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The best streaming boxes and sticks you can buy


If you're in the market for a new streaming device, chances are you want to improve your home entertainment experience. Maybe you've been relying on your phone or tablet for binge-watch sessions, or perhaps your TV's built-in operating system just isn't cutting it anymore. Streaming dongles and set-top boxes are ubiquitous at this point, but sussing out the differences between them can be challenging. Plus, they're not the only gadgets that can deliver your latest Netflix obsession to your TV screen. Let us break down all of the streaming device options you have today and give you our picks for the best you can buy.

Which streaming stick? Chromecast and Fire Stick compared, as Apple casts a long shadow


Last week, in two separate events, Amazon and Google announced their competing video content streaming devices, the Fire TV Stick and the Chromecast with Google TV. In a previous post, I discussed the implications of Google's most recent product announcements and how developments in the content streaming industry could lead to a new streaming war between it and Amazon, Apple, and other content owners, such as AT&T with its HBO Max service and Apple's TV Plus service. With last week's announcements, I decided to buy both a new Fire Stick and Chromecast and see how the two experiences compared. These products have a similar design and target audience, and they're made to be minimally invasive and easy to set up. Both are "dongles" that plug directly into the television using a quick-disconnect HDMI interface powered by USB cables and small AC adapter blocks if needed.

The Morning After: Netflix queues up some free samples


What do you really need from an alarm clock? Smart displays can be a little extreme to sit by your bedside, but having something that syncs nicely with your phone doesn't hurt. Now Lenovo has followed last year's Google Assistant-connected Smart Clock with this few-frills Smart Clock Essential. As Cherlynn Low points out, its four-inch display doesn't just tell the time, it also shows the current weather and temperature, along with your alarms and other status indicators. Of course, it has microphones for "OK, Google" voice commands, and a three-watt speaker to make sure Mat's voice comes through clearly every morning.