Let dad stick it and stream it this Father's Day

Let dad stick it and stream it this Father's Day

Give pop the gift of streaming movies and TV shows with a stick-style Chromecast or Roku streaming player

Published: June 13, 2014 11:30 AM

At $35, the Chromecast is the least expensive streaming player we've tested
Photo: Google

This year on Father's Day, tell dad to stick it—by giving him a Chromecast or Roku Streaming Stick streaming media player, which plugs into one of your TV's HDMI ports.

At just $35, the Google Chromecast player is one of the least expensive streaming options, and one with a few unique features. Most notable is its ability to "cast"—basically, send—content from a computer using the Chrome browser directly to your TV screen.

Like other streaming-media players, the Chromecast also provides access to several major streaming services, including Hulu Plus, Netflix, YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, and Google Play Music. Since we originally tested the Chromecast, it's gained a few more content partners, including Aereo's TV-over-the-Internet service, and movies and TV shows from Vudu. The Chromecast doesn't come with a remote control; instead, you use your mobile device as a remote.

Like the Chromecast, the Roku Streaming Stick ($50) plugs directly into a free HDMI input on your TV, getting power either from the TV's USB port or from a wall outlet using the included AC adapter. One reason Roku's various devices have done well in our streaming media player Ratings is the industry-leading amount of content available for them. Roku says it now has more than 1,500 channels, including Amazon, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, M-Go, Netflix, Showtime Anytime, and Vudu, among others. It also supports YouTube directly, previously a glaring omission.

Roku's $50 Streaming Stick offers boatloads of content.
Photo: Roku

Roku's newest player also has a limited ability to "cast" some content—right now, Netflix and YouTube, and personal media—from your smart phone or tablet. Unlike the Chromecast, the Roku Stick comes with a Wi-Fi remote that has dedicated buttons for streaming services from Amazon, Blockbuster, M-Go, and Netflix, though you can also download a free Android or iOS app that lets you use your phone or tablet as the remote.

So this Father's Day, skip the golf-ball engraver—especially if he doesn't play golf—and the "Who Needs Hair When You've Got a Body Like This" T-shirt and get him something he'll actually use. And if he's been a really great dad, throw in a year's subscription to one of the streaming services—and schedule a few nights where you can sit down and watch a show or movie together.

—James K. Willcox

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