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Podcast HomeTheaterUnited Podcast Episode 14 - Todd Erwin on Streaming Frustrations (1 Viewer)

Sam Posten

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Episode 14 is up and should be available on Apple Podcasts and soon will be on Spotify. If you'd like to listen in via browser, it's embedded below:

Major thanks to HTF @Todd Erwin for joining us on short notice to go over his detailed research on the current state of streaming and where the ecosystem is frustrating and failing consumers. This is based on his exhaustive article found here:

With discussion here:

Let Him Go review:

I may destroy you:

The Expanse:

It: Chapter 2
 

Brian Dobbs

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htf.jpg
 

Todd Erwin

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The show was running long, so I think we kind of rushed through streaming devices at the end. Everyone should probably be aware that all three major device manufacturers' current device lineup (with a few exceptions) are getting a bit long in the tooth and are overdue for a refresh.

Apple: We did mention that the current Apple TV 4K (introduced in 2017) was essentially running on iPhone 7 hardware, and that rumors have been floating around for over a year of a new model in the works.

Roku: With the exception of the Ultra model (4800R) that debuted last November, the remaining lineup models are holdovers that are at least two years old. Roku's Premiere (3920R) is from 2018 and their Streaming Stick+ (3810R) is from 2017. Expect a nearly complete lineup refresh this fall.

Amazon: Amazon introduced two new HD models their popular streaming sticks late last year, adding HDR support (?) and a faster processor to both models. The current Fire TV Fire Stick 4K was released in 2018, and rumors have recently been floating of a newly designed remote that would include launch buttons for apps like Netflix and Prime Video, and likely updated hardware.
 

JohnRice

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Apple: We did mention that the current Apple TV 4K (introduced in 2017) was essentially running on iPhone 7 hardware, and that rumors have been floating around for over a year of a new model in the works.
That's frequently mentioned, but the ATV 4K runs flawlessly. Much better than any previous model did on the day it was released. So yeah, if you're wanting to buy one now, it's worth keeping in mind that a replacement could arrive any day, but it's also worth pointing out that it still is a great streamer.
 

Josh Steinberg

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I’ve been using the AppleTV 4K model since 2018 and while it’s technically no longer a new-to-market product, I can’t imagine what I’d want it to do that it doesn’t already do.
 

Todd Erwin

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I’ve been using the AppleTV 4K model since 2018 and while it’s technically no longer a new-to-market product, I can’t imagine what I’d want it to do that it doesn’t already do.
I would like to see an option for audio pass through, on both Apple TV 4K and Amazon Fire Stick 4K.
 

Josh Steinberg

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Wouldn’t that be more of a software/firmware adjustment rather than a new hardware design?
 

JohnRice

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Apple TV sends everything over as multichannel PCM (with Atmos metadata, if applicable), while Fire Stick sends everything over as whatever codec you specified during setup of the device (DD+, DD, multichannel PCM).
That is an option, but I have to admit I don't know what other settings (actually I think there is only one other setting) does.
 

Todd Erwin

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That is an option, but I have to admit I don't know what other settings (actually I think there is only one other setting) does.
Audio options on Apple TV 4K are Change Format (On/Off) where ON disables Atmos and only gives you re-encoding options of DD 5.1 or Stereo. OFF enables Atmos, but sends everything to the receiver as PCM (stereo, multichannel, or multichannel with Atmos metadata).
 

DaveF

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Hulu still Stereo only?!?! Ugh. I think CBS All Access is surround as of a year or two ago, but again I should check. I think this is adequately hidden by my AVR automatically using Dolby Surround. I've given up on keeping track of what service does what. But I've got low tolerance now for bouncing from device to device for optimal streaming. That said, I need to doublecheck on my AppleTV (HD) and Nvidia Shield to see what does what.

I'm also annoyed that Atmos requires 4K streaming devices (I'm looking at you, AppleTV) and higher end subscriptions (looking at you, Netflix). My system is capable. But I don't have the streamers or subs.

