The Best Budget Streaming Devices range from streaming sticks to streaming boxes. It’s clear that streaming sticks are the device type between the two that are designed for those on a budget, but some streaming boxes can compete depending on your home theater or smart-tv setup.
The $30 – $50 range is considered the “sweet spot” amongst the cheapest name brand streaming devices.
Keep in mind there are also cheap android tv boxes that are sold by lesser known name brands – these have significantly higher hardware specs.
63% of the users we surveyed claimed they aren’t utilizing the 4K capabilities on their streaming players:
The non 4K versions of Firestick Lite or Roku express are typically under $30 and could last you years of HD streaming.
4K content typically requires significantly more bandwidth and storage space compared to 1080p content and those on a budget can save big by not getting a 4K device
Most consumers simply don’t need the extreme, advanced capabilities the $200 Nvidia Shield TV Pro provides such as AI upscaling (see all the benefits of a premium option like the Nvidia Shield).
In this post, we’ll discuss the best cheap streaming devices, advantages and disadvantages, compare them to their more expensive counterparts, and provide a comprehensive guide to help you choose the best budget option for your needs.
- At a Glance – Top picks
- Differences Between Each Streaming Stick and Player (or Set-Top Box) from the Same Manufacturer
- The 8 Best Budget Streaming Devices
- Features to Look for in a Cheap Streaming Device
- How to Choose the Right Budget Streaming Device Under $50
- Ranking and Choosing the Best Cheap Streaming Devices
- Advantages and Disadvantages of Using a Low-Cost Streaming Device
- The Differences Between a Leading Streaming Device and a Cheap Android Streaming Stick
At a Glance – Top picks
Below are our top picks for the best budget streaming devices:
- Roku Express 4K+ – Budget pick with 4K
- Fire Stick TV Lite – Absolute lowest price point (but, no 4K)
- Roku Streaming Stick 4K
- Chromecast with Google TV – Ideal, Balanced pick for most
- Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K
- Roku Ultra LT -Lowest cost Box model, but higher priced than streaming sticks
- Amazon Fire Cube
- Nvidia Shield TV
Considering a budget streaming device is important for people who want to enjoy their favorite streaming services without breaking the bank.
See more on the above chart: Streaming Comparison chart: Main advantages & limitations of all major streaming devices
If budget isn’t the primary factor in your decision, you can also see our separate post on the overall best streaming media players.
Differences Between Each Streaming Stick and Player (or Set-Top Box) from the Same Manufacturer
It’s much easier to choose a budget streaming device when you know the difference between the basic streaming stick and its upgraded streaming box model.
- For example, Roku Ultra and LT models are massive upgrades from the Roku stick 4K. Keep in mind the Roku Ultra LT has more features than a Roku stick, but is less expensive & powerful than a Roku Ultra – making it a great choice for those on a budget.
The Roku Ultra LT is also one of the cheapest streaming box players you can find. However, streaming stick models like the FireStick Lite is roughly one third the cost.
Lets compare the differences between each streaming device amongst each major manufacturer in the streaming market to understand which budget streaming device is right for you.
Related: Best Streaming Devices for Smart TVs
How Roku Devices differ from each other
Roku Ultra vs. Roku Stick 4K: The Roku Ultra and Roku Stick 4K+ offer access to the same apps, but the Ultra boasts superior Wi-Fi performance, Ethernet connectivity, a headphone jack on the remote for private listening, and a lost remote finder feature.
While both devices provide smooth streaming experiences, the Ultra loads apps faster, making it a more powerful option; however, the Stick 4K+ is an excellent choice for those prioritizing affordability.
Roku Ultra vs. Roku Ultra LT: The Ultra has a slightly faster processor, a voice remote with a headphone jack, and support for Dolby Vision. The Ultra LT is more affordable but doesn’t come with headphones (even though it has a headphone jack), and doesn’t have the shortcut buttons and lost remote finder that the Ultra model does.
Also, the Roku Ultra has a USB port for additional storage, while the Roku Ultra Lt doesn’t – instead the lt model has a microsd slot on select models only.
Roku Stick 4K+ vs. Roku Express: The Stick 4K supports 4K resolution and HDR, while the Express is limited to 1080p resolution and does not support HDR. The Roku Streaming Stick also boasts a voice-enabled remote control, a feature absent in the Roku Express
Related: How to get a Roku Web Browser
How Amazon Fire TV devices differ from each other
Fire Stick vs. Fire TV Cube: The Fire TV Cube offers hands-free voice control, a built-in speaker, an ethernet port for a faster, more reliable internet connection, and a faster processor. The Firestick on the other hand is simply more affordable and compact.
