Roku Vs Chromecast Vs Apple TV Vs Amazon Fire TV with Indian Channels

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In the last one month, I spent quite a lot of time identifying the best streaming device for my home television. To start with, those who know me will understand my first principal of choosing a device would be economical / Frugal. I tried out both Chromecast and Roku HDMI Stick past few days for my use case and landed with Roku HDMI Stick. Roku Stick is truly a winner even if I compare this with Apple TV & Amazon Fire TV . Let me look at the comparisons among the four and why I ended up with Roku Stick.
I am not going to do a table comparing features of Roku to other three products, because CNN already did an article on this. Please check this article by CNN called  Amazon Fire TV vs. Chromecast vs. Roku vs. Apple TV. So I do not want to repeat the same info and duplicate something on the net for you . I will provide some of my learning from reading these and using the devices.
To start with since I was looking for one of the cheapest device, I only picked up the low end models provided by Roku, Google , Apple or Amazon.  Amazon , Roku has a higher end models but these lower end models pretty much does the job for us, unless you are some one boasting a 60-70 inch TV and looking for ultra fast streaming device etc. If you are looking for an ultra fast best device and do not mind spending that 100 dollars for your super costly television set - then Roku 3 is the best and clear  winner. Roku 3 even has a killer feature , where you have a head phone jack on the remote and watch the TV with audio on headphones. None of the other devices provides this option. Also Roku is in the phase of releasing voice commands by adding microphone to your Roku remote. This would make Roku 3 even better. If you are someone like me, with a cheap television set in the range of 32-50 inches television , Roku HDMI Stick does the best job at just half the price.
Some of the use cases that were important for me in watching television.

1. Does the Streaming stick provide a setup box like experience without being dependent on one more device other than the TV & streaming device?
It is a clear yes for Roku.But Chromecast or Apple TV are just your companion device to stream content from other Android or iOS device like your Tablet or phone. I had to ensure I keep charging my tablet or iPad use that to stream movies from them. It is such a jarring experience for watching TV honestly. I do not want to always handle one more device to manage content. Roku Stick does that job clearly, it is like a set top box, with apps managed using their dedicated remote only to navigate. They also give a remote control app for your Apple or iOS device, incase you are someone finicky of having one more remote control in home. But once you play the content, you don’t need to be dependent on the device or remote to be on while it is playing. Which is a big freedom. I struggled with Chomecast, because I had to ensure my tablet is charged and I had to keep pushing content from tablet every time I liked something. Was not a seamless experience.
2. Can I watch Indian Television Channels – Like Tamil / Telugu / Hindi / Malayalam Language popular Television shows from the device?
For Roku we have a dedicated app called Dishworld and this is the best app for Indian Channels so far I have seen. Oh!  Dishworld is officially now called as Sling International , they ditched the Dish name and moved to the mother brand of Sling. You should read My money blog to understand why Sling TV is another clear winner if you are a sports fan with just 20-25 USD a month you could save on your cable network bills. So Dishworld/ Sling International provides a base language pack as minimum as 25 USD and you can top it up with additional channels if necessary. You can watch live those channels or recorded version for the past few days as much you can scroll through that remote. But very clear and easy to watch through Roku without any hassle of one more device. You can take up their device offers and get a Roku Stick for free if you sign up for 3 month in advance, along with a 1 month free bonus subscription. So all in all with 90USD you would have 4 month subscription + a free Roku Stick which is a pretty great deal to land with. For Chromecast, users you can still use Dish TV but you need to hang on to the Tablet and play the channels from your android tablet and see those apps crashing atleast more than once a day. I even tried the Yupp TV for Indian Regional channels, which is not part of Roku in US, so you have to use Chromecast screening. Pretty jarring experience, not a great way to watch television for me. Was not a happy customer. So your Roku stick / Roku 3 does the job if you are a desi like me living in USA and finding solutions to watch Indian channels.
3. Can I stream movies from my laptop   ? Or Can I stream web videos from my laptop to Roku ?
This is a very important use case for me. Since I am not a fan of watching TV shows unlike my wife. I am a big fan of watching movies, and all I would want is to watch some movie either streamed from my laptop and that need not be a YouTube or a NetFlix content. I know NetFlix, Hulu, YouTube all has dedicated apps for streaming through any of the four mentioned devices. But , I am desi guy watching most of the Tamil / Malayalam / Telugu movies and some Hindi movies as well. Netflix , Hulu or even YouTube does a good job for me. Sites like TentKotta.com, Einthusan.com does the job for me. TentKotta is a premium 8 dollar a month Tamil movie streaming site. It is legal to use , and you pay a monthly subscription. So can I stream movies from my browser to the TV using a Roku or Chromecast or Apple TV. I know chromecast was a clear winner in this because you can cast pretty much anything you see in your Chrome browser to the TV using the Chromecast. So just for this use case is it the only winner. For apple TV if you have an Apple device you can do Airdrop not from your Windows laptop like me. Given its closed solution to iOS and Mac, I am not getting into Apple solution only. I wanted a clear inter operable solution. Roku has a beta solution and that is when I felt Roku Stick is more than enough and returned my Chromecast device. Roku Screen Mirroring is your solution for that. This is pretty well explained in this Roku Forum page.

