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Netflix’s success has led the entire movie and TV industry to a streaming war. Streaming is becoming more and more crucial for this entertainment industry. Other media streaming services like Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Shudder, CBS All Access, and many others are constantly growing this audience. Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus, Peacock, and many others have jumped into this war.
TV lovers are getting rid of their outdated cable networks and satellite connections and streaming their favorite TV programs and movies on their television screens using the home internet.
Your television itself might have apps, or you might have a Blu-ray player or game system connected with built-in streaming services, but do they have exact media features you want? If not, you can get a dedicated media streaming device. TV streaming devices have more apps, simpler remotes, better search, and more frequent updates than the smarts built into your set. Most media streamers allow you to set up your TV with any online or local media streaming services you need.
Roku, Apple, Google, Amazon, and others are making a verity of options and one of them would be there perfectly right for you. All you do is plug them into your television set, connect them wirelessly to your home Wi-Fi network, and get watching.
But figuring out which platform to go with can be a pain. This guide will help you find the best streaming boxes, sticks, and cubes that connects to your TV and streams video — something you’ll likely use every day for multiple hours to watch movies and TV.
Here are our picks for the best:
1. Roku Streaming Stick
2. Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K
3. Roku Express
4. Amazon Fire TV Cube
5. Google Chromecast
6. Roku Ultra
7. Apple TV 4K
8. Nvidia Shield TV
You may need to know some of the words and terms mentioned in this article. We have explained at the end of this page, please see if required.
1.Roku Streaming Stick Best 4K Streaming Device Overall
For 4K and HDR streaming without breaking the bank, the Streaming Stick+ is the best TV streaming device out there. The Roku Streaming Stick+ offers 4K, HDR, Dolby Atmos Audio plus, and several unique features you won’t find in other products at this price. It’s the best streaming stick on the market, and it’s affordable to boot.
It’s powerful dual-band wireless support, enables you to set it up anywhere within the home’s Wi-Fi range without Ethernet connectivity. Just plug this device into the HDMI port of your TV — and… that’s it! start to watch. If there is a USB port available in your Television set, then it’s even easier to set up your streamer device as this port will keep your streamer power up.
Its remote is also really useful, as Roku has added Power and Volume buttons.
On top of that, you get an awesome easy-to-use user interface which makes searching your favorite channel easier than any other device in the market. It also supports voice search. A bit downside — it lacks Dolby Vision support that some of the newer devices possess.
4K HD streaming is likely to become more prevalent in the coming years, so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to future-proof your streaming device, especially if you’re considering upgrading to a 4K TV soon.
2. Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Best Budget Streamer For Amazon Subscribers
The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K is very similar to the Roku Streaming Stick+ in terms of functionality and price. As its name suggests, it supports 4K HDR. Like Roku, it asserts a wide variety of streaming services except for HBO Max at this time. The Fire Stick is extremely simple to set up, it plugs into the HDMI port of your TV and connects to your home internet to work.
An upright trait that takes the Fire TV Stick 4K edge over Roku Streaming Stick+ is Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant AI technology. As with any of Amazon’s devices, you can ask Alexa to find the TV shows and movies or control playback without having to pick up your remote. The Fire Stick has hands-free controls thanks to Alexa voice commands and knack that can be activated by just pressing a button on the remote.
What is Amazon Alexa?
Amazon Alexa, also known simply as Alexa, is a virtual assistant AI technology developed by Amazon, first used in the Amazon Echo smart speakers developed by Amazon Lab126. It is capable of voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic, sports, and other real-time information, such as news.
Alexa can also control several smart devices using itself as a home automation system. Users are able to extend the Alexa capabilities by installing “skills” (additional functionality developed by third-party vendors, in other settings more commonly called apps such as weather programs and audio features). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazon_Alexa
When it comes to user interface the Roku has the upper hand. The Fire Stick is pretty user friendly but from the navigational point of view, it’s not as orderly as Roku which has more directed search results.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K is just about the low-priced way to start streaming 4K content for just $50. If your house is crowded with Amazon products and you love Alexa, nothing is better than Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K.
3. Roku Express The best Dudget Streamer
The Roku Express provides you the most economical means to get advanced and easy-to-use streaming experience on your television set, or even non-smart TVs can join the streaming trend, thanks to Roku. For the least price, you can get a whole media streamer, which comes with plenty of free content.
It offers a full 1080p HD resolution which even now appears great. If you’re gratified with 1080p HD then why should pay more for devices with 4K, HDR, and Dolby Atmos. If you want these features, Roku has many other excellent streamers to choose from as you can see in this article.
Roku express comes with a simple remote control that doesn’t support voice commands, but if you want this, there is another model Express Plus (for around 10 extra dollars), same set-top box but with voice support. It uses Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa-based smart speakers to work.
