The best streaming device will instantly connect you to countless movies, TV shows, songs, and applications. Who needs cable when you have the best streaming media player to fulfill all of your cravings?
The best media streamers also don't require a monthly fee since they use Wifi to connect to streaming services you already pay for (you can always buy more, of course). They may even allow you to get rid of your cable TV services altogether and save money on your bills.
This article is an explanation of the best streaming devices and how they work. I will also review each of the best streaming devices based on price, compatibility, and features to help you decide which one you will enjoy the most.
Table of Contents
The Best Streaming Stick: Our Top Picks
Amazon Fire TV Review
- Most affordable of the streaming box options
- Streams in 4k HD resolution
- Comes with a remote with Alexa compatibility
- Easy to set up
- Best for Amazon Prime users only
- Catalog of 4k content is small
- Navigation might be confusing
Amazon Fire TV Features
The Amazon Fire TV is a small box you can connect to your WiFi and TV for ultimate streaming. In fact, it's the most affordable streaming box out there streaming in 4K HD resolution from channels that offer the option. Enjoy more than 7,000 Amazon Fire TV apps and 300,000 TV shows and movies from Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, HBO Now and more. You can also download games and music to play when you're in the mood.
Amazon Fire TV Setup
To set it up, plug the box into an outlet and your TV with the accompanying cords. Then select which input channel (HDMI) you used to connect the Amazon Fire with your TV and set up your remote. The remote should connect automatically; just don't forget to put in the batteries!
Then connect your Amazon Fire TV box to the same WiFi as your TV, either wirelessly or with an Ethernet cord. The last step is to create and log into your Amazon account if you don't already have one. You'll want to download the Amazon Fire TV remote app to access and search your apps easily in one place.
Amazon Fire TV Remote
The Amazon Fire TV price includes a tangible remote, unlike the Amazon Fire Streaming Stick. You can also use the Amazon Alexa voice remote with the Amazon Fire TV. Instead of using your smartphone app to access Alexa (although you still can), simply hold down the mic button on your Amazon Fire TV remote and tell or ask her anything.
Apple TV 4 Review
- Two different storage options: 32GB or 64GB
- Siri and voice control capabilities
- The remote is sleek and easy to use
- AirPlay function for other iOS devices
- No access to Amazon or Google Play content
- Can't stream in 4k HD
Apple TV Features
The Apple TV (4th Generation) is another of the best streaming boxes on the market right now. Similar to the Amazon Fire TV, the Apple TV streaming box has voice control with Siri and provides access to over 5,000 applications. It also has two different versions; one has 32GB of storage and the other has 64GB and is more expensive.
Although you can access apps like Netflix and FXNow on your Apple TV, you cannot access Amazon accounts, movies, Vudu, or Google Play. If you want to purchase movies, TV channels, games, and apps, you can do so through the iTunes store. Additionally, the Apple TV lacks 4K HDR resolution. If you absolutely need it, I would go with the Roku Ultra.
Apple TV Setup
You'll need personal WiFi to connect to the Apple TV 4. Then, plug your box into the wall and into your TV and turn both on. Make sure you select the same input channel you connected your TV with (likely HDMI). Then you should see the setup screen where you'll need to setup your remote by clicking the touch surface. Once you're connected, you'll be prompted to choose your settings and either connect to your smart device for streaming or set up manually with your Apple ID.
Apple TV Remote
The Apple TV remote is arguably the best remote of all streaming devices. It is simple and sleek with Siri voice control and a touch surface for pairing. Additionally, there is now a remote app for iOS. With it, you can use your smart device's online keyboard or Bluetooth connected keyboard to search with ease.
Amazon Fire Stick Review
- Extremely Affordable
- Makes the most of your Amazon Prime benefits
- Incorporates Amazon Alexa
- Easy to set up
- Needs Amazon Prime to access all features
- The remote is flimsy and might break easily
Amazon Fire Stick Features
The Amazon Fire Stick is another small yet amazing streaming device with access to Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO, Sling TV and more. This streaming stick is extremely cheap and can do mostly anything you need. The only difference between it and the Roku Streaming Stick is that its app really pushes Amazon's products when searching instead of more popular streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.
