Readers’ Choice Awards 2015: Blu-ray Players, Gaming Consoles, and Streaming Media Hubs

It’s a streaming media world. But which products provide the best experience and provide the best service?

Readers Choice: Streaming - Sony Playstation 4

If you’re just using your television to watch cable TV programs, you’re missing out on a lot, even if you’re paying for premium channels. Whether you like to just lie back and watch interesting content or you’re looking for a more immersive experience, there are easy ways to enhance the capabilities of your TV beyond what your cable box provides. In the latest PCMag Readers’ Choice Survey, we asked you about various entertainment devices that you plug into your TV to get more out of it: Streaming media hubs and receivers, Blu-ray disc players, and gaming consoles.

The term streaming media hubs and receivers may not be very sexy, but it’s a hot category that’s rapidly growing, populated by products that have become household names including Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Google Chromecast. For a small investment—starting at about $35—you can add a streaming media hub to your home entertainment systems and easily stream Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and several other content providers to your big screen. In addition, with some streaming media hubs, nearly any video that you can view on your smartphone, tablet, or computer can also be viewed on your television. The streaming media hub market is very active right now heading into the holiday season. In recent days, Amazon, Apple, Google, and Roku have all announced new versions of their products; all promise improved resolution and additional functionality.

The Blu-ray disc player category, meanwhile, may be the least sexy technology in this month’s survey—you pop in a disc and you watch your TV show or movie. However, Blu-ray disc players still provide the best audio and video experience. While the content on Blu-ray discs is compressed, it’s not compressed nearly as much as downloaded or streamed Internet-based video such as that on iTunes or Netflix. Even at the same resolution, the least compressed content should always look the best. Many Blu-ray disc players can also be used as streaming media hubs. In general, if you’re looking for the capabilities of a streaming media hub, you’ll get the best experience from a dedicated device, but if you have a streaming-capable Blu-ray player, check out what it can do first.

If you have a modern gaming console, you should definitely examine its capabilities beyond gaming before you consider either of the aforementioned product categories. Sony and Microsoft’s gaming consoles can be used as Blu-ray disc players. In addition, these consoles, as well as Nintendo’s Wii U, can stream Internet video. Many respondents have found their gaming console to provide a great all-in-one experience.

With the holidays fast approaching, there’s a good chance you’re thinking about upgrading or expanding your home entertainment system. Read on to see which companies’ devices have been providing PCMag readers with the most satisfying experiences.

The PCMag Readers’ Choice survey for Blu-ray Players, Gaming Consoles, and Streaming Media Hubs was in the field from September 14, 2015 through October 5, 2015. For more information on how the survey is conducted, read the survey methodology.

Each person who completed the survey was entered into a drawing to win a $350 Amazon gift card.

You can win, too! Want to participate in future survey sweepstakes? Sign up for the Readers’ Choice survey email list to receive invitations.

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