A great trait that takes Roku to the victory stand is its software enrichments like its free app for iOS and Android that acts as a remote, a voice remote, and a casting device. The awesome user-friendly interface allows you to download the latest screensavers and themes if you’re into that sort of thing.
Roku possibly offers access to almost all the streaming services available. If you just want a simple and inexpensive streamer device, then Roku Express should be the first choice for you.
4. Amazon Fire TV Cube Best Voice Control Streaming Device
The Fire TV Cube is the best streaming device around for those intending to leave the remote or multiple remotes. Its capabilities are far-reaching, as it acts more like an obedient worker you can interact with. It features powerful technology that will give you control just over everything in your entertainment center with the least need for a remote.
While there is an included Amazon Alexa virtual assistant AI technology, the Fire TV Cube is reputed to be used with just your voice.
It is powered with eight built-in microphones to recognize the far-field voice. You can ask it to play your favorite music or give you the latest news and weather updates, or even other smart devices in the home. By just simply using Alexa commands, this hands-free device has the ability to switch between different streaming services, TV channels, and gaming consoles. What you want to watch, just tell Alexa, and the TV will turn on and start playing your desired program straightaway. Keep in mind that Alexa necessitates certain voice commands out of the box, so AI Assistant will learn to recognize your input style.
More than just a wonderful centerpiece for your home entertainment arrangement, the Fire TV Cube deals with 4K and HDR streaming and supports Dolby Vision. it also comes with an Ethernet adapter so you can connect it to your home network router for added stability. Amazon Fire TV Cube is easily compatible with Amazon content and a perfect choice for those looking to streamline their home entertainment system all around.
5. Google Chromecast An Economical, Quick, And Convenient Media Streamer.
Google Chromecast is a unique device that plugs into any TV or monitors with an HDMI port and can stream content from your phone or computer onto the big screen.
The Chromecast uses the apps you’ve already installed on your phone or on other devices to control playback and search for internet content. This is what makes is different from other streaming devices. Just open the supported streaming App and click the cast button, and your desired music, video, or whatever you like to watch is on your TV screen.
You can stream media from those devices to your Chromecast-connected TV. You have to control Google Chromecast from your phone or tablet, so it’s a different proposition from most of the streamers here. But it does what it supposed to be done and does very well.
Thousands of apps and games support Chromecast. it doesn’t come with a remote, instead, it works in combination with a phone or the Google Assistant for voice control and voice search.
If your TV set doesn’t support 4K HDR streams, you don’t need to break the bank for devices that stream in 4K. At $35 (it’s the expected price but is not available at the time of writing) the Google Chromecast is one of the best streaming devices.
6. Roku Ultra Best Features Streaming Device
Roku Ultra is one of the best streamers that’s able to stream 4K HDR content from an extensive variety of services including Disney Plus, Amazon Prime Video, and even Apple TV. This little box also lets you enjoy your favorite videos, movies, and other programs from Netflix, Vudu, Hulu, Sling, HBO Now, and PBS kids.
Together with the 4K streaming support, it also has a built-in Ethernet port that allows you wired connectivity with your home network router for the best secured possible data connection.
A very decent feature the Roku Ultra has a “lost remote” button that will cause a tone from the remote, in case you are looking for your misplaced remote – Cool. There is a headphone jack port in the remote for personal listening if you don’t want to disturb other people in the room, as well as volume buttons to control the TV volume. The remote also has two buttons that you can customize as a shortcut to instantly launch the channels you love.
You can use the MicroSD card slot as a storage source for your pictures and videos. And the USB port allows you to playback collected movie files on the Ultra. The Ultra uses Alexa and Google Assistant-powered smart speakers for the voice commands, and Roku’s Featured Free menu option makes searching free content really easy.
One negative aspect of Roku Ultra is that Dolby Vision is currently not compatible with it.
7. Apple TV 4K Best Streaming Device For Apple Lovers
Apple TV 4K is a strong competitor of top-notch streamers offered by Roku, Amazon, and Google.
Apple TV 4K has 4K HDR and Dolby Vision, while Dolby Atmos provides a stunning audio experience. Overall, Apple TV 4K arguably offers the best watching experience of any streaming device.
In addition to watching iTunes movies and TV shows on your big screen, you can watch hundreds of streaming apps and play games.
If you already own an iOS device or two, with Airplay, you can view your home pictures and videos right on your TV. It includes a voice remote control based on the company’s Siri digital assistant to search for movies, TV shows, and more with your voice or even control your smart home devices. — Siri is a digital personal assistant, integrated within Apple device operating systems, that enables Apple device users to get answers to questions, check the weather, confirm flights, perform searches, answer questions, complete actions, send a message, and much more — The refined voice search gives it an edge over other streaming boxes, but you’ll pay a lot for the privilege.
