Thanks to the meteoric rise of Netflix in Australia (as well as competitor Stan which is just shy of a million customers), there’s an ever-growing range of compact little streaming devices vying for your attention. While the modern “smart” TV usually comes bundled with all the features and apps needed to stream from these and other services easily enough, there’s very much a place for the stand-alone streaming device. For example, you might want to get aboard the streaming train without having to fork out for a new TV – or alternatively, you might want a box that does more than just the basic streaming tasks, something you can plug into HDMI1 and use as your new interface for free to air TV, streaming, movie rentals and more.
The Telstra TV 2 box (released last year) and the Fetch TV Mini (a relative veteran from 2016) sit at a similar price point, and in many ways offer similar streaming functionality. Both contain free-to-air TV tuners to allow you to seamlessly switch between broadcasts and streaming without having to change inputs on your TV. Both offer the ability to subscribe to paid streaming TV channels, as well as rent movies, though they do so in very different ways. And both, of course, have apps for the on-demand streaming essentials ready to go.
So which one is the best fit for your streaming needs? Let’s take a quick look at the features of each box and weigh in the pros and cons.
Telstra TV 2
Selling for a fairly chunky $192, you can get the Telstra TV 2 for free if you’re willing to sign up for one of the Telstra Broadband bundles that’s already included. And in line with the Telstra-centric theme, all you’ll need is a Telstra account to start using it. But don’t be fooled by what’s written on the box, as any Telstra account will work just fine (in other words, you can grab a $2 prepaid SIM card, register it and use that account to activate the box).
Like its predecessor, the updated Telstra TV is based on hardware made by US streaming specialist Roku. The only difference is that this has been heavily customised for Australia. The selection of apps in its “app store” are heavily curated – you can’t install just anything – and the essentials come pre-installed (except reality streaming service Hayu or documentary service DocPlay, which you’ll need to install manually).
There’s also a free to air tuner built in and although it’s a little slow at changing channels, it does the job. The neat part is the way free-to-air is integrated into the interface with recommendations on what to watch, sharing space with those for Netflix, Foxtel Now and so on.
Streaming pay TV is an easy task on this box, thanks to the pre-installed Foxtel Now app. Just sign up on the website, pick your packages and you’re good to go. Movie rentals and purchases, meanwhile, can be done from the Bigpond Movies app.
A key technical advantage of the new model is its support for both 4K and HDR. In order to take advantage of these, you’ll need to change to Netflix and Stan’s premium plans and have broadband fast enough to handle it. Alternatively, you can play back 4K video files from a USB stick with the excellent video player app, which will play anything you care to throw at it.
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Fetch TV Mini
Fetch TV’s redesigned boxes have been a huge hit with customers and this tiny little sibling of the full-fat Mighty box shows why. Designed entirely for streaming – unlike its big brother — the Fetch TV Mini has no hard disk and can’t record shows. The Mini sells for $169 at retail, if you want to buy one outright. Most, though, will be happy to get one with a broadband plan; it’s $5 per month with iiNet, Internode or an Optus postpaid mobile account, and $10/month with iPrimus and Dodo. While you rent the box rather than own it, you do get the “Movie Box” – 30 free movies every month – included. Retail customers need to pay $1 per month to access that package on top of a $1 activation fee.
Free to air TV is fully supported via an antenna connection as well as catch-up apps, and integrated seamlessly into the electronic program guide alongside the various Fetch channels. The Fetch TV service is kind of like a streaming-only alternative to Foxtel, where you get a basic set of channels included, and then pay for packs of premium channels as you need them.
Naturally, apps are provided for the essentials – Netflix, Stan, YouTube and Hayu – and rental of both TV shows and movies (and purchase of movies) can be done right on the box. There’s also pay-per-view UFC streaming available and if you get the Mini as an Optus mobile customer, you can also stream their Optus Sport service for English Premier League action.
Unlike the Telstra TV 2, the Fetch Mini tops out at 1080p HD – that won’t be a big deal to most people, but if it’s 4K streaming you’re looking for, you’ll need the $399 Mighty box (or the Telstra TV 2!). One other thing worth mentioning is the Fetch TV’s remote control – it’s superb, and far more versatile than the Telstra TV’s.
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Offering very similar feature sets in very different ways, both the Telstra TV and Fetch TV streaming boxes make great additions to your living room, where they can act as a tiny little entertainment hub. Which one you pick will ultimately depend on two things – access to content and technical features.
If you want 4K HDR streaming, the Telstra TV is the one to pick – and it’s also your go-to if your pay TV of choice is Foxtel because that’s the only place you’re going to find this year’s footy, rugby and Formula One action! The Fetch Mini, on the other hand, has a far nicer on-screen interface. It also offers streaming pay TV at an even lower cost than Foxtel Now, gives you a bunch of free movies every month and has exclusive access to UFC and EPL.
Whichever one you pick, you’re going to be well equipped for everything the streaming world has to offer.