Streaming has become the way many of us watch TV by default these days – which comes as no surprise considering how easy, affordable and versatile it is. Instead of having to watch TV on someone else’s schedule – and having to remember to set a recording if you can’t watch at the time – streaming services let you choose the time and place that you want to view your favourite content. Whether that means big blockbuster movies, binge-watching TV shows or the excitement of competitive sports.
Streaming with PC’s and Gaming Consoles
Of course, one big attraction for many people is the price; streaming services ask way less of your wallet than traditional forms of pay TV. There are no contracts to worry about. You can share your account with family members or friends, letting them all watching different things at the same time. Plus the ability to pick the picture quality you’re willing to pay for.
There’s no need for custom hardware like a satellite dish or proprietary set-top box, either, as streaming services work with a massive range of devices, from phones to laptops to smart TVs. If you’re want to stream at home and need to know how best to get those movies, shows and matches onto your TV, you may already have the solution sitting right under your nose. Already plugged in and ready to roll – your game console!
Devices Designed for Streaming
It might sound weird, using a device designed for playing games as a streaming solution. The current generation of consoles were all designed very much with streaming video in mind – indeed, the Xbox One at launch was advertised more as a TV-ready entertainment device than as a gaming machine (though Microsoft has since pivoted the console firmly towards gaming). Even the most affordable of the current generation of consoles supports high definition video (“full HD”). While some, like the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X and S models, also offers the ability to stream in 4K Ultra HD. These devices aren’t messing around – they’re adequately equipped for high-quality video.
So let’s take a look at the four major platforms – Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and, just to be fair, the laptop or desktop computer. You’ll probably have access to at least one of these at home – so how can you put them to work streaming your TV, movies and sports without having to fork out for a secondary device?
Last audited 14 September 2020
Playstation 4 – Organised Streaming
Easily the dominant game console of this generation – its global sales reached an astonishing 100 million – Sony’s Playstation 4 went all-in with the goal of being a game console first and foremost. Their approach, along with a whole bunch of acclaimed game titles exclusive to the platform, has put it firmly in the number one spot. But Sony has a long history in video and TV, and its earlier consoles blurred the lines between gaming and video more and more. So it’s not at all surprising to see extensive support for streaming services of all kinds on the Playstation 4.
While it’s always been possible to download and use streaming apps on the PS4, an update a couple of years ago streamlined the whole process. The console now has a dedicated “TV” menu item that sits amongst your installed games, and when you select it, you get a custom interface that brings together all the streaming apps you have installed. This page also gives you direct access to download and install the apps you don’t have. Almost all the major players are here – Netflix, Stan, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube (which you can also use to stream your Google Play movie rentals and purchases).
Streaming Sports on the PS4
The PS4 is also the only game console that has a full Foxtel Now app, meaning you can stream all your subscribed Foxtel Now channels in full HD right there on the console. And that, of course, means sports – making the PS4 the king of consoles if streaming live and on-demand sports is your goal. Plus, you can look forward to the acclaimed sports streaming service Kayo launching a Playstation 4 app later in 2019. Combined with the raw graphics power of the PS4, that should make for a top tier Kayo experience.
Alongside the heavy hitters, plenty of well-liked services have PS4 apps – 7Plus, 9Now and the ABC iView for free to air, Twitch for game streaming, and less-known services like Mubi, Crunchyroll, AnimeLab and Red Bull TV.
All these are laid out as selectable icons at the top of a screen that’s continuously updated with streaming highlights from all the major players – and the latest titles in the Playstation Store, where you can rent movies and buy movies and TV to keep, all in HD.
Xbox One – Gaming First
It’s probably got a lot to do with Microsoft still feeling the pain of the Xbox One’s launch, where it was positioned more as an entertainment device rather than as a game console, much to the horror of the millions who made the earlier Xbox 360 the biggest console on the planet. Their emphasis on entertainment was quickly dialled back, and today, the Xbox One is certainly a pioneer in the way games are delivered, including via subscription services that act as a “Netflix for games”.
But what about streaming video? Well, the Xbox One is a perfectly capable piece of hardware, with even its low-cost Xbox One S model (around $299) supporting both 4K video streaming and 4K Ultra HD discs. But if you want to get streaming on your Xbox One, you’re going to have to do the legwork yourself.