You can download shows and movies from subscription channels onto the Apple TV device. Apple offers an Apple TV box with 4K video streaming support for $179 with 32GB of storage. There is also a model that supports 1080p video resolution with 32GB of storage for $149 and it sells another 4K model for $199 with 64GB of available storage.
A very cool feature the Apple offers is that If you’ve ever bought movies or TV shows from iTunes, all will be available for you, Apple will even update them to the 4K HDR versions for free (if they are available in 4K HDR format). Moreover, you don’t need to enter your credentials while logging as it allows you to copy login info your other Apple devices to save time.
Beware of one thing while connecting Apple TV 4K to your TV, if your HDMI cable is rated for ultra-high-speed connections. Otherwise, it can put a stop to see Dolby Vision. Apple TV 4K costs very high but if you have heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem, this is the streaming device for you.
8. Nvidia Shield TV Best For Game Lovers
Certainly, it’s an expensive media streamer at almost three times the cost of average 4K HDR streaming devices, but it’s an extremely muscular streaming player thanks to its state-of-the-art AI upscaling technology and its support for both HDR10 and Dolby Vision content. In addition, it throws in Dolby Atmos audio support. The new Tegra X1+ processor is 25% faster than the previous Tegra X1, which delivers even better gaming performance. This new chip not only streams 4K video content on your TV, but it can also upscale 720p and 1080p video to 4K with a high degree of quality, with some help from Nvidia’s AI neural network.
The device features 4K resolution and HDR streaming capabilities based on the Android TV platform, but in its essence, the Shield TV Pro is designed with game lovers in mind. You can play most Android-based games on this media streaming device, also many exclusive high-end games if you sign up for GeForce NOW. Nvidia’s GeForce NOW service lets users stream games to their Shield TV at up to 4K resolution, the only thing to take care of to keep high performance is your internet speed. There is Nvidia’s designed wireless game controller, but it’s no longer included in the box, you need to purchase it. There are also game controllers compatible with the Shield TV Pro including, Sony’s DualShock 4 and Xbox One.
Nvidia Shield TV features 2GB of RAM and 8GB of storage, but there’s also an Nvidia Shield TV Pro model with 3GB of RAM, 16GB of storage and few more features like two USB-C ports, and support for Plex Media Server (with some high price, obviously).
Though highly-priced, Nvidia Shield TV is for those game lovers who prefer their streaming paired with the best gaming features.
Words and Terms you may need to know
HDMI — is a digital interface used to transfer a high-quality audio and video signal (Full HD, UHD). HDMI is now very widely used and it will very soon completely replace analog interfaces. It is often used to connect a TV (Through HDMI port) to a computer, DVD player, Blu-Ray player, Satellite receiver, and audio system.
UHD — (also known as Ultra HD or Ultra High Definition) refers to a TV resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 pixels. That’s four times as many pixels than in a full HD TV, a total of about 8.3 million pixels. Having so many pixels means a higher pixel density, and you should have a clearer, better-defined picture. It’s not necessarily about sharpness, but about letting more detail and texture through. It is a digital television (DTV) standard, and the successor to high-definition television (HDTV)
There is a small difference between 4K and Ultra HD. 4K refers to a resolution of 4096 x 2160 while UHD refers to a resolution of 3840 x 2160. So technically, 4K is the wrong term for 3840 x 2160 displays and content, but it’s said so often that two terms are interchangeable.
Android TV — A smart TV platform powered by Android and available across smart TVs, set-top boxes, and more.
Casting — A term, popularized by Google, for making content found on a mobile device or PC and appear on a TV or wireless speaker.
HDR — is short for High Dynamic Range, a new standard for Ultra HD televisions with the potential to vastly improve the viewing experience. The goal is to maintain as much of the original image quality as possible, all the way through to the living room.
Dolby Vision — is a proprietary, dynamic HDR format developed by Dolby Labs. By adjusting the picture on a scene-by-scene (and even frame-by-frame) basis, it lets you see more detail with better color accuracy. It is constantly making adjustments so that each image on the screen is optimized.
Dolby Atmos — is a surround sound technology developed by Dolby Laboratories. It expands on existing surround sound systems by adding height channels, allowing sounds to be interpreted as three-dimensional (3D) objects. Following the release of Atmos for the cinema market, a variety of consumer technologies have been released under the Atmos brand, using in-ceiling and up-firing speakers.
Google Assistant — offers voice commands, voice searching, and voice-activated device control, letting you complete a number of tasks after you’ve said the “OK Google” or “Hey, Google” wake words. It is designed to give you conversational two-way interactions
Siri — is a built-in “intelligent assistant” that enables users of Apple iPhone 4S and later and newer iPad and iPod Touch devices to speak natural language voice commands in order to operate the mobile device and its apps. Users can speak commands — and receive audible confirmation from Siri — to send messages, place calls, set reminders, operate iTunes, and more.