated to independent and foreign films, with 52 theatres in 27 markets.

The e-commerce giant is reportedly working with other suitors to buy the chain from Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner-backed Wagner/Cuban Cos. There have been no decisions made, and with talks still to come, it’s not set in stone that a deal will go ahead.

The potential move into brick-and-mortar cinema echoes Amazon’s efforts to look further than its online presence in recent years, as evidenced by its real-life bookstores and its foray into checkout-free grocery shopping, Amazon Go, not to mention its $14 billion acquisition of grocery chain Whole Foods.

But Amazon’s potential entry into physical cinemas could help further sure up the profile of its Amazon Studios films, such as Manchester by the Sea, an Amazon Original which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture in 2017.

Despite the accolades, there is general tension between newfangled streaming services and the film industry. These concerns are primarily directed to the biggest disrupter of them all, Netflix, which is aggressive in its stance to only show its own films on its service.

Steven Spielberg said earlier this year that Netflix films which either don’t show in cinemas, or only for a short time to satisfy movie awards criteria, shouldn’t get accolades like an Oscar.

“Once you commit to a television format, you’re a TV movie. If it’s a good show, deserve an Emmy, but not an Oscar,” Spielberg told ITV News.

“I don’t believe films that are just given token qualifications in a couple of theaters for less than a week should qualify for the Academy Award nomination.”

Although Amazon is also a disruptor, it sticks to convention when it comes to distribution. It runs movies in cinemas for months before they sit on Prime Video, and is public about ensuring its films screen in theaters.”

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/08/16/amazon-cinema-landmark-theatres/

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New Movie Tech

Rokus free, ad-supported streaming channel is now live on the web

Charmaine Blake

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“Roku is today bringing its free, streaming entertainment destination, The Roku Channel, to non-Roku devices for the first time, with a launch on both the web and on select Samsung smart TVs, ahead of a wider cross-platform rollout. The channel, which offers free, ad-supported movies and TV shows, will be available across PCs, mobile phones and tablets, the company says. In addition, Roku is updating the navigation on its own devices, including Roku players and Roku TVs, to include a new feature called “Featured Free,” which will directly point users to free content from The Roku Channel, as well as other apps, like ABC, The CW, CW Seed, Fox, Freeform, Pluto TV, Sony Crackle, Tubi and more.

The Roku Channel first launched last September, as a way for Roku to differentiate its connected media devices and TVs running Roku software from rivals like Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Chromecast.

Despite Roku’s popularity — it’s leading the internet video streaming device market — the company hadn’t really used its platform to promote its own content — the way Amazon pushes Prime Video shows on Fire TV owners, for example — until then.

The channel itself is populated with movies that Roku gained access to through licensing deals with studios like Lionsgate, MGM, Paramount, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Warner Brothers. However, it also leveraged Roku’s strength as…………………..”

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2018/08/08/rokus-free-ad-supported-streaming-channel-is-now-live-on-the-web/

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New Movie Tech

Amazon Prime Video is coming to Comcasts cable boxes

Charmaine Blake

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Comcast and Amazon today announced a new partnership that will see Amazon’s Prime Video service integrated into Comcast’s Xfinity TV set-top boxes. This is the first time that Prime Video content would be added to a cable operator’s platform in the U.S.. It’s also a particularly interesting choice on Comcast’s part,  given that Amazon is directly competing with pay TV providers through its Prime Video Channels a la carte TV subscriptions. And these will be available to Comcast’s customers via the Xfinity X1 set-top box as a result of this deal.

Today, Amazon offers over 160 premium Prime Video channels, including HBO, Showtime, Starz, Cinemax and others that have been previously sold as add-ons to cable TV subscriptions. Being able to access to these channels……………..”

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2018/08/02/amazon-prime-video-is-coming-to-comcasts-cable-boxes/

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