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Looking for the Best Streaming device? Streaming devices have become increasingly popular as more people cut the cord and shift from traditional cable TV to streaming services.
These devices enable users to access a wide variety of content, including movies, TV shows, sports, and live events, all through a simple, user-friendly interface.
The best streaming devices are typically streaming players, not streaming sticks due to the hardware involved. For example, the Nvidia shield TV Pro and Apple TV 4K have features and capabilities that triumph most of the well known streaming sticks .
Over the past decade, streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+ have risen in popularity, offering vast libraries of content to users worldwide. This has led to a surge in demand for high-quality streaming devices that can handle the latest video and audio standards.
This blog post aims to provide a comprehensive review of the best streaming devices available in the market. We will explore their features, pros, and cons, and help you determine the most suitable device for your specific needs.
Keep in mind, we also cover the best budget streaming devices in a separate post, since this page will focus on which are the absolute best devices without budgeting being the primary decision factor.
At a Glance – Top Picks
Below are our top picks for the overall best streaming devices of September, 2023:
- NVIDIA Shield TV Pro
- Roku Ultra
- Chromecast with Google TV (4K)
- Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K
- Roku Streaming Stick 4K+
- Apple TV 4K
- Fire TV Stick 4K
- Roku Express
Should you choose a Streaming stick or Streaming player?
Streaming sticks are usually more budget-friendly than streaming box players. If you’re looking for a cost-effective solution for streaming content, a streaming stick could be the right choice.
However, there are trade-offs – streaming box players are generally more expensive been streaming sticks, but offer more advanced features and better performance.
This is exactly why cheap android streaming devices are so popular, they have more powerful hardware and can cost less than many well known name brand streaming devices.
However, inexpensive Android streaming tv boxes are not without drawbacks – they (may) not last as long and could have a limited warranty. They also require a steeper learning curve.
Streaming set top boxes are much better suited for running apps like Plex. See How To Get New Movies On Plex [Free]
If you’re willing to invest in a higher-end device for your home theater setup, a streaming box player might be worth the extra cost.
Choosing Between Streaming Sticks and Streaming Box Players:
When deciding between a streaming stick and a streaming box player, consider the following factors:
- Size and portability: If you have limited space or prefer a minimalist look, a streaming stick may be the better option.
- Connectivity options: If you require multiple ports or a wired internet connection, a streaming box player might be more suitable.
- Performance: If you prioritize advanced features and top-notch performance, a streaming box player could be the right choice.
- Budget: Consider your budget and weigh the trade-offs between price, performance, and features.
- At a Glance – Top Picks
- Should you choose a Streaming stick or Streaming player?
- The 9 Best Streaming Devices
- Comparison of our top Streaming Devices
- Factors to Consider When Choosing a Streaming Device
- How We Tested, Ranked, and Chose the Best Streaming Devices
- Is it better to get a smart TV or a streaming device?
- What is the best streaming device to add to a TV
- Is Roku better than FireStick?
- Which streaming device offers the best picture and sound quality?
- What features should I look for when buying a streaming device?
- Can I use a streaming device without a smart TV?
- Are there any streaming devices that offer free content without a subscription?
The 9 Best Streaming Devices
Discover our top picks for the best streaming devices, covering both streaming sticks and set-top boxes to elevate your home entertainment experience in just a few clicks.
Related: Best Cheap Streaming Devices
The NVIDIA Shield TV Pro model is a powerful Android TV streaming device that offers 4K HDR support, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio, and gaming capabilities. It also features Google Assistant integration and supports popular streaming services.
What makes the Nvidia Shield unique is that no matter what type of home theater setup you have in mind, it will be compatible with your Smart TV and sound system setup.
For example, it was one of the only devices I didn’t have any issues with when trying to pass audio through a Denon receiver for my 7.1 sound system setup. See all the cool things you can do with Nvidia Shield TV Pro.
It may be more expensive, but it also had absolutely zero issues direct playing videos on Plex Jellyfin, and Emby.
The only other streaming device that was able to provide a premium setup was the apple TV – So the Nvidia shield tends to be more of a premium, luxurious home theater choice for most.
What we liked: Excellent performance, gaming support, wide app selection, and support for high- quality video and audio formats.
It’s also Ideal for gaming enthusiasts, thanks to its powerful processor, gaming app support, and compatibility with NVIDIA’s GeForce Now cloud gaming service is tough to beat in this area.
What we didn’t like: Pricier than other streaming devices and may have more features than needed for non-gamers.