Fire TV Lite vs. Fire TV Stick 4K: The Fire TV Stick 4K, slightly larger than both the Fire TV Lite and Fire TV Stick, supports 4K Ultra HD resolution. In contrast, the Fire TV Stick Lite provides full HD 1080p video output, compatible with HDR, HDR 10, HDR10+, and HLG video standards.
Also, while the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick 4K feature Dolby ATMOS Audio, the Fire TV Stick Lite is limited to Dolby Audio… and the Fire TV Stick Lite remote lacks volume and mute buttons, requiring a separate remote for these functions.
Difference between Nvidia Shield models (Standard vs Pro)
Nvidia Shield TV vs. Nvidia Shield TV Pro: The Shield TV Pro has more RAM, additional USB ports, and supports Plex Media Server, while the Shield TV is more affordable but lacks these features.
If you’re going for the absolute best device with the most capabilities, the TV Pro model is highly recommended and tough to beat.
Some users I’ve spoken with have anecdotally noted the Pro model to be much better.
The 8 Best Budget Streaming Devices
When choosing a budget streaming device, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons and prioritize the features most important to you.
Almost all of these devices support major streaming apps such as Netflix, fuboTV, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, Crunchyroll, Hulu, YouTube TV, and Peacock
Also see our post on streaming devices that work particularly well for the Youtube TV app.
Through research, testing, and considering expert opinions, you’ll be able to find a high-quality streaming experience at an affordable price. Let’s dive in:
The Fire Stick TV Lite is a more affordable option than the Firestick 4K+, with a voice-controlled Alexa remote and access to a vast selection of apps and channels. It has all the essentials and makes for a great casual, affordable streaming option for those who don’t care for 4K quality.
What we liked: Its low price, voice control features, and seamless integration with Amazon Prime Video.
What we didn’t like: The lack of 4K and occasional sluggish performance, otherwise this device is extremely similar to the Firestick 4K. The Fire Stick TV Lite is available at various retailers for around $30.
Pros include its affordability, voice control, and extensive app selection. Cons include the lack of 4K and HDR support and occasional performance issues.
The Roku Streaming Stick 4K offers 4K and HDR support, a compact design, and a voice remote with TV controls.
What we liked: Its portability, support for advanced video formats, and Roku’s user-friendly interface make for a top pick in the budget streaming stick space.
What we didn’t like: The lack of an Ethernet port is the only true downside here.
As far as price goes, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K goes for around $50 and is well worth it for those who need the essentials that the Roku Express doesn’t provide like the voice enabled remote.
Pros include its compact design, 4K and HDR support, and voice remote. Cons include the lack of an Ethernet port and occasional performance issues.
Also see: Struggling to choose between Roku stick 4K vs 4K Plus? Our in-depth comparison can help.
The Chromecast with Google TV offers 4K and Dolby Vision support, Google Assistant voice control, and a well-organized interface that aggregates content from multiple streaming services.
Chromecast with Google TV has one of the most intuitive, robust user interfaces for streaming I’ve tested – and at such a competitive price point. it’s hard to not consider this device amongst the Roku Express, Roku stick 4K+ and fire stick lite
You can also grab the Google Chromecast with google TV straight from the creator themselves.
What we liked: Its seamless integration with Google Assistant, personalized recommendations, and support for advanced video formats.
What we didn’t like: The lack of an Ethernet port and occasional app compatibility issues.
Pricing and availability: The Chromecast with Google TV is available at various retailers for around $50.
Pros include its Google Assistant integration, personalized recommendations, and 4K and Dolby Vision support. Cons include the lack of an Ethernet port and occasional app compatibility issues.
The Fire TV Stick 4K is an impressive budget streaming device, offering ultra high definition (UHD or 4K) video streaming, along with HDR support in HDR10 and Dolby Vision formats.
Equipped with a quad-core 1.7GHz CPU, 8GB of memory, and MIMO 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, this powerful stick delivers seamless streaming experiences. Its Bluetooth 5.0 with BLE connectivity further enhances its performance capabilities.
What we liked: Its support for advanced video formats, voice control features, and seamless integration with Amazon Prime Video. Outperforming its predecessor, it offers 4K and Dolby Vision support, a voice-controlled Alexa remote, and access to a vast selection of apps and channels.
What we didn’t like: The reliance on Amazon’s ecosystem and occasional sluggish performance, you really have to get used to the android style user interface with suggest apps on the home dashboard.