If you already stream mostly from Amazon, the Amazon Fire Stick may be perfect for you. For example, if you have Amazon Prime, you'll have access to thousands of movies and TV shows at no additional cost, plus the option to add over 90 premium channels.
Amazon Fire Stick Setup
The Amazon Fire Stick is pretty easy to set up. First, you need to create an Amazon account to register if you don't already have one. Then, just plug your Amazon Fire Stick and TV into the wall and connect them to the same Wifi. Then you can pair your remote for searching and control if you don't want to simply use the Amazon Fire Remote app on your smartphone. Once you've done that, you can access all of the content your heart desires and adjust your settings how you like.
Amazon Fire Stick Remote
The Amazon Fire Stick comes with a regular remote and a voice remote option using Amazon's Alexa. It's somewhat different from the Amazon Alexa Hub, however. Instead of always listening, the Amazon Fire Stick requires your TV to be on and you to hold down the voice icon button on your Amazon Fire App or remote before speaking to Alexa. You can release your hold on the button once you stop talking.
Google Chromecast Review
- Inexpensive and set up is a breeze
- Includes 4k HD resolution, screen mirroring, and gaming options
- Compatible with iOS, Android, and Windows devices
- Does not come with a remote
- Does not work with Amazon Prime
Google Chromecast Features
The Google Chromecast Ultra is one of the most affordable and advanced streaming sticks on the market. I'll call it a stick, even though it's circular and looks more like a small hockey puck.
The Google Chromecast Ultra streams movies, shows and music from Netflix, Spotify, Youtube, HBO Now, Pandora, and thousands more from your Android or iOS smart device.
The Google Chromecast Ultra has more features than most streaming sticks including 4K HD resolution, screen mirroring, content aggregation, and gaming options. It is also a cross-platform device that can operate with iOS and Windows operating systems.
Keep in mind, though, the Google Chromecast doesn't work with Amazon Prime. This best streaming device's best new feature is the Google Chromecast app. It has been upgraded to pull all content from every compatible app, so don't have to go searching for the streaming icon.
Google Chromecast 2 Setup
Setting up the Google Chromecast 2 streaming stick is easy. Simply plug the device into your TV's HDMI output (make sure your TV is on HDMI) and connect your device to the same WiFi as your TV. Then, download the Google Chromecast app on the smart device you want to stream from to search for streaming options and apps.
Google Chromecast 2 Remote
The Google Chromecast 2 does not come with a tangible remote. Instead, simply download the app on your smart device to navigate your streaming options from there or click the Chromecast icon within any compatible Chromecast app on your smart device.
Roku Streaming Stick Review
- Inexpensive and easy to set up
- Large selection of apps
- Comfortable streaming remote
- Does not support iTunes or Apple Music
- App quality is not the greatest
Roku Streaming Stick Features
The Roku Streaming Stick price is inexpensive and includes seemingly everything you could want or need in the streaming stick. Stream movies and TV shows from Roku Streaming Stick channels including Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO, Showtime, and Sling TV. You can also stream photos and videos from your iOS or Android smart devices.
The Roku stick has a tiny, sleek design and a 720p x 1080p HD screen resolution. Additionally, its collective Roku app alerts you about new movies and their prices so you don't miss anything. If you want to watch a show while someone else is sleeping, you can even connect your headphones to the remote for private listening.
Roku Streaming Stick Setup
The Roku best streaming media player stick is really simple to set up. You'll need to have an HD TV with an HDMI output in order to plug in the Roku streaming stick to your TV. You'll also need a reliable WiFi connection. If you have these things, simply plug in your Roku Stick to the TV and wall and connect to the same Wifi on both devices.
Then pair your remote and follow the directions to create an account and install the apps you want. Once you're all set up, you can even customize your home screen and organize apps the way you like.
Roku Streaming Stick Remote
The Roku Streaming Stick price includes a battery-powered remote that connects to your TV via WiFi. With a WiFi remote, you never have to worry about being in line with the TV for it to work. If you don't like the remote, you can also use the Roku app on your smartphone to search for your favorite apps, shows, and music.
