If you’ve read our Cutting the Cord article, you’ve already learned how to save money on your media needs and have seen some of the most popular dedicated streaming devices. What you may not know, however, is that you might already have a streaming device that’s perfect for you, or you could buy one device that’ll hit two birds with one stone!
If you have a gaming console, you may already be able to use your favorite service, like Netflix and Hulu, to stream all your favorite movies and TV shows. Some consoles also offer “cable-like” services. The three most popular gaming consoles — Wii U, PS4 and Xbox One — can all be used for streaming. Some are better than the rest, and some are just plain not worth it.
Go ahead and put this one in the “lacking” category. If you already own a Wii U, it will suit you just fine for Netflix or Hulu. However, the Wii U is not a media center, and it doesn’t even try to be. While it has access to the big three (Amazon, Hulu and Netflix), it doesn’t offer any streaming video content of its own. It doesn’t even offer DVD/Blu-Ray/Audio CD support, so you won’t be watching your new Mad Max DVD on it. The Wii U was made to be a gaming console with as little fluff as possible, and Nintendo accomplished that. If you are in the market for a new console and streaming content is as important to you as the games you should consider an Xbox One or a Playstation 4 over a Wii U.
Let’s call PS4 the “mid-range” console. Sometime in the development, it is almost as if a Sony executive said, “Well if we don’t add some media options, the Xbox guys will never let it go”. The interface on the PS4 media apps aren’t as pretty as the Xbox One, but they are more stable. It gives access to Amazon, Hulu, Netflix and a wide range of other apps. As for Amazon, the PS4 is the only console that you can actually rent movies on. While you can watch rented movies on the other consoles, you have to go rent it from another device.
While the PS4 has come into some great media options, it is less media friendly than its predecessor, the PS3. For a cable alternative, PS4 has PlaystationVue. Although it offers more channels than SlingTV, the Xbox One cable alternative, it also costs substantially more with its $50 price tag. While a pretty decent alternative for cable, it has less channels and will end up costing you around the same amount of money. The PS4 beats out the Wii U by offering a cable alternative, having more streaming apps and allowing you to play DVDs/Blue-rays/Audio CDs. It also has a better user interface. This allows the PS4 to take the place of a streaming device and a Blu-Ray player. You may want to consider a PS4 over an Xbox one if the friends you want to play multiplayer games online with are using a PS4.
When it comes to consoles as media centers, the Xbox One is the boss. Designed and marketed as a media center as well as a gaming console, Microsoft wants the Xbox One to become the centerpiece of your living room. Whether it’s there yet is debatable, but it’s pretty dang close.
The app pinning system helps you keep all of your favorite media and gaming apps right at the home screen. Kinect (for those that have it) is also a great tool for media. You can open apps, play, pause, rewind and even fast-forward by using your voice and the Kinect. Another plus for the Xbox One is the “Snapping” feature, which allows you to watch your shows/movies while you’re playing your games.
Xbox One has access to Amazon, Hulu, Netflix and a massive range of other streaming media apps, including its own streamed content. Another point for the Xbox One is that it’s the only console with UFC TV. As for the cable alternative, Xbox One has Sling TV. Although it has fewer channels than both normal cable and PlaystationVue, it boasts a much smaller price tag. Sling TV packages start at $20 a month. Sling TV also allows you to build your own TV packages.
If you still plan on keeping your cable box, the Xbox One makes an amazing cable companion, featuring a range of companion apps for your viewing pleasure (HBOGo, ShowTimeAnytime, FX Now, etc.). If you don’t feel like changing sources on your TV to switch between cable and Xbox, then don’t! You can plug your cable box directly into your Xbox One via HDMI to watch and control your cable from within your Xbox One.
One major flaw that always plagued Xbox was the paid Live feature being required. Now, access to the popular media streaming apps can be had without Xbox Live Gold for free! The Xbox One also allows you to watch Blue-Rays/DVDs/Audio CDs.
As it stands, the Xbox One wins out of the Wii U and Playstation 4 by offering a more comprehensive media center experience, a wide variety of cord cutting apps, apps to enhance your cable experience if you keep cable, a more user friendly interface and a cheaper cable alternative. The price of the console is also currently about $70 cheaper than the PS4.
So, now what?
Well, if you already have your console, you can start streaming right away (with an internet connection). If not, go out and buy one. Many people prefer a specific console for different reasons, but it all depends on how you’re making your decision. If you’re looking for something that’ll be great for gaming and be the center of your family room, look no further than the Xbox One.