Pricing and availability: The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K is available at various retailers for around $50 and has access to an extensive array of streaming media from Amazon’s libraries and most major third-party services.
Pros include its 4K and Dolby Vision support, voice control, and extensive app selection. Cons include the reliance on Amazon’s ecosystem and occasional performance issues.Outperforming its predecessor, the Fire TV Stick 4K offers faster processing speeds and Dolby Vision support
The Roku Ultra LT is a budget-friendly streaming box that offers 4K and HDR support, an Ethernet port for wired connections, and a voice remote with a headphone jack for private listening.
What’s interesting about the Roku Ultra LT is that it cost a large chunk less than the standard Ultra model, and doesn’t really lack too much in terms of features.
What we liked: Its 4K and HDR support, Ethernet port, and private listening feature.
What we didn’t like: The lack of Dolby Vision support and a slightly bulkier design compared to streaming sticks. It also doesn’t come with headphones like the Ultra does – there’s no shortcut buttons or the lost remote finder that the Ultra model does (as mentioned earlier).
Pricing and availability: The Roku Ultra LT price varies, I’ve seen it for around $60-$80.
Pros include its 4K and HDR support, Ethernet port, and private listening feature. Cons include the lack of Dolby Vision support and a bulkier design.
Explore our guide on the best Roku streaming device to help decide which one to get.
The Amazon Fire Cube is a voice-controlled streaming box with 4K and Dolby Vision support, built-in speaker, and seamless integration with Amazon’s ecosystem.
What we liked: Its hands-free voice control, support for advanced video formats, and integration with Amazon Prime Video.
What we didn’t like: The higher price compared to other budget streaming devices and occasional performance issues.
Pricing and availability: The Amazon Fire Cube is available for roughly $120 online.
Pros include its hands-free voice control, 4K and Dolby Vision support, and built-in speaker. While, cons include its higher price and occasional performance issues.
The Nvidia Shield TV is an Android TV streaming device with 4K and Dolby Vision support, powerful performance, and built-in Google Assistant.
What we liked: AI upscaling technology enhances 1080p content to near-4K quality. Its support for advanced video formats, gaming capabilities, and seamless integration with Google Assistant.
What we didn’t like: The higher price compared to other budget streaming devices and a less user-friendly interface. Most of the advanced features require you to know a bit about streaming.
Pricing and availability: The Nvidia Shield TV is available at various retailers for around $150.
Pros include its 4K and Dolby Vision support, gaming capabilities, and Google Assistant integration. Cons include its higher price and less user-friendly interface. With its exceptional streaming and gaming features, the NVIDIA SHIELD TV Pro is an outstanding choice for those seeking a high-performance, all-in-one entertainment solution.
There’s also the NVIDIA SHIELD TV Pro, an upgraded set-top streaming box to the Shield TV tube shaped device, that doubles as a powerful gaming system. It’s more expensive, with more features and is considered one of the best streaming devices.
Boasting 4K resolution, this device supports a wide variety of TV and music apps, functions as a PLEX media server, and can be set up with ease. Its AI upscaling technology enhances 1080p content to near-4K quality, while the feature-packed SHIELD Remote offers a truly magical user experience.
Features to Look for in a Cheap Streaming Device
|Resolution and HDR support||Seek devices supporting at least 1080p resolution and HDR for enhanced picture quality.|
|App availability||Ensure the device accommodates the streaming services and apps you frequently use.|
|User interface and ease of use||Opt for a device with a user-friendly interface and straightforward setup process.|
|Remote control features||Look for devices with voice control capabilities and dedicated buttons for popular streaming services.|
|Voice assistant integration||Consider devices that integrate with voice assistants like Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, or Apple Siri.|
|Connectivity and compatibility||Check for devices with Wi-Fi and, if possible, an Ethernet port for wired connections. Ensure compatibility with your TV and audio system.|
|Software updates and support||Choose a streaming device from a reputable manufacturer that offers regular software updates and customer support.|
Resolution and HDR support: Look for devices that support at least 1080p resolution and HDR for improved picture quality.
App availability: Ensure that the device supports the streaming services and apps you frequently use.
User interface and ease of use: Choose a device with a user-friendly interface and simple setup process.
Remote control features: Look for devices with voice control capabilities and dedicated buttons for popular streaming services.
Voice assistant integration: Consider devices that integrate with voice assistants like Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, or Apple Siri.
Connectivity and compatibility: Check for devices with Wi-Fi and, if possible, an Ethernet port for wired connections. Also, ensure compatibility with your TV and audio system.
