Most TVs ship with smart features these days, but streaming devices can further enhance the experience by giving you seamless access to thousands of channels all and your favorite streaming services in a single, unified interface.
Best Streaming Devices Reviewed
Streaming devices are available in all shapes and sizes, but the best ones are those that keep it simple and offer relevant features in a clean, user-friendly interface.
Every streaming device will boast about the number of channels it has access to and its specifications, but few can give a streamlined performance that reduces the number of steps required to actually start streaming your favorite content.
We’ve isolated the 5 best streaming devices on the market right now based on their features and performance. We also have a buyer’s guide at the end to help you make a better purchase decision.
Roku Streaming Stick +
Perfect for Most Users
The Rokue Streaming Stick Plus is the ultimate no-nonsense streaming device on the market. Featuring 4K and HDR support, this streaming device plugs into your TV’s HDMI port, making it easy to set up. It also has an intuitive and streamlined interface that allows access to all major streaming services and thousands of channels.
Coming at a reasonable price and covering all the basic essentials, the vast majority of users will find exactly what they’re looking for in the Roku Streaming Stick Plus.
Amazon Fire TV Cube
Ultimate Entertainment Hub
Powered with Alex AI and featuring just about everything you would want; Amazon’s TV Cube is more than just a streaming device. This is a full entertainment hub that connects your entertainment gadgets together in a single, streamlined system that allows access to thousands of channels, Amazon Video Prime, and much more.
If you’re looking for something a little more than just channels and streaming from your device, there isn’t anything that can beat the Amazon Fire TV Cube.
Small, discreet, competitively priced, and access to thousands of channels. What’s not to love about the Roku Streaming Stick Plus tv streaming device?
Roku has been making the best streaming devices for a while now, and despite fierce competition from the likes of Amazon, they still manage to hold their ground as the top streaming device in the market.
It’s all thanks to the simplicity of the functionality and the great design. You’ll be forgiven for thinking the device is a USB stick, because it looks just like one. The discreet stick plugs into an HDMI port and delivers all the basic streaming you need, with access to up to 5000 different channels.
The Stick+ version works with voice search, which is a welcome addition. You also get powerful 802.11ac MIMO dual-band wireless support with this device, meaning there’s no need for an ethernet cable and you can make-do with your home’s Wi-Fi.
The user interface of the Roku Streaming Stick Plus is excellent, making it easy to find the best place to watch what you want. All that comes with 4K and HDR10 support in an affordable and competitive price range.
- Simple, discreet design
- 4K and HDR10 support
- Great interface
- Easy to use
- Voice search is limited
Amazon’s Fire TV Cube isn’t just a streaming device, it’s an entire entertainment hub. This elegantly designed cube is smart, sophisticated, and can perform a plethora of different functions at an incredible level, making it a premium choice.
Down to the core, the Amazon Fire TV Cube is a simple TV box with Alexa integrated directly into the device. However, there’s more to this box of joy than what meets the eye.
This is a full-featured entertainment hub that lets you control everything with minimal requirement of a remote. You get HDMI CEC and HDMI ARC-capable ports with the device that let you use voice commands to turn your TV on, access different apps, and switch inputs.
The number of voice controls are initially limited with this device, but it learns as you input more regular with it. Alexa as an assistant has always been good, and as an entertainment hub it’s even better. Amazon has also promised to continuously upgrade Alexa for better accuracy and speed for its box.
As a streaming device, the Fire TV Cube is capable of playing 4K and HDR videos. For fast-speed data transfer, it comes with an ethernet port. This Amazon box is the ultimate answer to an entertainment hub that can also provide TV streaming.
- Acts as an entertainment hub
- 4K and HDR10 support
- Alex integrated into the system
- Packed with features
Apple TV 4 is ideal for users heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem, as it behaves as both a streaming device to provide a seamless TV experience across all Apple devices.
Few streaming devices can match the raw power of the Apple TV 4K. This is because it has the super-fast A10X Fusion processor. This makes the Apple TV 4K incredibly quick to process and deliver streams. The only thing holding it back will be your internet connection.
Siri is integrated into the system to allow for voice searches for content. Additionally, Apple TV 4K also allows you to copy login information for your account from your iPhone, iPad, or Macbook.
With the Apple TV 4K, you have access to the main streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Sling TV, and Amazon Prime Video. You also get access to the iTunes store, though support for streaming services like Spotify aren’t available.
The Apple TV 4K supports 4K and HDR in both Dolby Vision and HDR10. The two major aspects holding this from being one of the best streaming devices out there are its price and that it’s exclusive to the Apple ecosystem.
- Clean, simple user interface
- 4K and HDR10 support
- Access to major streaming services
- Integrates with the entire Apple ecosystem
- Limited to the Apple ecosystem
The Nvidia Shield doesn’t take a simplistic approach to their product like other streaming devices. Instead, they offer a gaming console and streaming box in one package.