@Sam Posten I didn't know that The Expanse was 4K Atmos HDR!!!!!11! You're killing me! :) I will definitely get a 4K projector before Season 6. And then maybe I'll rewatch the whole series before S6. :D

I fear the data dump on all of streaming's problems creates a greater sense of awfulness than it really is. Because if you can not get lost in the pursuit of perfect -- and real talk anyone not upgraded to 4K HDR Atmos in 2021 has other priorities above striving for Home Theater "perfection" myself included -- streaming is pretty great.

It's "Let's watch Watchmen on HBOMax because that's supposed to be good [and now we're watching it 30 seconds later]".

It's "Huh, I've never seen Disney's Tangled [and now I'm watching in 30 seconds later on an impulse]".
 

DaveF

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The show was running long, so I think we kind of rushed through streaming devices at the end. Everyone should probably be aware that all three major device manufacturers' current device lineup (with a few exceptions) are getting a bit long in the tooth and are overdue for a refresh.

Apple: We did mention that the current Apple TV 4K (introduced in 2017) was essentially running on iPhone 7 hardware, and that rumors have been floating around for over a year of a new model in the works.

Roku: With the exception of the Ultra model (4800R) that debuted last November, the remaining lineup models are holdovers that are at least two years old. Roku's Premiere (3920R) is from 2018 and their Streaming Stick+ (3810R) is from 2017. Expect a nearly complete lineup refresh this fall.

Amazon: Amazon introduced two new HD models their popular streaming sticks late last year, adding HDR support (?) and a faster processor to both models. The current Fire TV Fire Stick 4K was released in 2018, and rumors have recently been floating of a newly designed remote that would include launch buttons for apps like Netflix and Prime Video, and likely updated hardware.
I now have:
  1. AppleTV (HD, 4th Gen)
  2. nVidia Shield
  3. Roku Stick 4K
  4. LG 4K TV with webOS
  5. Sony 4K TV with AndroidTV
The AppleTV is the best UX of all of them, though the webOS in the LG is a close second. Calling it a “iPhone 7” belies how fast it is compared to everything else. That is, if the AppleTV is an iPhone 7, the Roku Stick is an iPhone 4.

nVidia Shield is super awesome and much better than aTV in a few niche regards (particularly is the best choice for HTPC use, IME). But the UI is not good, so inferior to aTV that I’ve not wanted to switch to it except for when my aTV crashes (which it’s been doing a lot lately). Roku is not bad, but again, managing apps compared to aTV is a disaster: it’s like they looked at tvOS and asked of themselves, “how can we do that, but worse in every way?”

The Sony TV, I’ve only dabbled with its streaming. I can say that 2019 and earlier models had a bad reputation for being very slow. The 2020, in my limited use, is fast and responsive.

I also had the attitude a couple years ago that no one should use their TV for streaming. I heard that said on the show. This is wrong. I was wrong. You are wrong. :) A new TV is a superb streaming device. They’re fast and responsive and the apps are updated and the UI can be comparable to (or even better than) a Roku. And when the TV is outdated, then buy a streaming box to replace it.
 
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Josh Steinberg

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I think using the TV as a streaming device is fine if you’re planning to use TV audio and aren’t counting on any functionality to be added beyond what works when the set is brand new. I never recommend using a TV’s built in apps if the goal is to send the sound from the TV to a receiver. It just seems people tie themselves in knots trying to get ARC or the like to work when a $40 box will solve the problem, and I think people undervalue their own time as part of that equation - if you spend hours trying to get it to work on a routine basis, that’s a sunk cost too.
 

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if my smart LG OLED tv with webOS has apps for apple. amazon, netflix, etc., why would i need a streamer? when i select amazon etc. the tv outputs via hdmi arc to my a/v receiver and i get the dolby, atmos etc. sound while the tv handles the 4k HDR+.

I've watched The Expanse series twice, it is awesome to watch and hear but its been killed off. Amazon is only renewing for season 6 being released in December.
the books which i read before the show, at this point jump in time making it difficult for converting to TV. Supposedly, screenwriters had figured out a workaround but amazon passed. So season 6 is probably going to be weird and not true to the books as they end the series.

For a total visual shock, watch Dark Shadows, the early years. How far video and sound has come in 55 years.
 
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