Too many repetitions, too much advertising, no original sound with subtitles – there are many reasons why it is too little for more and more TV viewers to simply turn on the telly and see what’s coming on public and private. Some services such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Video have long been established that cause a sensation with their own series productions, but also keep thousands of films ready for use. And then there are the media libraries of the public broadcasters with their huge range.
So good arguments for using the Internet capabilities of the television set. But what if the device can’t do that? Even then there is a solution, and it is not even expensive: streaming sticks. If you have a flat-screen TV with an HDMI input, you can use it, but they don’t work straight away with tube sets, but can be upgraded with a decoder if necessary. Because the digital signal from the sticks has to be converted into an analog one. For the necessary money – around 50 euros – there are also usable used flat-screen devices.
The small sticks are available in plug form for the HDMI connection of the television, they are hardly bigger than a normal USB memory stick. Some of the streaming receivers also come as small boxes, but are also no bigger than a cigar box. Most of them are connected to the Internet router via WiFi, but some can also be connected with a cable. Cable is usually the better solution because it provides the more stable and faster connection. WiFi can be a problem especially when reception is weak near the television set.
High bandwidth can improve the picture
But the performance of the Internet connection also plays a role. It depends on the quality in which the content should be played and how many people may want to watch streams at the same time. In order to stream a video in 4K resolution on Netflix, the line must provide stable at least 25 megabits per second (Mbit / s). Some of the 50 Mbit / s connections advertised with the addition “up to” are likely to have problems every now and then. If you want to watch two different streams at the same time, the 4K glory is quickly over.
Fortunately, normal HD television requires far less bandwidth, six Mbit / s is sufficient, and most streaming services adapt the playback to the available bandwidth on the end device. For a – rather blurred – picture with Netflix, 0.5 Mbit / s is sufficient, some other providers require at least two Mbit / s. A good HD picture takes around six Mbit / s.
What if the internet router is now unfavorable and the WiFi signal is weak? Then you can still make do with a bridge over the power line, for example. This requires a pair of adapters that are simply plugged into the power socket. One of them is connected to the router by cable, the second – placed near the TV set – emits a WiFi signal. However, some newer routers are already able to set up a so-called mesh network. Put simply, they pass the network on from device to device without major losses.
But now to the sticks themselves. They all need a power supply, for which a small power supply unit similar to that of a cell phone is included. On some televisions, the USB socket could also provide enough power for this, which can be found out quickly by trial and error. The most popular sticks are probably those from Amazon (Fire TV Stick, approx. 60 euros) and Google (Chromecast, approx. 60 euros). The graphics specialist Nvidia also has a rather large and expensive stick in the race with the Shield TV (approx. 160 euros). Telekom offers the magenta stick. Apple mixes in with an additional box called Apple TV (about 220 euros).
What they and some less popular sticks have in common is that they allow access to many services, including special-interest offers such as the sports channel Dazn or live TV programs such as Zattoo. In addition, they can all be operated by voice, such as Amazon’s Alexa or the Google Assistant. The microphone is off by default.