*Below text in blue is from Roku Forum Topic , I just copied here to get continuity as you read through this review. Those in black or my additions.

What is screen mirroring?Roku_ScreenMirroring_LOGO.jpgThe screen mirroring feature allows you to mirror your compatible mobile device's screen onto a larger TV screen wirelessly.  This feature is currently made available as a beta feature on select Roku players and devices in the US and UK.

What Roku player models are supported?The following Roku players and software versions currently have screen mirroring enabled:
  • Roku 3 Model 4200 (software v5.6 build 60)
  • Roku Streaming Stick HDMI Version Model 3500 (software v5.6 build 2047)
How do I get started?
  • Verify screen mirroring is enabled on your Roku player. Just go to Settings in your Roku, and check for Screen Mirring Option. Ensure it is enabled.Win8_AddDevices_Found.png
  • Then select your device (phone, tablet, PC) platform. Your device must support screen mirroring . Windows  / Windows phone Rocks here, ( Android also allows this), you just need to project your screen to this Roku device. Ensure both your laptop and Roku are connected to the same WiFi. How you project your screen in windows just in a similar way you can project. Before that go to devices and add Roku to that display device.
  • Once you have projected your screen to Roku – either by duplicating your screen or extending your screen you can play any content from your latop or streaming content from your browser.
  • So watch any movies from your laptop without carrying some HDMI cables around your house with a sleek solution like Roku
So I think the above use case would have covered an important scenario for you as well, like
  • Can I stream web videos from my laptop using Roku?
  • Can I screen cast videos from my browser to Roku?
  • Can I or mirror my screen from my laptop to Roku?
For all the above questions use the Roku screen mirroring option that comes with Roku Stick or Roku 3 only at this point. So just this canceled the biggest plus I had with Chromecast.

Update (7/21/2015): When I wrote this post Tentkotta did not have an app in Roku store. But they have an official Tentkotta app  in the store which you can install in your roku. The latest subscription is 7.99 / month or 74.99/ year for watching new Indian Regional movies from Kollywood, Tollywood or Bollywood. The movie does not come in the site immediately when the movie is released in India. (Come on guys its better than Netflix service , where most of the movies were released few years back. Atleast in Tentkotta they are trying to release it within a couple of months:)

4. Can I play streamed music using these devices?

Yes, using Pairing of YouTube Account and Send to TV option. Another important use case for me. I use TV like a music player to play some interesting music from streaming service like YouTube or Spotify etc. Chromecast is a companion device for YouTube. But Roku also has a YouTube app which came out recently which needs a lot of overhaul. If I wanted to play youtube mostly I used the screencast option for android and played it from my tablet. Searching from YouTube using the remote typing every letter is painful. This may look like a minus for Roku but you can use your Roku similar to the way you would have screened videos from youtube using a Chromecast. All you have to do is Pair your YouTube account with Roku.

  • Go to the Roku YouTube app on your TV
  • Under “Settings” find the “Pair Device” option.
  • Enter the pairing code shown on the TV into the box below.
  • Click the icon to select the display on which your video will play.
Spotify in Roku works well with playlist and your account if you have a premium account.
Last about Discovery Roku search is able to search content, apps and everything across one single search box and I don't need to search for a movie in every apps. This is such a big time saver. A cross app search is another killer to discover content / apps.
So with the above 4 major use cases, for any Desi guys Roku HDMI stick (Cheaper option) or Roku 3 is the best Streaming device to watch your TV and you would not need any cable connection and pretty much manage with your a high speed internet connection to watch good content.  To summarize Roku is a value for money option!

Disclaimer: I am not getting paid for writing about Roku/ Chromecast/ Tentkotta etc. This is just a review based on my personal use of each of these devices and apps. I like to share the learning with others, and that is what I do in this blog. If you like this article / have any questions / feedback to stop / write more please leave your comments below. 

