The best streaming devices are an essential part of any home entertainment setup, particularly because smart TVs don’t necessarily offer all the apps you need. However, choosing the finest streaming device may be difficult, but the Apple TV, Firestick, and Roku stand out as the best options for the majority of consumers. In addition, they will look and sound fantastic with Dolby Vision and Atmos.
Streaming devices are becoming more popular every day as people cut the cord and move away from traditional cable TV. If you’re looking for the best streaming device for your home entertainment needs, then look no further. We break down the different types of streaming devices available and recommend our top three picks. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a movie buff or a tv show binge-watcher, we’re going to make choosing one of these stream devices easy for you.
With hundreds of channels to choose from in its Roku Channel Store, Roku is known for its variety of services and applications. Amazon Prime, Hulu, Netflix, and Sling TV are just a few of the major streaming media providers accessible, as well as a slew of specialist applications and services for movies, sports, weather, news, and foreign content. Apple AirPlay is also supported which is awesome for those Apple fans out there.
Streaming sticks such as the Roku Streaming Stick 4K and the Roku Streaming Stick 4K+ are capable of delivering 4K video in HDR10 and Dolby Vision, making them one of our top choices for streaming in 4K. It is more expensive and larger than the regular Roku Streaming Stick+, but it offers features such as wired connection options and a remote with a headphone connector, which is not available with some of the others. If you don’t already own a media streamer, Roku also makes a soundbar that can stream media. Despite its $180 price tag, it’s more than fair for a simple stereo soundbar that can stream 4K content.
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With Roku TV, Roku has also established itself as a major player in the smart TV market. At least 12 manufacturers, including Hisense and TCL, employ its technology on a large number of their TVs, which the business does not produce itself. Similar to Roku media streamers, Roku TVs are televisions that include a built-in video player. Roku TVs now come in a wide variety of sizes and resolutions, including 4K and HDR. But if streaming is your main concern, I’d definitely stick (pun intended) with one of the streaming sticks previously mentioned for a more enhanced experience.
Roku Streaming Stick 4K – $39 – LINK
Roku Streaming Stick 4K+ – $39 – LINK
Roku Soundbar – $179.99 – LINK
Apple TV is a preferable alternative for people who want to check all the boxes, or who only want an Apple device to use Apple Arcade for gaming or to take full benefit of their Apple One subscription packages. The Apple TV app now allows access to the vast majority of Apple-purchased movies and television shows, including content from Apple TV+, on a variety of other devices. Smart TV platforms such as Amazon Fire TV and Google TV, as well as game consoles such as the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, are all supported by the service’s diverse selection of platforms.
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Even while the Apple TV costs more than most other options, it has certain advantages for Apple devotees. While you do get a Siri-enabled remote and the ability to use it as a hub for Apple HomeKit with the Apple TV hardware, those are the only major benefits it has over some of the other streaming device options. The Apple TV may easily be overlooked in favor of a far less costly video streamer or the smart features built into your TV if you don’t want to construct a HomeKit-based smart home with it.
Apple TV 4K (32GB) – $166 – LINK
Amazon Fire TV Stick
The Fire TV Stick Streaming Video Player allows you to watch streaming media on almost any HDTV in your home. Access to material such as movies, television programs, music, games, and more is provided via this sweet piece of equipment. Premium services like Netflix, Pandora, HBO NOW, and Amazon Video are also available. You may connect this HDMI-enabled gadget to your television through its 1080p video output. Dual-band Wi-Fi 5 is available on the Fire TV Stick for high-speed Internet access. With the latest Fire TV Stick 4K Max, you’ll be able to take advantage of WiFi 6 speeds that really take your streaming experience to the next level. Your connected smart devices can also wirelessly mirror and exchange content. By just speaking into the 2nd gen Alexa voice remote control, you can easily navigate the Fire TV and look for extra information on the internet, such as weather conditions and sports scores.
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K vs 4K Max?
Which one should you get? I have both and I love both, BUT…the 4K Max is worth the extra $20. In fact, I like the 4K Max so much more that we’re going to buy another one and use the standard 4K stick as our new travel device. Amazon claims it’s 40% more powerful and after using it…right away I’d say that’s a massive understatement. We immediately noticed the 4K Max model has a smoother streaming quality and most importantly has quicker (better) navigation and operating function. It’s clunky at all. I’ve yet to experience an app crash, which almost every streaming stick I’ve ever had has that issue. The latency between operating the remote control and what you see on the screen is almost nothing. It truly is an awesome streaming stick and one we highly recommend.
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K – $34.99 – LINK
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K MAX – $54.99 – LINK
Chromecast With YouTube TV
This is what I personally use a lot and personally love a lot! Chromecast with YouTube TV is a streaming device that lets you watch your favorite live TV shows, news, and sports. It’s simple to set up and easy to use. Just plug it into your TV’s HDMI port, connect to your Wi-Fi network, and start streaming. Chromecast with YouTube TV gives you access to all of your favorite channels, including ESPN, CNN, HBO…just about everything. Plus, you can pause and rewind live TV, so you never miss a moment. And with their cloud DVR, you can record your favorite shows and watch them later. Chromecast with YouTube TV is the perfect way to watch your favorite TV shows, news, and sports. I do appreciate that you can have simultaneous streams at once with YouTube TV along with a robust profile allowance. Currently, you can stream on 3 devices simultaneously and have up to 6 profiles on your account.
With Chromecast specifically, you can easily cast most content from your phone or tablet onto your TV. And it doesn’t matter if you have Android or Apple devices either. You can stream on both. Another added value you get with Chromecast that is very underrated is you can ask Google Assistant to play your favorite show, pause or resume playback, and even control the volume. Chromecast is a fantastic way to enhance your tv viewing experience.
Streaming Stick vs Streaming From Your TVs Software?
When it comes to streaming, there are a few different options to choose from. You can stream from your device, or you can stream from your TV’s software. Both have their own benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to weigh your options before you decide which one is right for you. Which is better? Streaming from a device like Roku or Firestick or from your Smart TVs software?
One advantage of streaming from your TV’s software is that it is usually already installed on your TV. This means that you don’t have to buy an additional piece of equipment. Don’t have to worry about using another plug for a streaming stick. The biggest benefit of using your TV’s built-in software is a matter of convenience. And that’s about it.
Streaming sticks are a great option for people who want an easy-to-use streaming experience and one that isn’t going to be glitchy and choppy. One of the biggest complaints about using your TV’s built-in software is the glitch factor. And you can update your TV’s software all you want. They just haven’t perfected the stream quality and experience vs streaming sticks. The other is picture quality. It’s hard to beat streaming in 4K from a streaming stick over Wifi 6. Even if the TV claims to stream in 4K, I just find the experience in visual and audio better with a streaming stick. Another reason I like the streaming sticks is they are small and compact, so they’re easy to transport. We used to take our Firestick with us on vacation and it was super easy and convenient to watch in vacation rentals and hotels. And then another huge reason is when you stream from your TV’s built-in software, you’re kind of limited with what’s available on your TV’s app store. You have the same issue a little bit with a stick (not all channels/apps are on all streaming sticks), but it’s a much bigger issue with TV app stores.