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Streaming media players & services

What's behind our streaming media players & services Ratings?

Experts at our National Testing and Research Center tested 14 models in streaming media players & services to see which ones perform best.
We look for:
  • Overall score
    This is based mainly on the number of features and how easy it is to use but also includes its picture quality performance. The displayed score is out of a total of 100 points.
  • Picture quality
    Picture quality includes image clarity, color accuracy, and contrast of streaming video. It's based mainly on the judgments of a panel who compare each device's output to a reference. However, the quality of the video that you'll get is largely dependent on the speed of your wired or wireless network. We tested all the players using a wired Ethernet connection, if available.
  • Features
    This score reflects the presence or absence of features, including the number of streaming video services, other internet services, and the ability to play media files
  • Everyday use
    This score reflects how easy it is to use on a normal basis. It looks at how the remote and user interface interact for common tasks like powering on the device, navigating the menus for access to content, and how easy it is to perform common tasks like visiting websites and playing games.
  • Connectivity
    This score reflects the amount and type of connections that will make the product more versatile and useful.
  • First time setup
    This score reflects how easy it is to setup the product out of the box. It looks at the connection labeling, menu and remote interaction after the first time the device is powered on, and how easy it is to connect to both a wired and Wi-Fi internet connection. For advanced models this will also include how easy it is to setup universal control and other features.

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Recommended streaming media players & services

Recommended streaming media players & services are standout choices with high scores. They include CR Best Buys, which offer exceptional value. When narrowing your choices, weigh features, price, and attributes that matter to you.
  • Buying Guide
  • Price & Shop
Looking for an easy, cheap way to access streaming video content? Consider an Internet-connected set-top box. The devices, most of which cost $100 or less, work with any TV that has an HDMI input, which includes just about any LCD or plasma TV. (A few boxes also work with older sets.) Every model we tested streams Netflix, one or two more video services, and a music station or two. All but a few models also had apps for Facebook, Twitter, photo-sharing services such as Picasa and Flickr, and more. Some models also have full Web browsers. You'll use your set-top box for streaming movie rental and video services, such as Amazon Prime, Apple iTunes, Blockbuster, Hulu, Netflix, Vudu, and more. The streaming landscape could change dramatically as other big names are also eager to feed the demand for entertainment.

Streaming media players & services buying guide

Millions of Americans now watch video that's delivered to their screen over the Internet. Most don't drop TV service but use streaming as a supplement to it rather than as a replacement. Netflix accounts for most of the action in video streaming, but there are several other options as well, both by subscription and pay-per-view.

You should weigh a number of things when deciding which streaming media service best meets your needs, including the selection of titles it carries. Also consider the types of equipment you can use to get streaming video to your TV.

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