Hardware - Cord Cutting

Once you decide to watch online TV, the next question is what hardware to watch it on. Any connected device should be suitable. From a desktop PC, laptop, smart TV, tablet, games console or smartphone. We look at the best hardware to make cutting the cord an easier process and giving you TV access anywhere around the house and even while you are out and about.

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How to choose the best streaming hardware

 Apple TV
Apple lead the market even without trying. The Apple TV set-top box offers a seamless streaming experience. The problem with Apple is that the box is a closed system, so you can only run content from Apple's ecosystem and iTunes and the number of apps available is small. Read our Review
For Against
  • Seamless syncing with all other Apple products through AirPlay
  • Entertainment downloaded for your iPhone can be viewed on Apple TV
  • Top-notch user interface
  • Have to convert all your video files in to mp4 format
  • Only plays local files from within iTunes
  • Limited number of apps/ channels available
 WD TV Live
The WD Live is a low priced streamer at around $69, and will play any format and files that you throw at it from the home network via DNLA. It also runs streaming services such as Netflix, Youtube, Hulu Plus, Spotify, Tunein and Vudu amongst others. A good choice if you have a lot of downloaded media files. Also has an iOS and android remote app available.Read our Review
For Against
  • Low price
  • Decent mix of online and network streaming
  • Customisable interface
  • USB to add hard drive
  • Limited selection of streaming apps
  • No internet browser
  • No inbuilt storage
  • No official sports apps for MLB, NBA, or NHL
Roku is probably the leading streaming box after Apple. The device runs many channels and was the original Netflix box. Read our Review
For Against
  • Choice of models to suit price
  • Fast, intuitive and customizable setup
  • Carries both official and unofficial channels for plenty of content
  • Limited ability to watch content from your computer
  • Cannot play Youtube Video's
  • Not all channels available for all models
 Android Streaming Boxes and Sticks

Because Android is open source, many manufacturers are putting it in their devices. The result is a large number of small Apple TV sized boxes which run android. Also plentiful are android HDMI sticks which plug into any TV set and transform it into a smart TV. Generally Boxes are priced from $60-$100 and sticks a little cheaper. These devices run Android OS and can play HD content, can run XBMC and apps, have multuple USB and ethernet ports.