2. Roku Ultra
The Roku Ultra is a feature-rich set-top box that supports 4K HDR, Dolby Atmos audio, and a wide variety of streaming services. It includes a voice remote with a headphone jack for private listening.
The Roku Ultra is certainly one of the best streaming boxes overall, because it’s stronger than a Roku stick, has an ethernet port for faster streaming, and is best suited for users who want a top-of-the-line streaming experience.
What we liked: Easy-to-use interface, extensive app selection, and excellent performance.
Cons: More expensive than some Roku alternatives and no Dolby Vision support.
The Roku Ultra stands out as one of the best set-top boxes available, offering a powerful, feature-packed streaming experience that caters to a wide range of users.
Note: if you’re on a tighter budget or prefer a more compact streaming solution, you might want to consider other options, such as the Roku Streaming Stick 4K+ or the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K.
Related: Looking for help determining whether the Firestick or Roku is the better device for streaming? Check out our comprehensive review.
3. Chromecast with Google TV (4K)
The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K is a compact streaming stick that supports 4K HDR, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos audio. It includes an Alexa Voice Remote for easy voice control and access to a wide range of streaming services.
What we liked: Affordable, supports Dolby Vision and Atmos, and has extensive app selection.
Cons: Interface may be cluttered with ads and recommendations, and not as user- friendly as Roku devices.
The Fire TV Stick 4K is an excellent choice for users invested in the Amazon ecosystem, with seamless integration with Alexa, Amazon Prime Video, and other Amazon services.
The Roku Streaming Stick 4K+ is a portable and powerful streaming stick that supports 4K HDR, Dolby Vision, and includes a voice remote with a headphone jack for private listening.
What we liked: Compact and portable design, supports Dolby Vision, and offers an easy-to-use interface.
Cons: Slightly more expensive than some alternatives and may not have the same processing power as set-top box models.
The Roku Streaming Stick 4K+ is perfect for users who want a portable device without sacrificing performance, making it a great option for travel or moving between rooms in your home.
6. Apple TV 4K
The Apple TV 4K (2nd Generation) offers a fast A15 Bionic processor, an updated Siri remote, and supports 4K HDR, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos audio. It is tailored for Apple users who want to take full advantage of their Apple One subscription and other Apple services.
What we liked: Powerful processor, excellent integration with the Apple ecosystem, and supports Dolby Vision and Atmos.
Cons: More expensive than most alternatives and may not offer as many streaming apps as other devices.
Integration with Apple ecosystem and services: The Apple TV 4K (2nd Generation) is the best choice for users deeply invested in the Apple ecosystem, providing seamless integration with Apple Music, Apple Arcade, iCloud, and other Apple services.
Related: How To Get A Web Browser On Apple TV
The Amazon Fire TV Cube is an innovative streaming device that seamlessly integrates the capabilities of a smart assistant with your television. Its unique cube design houses a hexa-core CPU, 2GB RAM, and 16GB of storage, ensuring smooth and efficient 4K streaming.
One of the unique features of the Fire TV Cube is the built-in speaker, enabling it to function as a smart home hub and control other smart devices. The device is fully compatible with Amazon’s Alexa, allowing for hands-free voice control over both the Cube and connected smart home devices.
What we liked: I personally like the Fire TV Cube as it runs on the Fire TV OS, which is a variant of Android TV, the Cube offers access to a wide range of streaming apps such as Netflix, HBO, and YouTube. Some users however may not enjoy the default layout of the home screen, but this is subjective.
Note: Fire TV Cube is also one the best streaming devices to watch Youtube TV on
The Fire TV Cube comes with a remote for those who prefer a more traditional approach, but its voice control capabilities truly set it apart. Users can link the device to compatible soundbars and speaker systems, creating a seamless and intuitive voice-controlled entertainment experience.
Cons: the Fire TV Cube does have some drawbacks. Its size may not be suitable for wall-mounted TVs, and the device is heavily focused on Amazon’s ecosystem, which may not appeal to everyone.
Also, there are four app buttons at the bottom of the remote are pre-set and cannot be customized, unlike the Alexa Voice Remote Pro.
8. Roku Express
The Roku Express is a budget-friendly streaming device that supports Full HD (1080p) resolution and offers access to a wide range of streaming services through an easy-to-use interface.
What we liked: Affordable, easy-to-use interface, and extensive app selection.
In terms of unique features, the Roku interface is simple and intuitive, making it easy for users to navigate through various apps and menus. The search function is highly effective and allows users to find content across multiple platforms. The Roku Express Cube also offers “The Buzz,”
Explore the best Roku devices for the most superior streaming experience.
