At Josh.ai, we’re lucky to get to play with a lot of cool devices. Recently, we’ve been putting effort into making video streaming easy and fun. This means that between the number of hours I’ve spent working with video streaming providers and devices in the office, and the extensive research I do at home on a daily basis, I consider myself something of an expert when it comes to watching TV.
As an expert, I know that I need the best tools for my movie and TV watching experience. The following devices, in no particular order, are my favorite to use in order to get what I call a Complete Bingeing Experience.
Roku 4 — $130
Why I love it — The Roku 4 is an awesome set-top box that I use nearly every day. It supports 4K streaming, which is a huge plus in my book since there still seems to be very little 4K content available for streaming. There are thousands of “channels” you can download and install, offering you a wide variety of content. Roku has a built in search allowing you to see if the TV show or movie you’re trying to watch is available on one of the channels you’ve installed, with the option to easily purchase or rent it with almost no effort. By deep linking into the app or media that you wish to play, Roku also has very good app support allowing you to search on your phone and play content directly. This means instead of rooting around through the Netflix app for wherever 30 Rock is hidden, I can just select it from my phone instantly and start playing it. Roku even includes a 4K screensaver, so you never need to turn off your TV. You’ll get some pretty cool 4K nature images in the background of your dinner party, or have something to look at during those brief and infrequent moments when you’re not heavily bingeing on, like, the new season of House of Cards or something.
What it’s missing — I wish the app could tell me more information about what’s playing. The Roku app basically just reflects the capabilities of the physical remote with the added ability to deep link into an app. Even just giving me cover art and a scrubber to allow me to drag forward or backward within the media would be acceptable. As it is, Roku has very little second screen capability.
Apple TV 4 — From $150
Why I love it — The Apple TV 4 is pretty similar to the Roku 4. It has a universal search feature, letting you directly open the content you want. It also has the ability to install tvOS apps from its app store. If you’ve ever owned an Apple product, it has an instantly familiar interface with an added ribbon hovering over the top showing TV shows, movies, and music that you can rent, buy, download, and more. There are numerous ways to use the Apple TV. Moreover, it also has app support (well, some support, see below) and built in screen casting, allowing you to share your phone or computer screen easily on the TV. Plus, unlike Roku, apps can ask the Apple TV what’s currently playing and actually have some level of control beyond what the physical remote offers.
What it’s missing — I said there’s an app, and while the app can see what’s currently playing, it annoyingly does almost nothing else. It has a large swipe/press interface for navigating the menus, but I’m forced to actually navigate to HBO and then navigate some more to get my Game of Thrones on. I know you can deep link! You do it from your universal search page! Stop hiding the content I want underneath all those layers of UI. I don’t have time to waste when I’m itching for my Khaleesi fix. Sure, these complaints amount to minor qualms, akin to a paper cut. But paper cuts hurt, especially when they can be avoided.
TiVo Bolt — From $300
Why I love it — The TiVo Bolt is a pretty neat device. First: 4K! It supports 4K streaming for its built in apps and is future-ready in the sense that when 4K is a more prolific format, the Bolt will be able to handle it. It also has a feature that I’ve wanted out of set top boxes for a while: commercial skipping. Now, when you record Monday night’s episode of The Bachelor, you can watch it the next day and commercials will automatically be skipped. Gone is the annoying “fast forward with your finger on the play button waiting for the right moment to — shit, I missed it, gotta rewind now” hassle. The TiVO Bolt also works with most TV providers (although check the website to be sure), so it should work for most people who haven’t yet cut the cord. It also has a pretty nice app which allows me to search for shows and showtimes.
What it’s missing — The app is fine. It feels somewhat disorganized, but it gets the job done. And honestly, that’s the overall feel I get from the TiVo Bolt. There’s nothing really wrong with it, it just doesn’t really jump out at you and do anything different. Overall it’s a great device, and it certainly gets the job done.
Having the right device for you is only half the work. In order get the Complete Bingeing Experience you’ll need to make sure you have access to all the shows you need. Here’s my take on what services work best for me.
Netflix — from $8 a month
Hard to start a list like this with anything other than Netflix. The most popular streaming service got that way with a great selection of movies and TV and an ever-growing list of solid to phenomenal original content. When building your collection of streaming services, you will absolutely need Netflix at the front and center.
HBO — from $15 a month
I use HBO a ton. I love a lot of its original content, from Game of Thrones to Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and plenty more in between. HBO also has a ton of movies and TV shows that can sometimes be hard find anywhere else. With its hard-to-ignore originals, HBO is a must-have service.
Hulu — from $8 a month
Hulu is the other side of this equation. While it doesn’t have as much original content as HBO and Netflix (or if it does it’s certainly not as widely praised), it often has TV shows the day after it airs. This can be a boon for the cord-cutter who doesn’t have live TV anymore, and the person who forgot or doesn’t have the means to record a show. That, along with its increasingly large library of shows, makes it nearly impossible not to mix in Hulu to your Complete Bingeing Experience.
While there are many other options like Samsung’s Smart TV and Amazon Prime, these devices and services will provide ample if not unending TV watching entertainment. Best of all, most will soon work with Josh.ai!
This post was written by Michael at Josh.ai. Previously, Michael was a software engineer at Microsoft before joining the Josh team where he works on interconnected device control. Michael plays hockey, loves Chipotle, rocks out to T-Swift, and has a love-hate relationship with Destiny Potato (the best band you’ve never heard of).