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Media Streamers

Which video streaming box is right for you?

Many devices are jockeying for position in your home theater. Find out what streamer fits with your lifestyle.

The holidays are the perfect opportunity to sit around and do as little as possible.

But what will entertain you or your loved ones during this relaxation period? The answer is your favorite online videos streaming onto your big screen television.

Choosing a gadget to give those videos a theatrical presentation is more complicated than ever since there are so many options in set-top boxes. Here's how to choose which device deserves your dollars.

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With so many ways to watch streaming video on TV now, where will you go?

Michal Dziekan

Apple TV: For the Apple faithful

An Apple TV is ideal for someone who lives in the Apple ecosystem. Movies bought in Apple iTunes run on one set-top box -- the Apple TV. Also, if you've got an iPhone or iPad, and you want to send almost anything over to your TV, the Apple TV is hard to beat for screen mirroring or slinging audio to your home theater.

Roku: For almost anyone

If you know someone who uses pretty much every service and UltraViolet video, a Roku device is a winner. It supports a great deal of online video services including Netflix and Amazon. There are several versions of the Roku hardware, but we suggest the Roku 2 or the slightly pricier Roku 3 if you want to be able to use voice search. The only knock on the Roku is that it can't access television or movies from iTunes.

Amazon: For the Amazon native

The Fire TV is for someone who lives in Amazon's world all the time. The box fires up Amazon content in a blink of an eye, and it's faster than anything else out there that has an Amazon app. Additionally, the Fire TV or Fire TV Stick are great for travelers since they can connect to Wi-Fi portals that need a Web browser for access like in a hotel.

WD TV: For the file hoarder

Streaming isn't your cup of tea. It's all about the media you have on your home network. Your content library ranges from 3GP to MKV to AVI, and you're screaming at this article because we didn't mention your favorite file extension. The WD TV can play pretty much any file format you can throw at it. It doesn't have Netflix only because every other machine already does.

Chromecast: For the compulsive sharer

You're the person who finds something on your phone or laptop, and feels compelled to share it with an audience. Instead of trying to get people to surround your screen, you can just fling it to your TV with a Chromecast. Lots of apps like YouTube can be cast to your TV with it. Best of all, the Google Chromecast is really inexpensive at $35, £30, AU$49 -- but that's likely because by itself it doesn't do much of anything without a phone.

This story appears in the winter 2015 edition of CNET Magazine. Check out other magazine stories here.

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