Cons: Limited to Full HD resolution and may not have the same processing power as more expensive models.
While the device may be affordable, it does have some drawbacks. The IR remote control that comes with the Roku Express model lacks some essential features, such as the ability to control the TV’s power, volume (only W-Fi based remotes can do this), and inputs, making it necessary to juggle multiple remotes.
Also the Express model only supports HD streaming, which might not be suitable for users seeking a 4K streaming experience. (Dont fret though – there’s also a Roku express 4K+ model)
The Roku Express is ideal for users who want an affordable streaming device without the need for 4K or Dolby Vision support, making it a great choice for secondary TVs or those with a limited budget.
Comparison of our top Streaming Devices
When comparing the prices of various streaming devices, the Roku Express and Chromecast with Google TV HD are the most affordable options, while the Apple TV 4K (2nd Generation) is the most expensive.
Related: Our post comparing the Roku Stick 4K to the TiVo Stream 4K device gives you a detailed comparison.
Video quality, features, and user interface
Most streaming devices on the list support 4K HDR and Dolby Vision, with the exception of the Roku Express, which is limited to Full HD resolution.
Roku devices generally offer the most user-friendly interfaces, while Amazon Fire TV devices may be more cluttered with ads and recommendations. Apple and Google devices provide better integration with their respective ecosystems.
Most streaming devices offer voice control through built-in assistants, such as Alexa for Amazon devices, Google Assistant for Chromecast devices, and Siri for the Apple TV 4K.
The NVIDIA Shield offers the best gaming capabilities, with support for GeForce NOW streaming and compatibility with various game controllers. However, it’s important to note That the Xbox One and PlayStation 5 are both able to behave as streaming devices without any issue. this is useful because many people shopping for a streaming device mail already have one of these gaming consoles, which could solve their problem without any extra cost besides the streaming apps or TV streaming services.
Audio support & content availability
Most streaming devices on the list support Dolby Atmos audio, providing an immersive audio experience for compatible content. so this isn’t much of a concern, unless you have a more advanced home theater setup. as mentioned the Nvidia Shield or Apple TV 4K are your best options here as they don’t lack the requirements of a home theater setup that many desire.
All devices on the list offer access to major streaming services, such as Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+. However, there may be some limitations in terms of native app support, depending on the device and streaming service.
Below will cover some recommendations based on our experience using each of these devices. In each section, you’ll see that since each user has a different ideal use case for streaming and entertainment, they’ll need to sort through which streaming device will perform best in those scenarios.
Best overall streaming device
The Roku Ultra offers the best overall streaming experience, with a user-friendly interface, extensive app selection, and support for 4K HDR and Dolby Vision. Plus, if you plan on using it for any advanced, (example: Roku web browser), the Ultra is the most powerful model from Roku.
Streaming devices That provide the Best value for money
The Chromecast with Google TV offers one of the best value for money, with Dolby Vision support, Google Assistant integration, and a wide range of streaming services at an affordable price.
Best for gaming and advanced home theater setups
The NVIDIA Shield is the top choice for gaming enthusiasts and home theater fanatics, providing powerful performance, support for GeForce NOW streaming, and compatibility with various game controllers.
Best for integration with existing ecosystems
The Apple TV 4K (2nd Generation) and Chromecast with Google TV are the best options for those who are deeply invested in the Apple or Google ecosystems, respectively. They offer seamless integration with other devices and services within their ecosystems.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Streaming Device
Price: The cost of streaming devices varies significantly (Sticks are cheaper, while Streaming players/boxes are more expensive). For example the Roku stick and firestick are some budget-friendly options, while some on the higher end are the Roku Ultra and Fire TV Cube.
Compatibility: Check the compatibility of a streaming device with your TV and other home theater components to ensure seamless integration and optimal performance.
Resolution and video quality: Different streaming devices support varying resolutions, ranging from 1080p HD to 4K Ultra HD and HDR. Consider your TV’s resolution and the type of content you want to watch when choosing a device.
Features and user interface: Streaming devices come with various features and user interfaces. Look for one that offers an intuitive, easy-to-navigate experience and supports the apps you use the most.
Voice control: Some streaming devices come with built-in voice control or support voice assistants like Google Assistant, Siri, or Alexa. This can make it easier to search for content and control playback.
Gaming capabilities: If you’re interested in gaming, consider a streaming device that supports gaming apps or comes with a game controller.
Audio support: High-quality audio is essential for an immersive home theater experience. Look for devices that support audio formats like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
Content availability: Ensure the streaming device you choose supports the major streaming services you use, such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+.
