There is no doubt that Amazon is leading the race with online streaming services thanks to its impressive Firestick and FireTV gadgets. But the world of technology doesn’t stay the same for a long time. To paraphrase Darwin a little bit
Getting to the top of the food chain is not the same as staying there!
New technology arrives and pushes out the old and the same can happen to the Firestick. In this post, we are going to reveal the top 5 alternatives to Firestick in 2019.
What Made the Firestick so Popular?
Before we get to the list, it is important to have a bird’s eye view of the Amazon Firestick. The major reason behind its popularity is the fact that the device is user-friendly and even a layman can operate it fairly easily.
I actually just installed it for my parents and they are navigating the menus extremely easily.
They are the definition of Luddites when it comes to technology and if they can do it, so can you!
The plug&play functionality makes it super easy to use. In addition, it allows you to enjoy HBO Go, Hulu, and Netflix, without having to change your Television settings at all. In addition, you can install various streaming sources on Firestick which extend the functionality even more.
Firestick turns an ordinary TV into a Smart TV with the help of an HDMI. Some of the salient features of the Amazon Firestick include:
- Alexa voice control (available with the latest versions)
- Access to Amazon Prime content on including some of the latest movies and TV shows
- Compatible with a variety of streaming apps
The new interface is even better than the first version of the Firestick. Alexa and better WiFi connectivity help the device to perform even better than it did in the past. With a Firestick, there really is no need to rely on cable TV operators.
But Firestick is not the only choice. Competitors have arrived at the stage and are competing hard to get into the spotlight. Before we get into too much detail on them though, there is one thing I wanted to cover and that’s the importance of VPN services.
Why you need a VPN when you Stream Online
Whenever it comes to live stream, a VPN becomes a necessity. The reason is that you must remain anonymous to your Internet Service Provider. There are various channels and videos that are copyright protected.
Some apps don’t filter the content on the basis of the legal authorization. If you keep accessing copyright-protected content on a regular basis, your ISP will detect it and restrict your internet connection. In addition, the Govt. agencies may play a part by charging you with heavy fines. The legislation is different in different parts of the world so it is better to protect your network connection by masking the information by a VPN.
|Regardless of the device you purchase, understand the significantly higher risks of streaming online today. This applies to any device as well as your smartphone or tablet. |
Not too long ago users online enjoyed a certain degree of anonymity due to Net Neutrality laws. However in 2018, these laws were repealed. This means your own Internet Service Provider can legally sell your personal data (such as health records, security information, and browsing history).
In addition, they can monitor your online traffic to ensure that you are in compliance with their “fair use” policy. Streaming is generally quite bandwidth heavy and you’ll find ISPs often buffer user traffic which drastically impacts the streams and makes them unwatchable.
After you install Kodi on your device or even if you’re just streaming through another app make sure you secure your streaming data with a no-logging VPN. This is your only protection and it’s worth the nominal investment.
Protect Your Credentials
We often use public WiFi connections. In this case, you need to encrypt the connection in order to protect the data on your device. You can encrypt data by using a commercial VPN like IPVanish. This creates a secure tunnel between your device and the VPN servers. Any data sent through this tunnel is completely encrypted and secure.
Some channels (especially sports channels broadcasting live events) don’t allow access outside a particular country. You can access these channels by using a VPN like IPVanish. If you get a message saying that the content isn’t available in your country or region you know that you’re being blocked by georestrictions like this. To bypass these, all you need to do is connect to a VPN server in a country where the content is available and you’ll be able to quickly access the stream. Try this the next time you’re using an addon like Sports365 and your content is blocked.
Improve Your Speed
ISPs tend to slow down the speed of the connection if they detect that a particular connection is using more bandwidth. The fair-use policy comes into play and your connection suffers a lot. If you have a VPN like IPVanish in place, your ISP will never detect the data usage and you can keep streaming as much as you like without suffering from slow speed issues.
Best Alternatives to Firestick in 2019
Now that I’ve explained the importance of VPNs lets get into details of the different alternatives available when it comes to streaming in 2019
Apple TV 4K
As anyone that knows me would tell you, I’m not a fan of Apple but if you talk about the quality and speed, the Apple TV 4K stands out. This device is arguably the best 4K compatible streaming device that also facilitates HDR and Dolby Vision.
If you are looking for a top-quality streaming experience then the Apple TV 4K turns out to be the most suitable choice in 2019. The App serves with safe home control and enhanced security features.
- Siri voice control
- Access Amazon Prime content
- Compatible with multiple Add-ons
- Netflix available
- High-resolution experience thanks to the 4K HDR compatibility
Nvidia Shield TV
Don’t get deceived by the name because the term TV doesn’t limit Nvidia Shield.
This is as far beyond an ordinary streaming device as you can get. The developers have launched Nvidia Shield TV to attract gaming geeks. If you love gaming then you need to consider this device.
- HDR and 4K video compatible
- Comes with more than 200 games
- User-friendly thanks to its Hands-free Google Assistant
The pricing may be an issue for the users at a shoestring budget but the device is worth buying especially if you want to enjoy a high-end gaming experience.
Why is it included in this list you may ask? Well aside from gaming, it has Android TV built-in and it’s one of the best devices you could ask for when it comes to streaming. It easily pairs with the Google Play Store and also offers the option of directly installing .apk files for those apps that aren’t authorized.
The Chromecast is often underrated for the fact that it is not a media streamer. However, believe it or not, the Chromecast actually serves you with excellent streaming-only by plugging it to the TV or any other display device.
In fact, the flexibility it offers by pairing with a smartphone or tablet can in some ways exceed that offered by traditional media centers. The addition of a real keyboard vs an onscreen one + the overall simplicity is actually a real plus.
- Compatible with PC and TV
- Allows you to stream Netflix and YouTube Videos
- Compatible with 4K videos
- Google Home integration
While this might be the last option in the list, it is definitely not one that you should dismiss. The Roku Ultra is also compatible with HDR and 4K video formats.
This video player has impressed millions across the world and its popularity is still growing by each passing day. The operating system of Roku Ultra ensures impressive streaming speed and Roku continues to add additional functionality and channels to its lineup.
- 4K and HDR compatible
- Extensive range of channels
- Compatible with USB storage
- Universal search
- Compatible with other streaming apps
- Live TV streaming
- Live Sports events
Roku is by no means an ordinary device. If you want to enjoy better live streaming and sports events then you need to consider Roku Ultra.
I think I’ve already mentioned my bias against Apple so while this is a more than capable device, I simply cannot place it at the top of my list. I know that Apple fans will disagree and if your house is built around this company, I’d probably say that you should stick with them, however, I really like the flexibility of Android.
That’s also why I can’t put Roku at the top. It’s not that this is a bad unit – it’s actually really simple and easy to use – it was in fact, one of my first units when I got started on my journey cutting the cord, but the fact that I still cannot install Kodi is a deal-breaker as I often end up using the app. While I know that Roku has “private” channels that mimic Kodi addons, finding these channels is a pain.
So, Chromecast or Nvidia. Which of these two will dethrone the Firestick? To some extent, I think it depends on your needs and budget. The Chromecast paired with a decent smartphone or tablet will probably suffice 80-90% of the time. You’d need to run Kodi on your smartphone though and then cast the stream to the Chromecast. While it’s all very simple, it’s an extra step you do not need to do with the Nvidia Shield.
The Shield is probably the best choice in my opinion. It’s more powerful than the Firestick which means it doesn’t buffer as much. Also with direct access to the Google Play store, you’re not forced to go through Amazon’s store for apps which is also a plus. I’ve actually got two Shield’s in my house so you know that I like them! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.