45 comments:

  1. Very informative. How do I watch tamil movies on Einthusan or similar on my Roku 3 ? Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Rajiv - Thank you very much.

      Currently Einthusan app is only available in Android Play store. But you can use Tentkotta.com App from Roku store. Tentkotta has a very nominal monthly subscription of 7.99 USD per month. They keep releasing new movies pretty much at the same rate as Einthusan and also you would be helping fight against piracy by using Tentkotta :)

      But if you still want to use Einthusan , you can use it in your windows Laptop ( Windows 8 or above only) to use the Screen Mirroring feature mentioned above in the post to stream your movies. But give Tentkotta app a try and you may like that experience more.

      Delete
  2. Will definitely try out Tentkotta. I'm in the process of " cutting the cord " and am exploring all avenues ! I'm assuming I can Screen Mirror my apple devices as well ?!
    Thank you very much for responding. It is very helpful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Rajiv,

      Unfortunately iOS screen mirroring is currently an option only available with Apple TV and that is one of the problems with iOS / Mac OS. The latest update from Roku was in 2014. You can check their 2014 Blog post here : https://blog.roku.com/blog/2014/10/02/introducing-roku-screen-mirroring-beta-for-microsoft-windows-and-android-devices/

      At this point they are offering this Screen mirroring feature ( which is still in Beta as per my Roku device) is offered for Windows & Android only.

      So if you are clearly for Chord Cutting try Tentkotta app : http://www.rokuguide.com/private-channels/tentkotta

      Else you could try mirroring from Android / Windows Devices.

      Thanks

      Delete
  3. For watching Indian live TV channels on Roku then https://rokuindia.com is the best for me, i hope this help someone who is searching for Indian channels in Roku.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Gokul, Who runs this Rokuindia site? I could not find any proper reviews everywhere, and does not look like a trusted site. I could not find any Roku chanel they are mentioning as well. This seems like a scam, especially with their 1 Dollar charge. Can you provide more details on this - on who runs this and how they are providing this service for 1 usd etc.

      Thanks, Hari

      Delete
    2. They are not a scam! They charge $1 for the first month and $4.99 after 1 month.
      And I'm not sure who runs, anyways I'm a happy customer.

      Delete
    3. Hi Gokul, Thanks for sharing. Are there any reviews we can find about Roku india other than the two posted on the site? Who runs this Roku india service? Which company owns this.

      Thanks, Hari

      Delete
    4. Hi,
      I'm an existing member in your website. Since I purchased your Roku subscription, most of the channels are not working. I see that the working channels are taken from http://www.yupptv.com as the working channels contains Yupptv logo. I see that your service is illegal. I have sent so many email to your customer service from last 1 week and none of them have been replied. I paid for the service that should refund my money if the service isn't working. Ignoring my message doesn't mean that I will not get my money back from you. I will go ahead and create dispute with my credit card company if I don't hear back from you in 2 days. I will also file a petition for your fraudulent activity & I will report this to Yupptv as well.

      Anil

      Delete
    5. Hi Anil,
      I am not the service provider of Roku India. But I am in touch with Roku India folks which introduced by one of the readers of my blog who dropped a comment above - Gokul. Currently only there is an ad placed for Roku India in my blog. Roku India is still in its initial phase which is based in Alberta, Canada. This is started by a group of folks from India, specifically from Kerala. This is not yet a huge company like sling international or Yupp. Hence the reliability of service is understandably not 100%, I see sometimes you get message like service not available at this time etc.
      After your comment I reached out Roku India folks about yupp tv which I as well notice this week. I also raised your concern regarding the refund. Below is the reply I received from Roku India.

      "We are authorized resellers for yupptv, and we use to get many emails per day for support.
      If you can give the details regarding the user who mentioned about us then do let us know. We don't have any issues regarding refunding his payment"

      Since you have left the comment as anonymous, I am not able to provide you user details. But I would encourage you to reach out to indiaroku@gmail.com . They responded back to me within a day.

      Hope this helps in your situation to get your refund. Let me know what more I can help.

      Thanks, Hari

      Delete
  4. Hi guys, with one subscription to Sling Tv (with Tamil package) can I watch 3 different channels in 3 different Tv's within the same network (with Roku dongles in each respective Tv)?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Vasu, I have not tried this in the same IP with two Roku's - But I did try with two Roku's across two different houses(i.e. different IP address). Sling did not allow to simultaneously play in different Roku's , it mentioned that there is already active in some other location and made me deactivate the other to play in the current roku box.