How We Tested, Ranked, and Chose the Best Streaming Devices
In order to bring you the most accurate and reliable recommendations for the best streaming devices on the market, we followed a comprehensive testing and evaluation process. Myself (as well as our team of experts) assessed each device’s performance, features, and ease of use to ensure that you can confidently make the right choice for your home theater or smart tv.
First, we researched and compiled a list of the most popular and highly-rated streaming devices available.
We then acquired and tested each device, focusing on a range of factors, including setup, user interface, app compatibility, video quality, and audio support. Additionally, we evaluated each device’s performance in real-life scenarios, such as streaming content from major platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu.
To rank the devices, we assigned scores based on their performance across various categories, including price, connectivity options, content availability, and integration with smart home systems. We took into account several user reviews and expert opinions to ensure that our rankings align with the experiences of actual users.
Finally, we identified the top streaming devices in specific categories, such as the best overall device, best value for money, and best for gaming enthusiasts. Our goal was to provide a comprehensive guide that caters to a wide range of user preferences and requirements, helping you make an informed decision when selecting the perfect streaming device for your home.
Is it better to get a smart TV or a streaming device?
It depends on your personal preferences and budget. Smart TVs have built-in streaming capabilities, which means you don’t need a separate streaming device. However, streaming devices often receive more frequent software updates and offer more diverse app selections. In addition, a streaming device can be more cost-effective, especially if you already own a non-smart TV.
Keep in mind the best budget streaming device and the best overall streaming device for smart TVs are different. For example cheap streaming devices like streaming sticks and some android based lesser-known name brands may work very well, but are typically not as powerful as the Apple TV 4K or the Nvidia shield TV pro – both are very expensive devices.
What is the best streaming device to add to a TV
The best streaming device to add to your TV will depend on your individual needs and preferences. Consider factors such as price, compatibility, content availability, and integration with your existing tech ecosystem. Our top recommendations include Roku Express 4K+, Roku Streaming Stick 4K, Chromecast with Google TV, and Apple TV 4K (2nd Generation).
Is Roku better than FireStick?
Both Roku and FireStick offer a variety of streaming devices with different features and price points. Roku is known for its user-friendly interface and wide range of streaming apps, while FireStick integrates seamlessly with Amazon Alexa and offers additional features like voice control. The best option for you will depend on your preferences and the ecosystem you’re invested in.
Which streaming device offers the best picture and sound quality?
Most high-end streaming devices, such as the Apple TV 4K (2nd Generation), Roku Ultra, and NVIDIA Shield, support 4K resolution and Dolby Vision for the best picture quality.
For sound quality, devices that support Dolby Atmos, like the Nvidia shield, Roku Streaming Stick 4K and Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, provide an immersive audio experience.
What features should I look for when buying a streaming device?
When buying a streaming device, consider factors such as price, compatibility with your TV, resolution and video quality, features and user interface, voice control, gaming capabilities, audio support, and content availability.
The ideal streaming device will strike a balance between these factors based on your personal preferences.
Can I use a streaming device without a smart TV?
Yes, you can use a streaming device without a smart TV. In fact, a streaming device can effectively turn a non-smart TV into a smart TV by providing access to various streaming services and apps. Just make sure that your TV has the necessary HDMI port to connect the streaming device.
Also see: Does A Smart TV Work Without Internet?
Are there any streaming devices that offer free content without a subscription?
Several streaming devices, such as Roku and FireStick, offer access to free content through their respective platforms (Roku Channel and IMDb TV).
Additionally, many streaming devices support free streaming services like Pluto TV, Tubi, and Crackle, which provide access to movies and TV shows without a subscription. Chromecast with Google TV is newer among the bunch and also provides some unexpected, amazing options.
In this guide, we’ve reviewed some of the best streaming devices available in 2023, including the NVIDIA Shield, Roku Ultra, Chromecast with Google TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, Amazon Fire TV Cube, Roku Streaming Stick 4K+, Apple TV 4K (2nd Generation), Fire TV Stick 4K, and Roku Express.
When choosing the best device for your needs, it’s essential to consider factors such as 4K and Dolby Vision support, cost, and additional features like voice control or integration with voice assistants like Siri. With numerous options available in the market, there’s a streaming device to suit every budget and requirement.
Ultimately, the goal is to find the most up-to-date device that not only fits your budget but also delivers the best possible streaming experience for your 4K TV.
It’s essential to consider your individual needs when choosing a streaming device, such as budget, compatibility with your TV, desired features, and the ecosystem you’re already invested in. Each device offers its own unique set of features, strengths, and weaknesses.