Best device for streaming from your computer to tv in [2021]?
December 31, 2020 8:15 PM   Subscribe

What device do I need to stream media from my computer to my tv? Until yesterday, I used a 3rd Gen. Apple TV with iTunes for this. However, I accidentally reset my modem and router yesterday and, well, it's refusing to connect to the internet and I'm wondering if it might be time to move on from this nearly-ancient device! More details about my "requirements" inside.

Okay, so my dad was a big data hoarder and I haven't had the heart to get rid of a lot of the stuff he downloaded. I watch his collection pretty regularly. He used an AppleTV set up with iTunes and his collection was there. Via home sharing with iTunes, the items are accessible on the AppleTV.

All these items are stored on a QNAP NAS. So, I drag the file that's stored on the QNAP NAS into iTunes, etc. All of the files are .m4vs, so I'm not sure if that would affect the device or not.

I guess it was just easy for me to keep doing what he had done after he passed away. But now that I can't get the damn thing to work, what should I replace it with? I don't have a preference for AppleTV. I do have an iPhone, so it's convenient when working, but it doesn't matter to me. I just kept using the AppleTV because it was what he had.

Is there another device that can do this for me in 2021? What should I be looking at? I guess my only concern is that it can't be too complicated! (I mean, I suddenly can't get an AppleTV connected to the internet! The situation seems bad!). It would be nice if the device could be connected to the internet via an ethernet vs wi-fi, due to the streaming. (I think? Unless this is just something I got used to because of the AppleTV).

I guess I'm so used to the ways of the AppleTV and iTunes that I would like it if the device came with had a set up, but I'm not sure what exists. I like having a separate library for the items to appear in (like iTunes).

I don't particularly care if the device has streaming services on it, I mostly use a FireStick for streaming services.

I don't really know what exists! What would be a worthy replacement for my AppleTV?
posted by VirginiaPlain to Technology (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh forgot to add, my main computer uses Windows 10, if that makes a difference.
posted by VirginiaPlain at 8:20 PM on December 31, 2020

The Apple TV 4K is a really nice device, and would be a low-effort drop-in. Is there a good reason you don't want to stick in the Apple ecosystem for media?
posted by doomsey at 9:27 PM on December 31, 2020

Response by poster: Good question, this might be overdramatic... but because I can't get my current AppleTV 3rd Gen. to connect, I'm afraid that I won't be able to get a NEW AppleTV to connect!! (I just cannot figure out why it won't connect via wi-fi or ethernet, but that's another question!)
posted by VirginiaPlain at 9:35 PM on December 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

If the ATV is using a wired connection, that is very odd. Try unplugging and replugging both ends. It does occasionally happen that they work loose enough to light up the link light but not actually transfer data.

If what you have meets your present needs, there isn't much point in replacing it. If you do want something different, I really enjoy the Nvidia Shield TV. Nvidia has been great about updates for many years and seems to be intent on continuing that. You can mount Windows file shares directly from the device settings and use VLC to play anything on that share or you can use Plex. While the SATV can act as a Plex server for other clients, in your case you'd probably want to install the server on your NAS and use the built in client app that ships with the Shield TV. I believe there is a Plex client app for Apple devices, too. I don't personally use it, but many people do.
posted by wierdo at 10:14 PM on December 31, 2020

I think there's a good chance that there is nothing wrong with what you have, just that something somewhere is confused.

This isn't a problem that is going to be easy to diagnose over the internet because it depends on, among other things, knowing the behaviours of your AppleTV, what 'resetting' your router means, and what your router even is, but can you find hands-on tech support locally? Given the price of a new device this may be cost effective.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 10:15 PM on December 31, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: To be honest, I'm not sure if there's a singular thing I did to cause the current issues I'm having with my AppleTV. A few things happened yesterday that probably weren't good for it, such as: kicking it on the floor while cleaning, had a ton of issues with my modem and router last night, one of the router antenna fell off (probably knocked it off while I was vacuuming under my computer desk!), so there are a few things that could have contributed to this issue.

