Streaming Media Players
A streaming media player is what connects your television or home theater to the Internet and allows you to stream video and music from online services. They're typically very basic devices with only a few connections, such as video (HDMI and/or composite), audio (RCA and/or digital), and Ethernet networking jacks. Many streaming media players also feature built-in Wi-Fi for wireless network connections, and most include their own dedicated remote control.
Other key aspects that define what a streaming media player is include functions such as the ability to view photos stored on your local network, flash memory cards, or USB-based external drives. You'll also find that many streaming players let you play music stored on similar mediums. Some let you watch videos you've downloaded to other computers on your home network, while others can only play video from supported services. These devices also commonly offer a variety of additional apps, such as YouTube and Twitter.
Apple, Roku, Western Digital, Sony, Netgear, D-Link, and other manufacturers all make streaming media players. Most sell streaming media players for what is an extremely reasonably price, usually less than $100.
What You Need to Use a Streaming Media Player
In order to use most streaming media players, you'll need an HDTV (some players support up to 1080p video but don't require your TV to be capable of displaying that resolution), a broadband internet connection, and a home network (either wired or wireless). Once you're up and running, you'll also need to subscribe to services like Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, and Netflix separately in order to use them. Other streaming options such as YouTube and Vudu are free or allow you to rent and buy individual titles, respectively.
Of course, before you consider investing in a streaming media player, you should double-check to make sure any of your current entertainment devices such as your TV, game console, or Blu-ray player don't already offer many of the same features that define what a streaming media player is all about. In this connected age, you'll often find that at least one of the boxes connected to your TV--or even your television itself--already does offer one or more streaming media features.
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