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Keep the peace with a second screen

It’s obviously no match for the 65-inch 4K LG OLED and surround sound in the lounge room, but mummy cinema is a great compromise when we want to spread out for a while. It’s also handy when friends with younger kids visit, as the big kids can have the lounge room while the little ones watch something more suitable in the bedroom.

The bedroom television’s smart features are so old and clunky that I hooked up a Google Chromecast streaming dongle, which makes life much easier. There’s also an old PlayStation 3 for playing discs and a Fetch TV Mini for watching broadcasts. To be honest, live TV barely gets a go in my house, beyond Lego Masters and the Tour de France.

The $59 Google Chromecast is the cheapest and easiest way to give any television or monitor a smart overhaul, assuming it has HDMI inputs. There’s also the $69 Amazon Fire TV stick, but it’s not nearly as versatile, plus Amazon Prime Video apps can stream to a Chromecast.


One trade-off is that Google’s Chromecast doesn’t come with a remote control, so you’re reliant on a phone or PC to fling video to the screen. If there are times when that doesn’t suit you, the next best options are tiny streaming boxes like the $209 Apple TV, $289 NVIDIA Shield TV or $169 Fetch TV Mini. There are also boxes from Telstra, Vodafone and Foxtel; the first two are fine, while the last one isn’t great.

Lean towards the Apple TV if you’re an iCentric household, especially if you’d make the most of AirPlay to fling video from your iGadgets. Otherwise, look to the slick NVIDIA Shield TV, running the more versatile Android TV while also acting as a Chromecast dongle. Both streaming boxes also let you hook up wireless controllers to play games.

Meanwhile, the Fetch TV Mini has catch up TV, a movie rental store and most of the major streaming services, plus there’s the added benefit of watching live broadcasts. It can’t record live TV, but it can stream recordings from a Fetch TV Mighty in the lounge room.

Both the Mini and Mighty also support Chromecast streaming, but unfortunately they don’t work with every Chromecast-compatible app.

If you like to tinker, a tiny Raspberry Pi computer might be the way to go. You can run apps like Kodi and Plex to tap into your own video library, but it’s tricky to run subscription services like Netflix. Meanwhile, the Retropie app turns the Raspberry Pi into a wide range of classic games consoles.

With so many options to choose from, it’s not hard to create your ultimate entertainment nook for taking a break from it all while you’re stuck at home.

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