    Since you asked this question, I checked Sling FAQs - here is the fine print on streaming on multiple devices :
    There are no limits to the number of devices you stream on with Sling TV. Download the Sling TV app on all of your devices that we support. While you are able to stream on all these devices, you may only stream Sling TV on one device at a time. When you add HBO® to your subscription you can stream HBO® content on 3 devices simultaneously.

    But for all our Sling International customers have the option to stream international content on up to three devices at a time at an additional cost.

    I tried searching for what is that additional cost, but could not find in their FAQs or any where in the package. So may be you can check with their customer care to see what is that additional cost for streaming in multiple devices.

    Thanks,
    Hari

    ReplyDelete
  6. You didnt review Amazon Fire at all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Anonymous - reader thanks for spending time to read and sharing your comments. I will add a section of my review of Amazon fire as well which I tried during this period.

      Thanks, Hari

      Delete
  7. hi i plan buy TentKotta its best roku or chromecast
    i from malaysia they told me not supported my country
    i know netflix can bypass worked for me

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Gopala ,

      Tentkotta has a an app in Roku private store. But chromecast is streaming your chrome browser. So if you have subscription for tentkotta website, you can use it through Roku app store or play the movie in chrome browser and stream it to chromecast. I did not want to have the dependency of a latop or tablet additionally to the tv/ streaming stick. Hence I moved away from Chromecast and works best in Roku.

      Thanks
      Hari


      Delete
    2. Hi Gopala Also there is one other competitor app for Tentkotta : HeroTalkies https://www.herotalkies.com/. Give that also a try using their free trial.

      Thanks
      Hari

      Delete
    3. what different Tentkotta vs HeroTalkies
      netflix bypass for use vpn

      so tentkotta can use vpn to bypass ????

      Delete
    4. Hi Gopala,

      Atleast it took some time for Netflix to block bypassing using VPN. I see still they are not able to completely block the usage.

      So my assumption is Tentkotta / Herotalkies (both are tamil movie streaming apps/website) similar to Netflix for hollywood would not have built a way to completely block bypassing through VPN. so give a free trial from herotalkies and try using VPN. Let me know how your experience was.

      Thanks,
      Hari

      Delete
    5. i know i have vpn no problem netflix is english movies can watch without problem

      now i asking about what different Tentkotta vs HeroTalkies

      about tamil movies and quality

      like ever new movies release fast for Tentkotta then HeroTalkies
      that mean few days delay HeroTalkies

      Delete
    6. Tentkotta and HeroTalkies both have similar streaming and video quality. Even their monthly subscription rate is same at 7.99usd per month. The new movie release is almost the same again, probably the difference you would see is their old movie collection which is different and not actually a comparable parameter - since both are ramping up on this front.

      Tentkotta does not give free trial, but Herotalkies give for 3 days. Thats is my personal review and I am tentkotta user.

      Thanks,
      Hari

      Delete
    7. u from usa or india

      i dont watch old movies
      free trial 3days why need fill credit card for HeroTalkies
      they wont accept paypal ?

      u still using both HeroTalkies and tentkotta

      Delete
    8. Hi Gopala, I am living in USA. For the trial usually most of the service providers ask for Credit card details including netflix, and enable auto renewal at the end of the trial period if you don't cancel the subscription. This is how even Amazon prime is sold, since most customers forget to remove the credit card details. So by the 3rd day if you cancel subscription you would not be charged, else you would be charged for a month on the 4th day and they would not refund the one month fee once charged since this is a subscription fee.

      About payment types, not sure why they have not accepted paypal.

      Thanks, Hari

      Delete
    9. i got trial 3 days for HeroTalkies tested without vpn
      still can play movies i from malaysia works my ip real now i already canceled
      i dont like HeroTalkies because some movie missing
      but found tentkotta seen i like tentkotta

      i did contact email tentkotta always no response why

      Delete
    10. Hi Gopala,

      Tentkotta is aggressively ramping up their database by including a lot of the tamil movies. So probably you would find more movies in Tentkotta. I am not sure of Tentkotta customer service, I have not contacted before.
      Thanks,
      Hari

      Delete
  8. Hi Hari,

    IF I buy Roku Stick , can I stream movies from Tentkotta without Laptop or tablet?

    Please advise.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi ,

      Yes. if you buy Roku stick you can watch movies without any laptop using the tentkotta app in Roku private store. I am using the Roku stick currently and using tentkotta subscription.