The Nvidia Shield is an Android-based streaming device that has access to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and Amazon. It is, in fact, the only Android player on the market right now to have access to Amazon Prime Video.
In addition to streaming videos and audio, you also get access to more than 200 games that are available to play via Android TV, with many of them exclusive to Nvidia Shield. As a PC gamer, you can streaming your PC games to your Shield TV as well by utilizing the GeForce Now program.
The Shield streaming device can also act as a Plex Media Server and will eventually be able to control smart home appliances through voice commands.
With the Nvidia Shield, you get 4K streaming and HDR support as well as the ability to play your own media via USB. You also get a base 16 GB storage space in this product. This makes the Shield one of the most versatile streaming devices out there, and the best Android box you can buy.
- Doubles as a console and streaming device
- Very versatile
- Allows for streaming videogames
- Integrates with most Android devices
- Very expensive
- Limited to Android
The new version of Google Chromecast is better in every way than its predecessors. This is a simple-to-use streaming device that comes at an affordable price. It doesn’t have the same bells and whistles as the Nvidia Shield or the Amazon Fire TV Cube, as it’s designed purely to compete with simple steaming devices.
Google Chromecast 3rd generation requires you to use a mobile device to control it. The small, dangling device plugs into your TV’s HDMI port. From there, you can access Chromecast through its app on the mobile, available either for Android or iOS.
The setup and access is simple and streamlined, and Google has worked hard to massively improve over the cluttered, confusing interface that plagued the original Chromecast. You now have easy access to most popular streaming services, and searching for what you need is intuitive and simple.
Based on your account, the application will also determine which streaming services you use on your smart devices like phones or tablets and will filter out other options that you are not subscribed to.
The previous Chromecasts had troubles with a slow Wi-Fi chip, but that is not the case with its successor thanks to a bump to an 802.11ac card. There are also tons of app choices to choose from.
The regular Google Chromecast 3rd generation doesn’t support 4K or HDR, nor does it have any voice control. For 4K and HDR, you will have to go for the more expensive but advance Google Chromecast Ultra.
- Sleek new interface
- Easy to set up
- Good basic performance
- No 4K or HDR
- Heavily dependent on your smart device
The important features of any streaming device are tied down to its ease of setup, access, and performance.
Depending on your TV and the your internet, you want a streaming device that can match the performance of your entertainment gadgets with which you are connecting it to.
If you have a 4K TV, you should isolate streaming devices that offer channels and streaming services in 4K. 4K resolution is quickly becoming the standard for new TVs, and though not all channels offer 4K support, a large portion of them do, as do many of the streaming services.
Another important feature that you need to consider is HDR. HDR offers better contrast and vibrance, making the picture pop out more for some great eye candy.
In addition to 4K and HDR, you also want to see the connectivity options available. Most devices use Wi-Fi to connect to the internet. 802.11ac Wi-Fi is the fastest standard available at the moment. It is slower than Ethernet, but trumps all previous standards. To get the fastest streaming possible, make sure you have a router that supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi.
Only a handful of devices come with Ethernet support. If you have an uncommonly ultra-fast internet connection, you should look for a device with an Ethernet port to get the most out of your speed.
The ease of use of the streaming device and the accessibility to channels and streaming services should be one of the most important factors you should look consider while buying.
Streaming devices could be packed with features, but if they have a convoluted user interface that makes it difficult to search for what you’re looking, they are as good as useless. The 5 streaming devices we’ve listed in this article all have easy-to-use interfaces that make searching for your desired content a lot easier than the rest in the market. We believe that accessibility and UI are arguably more important than raw performance.
There’s no point getting a device that doesn’t have access to Amazon Video or Hulu when you have accounts there. Be sure to look at which streaming services the device supports. A streaming device doesn’t have to support all the services – just the ones you have subscribed to.
Netflix is the most popular streaming service right now, and majority of the devices have access to it. If you have other subscriptions, be sure to buy a device that supports all of them and not just one.
For the average user, what is the best streaming device?
If you’re looking for a device with great performance, good pricing, and easy to use, the Roku Streaming Stick plus trumps all other streaming devices.
The Amazon Cube is designed for power users who want more control and a smarter integrated entertainment hub.
Are there monthly fees for streaming devices?
Once you buy a streaming device, you do not have to pay any monthly fee for it. The only fee you will need to pay are for streaming services such as Netflix.
Which is more important: HDR or 4K?
HDR increases the dynamic range of the colors displayed on your TV, whereas 4K resolution is just the number of pixels that are shown on your screen.
4K allows for a sharper image with more detail. However, HDR offers better contrast and more colors within a wider range. It is notably a bigger improvement than 4K resolution in itself.