Turn your set into a smart-TV
Mobile technology has developed in leaps and bounds in recent years but, strangely, inside the house the evolution of home-based tech has been slower to take off. In the living room, an emerging category of smart set-top boxes, perhaps most successfully realised by Apple TV, has enabled people to turn their sets into smart TVs relatively inexpensively, streaming content from the web to their large-screen displays. Apple TV was recently given its biggest-yet update, resulting in a much more powerful model that effectively puts a full games-playing and app-running computer under your TV.
But Google is also a contender in the living room. For years the search giant has released tech for your telly, albeit with mixed success. Chromecast is still its biggest hit, while Android TV seems to be misfiring much like the forgotten Google TV before it.
All the devices we're looking at this month are good value, but none of them seem fully realised yet. It's clear this emerging category is still something of a work in progress but early adopters stand to have some fun.
What is it? Google Chromecast How much? $49 Pros: There's a lot to love about Chromecast, which for under $50 is still the cheapest and easiest way to enhance your telly. This little dongle slips inside a HDMI port on your TV and lets you "cast" content to it from your smartphone, tablet or computer. Movies, TV, music and more are all just a tap away. Cons: The new Google Chromecast was released in January 2016 and is more powerful than the previous model however the features are broadly the same. The new version is $59 as opposed to the previous model which was priced at $49 RRP. store.google.com
What is it? Asus Nexus Player How much? $129 Pros: After ditching its short-lived Google TV platform, Google released Android TV, built into some smart TV sets (notably from Sony) and also available in standalone boxes such as Asus's Nexus Player. This is a more powerful unit than Chromecast, allowing you to run native apps and games in addition to casting content from elsewhere. Cons: Sadly, despite the promise and potential, Android TV still has very few apps and games that support it. The massive popularity of Android on mobile has yet to transition to other platforms successfully. store.google.com
What is it? Apple TV (4th generation) How much? From $269 Pros: The Apple TV has wowed people for years with its intuitive interface, despite fairly restricted streaming capabilities. The latest model ups the ante (and the cost) considerably, fortifying the device with a full iOS-style computer that runs apps and games. It's a bit like turning your TV into a massive iPhone. Cons: Remains to be seen whether future apps and games justify the expense. Add the cost of an almost mandatory gaming controller ($95) and you could buy a much more powerful games console. apple.com/au
Peter Dockrill is Money's tech columnist