IPTV is getting ever more popular, liberating users from expensive contracts and limited content. The average cable bill in the US is currently about $99 a month according to NBC News – that’s a rise of about 8 percent each year since 2010. That is $99 you are spending on top of your mobile phone and internet bill! Additionally, regional broadcasting rights may prevent you from viewing your favorite content in your home country.


So, you are looking to give up on expensive cable or satellite! You are in luck, there is a new way of watching your favorite movies and sports broadcasts. Continue reading to find out how you can stream all the media content at a significantly lower price with greater convenience.


What is IPTV?
“Internet Protocol television (IPTV) is a system through which television services are delivered using the Internet protocol suite over a packet-switched network such as a LAN or the Internet, instead of being delivered through traditional terrestrial, satellite signal, and cable television formats.”


This means that entertainment content can now be broadcasted and received by anyone with an Internet connection. This gives rise to greater competition and lower prices. More importantly, it allows for a greater user experience, empowering you to watch what you want and when you want. You are not watching media on a receiver anymore, you have an entertainment center at your fingertips.


“This IPTV stuff sounds complicated” is a common reaction. IPTV itself may very well be highly technical and difficult to set up. The good news is: There are a number of plug-and-play solutions out there that require no experience or configuration whatsoever. It is as easy as plugging a box into your TV and sitting down on your couch. Further below we will look at the different kind of set-top boxes available and which devices you should choose.


How to stream IPTV

In order to watch IPTV content, you need a device to receive and decode the stream as well as a source to connect to that serves the channels, movies and sports broadcasts you want. There are three types of devices that give you access to streaming content:


-Smart TVs
-Mobile phones and tablets
-Set-top boxes


Let us have a look at the main advantages and disadvantages of these devices.


Smart TV

We will keep this very short: They are garbage for streaming! Limited processing power, slow navigation and few options for customization, for the most part, disqualify SmartTVs as streaming devices. Most noteworthy, they do not stream out of the box and will need additional configuration. You buy a TV to display an image, that is what they do best. IPTV is not their strength.


If you still want a Smart TV, here are some instructions to help you configure your Smart TV.


Mobile phones and tablets

The main advantage of using a mobile phone or tablet for streaming is that you do not have to buy another device. They have ample processing power for streaming and are very intuitive to use thanks to their touch screens. The main drawback is, of course, the small screen size. Would you rather watch a movie on your iPhone or your big screen? So, not all content providers develop apps for live streaming. You are mostly limited to video on demand streaming and will not find a great selection of live television channels. Lastly, they are not pre-configured to stream out of the box, however, installing additional applications is easy.
In case you do opt to use your existing tablet or mobile phone for streaming, we highly recommend taking advantage of a screen mirroring device. These allow you to send your mobile device’s screen contents to your television wirelessly to enjoy the big picture experience.


If you are already using streaming apps on your phone and just look to improve the experience, screen mirroring is a good choice. However, this solution will not replace your existing cable subscription and you will soon outgrow your setup. The best experience is to available on the purpose-built set-top boxes.


Set-Top Boxes

Contrary to SmartTVs and your everyday cell phone and tablet, set-top boxes are designed to do one thing: Stream media. And boy are they good at it! There are countless different boxes out there, from small Chinese no-name brands to flagship devices from tech giants. We will be looking at three different types of streaming boxes:


-Generic Android boxes,
-IPTV set-top boxes and
-dedicated video on demand Android TV boxes.


Common to all three are their plug-n-play ease of use, user interfaces that are focused on streaming, vast entertainment content, user-friendliness and superior performance compared to the previously listed devices. Setting up these boxes is as easy as connecting them to your TV via HDMI and plugging in the power.


Generic Android Boxes

Android TV Boxes are very similar to mobile phones in that they run on Android OS on top of Linux. They are basically a small and surprisingly powerful personal computer in a small box that you can easily hide out of sight in your living room. Because these devices run on Android, they are extremely versatile allowing to do much more than just stream IPTV. You can use them to surf the web, play games, run office applications and much more. These small powerhouses are truly a jack of all trades.


IPTV Set-Top Box

In this category, there is really just one type of IPTV box that you should consider, the MAG from Infomir. It is a set top box running Linux that supports connecting to streams using the Stalker middleware. Stalker is a common IPTV technology used by virtually all IPTV services, allowing for a cable-like experience.
The MAG connects to our stalker portal to receive our IPTV channel list and program information, this is then displayed on the screen as an Electronic Programme Guide, making it very easy to browse an on-screen list of channels and program information, such as a TV guide.
IPTV streaming with a MAG arguably provides the best picture quality and reliability, however, it might be too much of a hassle for some to set up. Also keep in mind, that you will need to subscribe to a stalker portal that provides the TV channel streams. However, that cost is a lot lower than your typical cable plan.
The only real downside to using a MAG for IPTV is that it only really does IPTV streaming well. Since it runs on Linux, you don’t have the luxury of installing additional apps, you can’t even run Kodi on it. So, if you are only looking to stream via our Stalker, the MAG 2XX is the way to go. However, if you seek more versatility, the next category, the Hybrid Android IPTV Set-Top boxes might be the perfect solution for you.


Hybrid Android IPTV Set-Top Box

These devices run on Android, yet still provide native IPTV support in the form of a dedicated app. The native Stalker middleware support what sets them apart from “normal” Android TV boxes (which rely on third-party MAG emulators to connect to Stalker portals). At the same time, because they run on Android and have app support, they are much more versatile than Infomir’s MAG 256.
There aren’t many options in this category, but each of these boxes is very popular with IPTV users. If we had to pick one, we would go with the Formuler Z-series and runs on a fairly recent Android version.

What to look out for:

When considering to buy a streaming multimedia box, decide on what kind of content you are mostly after. If you are looking for live television similar to what your existing cable subscription provides, your best bet is the MAG 256. If you want to take advantage of native Stalker IPTV support, but still want to be able to install additional apps, your best option would be the Formuler Z-series.
However, if your focus is primarily on video on demand, you can’t go wrong with Amazon Fire TV. For those that have a slightly bigger budget and seek a more powerful and versatile Android TV box, the Nvidia Shield TV is the way to go. This device also doubles as a gaming console.
Finally, for those on a tight budget, the more generic Android boxes like the Minix Neo U9-H or GooBang Doo XB-III provide great value for money.
Another thing to consider is your internet connection. Because all video content is streamed over the internet, you need a connection that can keep up with all this data. We recommend at least 10-20 Mbps to achieve a smooth streaming experience. Read our guide on how to optimize your WiFi for streaming if you are using a wireless connection to the internet.


Finally, keep in mind that there are numerous companies out there that advertise IPTV boxes.

Do your research and remember: If something sounds too good (or cheap) to be true, it probably is!