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Don't cross the streams: Why you should wait before buying a video streamer

A slew of new video streaming devices from Apple, Amazon, Google and Roku are lined up to compete for your holiday dollar in 2015. Which one should you buy? It's a good idea to wait for it all to shake out before you decide.

There are now more ways than ever to watch streaming movies and television shows. Sarah Tew/CNET

We're at peak levels of television, people. Another fall season during the golden age of TV is upon us, and with it a bounty of new stuff to watch from both traditional broadcasters and streaming outlets like Netflix and Amazon.

There's also more ways than ever to watch it. So what spanking new device should you use to get your "Narcos" fix, or to take in "Hand of God?" Until very recently the answer was pretty simple: just buy the Roku 2. Its combination of apps, ecosystem, ease-of-use and value is unmatched.

Today I'm not so sure. The market for streamers just got turned on its head, as every major maker has a new box, stick or dongle.

A compelling array of brand-new devices is hitting stores and online vendors in rapid succession over the next few weeks, and perhaps one of them could take the crown away from Roku. I can't call a winner until I get hands-on time with all of them, and even then my opinion (and reviews) will likely evolve as app and operating system updates continue to roll in. Yes, Roku is still the front-runner in my book, but everybody else is catching up.

That's why it makes sense to wait and see what we have to say before you buy one. Your current streaming device will serve perfectly well in the near future, and in reality none of these new streamers seem to offer anything radical or amazing to blow the others away. All look pretty good on the surface, and I expect some real differences to emerge as I get the chance to play around with them.

In the meantime here's a look at the contenders, and what they're doing to stand out.

The next Apple TV will have an actual app store, gaming support and the fanciest remote around. Apple

Apple TV ($150, October): After three years Apple is finally releasing a new streaming box, one replete with an actual app store, gaming support and the fanciest remote around. It also has deep integration for Siri, allowing you to talk to your TV and get results (or not). It comes with 32GB of storage for apps and games, and a 64GB version will sell for $199. UK and Australian have not yet been announced, but $149 and $199 convert to £95 and £130, or AU$210 and AU$285.

Amazon Fire TV is one of the few options serving up 4K video. Nate Ralph/CNET

Amazon Fire TV ($99, October): The online retail giant's devices seem designed primarily to get you to consume Amazon's own content, and since Amazon is one of the only purveyors of 4K video, the new box serves up just that. Fire TV also takes a page from Apple's Siri by integrating its own disembodied female voice assistant, Alexa. Variants include a gaming edition ($139 with controller) and a bundle with the cheaper Amazon Fire Stick with a voice remote ($50, £45 in the UK and about AU$70). The 4K-enabled box will cost £80 in the UK. While Amazon doesn't yet sell hardware in Australia, the US price works out to about AU$140.

The new Chromecast gets new features while keeping its low price. Screenshot David Katzmaier / CNET

Google Chromecast ($35, available now): Just announced today, the latest version of Google's cut-rate, phone-centric streamer delivers better Wi-Fi and an app that improves search and discovery of new shows and movies. These additions may help it compete with the big boys, but the lack of a real remote is still a drawback in my book. The Chromecast keeps the same pricing as its previous edition across the world, costing £30 in the UK and AU$49 in Australia.

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A new Roku streamer might be on the way, according to rumors. AFTVnews

Roku 4 (rumored): Roku refreshed its devices earlier this year, but rumor has it the flagship box is coming soon. Called the Roku 4 and capable of playing back 4K video just like Amazon, the new box also supposedly has better gaming chops.

Stay tuned for the full reviews of the upcoming streamers in the next few weeks, and a comprehensive update to my opinion once I get a handle on everything. Let the golden age begin.