Watch TV programmes on any device

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Watch TV programmes on any device
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You no longer are tied to watching your favourite TV programmes on your television in your living room when they're scheduled. David Bayon, Contributing Editor at PC Pro, looks at the best devices to let you watch what you want, when you want and explains in a simple glossary the important factors to consider when streaming your programmes. 
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Alienware X51

Alienware X51

eBay loves: The sleek design and extra-terrestrial looks will fit in perfectly with any other home entertainment equipment you own.
Watch out for: If you want real gaming power the price starts to rise quickly, so be careful when customising.
RRP: from £599
Dell crams the flexibility of a gaming PC into a case around the size of a games console. As well as playing your PC games, this box can access any streaming video on the Internet, so you can stick Alienware X51 under any screen in or out of the house.
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Sony PlayStation 3

Sony PlayStation 3

eBay loves: It’s already in millions of homes – how many owners don’t realise what else a games console can do?
Watch out for: Keep an eye on the app line-ups for the new generation, as they’ll soon be even better.
RRP: £199
The new PS4 and Xbox One are a little sparse in terms of early streaming apps, so you’re safer going for the established media credentials of the PS3. It has apps for BBC iPlayer, ITV Player and 4oD, along with Netflix and LoveFilm, and it can stream video files from any other compatible device in the house.
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Apple iPad Air

Apple iPad Air

eBay loves: It has a big and beautiful screen, yet this tablet weighs so little – it’s the perfect travelling TV.
Watch out for: You pay a premium for that Apple style and quality, and similar Android tablets are cheaper.
RRP: £399
Whether it’s catching up on Sky Go or watching live TV on BBC iPlayer, the iPad has an app for it. The iPad Air has a fantastic HD screen, and you can get one with built-in 4G if you like to watch on the move.
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Samsung Galaxy S5

Samsung Galaxy S5

eBay loves: The latest Android update – called KitKat – is smarter and faster, and includes a revamped Google Now service.
Watch out for: We were hoping for a higher-resolution screen on the Samsung Galaxy S5, but we’ll just have to settle for Full HD.
RRP: tbd
The latest update to the finest Android handset is due in April, with a top-quality 5.1-inch Full HD screen. It will support 4G, so you can stream the games in all their glory while you’re out and about.
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Roku Streaming Stick

Roku Streaming Stick

eBay loves: It’s tiny, so take it with you and plug it into any TV in range of a Wi-Fi connection.
Watch out for: Don’t forget to unplug it again afterwards!
RRP: £50
Finally, what if you’re at your TV but want to stream a game from the Internet? The brilliant Roku Streaming Stick plugs right into your TV’s HDMI port and brings over 450 UK channels right to your screen.

Glossary of terms

Live streamingLive TV is not the only way to watch a big game these days, what with the rapid rise of internet streaming. You’ve probably all used or at least heard of the BBC iPlayer, which along with the similar ITV Player offers a way to watch TV programmes either live or at a later date. Instead of receiving the programmes over the air or through a satellite dish, these services stream the data over your Internet connection – and that makes them incredibly flexible. This can come via a Smart TV, a set-top box, a games console, a PC or laptop, and even smartphones and tablets, so you needn’t miss a kick.  

Connection speeds
You’ll need a fairly fast Internet connection for good quality streaming, but much will depend on the screen. If you’re using a console or set-top box connected to your TV, you’ll want a faster connection than you might for watching on a small phone screen, for example. Whatever the size, there are some base figures to aim for. The BBC recommends at least a 3Mbps connection for iPlayer HD, while ITV Player adjusts the quality based on your speed. You might struggle on 3G smartphones, but if you’re in a city or are lucky enough to have 4G access, you should be able to stream with good quality. 

Watch your data
As we’ve seen, pretty much any device with a screen and a data connection can stream video these days, but there are a few points to bear in mind. Firstly, streaming video is like constantly downloading a very large file, and the higher the video quality, the more data you’ll be downloading. At home, on an unlimited Internet connection, that’s not a problem. But on your mobile’s 3G or 4G connection, or if you’re using a broadband dongle on a laptop, it’s easy to go over your monthly cap – which can end up being costly. Make sure you know what your cap is, and upgrade to a more suitable contract if necessary – there are no shortage of unlimited data options out there these days.
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