      Thanks
      Hari

      Delete
  9. Hi Hari,

    I am looking to go ahead with Roku but of course i have few doubts. Does Roku provide all indian channels? Movies, daily soap channels? Music channels? Sports channels? Thanks in advance...

    Sadique

    ReplyDelete
  10. I am looking to go ahead with Roku but of course i have few doubts. Does Roku provide all indian channels? Movies, daily soap channels? Music channels? Sports channels? Thanks in advance...

    Sadique

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Roku has some Channels which provide Indian channels. But you would need to pay for those channel subscription. Sling International was one of the best service
      Check here : https://www.sling.com/international

      This subscription is not part of Roku, but you would need to pay separately to Sling international. But they provide all the Indian channels for all languages includes soaps and movies depending on the package you choose. I had Tamil package which included all tamil channels - with live (UK Time) and some recorded versions as well.

      Thanks, Hari

      Delete
    2. Thanks for the reply mate! Unfortunately Sling international is banned in UAE, i still have to try opening the site via VPN though...will keep you updated...

      Thanks!

      Delete
    3. Hi Sadiqueali,

      I am not aware of UAE situation. Do share your experience once you figure out.

      Thanks, Hari

      Delete
  11. Hi, thanks for the informative post. I recently cut the cord on cable and bought a Channel master DVR for my OTA channels. Great product and will pay for itself within a year compared to my cable bill.
    One thing that's great is it's able to connect to the Internet via Ethernet cable and has the ability to pull up Slingtv from the channel guide. So no more Slingtv streaming issues for me.
    I do still use my Roku for Netflix and cross channel searching and tons more content but wanted to let you know if you're in the US.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Nid - Thanks for sharing your input, the channel master DVR, but even the base version is around 200+ USD I guess? I was primarily going for ROKU as it was really a cheaper alternative available.

      What was the total cost in getting the DVR?

      Thanks, Hari

      Delete
    2. Yes, the total cost of the DVR plus separate antenna came out to about $340 for me. But I was paying $50/month after downgrading my cable to the basic channels for the same functionality. So now I have the same HD channels off my antenna and a way to record them for a fixed cost. You do also need an external hard drive but I had a spare and those are pretty cheap these days.

      I agree the Roku is the most cost effective option with the most content and I think there's a model available with an Ethernet port but for my DVR needs the Channel master works wonderfully.

      Delete
  12. I Feel that we have to add the YuppTV as the another option, actually as i am using this service which is providing the best services in the market for Telugu TV Channels

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agreed, I am planning to write a seperate article again with YuppTV exploring YuppFlix. Yupp TV has also improved their device availability, earlier they were not on Roku, but now they have made their way into almost every streaming device and also their own Yupp Streaming player. So I will write about it soon.

      Thanks Hari

      Delete
  13. Replies
    1. I am not aware of Russian channels and do not understand preferences among them. So I don't think I can write about it.

      Regards
      Hari

      Delete
  14. I have difficulty watching einthusan videos straight on my Samsung Smart TV. Something to do with flash videos no longer being supported by Adobe, apparently. Do you know of any solutions to this? I don't have a fast enough laptop to connect to the tv (must need a lot of RAM or something). On a separate note, is einthusan not 'legal'?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi,

      Einthusan first of all is not a Legal site. But movie streaming providers like HeroTalkies or Tentokotta are providing legal content. You may want to check those options , but currently both provide mostly Tamil movies, and some Telugu movie content as well.

      Regarding Einthusan apps they have not been maitaning their apps and have put a notice in most of their apps. Even their android app ( which cannot be downloaded from playstore, but directly from their site) are not supported and working any more. So the only option you got now is to open in a browser in your laptop and cast the movies through either Roku/chromecast or through a HDMI chord.

      Thanks, Hari

      Delete
    2. Hi,

      Are you sure that einthusan isn't legal? At least, according to their ToS (http://www.einthusan.com/terms/, see Section 3 content and ownership subsections), the content/services on einthusan seems to be owned by einthusan and is available for personal (non-commercial) use. What am I missing here?

      Delete
  15. 25 USD per month means around 2000 rupees? Well it is 10 times costlier than the conventional Dish TV in India which subscribes @200 Rs/month.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We can't calculate cost by just converting the currency. 25 USD per month is nominal price in US for most of the service like - internet , mobile connection etc.

      Delete
  16. An alternate solution for Indians living abroad is ReTV. Its currently available only in India, but will be going international in a few months. its similar to a Roku, but its designed for Indians & indian content. you can check it out on their site www.retv.in

    ReplyDelete

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