Super streaming media boxes

August 16, 2013

You can access content online with a Blu-ray player, video game console, or smart TV. If you don't have one of those, you can buy a set-top streaming media box.

Consumer Reports just tested 11 basic boxes, including Apple TV and Roku 3. They cost $50 to $100.

When it comes to connecting to your Wi-Fi network, some of the boxes make it a lot easier by offering the WPS push-button option. If your router supports it, all you have to do is push a simple button to connect to your wireless network.

Consumer Reports found that all the boxes offer great picture quality. But some give you access to a lot more services, such as Netflix, Vudu, and Hulu, and others are a lot more limited.

Also, some of them allow you to access your personal content, including home movies, music, and photos from your cell phone, tablet, or PC.

Consumer Reports says that you don't have to spend top dollar to get top performance.

The Western Digital WD TV Play was the highest rated and costs just $65. It's less expensive and easier to use than either Apple TV or Roku 3.

It has handy features including a remote control with dedicated app buttons, and a USB port so that you can access home movies and other personal media files.

The Western Digital WD TV Play offers access to Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vudu, and Cinema Now. Those services aren't free. They cost from $5 to $8 a month.

Be aware, the Western Digital WD TV Play doesn't support Amazon Prime, so if you do most of your streaming from Amazon, you might want to opt for Roku 3 for $100.

There's also the new Google Chromecast. It costs just 35 dollars and will stream content from Netflix, YouTube, and the Chrome web browser through your laptop or mobile device to your TV.

But until the Chromecast adds more services, Consumer Reports says it can't compete with the set-top boxes.

Complete Ratings and recommendations on all kinds of products, including appliances, cars & trucks, and electronic gear, are available on Consumer Reports' website.

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