For Against
  • Cheapest boxes around
  • Run most catch-up services, Netflix, Hulu Plus etc.
  • Cheap way to get a smart TV
  • Some can be slow (check if dual core and running latest Android OS)
  • Little storage onboard although you can plug in a USB HD
  • Some apps no good as require touchscreen
 Android Tablets & Phones
Android tablets and phones such as the Samsung Galaxy range offer everything that Apple products do but without running as a closed system. This means it is easier to run more apps from the Google Play Store on an Android. Devices offer beautiful HD screens, wireless connectivity using DLNA.
For Against
  • Large, full 1080p HD screens
  • Standard micro-USB charger
  • Expandable storage
  • Removable battery
  • Huge variety of apps and entertainment for purchase/download
  • Streaming video is dependent on data speeds available in your area
  • Not all entertainment apps available for Apple phones and tablets are developed for Android
 Laptop/Desktop Computer
PC's and laptops can run movie files and access all streaming services. You can also create a HTPC (home theater PC) by installing media center software such as XMBC, Windows Media Center, etc. are an amazing option for hard-core do-it-yourselfers that want more power and the ability to do more with their entertainment. Read our Reviews
For Against
  • Can use to stream everything including all catch-up and streaming services
  • Can rip DVD's and download content
  • Easy to expand storage and graphics performance
  • Takes forever to power up compared to tablets, phones or boxes
  • Prone to Viruses
  • More expensive than specialty boxes
  • Not very portable
 Apple iPhone & iPad
Many people swear by Apple products for use as mobile entertainment hardware, iOS devices have an intuitive interface that syncs seamlessly to all other Apple devices, and allow the purchase and download of music, shows, movies - and boasts an unparalleled number of media apps. Read our Review
For Against
  • Seamless syncing with all other Apple products through AirPlay
  • Entertainment downloaded for your iPhone can be viewed on Apple TV
  • Top-notch user interface
  • Retina display
  • Largest number of apps available of any mobile device
  • Streaming video is dependent on data speeds available in your area
  • Proprietary charger
  • No expandable storage or removable battery
 Sony Playstation
Sony's Playstation 3 comes with a built-in media center, enabling streaming entertainment but requires some hacking to get the best possible experience. If you already have one, there's no need to invest in a companion box, but unless you're big on PlayStation games, there's no reason to choose it over other devices. Read our Review
For Against
  • A sleek interface with a number of available channels (including Netflix)
  • Will upconvert SD frames to HD on DVDs (though not on downloaded or streaming movies)
  • The PlayStation store offers a large variety of movies and gaming content for purchase
  • Sony's Video Unlimited store offers an incredibly robust search capability
  • Requires specific codecs to watch downloaded entertainment (which must also be transferred to the device's hard drive or connected via USB)
  • Does not seamlessly integrate with mobile devices
 Nintendo Wii
The Nintendo Wii has an intuitive interface that is foolproof to operate. It has the standard channel offerings (eg Netflix, Hulu+, Amazon), but doesn't offer the same level of content customization that comes with the more sophisticated PS3 and Xbox platforms. Read our Review
For Against
  • Clean interface
  • Standard channel offerings
  • Easy wi-fi set up
  • Minimalist design
  • Channel offerings not as robust as other platforms
  • More of a gaming center than a media center
  • Unless Wii games hold an appeal, it would be better to go with either a more sophisticated console or a cheaper streaming box (e.g. Roku)
 Microsoft Surface
Microsoft have come late to the tablet party with the Surface tablet. Designed to be used as both a tablet and main computer. With multiple configurations and price points available, Surface is one of the more customizable pieces of hardware in the field. Read our Review
For Against
  • Flash support (unlike iPAd)
  • HDMI output (via dongle)
  • Bluetooth/USB support
  • Standard: Hulu, Netflix apps available
  • App store has various multimedia players
  • Can either sideload, load, or stream content from a NAS
  • Models can be expensive if they are being dedicated to media
  • limited storage
 Microsoft Xbox 360
Xbox's entertainment platform is one of the slickest out there. With multiple channels, Kinect add-ons, and Microsoft's media software, and a clean, sleek user interface, it's the best gaming console/entertainment center hybrid out there. Read our Review
For Against
  • Integrative Microsoft platform works wirelessly with Windows computers
  • Beautiful user interface
  • Large channel selection
  • Multiple movie purchase/download options
  • Xbox Live social network
  • Expandable storage
  • It has a higher entry price point than other comparable platforms
  • Some Microsoft features require paid subscriptions
  • Kinect hardware is not included and must be purchased separately
Watch YOUR TV from anywhere with an internet connection with the Slingbox and its SlingPlayer software. You never need to miss a live event - even if you're stuck on a train (or at a wedding!), and all those hours of content on your DVR are available at all times as well, which means you have no excuse not to catch up on Mad Men. Read our Review
For Against
  • Watching content you're already paying for
  • No blackouts
  • Multi-device
  • No subscription fees
  • Easy to set up
  • Box location is dependent on having adaquate internet upload speed
  • There is a navigation lag
 Google Chromecast
Google's small thumb sized dongle caused more of splash when it was released than Google TV ever did.Once plugged into the HDMI socket you can access streaming services such as Netflix and use your mobile device as a remote. But the real beauty is the wireless streaming you can throw at the TV from computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones. Read our Review
For Against
  • Cheap as chips at $35
  • HD screen mirroring from Chrome web browsers
  • Plugs straight into HDMI socket and connects via WiFi
  • Needs a power source (unless your TV has a powered HDMI port)
  • Is not compatible with all web streaming services