My wi-fi and network are back to normal now with every device I use except for the damn AppleTV!! Gah! I've spent most of my day trying to follow troubleshooting online, but none of it is specific enough. Just restart the AppleTV, restart the modem, restart the router, etc. ad nauseum. Which I'm doing but nothing is working!! It won't recognize the internet via wi-fi or ethernet, all I get is this message no matter what I do: "Your Apple TV is connected to your local network but cannot connect to the Internet." I just want to give up due to the frustration!

It seems like an embarrassingly small issue to get hands-on-tech support for, but perhaps it's something to look into!
posted by VirginiaPlain at 10:52 PM on December 31, 2020

Have you tried contacting Apple? Their customer support has been great for my Dad and honorary uncle when they needed it for things I couldn’t figure out from afar. Unlike some companies, Apple doesn’t have (that I know of) a requirement to already pay for potential support.
posted by icaicaer at 4:59 AM on January 1, 2021

Best answer: I was replacing a broke TV and my main concerns were cost and size, since the new one had to fit where the old one had been. Since the marketing for TVs now are all for the BIG ones--65 inches or more, the price of my little 24-inch new TV was modest. When I installed it, I discovered that it connected to WIFI and could take feed from my computer, my phone, almost all the pay services. Visio.
posted by tmdonahue at 5:14 AM on January 1, 2021

Don't overlook the possibility of a wired connection. Does the computer have an HDMI port?
posted by yclipse at 5:38 AM on January 1, 2021

VLC on the Apple TV seems like a good bet. However, it seems like you have internet issues to resolve before anything will work for you.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:20 AM on January 1, 2021

Response by poster: I don't mean to threadsit, but I don't see how the issue could be with my internet at this point. Literally every other device I have is able to connect to the internet without difficulty (either wi-fi or ethernet), except the AppleTV. I don't see how Apple can help aside from telling me to get a new device (it's almost 8 years old). Sorry, I really just want a fresh start with a new device!!
posted by VirginiaPlain at 8:56 AM on January 1, 2021

Since I already suggested an alternative, here's one last simple thing you can try: Disable IPv6 on the Apple TV or the router if the ATV doesn't have a setting for it.
posted by wierdo at 10:44 AM on January 1, 2021

Best answer: I've always used Plex to stream my own content to me and my own network. Works fine on own network.

Not sure if their app supports your old Apple TV device though. They said 4th gen Apple TV is best, but it MAY work on 3rd gen.
posted by kschang at 10:51 AM on January 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm not sure whether this will meet all of your requirements, but we just got the latest Google Chromecast ("with Google TV") and it's great.

Definitely worth looking into in case it can do what you need.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 11:04 PM on January 1, 2021

Best answer: I also have a huge media collection stored on a NAS, and what I use to put stuff on the TV is an Odroid N2 running CoreELEC. You'll want a case, a power supply, and possibly a wifi adapter and Ethernet and HDMI cables as well as the main board (scroll to the bottom of the N2 page for options). Pretty much any micro SD card with at least 8GB capacity will do for CoreELEC.

The actual media player software built into CoreELEC is Kodi, formerly known as XBMC, which has a well-deserved reputation for flexibility. There won't be anything in your Dad's collection it can't play.

Rolling your own media player this way might seem a little intimidating if you're more used to dealing with more polished commercial offerings, but if you can clip Lego bricks together you can assemble this board into its case, and CoreELEC on this hardware is as close to It Just Works as I've ever seen from a community-supported project. The huge upside of going this way is that the innards are pretty much completely open and non-proprietary which means that the large and enthusiastic online community that forms around every part of it can support itself, plus no creepy corporate activity tracking.

If you feel moved to, you can also run loads of stuff other than CoreELEC on these boards, up to and including a completely usable desktop computing experience.
posted by flabdablet at 6:10 AM on January 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

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