Do you use a streaming media player to send TV shows and movies from an online service to your TV? If so, it's more likely that you're using a Roku player to do it than an Apple TV—by a considerable margin.
Its not surprising that more people are streaming now than ever. According to the market-research firm Parks Associates, 14 percent of U.S. homes with broadband connections now stream TV shows and videos, twice as many as in 2011. In its report, titled "Connected TV: Trends and Innovation," the firm found that Roku is the most-used streaming video media device in the U.S. market, followed by Apple TV.
In its survey of broadband households during the first quarter of this year, Parks found that 37 percent of the respondents primarily used a Roku media player for streaming, compared with 24 percent who mainly use an Apple TV.
The good news, if you've been sitting on the streaming sidelines, is that Parks expects prices for streaming media players to decline significantly—by as much as half—over the next several years.
Get more guidance on streaming media with our streaming video and movie rental buying guide.
In our complete Ratings of streaming media players, the Roku 3 was one of the top-rated models, lauded for its wealth of content and easy to use operations. (Roku just added Redbox Instant by Verizon, the hybrid streaming/disc rental service, and Fox Now, to its channel lineup.) Although it didn't rank as high, we also liked Apple as a top choice for those who already live in Apple's world and have content stored in iTunes, a Mac computer, or on Apple's iCloud. Western Digital's WD TV Play was the top-rated basic player.
We also recently tested the Google Chromecast, at $35 a very low-cost option for those wanting to simply add Internet content to their TV, including Web-based content accessed though the Chrome browser on their PC or Mac. We'll be adding the Chromecast to our complete Ratings shortly.
—James K. Willcox
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