Related: 7 Best Roku Remote Replacements
Software updates and support: Choose a streaming device from a reputable manufacturer that provides regular software updates and customer support.
How to Choose the Right Budget Streaming Device Under $50
- Assess your needs and priorities: Determine the features most important to you, such as resolution, app selection, or voice control.
- Compare features and performance: Research and compare the features, performance, and user experience of various streaming devices within your budget.
- Read user reviews and expert opinions: Check online reviews and expert recommendations to gain insight into the pros and cons of each device.
- Consider the long-term value: Think about the device’s expected lifespan, support for software updates, and compatibility with future technologies.
- Test devices in-store or through a trial period: If possible, try out different streaming devices in a store or through a trial period to find the one that best suits your needs.
Ranking and Choosing the Best Cheap Streaming Devices
Criteria we used for evaluation:
- Price ($50 or less is ideal for a budget choice)
- Features (ethernet, 4K, dolby vision, dolby audio)
- User experience
Use the criteria above to compare the pros and cons of each device, taking into account your personal preferences and priorities. By evaluating the pros and cons of each streaming device, you can make an informed decision on which one is the best fit for your needs and budget.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Using a Low-Cost Streaming Device
|Roku||Roku Ultra vs. Roku Stick 4K+||Ultra has better Wi-Fi, Ethernet, headphone jack on remote, lost remote finder, and faster app loading. Stick 4K+ is more affordable.|
|Roku Ultra vs. Roku Ultra LT||Ultra has a faster processor, voice remote with headphone jack, Dolby Vision support, and additional features like shortcut buttons and lost remote finder. Ultra LT is more affordable, has a microSD slot on select models, but lacks a USB port.|
|Roku Stick 4K+ vs. Roku Express||Stick 4K+ supports 4K, HDR, and has a voice-enabled remote. Express is limited to 1080p, does not support HDR, and lacks a voice-enabled remote.|
|Amazon Fire TV||Firestick vs. Fire TV Cube||Fire TV Cube has hands-free voice control, built-in speaker, Ethernet port, and a faster processor. Firestick is more affordable and compact.|
|Fire TV Lite vs. Fire TV Stick 4K||Stick 4K supports 4K, Ultra HD resolution, and Dolby ATMOS Audio. Lite supports 1080p, HDR, HDR 10, HDR10+, HLG, and Dolby Audio but lacks volume and mute buttons on the remote.|
One of the main advantages of budget streaming devices is their affordability. These devices offer excellent value for money and allow users to access major streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video without having to invest in expensive hardware.
Budget streaming devices are often more accessible to a wider range of consumers. These devices are simple, easy to set up, come with user-friendly interfaces, and are compatible with a variety of TV models.
One of the downsides of budget streaming devices is that they may lack certain features found in more expensive models. For example, budget devices might not support Dolby Vision or Dolby Atmos, which are advanced video and audio technologies that can enhance your streaming experience.
Budget streaming devices may have slower processors and less memory than their premium counterparts, which can lead to slower app loading times and potential buffering issues.
Cheaper devices may have lower build quality compared to more expensive models, which can impact their durability and longevity.
Budget devices might have more basic user interfaces, fewer customization options, and a more limited selection of apps and channels compared to more expensive streaming devices.
The Differences Between a Leading Streaming Device and a Cheap Android Streaming Stick
Leading streaming devices like the Apple TV 4K or Nvidia Shield TV Pro often have more powerful processors, more RAM, and additional features like Ethernet ports and USB ports for better connectivity.
Software and user interface
High-end streaming devices usually have more polished and feature-rich user interfaces, with better app compatibility and a larger selection of apps and channels.
Premium streaming devices often support higher resolutions, such as 4K and HDR, as well as advanced audio formats like Dolby Atmos, providing a better overall streaming experience.
App availability and compatibility
More expensive streaming devices tend to have better app support, with access to a wider range of streaming services and apps, including regional and niche content providers.
Support and updates
Premium devices typically receive more frequent software updates and have better customer support, ensuring a smoother user experience and better long-term performance.
Leading streaming devices can be quite expensive, with prices ranging from $100 to $200 or more, while budget Android streaming sticks can be found for as little as $30 to $50.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ve discussed various budget streaming devices, including the Roku Express 4K+, Fire Stick TV Lite, Roku Streaming Stick 4K, Chromecast with Google TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, Roku Ultra LT, Amazon Fire Cube, and Nvidia Shield TV.
Budget streaming devices offer a cost-effective way to enjoy your favorite streaming services without breaking the bank. By considering the features, performance, and user experience of each device, you can find the perfect streaming solution.