Key Considerations When Choosing a Streaming Device
49 million U.S. homes who have the Internet own an Internet-connected TV or streaming device as of 2016, according to The NPD Group. In fact, cable boxes are now officially outnumbered by households with Internet-connected TVs, according to Variety.
If you're in the market for the best streaming device, there are plenty of things you need to consider before you buy.
1. Types Of Media Streaming Devices
There are two different types of TV streaming devices to think about before you buy. Here's how they compare.
The best streaming sticks are somewhat different from the best streaming boxes. For one thing, streaming sticks are usually more portable because they're small with little wires necessary to connect. If you travel often and like to stream music, movies or shows while you're away, you need the best media streamer stick. Just keep in mind that it may not come with the best screen resolution options and features.
TV Streaming Boxes
TV streaming boxes, on the other hand, have wires and are not easy to stick in your backpack on a trip or set up on the go. Additionally, streaming boxes like the Apple TV 4 can be set up manually instead of streaming from a smart device. TV Streaming boxes usually have better screen resolution and features than streaming sticks.
Ultimately, if you're looking for something portable with an easy setup process to bring with you on the go, you want the best streaming stick. If you're looking for a smart TV connection at home, you may want the best streaming TV box instead.
2. Streaming Services and Apps Available
You should also pay close attention to which apps and streaming services will be available on your streaming device. For example, do you want to make sure your streaming media player connects with Netflix? What about Amazon Prime? Most streaming media players are Netflix streaming devices these days. Certain devices like the Google Chromecast, however, do not connect with Amazon accounts.
3. Media Streamer TV Compatibility and Screen Resolution
Make sure your streaming device is compatible with your TV and has solid screen resolution. The best streaming devices and services have begun coming out with 4K HD resolution options. 4K is a higher quality of streaming now being offered by certain top streaming services like Netflix.
If you have an older TV with no HDMI outlet, however, you may have to upgrade before you think about buying such streaming devices. For example, the Roku Streaming Stick only works with HDTVs that have an HDMI outlet.
4. TV Streaming Device Remote
The best streaming devices will either come with a remote included or a separate remote for you to purchase. Most also have their own application, so you can control searches and streaming straight from your smartphone.
5. Setting Up Your Streaming Media Player
Set up for your media streamer should be pretty simple, whether you decide to purchase the best streaming stick or the best TV streaming box. Here's what you'll need to do.
- Plug your streaming device into the TV and wall and turn it on.
- Connect to the same WiFi as your TV on your smart device.
- Pair your remote if you have one.
- Log into your account and adjust settings how you want.
- Start streaming.
With a streaming box, however, you may have the option to set up manually. This means you don't have to connect with a smart device to stream.
"...cable boxes are now officially outnumbered by households with Internet-connected TVs..."
Related: How to Connect Your Phone to Your TV
What Device Offers the Best Value for Money?
The absolute best streaming device on the market today is the Google Chromecast Ultra. It is the smallest streaming stick with portability and amazing features that other sticks just don't have.
Its features resemble a streaming box, except the Google Chromecast Ultra, is close to half the price of boxes like the Apple TV 4. If you don't mind missing out on Amazon shows, movies, and services, this best streaming media player has everything else you need.
If you don't feel like you can miss out on Amazon and still want features on top of the best video quality, the Roku Ultra is the best TV streaming box out there. It is less expensive than the Apple TV 4's 64GB version and provides better video quality as well as a microSD slot for extra channel storage.
It also has the most apps out of any streaming device, easy customization options, and a headphone jack built into the remote for private listening.
Related: How to Cut Your Cable Bill
How I Chose The Best Device
I researched every relevant streaming device on the market to come up with the best streaming devices out there. I analyzed prices and features and evaluated specs and cons regarding products such as the NVIDIA Shield, the TiVO Bolt, ABOX, KUKELE, and more.
I also researched customer reviews and ratings to determine if each product lives up to its reputation. After careful consideration, I truly believe the Google Chromecast Ultra and the Roku Ultra are the best streaming devices available to date.
Related: How to Watch TV Online
Overall, the best streaming device will connect your TV to a world of applications and the best streaming sites with movies, TV shows, and games. To make sure you have a stable connection, however, you should take a look at our comparison of the best internet providers.