Streaming video is growing quickly in Canada, with households shifting to online options at an explosive rate. The popularity of such services is only going to continue to grow as relatively new competitors to Netflix, such as Shomi and CraveTV, gain traction. More people are therefore also finding a pressing need for devices with which to stream those services. Internet-connected smart televisions can do the trick, but they can be finicky, wonky or, in some cases, a downright terrible experience. Specialized, inexpensive streaming devices almost always deliver the goods better. Here are the best options currently available.
$199 to $269, apple.com/ca/tv
For anyone subscribing to a multitude of streaming services—say, Netflix plus Shomi or CraveTV—the new Apple TV is a no-brainer. It’s the only device available in Canada so far that delivers dedicated apps for all of the major video streaming services, not to mention TV and movie rentals via iTunes. It also features a clean, slick interface and beautiful video screen savers. The remote control takes surprisingly accurate voice dictation, with Apple’s Siri assistant allowing you to search for movies and TV shows, as well as fast forward and rewind. The controller also has a touchpad that enables some great-looking, albeit simple downloadable games that can be played on the TV. On the downside, the Apple TV is the priciest of the streaming devices, with the 32 gigabyte version costing $199. The model with 64GB of storage is $269.
A close runner-up is the Roku 3, which also has voice control and gesture sensors for games. It also has access to more than 1,700 streaming channels and apps, including popular ones such as Netflix and YouTube. Shomi and CraveTV subscribers are out of luck, however, as the two streaming services don’t yet have apps for Roku. The Roku 3, selling for $109, is much cheaper than its Apple rival and its remote has a headphone jack for those who want to watch TV without disturbing others. Roku also has a lineup of less expensive products, right down to the $59 Streaming Stick. Roku products are a good choice for users who want to purchase TV shows and movies from the Google Play store, which isn’t supported on the Apple TV.
Google’s Chromecast sells for just $45. The small, disc-shaped device hangs from the HDMI port on the back of your TV and acts as a go-between for your TV and mobile device. You simply press the “cast” button in the app on your phone, tablet or Chrome web browser and the Chromecast takes it from there. Many of the major streaming services—including Netflix, YouTube, Shomi and CraveTV—are compatible, although the other competing streaming devices have the edge in the number and quality of apps. Android device owners can also use Chromecast to mirror their screens onto the TV.