A Disorganised App Store
The various streaming apps available for Xbox One can be found in the Microsoft Store on the console. Unfortunately. they’re scattered around a general category named “Apps”. That means a whole lot of searching and paging through screens to see what’s on offer, but if you check out the top apps list, you’ll quickly find the essentials – Netflix, Stan, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube. By the time you encounter TenPlay or ABC iView, though, you’re deep in the weeds of a catalogue of apps you’ve never heard of, alongside ones you might want – Twitch, AnimeLab, Crunchyroll and so on. As you install apps, they’re not automatically added to the on-screen menus – you have to do that manually. It’s not hard to do, and you can organise everything into discreet groups, but it’s undeniably a hassle.
While the Xbox One does offer an app to stream Foxtel Now with, unlike the PS4, its app was never updated from the original Foxtel Play effort. It still works, so if you’ve got a Foxtel Now subscription and have no other way to watch on the big screen, that’ll do it in a pinch. Unfortunately, because it is an outdated app it only supports standard definition streams. Even more bad news though, Kayo’s roadmap seems to have removed mention of the Xbox One in the list of upcoming devices. Giving another point to Playstation.
It’s a great machine overall, but much more for gaming than streaming. We wouldn’t recommend you pick one of these up specifically for streaming, but if you’ve already got one you can cover the major streaming services reasonably well. One unique bonus is the console’s support for Dolby Atmos audio, which works great with Netflix – though you’ll need to pay around $25 for the Dolby Atmos app to do so.
Nintendo Switch – Streaming? What Streaming?
Easily the best handheld gaming device ever to come to market, the Nintendo Switch is an intelligently designed masterpiece that can be used from its TV-connected dock or used on the go as a handheld device. It’s terrific for those who like to take their gaming with them on the train to work, on holidays or anywhere else. And with a crisp 720p screen on the handheld device including full HD support from the dock, you’d think it’d be the perfect candidate for streaming, right?
Wrong. The Nintendo Switch is the only devices on the planet that doesn’t support Netflix – or anything else for that matter.
There’s been discussion surrounding Netflix and others coming to the Switch – Nintendo’s previous console, the Wii U, had support for Netflix and other apps, but that support was mysteriously removed a while ago. The Switch would make for a wonderful mobile video-watching device, too, were it not for one small problem – its battery life is woefully short. You’d be lucky to make it through a movie on a full battery charge, and perhaps that’s why support is lacking. But having the apps there for use when docked would be nice. We can only hope that eventually, Netflix and others will make their way to the console.
Until then, there’s one small consolation – the YouTube app has been released for the device. While it’s a poor substitute for full streaming services, you can stream Google Play content that you own or rent via the YouTube app, making it at least a partial streaming solution for movies and TV. For sports, however, you’re out of luck – unless your sport of choice is Mario Kart. Just watch out for the blue shell.
The PC – Stream Everything!
Of course, the humble Windows or Mac computer is perhaps the ultimate streaming device, simply because you’ll find support for almost every streaming service, either via a modern web browser such as Google Chrome or via native apps available from the Microsoft Store. However, it should be noted these apps are tailored more towards touch-screen tablet PCs, despite functioning fine on a regular computer. Plus, since video playback is handled by special video chips on modern graphics cards, it’s always smooth and seamless.
In almost all cases, you simply head to the streaming service website of choice, sign in and start streaming. You can easily pop the video into full-screen if you like or with some apps, use picture in picture functions for multitasking. If you want to relax and stream on your TV, that’s no problem either – just grab an HDMI cable and run it from the HDMI output on your PC to a spare input on your TV. Then use the “Project” option in Windows 10 to send the video directly to your big-screen display. It can take a bit of getting used to, but it works great. Plus you can always stream video to a Google Chromecast or an Apple TV using AirPlay, though that kinda defeats the purpose of using a computer for streaming.
Using Web Browser Features
Another advantage of using a computer is especially noticeable for sports fans. Kayo Sports, of course, is fully supported via web browsers, where it gets all of its most advanced features such as four-stream Split Screen. And Foxtel Now recently streamlined its web interface as well, making it a superb way to browse and watch not just sports, but also movies and TV with your Foxtel Now subscription.
It might not seem like the obvious choice, but don’t write off the PC when it comes to streaming. If nothing else, it can step in where other devices cannot – and if it’s a laptop, it can go with you on holidays, too!
Summary: More than Just A Gaming Console
We’re all in favour of the brilliant, dedicated streaming devices that are around these days – Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Telstra TV, and so on. But if you’re not prepared to go out and spend money on one of those, you’ve still got streaming options thanks to game consoles and the trusty PC. That’s the best thing about streaming – it works everywhere, on almost everything, so you get to watch what you want no matter where you are. No wonder it’s got TV networks feeling nervous!