Alright people, listen up. If you already have subscriptions to services like Netflix or Sling TV and are tired of watching your shows on a tiny laptop, then buying a TV streaming device is a no-brainer for you. Streaming devices allow you to seamlessly connect your devices and app subscriptions straight to your TV, making it “smarter” than ever. Even if you already have a Smart TV, the power and services offered by TV streaming devices, for the majority of cases, far outperform what a Smart TV can offer you. As long as you have a decent TV and a WiFi connection, then you can bring the world of streaming straight into your living room.
There are many different companies that offer a streaming service and each have their own take on the TV streaming experience. That means that each TV streaming device has its own set of unique features that might make it better or worse for you personally. We at eHomeUpgrade have created this list of the best TV streaming devices to take you through the best ones out there and help you decide which is best for you.
Whether you are looking for a cheap streaming stick, something to stream beautiful 4K, or a device that could even stream your PC games to your TV, we should have an option for you.
The Roku Streaming Stick + may not be the best streaming device on the market, but it has a great mix between affordability and quality. Priced at $49, the Streaming Stick + allows you to stream 4K and HDR with Dolby Atmos Audio. This streaming stick utilizes 802.11ac MIMO dual-band wireless, one of the most powerful WiFi capabilities on the market right now, to give you smooth streams while watching your favorite shows on services like Netflix or Hulu.
The experience of using the Roku Streaming Stick + is very easy. Roku has arguably the best user interface on the market, so that makes finding the shows you want a breeze.
Overall, the Roku Streaming Stick + offers a great user experience mixed with an affordable price. If you are looking to use it for 4K streaming, though, make sure you have the internet to handle the amount of power needed, as there is no ethernet port available. Make sure to check out our article on the best wifi extenders for ways to boost your WiFi power.
At the surface, the Roku Ultra offers a similar service to its close competitors: the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K and the Chromecast Ultra. However, digging a little deeper shows the many little touches that Roku puts in that sets its streaming experience apart from the rest. Like its competition, it offers support for 4K and HDR and has an ethernet port to make your streaming smooth as silk. If an ethernet cord isn’t an option for you, the Roku also has a powerful WiFi connection that will be enough for 1080p.
The Roku Ultra features Roku’s user interface, which is probably the best in the business. Roku has an app-agnostic approach to their menus, so it doesn’t spend any time advertising their shows to you while you are trying to scroll through the menus (looking at you, Amazon). Roku’s remote is also one of the best. It’s easy to use and it features some nice touches that you didn’t know you needed.
One of those nice touches on the remote is Night Listening mode, which automatically adjusts volume depending on the scene to avoid waking everyone up in the house. The other feature is a headphone jack on the remote, which allows for private listening. And how could you forget the always helpful “Lost Remote” button, which saves you from turning over every piece of furniture in your house by setting off a beeper on your remote when you press the button? Now that’s a useful feature.
At $96, the Roku Ultra is more expensive than it’s close 4K streaming competitors from Amazon and Google. But those looking for the best overall streaming experience will find that the Roku Ultra is worth the money.
If you either have an Amazon Prime account or are secretly in love with Alexa, then I would suggest considering the Amazon Fire TV Stick.
Amazon’s streaming stick is only $40 and it offers super fast speeds through its 802.11ac WiFi chip and 1.7GHz quad-core processor. You can stream shows from major apps like Amazon Video or Netflix in 1080p resolution.
Alexa is also there to help you navigate the menus through the voice control function on the remote. For some reason her responses aren’t quite as intelligent when searching as they are in the Amazon Dot – searching for anything other than the exact show name you’re looking for can lead to her bringing up some weird results – but it can make the experience of finding a show a little bit faster in many cases.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick is a solid streaming stick at $40. If you are considering it, I would highly suggest upgrading to the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K since it’s only $10 more and offers quite a few additional features, like 4K streaming. Don’t worry, secret Alexa lovers, she’ll be there too.
If the Amazon Fire TV Stick isn’t quite good enough for you and you’re looking for just a little extra “oomph”, then check out the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K.
Unlike the normal Fire TV Stick, the Fire TV Stick 4K has support for HDR, both HDR10 and Dolby Vision. With the Fire TV Stick, you can stream 4K shows and movies from Netflix or watch live TV through apps like SlingTV.
The overall setup of the Fire TV Stick 4K is pretty slick. It has a very intuitive remote that can navigate your through the menus and even perform other functions on your TV. The best part about the remote is that it includes voice control, so you can Alexa to search through menus. Unfortunately, voice search is limited to only a few apps, so you will have to dig through the menus of apps unsupported for voice search to find the shows you want.
Speaking of the menus, the Amazon Fire TV’s menus are a bit annoying to navigate. Amazon, of course, has many of their shows advertised at the top of the menus. To get to the show you want to watch, you may have to click through many pages before you can actually press “Play”. Compared to menus of other streaming services out there, the experience of the Fire TV’s menus seem like its a bit of a hassle. There are also a few annoying software bugs that pop up now and again that certainly don’t help the experience.
While the menus may be not be a favorite, there’s no doubting that the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K is a great way to experience 4K streaming. Starting at only $50 on Amazon, the Fire Stick Stick 4K is also the best budget option for those looking to dip their toes into 4K and HDR. Most other 4K options are at least $20 more.
Are you the owner of an iPhone, an iPad, an Apple Watch, a Macbook, and an iCar? Ok, the last one isn’t a thing (yet), but if you own at least one of the first four Apple devices then you should consider the Apple TV. Apple is known for having a seamless ecosystem between each of their devices, so why not let your TV join the party? With the Apple TV, you can do just that. Stream shows, watch movies, or even use AirPlay to put your Apple device’s screen onto your TV.
The Apple TV is one very powerful device. It supports an A10X Fusion Processor, so the whole experience is smooth as hell. It supports both 4K and HDR in both Dolby Vision and HDR10. You can use the major apps, like Netflix or Hulu, straight through the Apple TV, or find things from the Apple library.
The remote that comes with the Apple TV is a pretty nice design as well, so getting through the menus is smooth.
The one problem with the Apple TV is the price. At $150, it’s a lot more expensive than the other streaming devices like it. But if you are looking to stay in the Apple family, then you won’t be disappointed by what the Apple TV can offer.
By far the most simple experience you could ask for in streaming goes to the Google Chromecast. The setup for the Chromecast is incredibly easy – which consists of plugging it into the wall, plugging the Chromecast dongle into an HDMI port, and then quickly pairing it with your Google account.
All of the control when streaming with the Chromecast is on your devices – no extra remote or complicated UI here. All you do is touch the Chromecast icon in Google’s approved apps, like Netflix, and then select the show you want to watch. When the show pops up on your TV, you will see the usual pause/play and timeline scroller show up on your device.
You can use your Google Home to control your Chromecast with the Google Assistant. It all adds up to be a very straightforward and refreshingly easy user experience
But the simplicity of Chromecast’s experience may not be for everyone. There isn’t a remote and there’s no support for 4K. For being the cheapest streaming experience out there though, it’s very good. For those looking for a more powerful version of the Chromecast, check out the Chromecast Ultra, which has 4K streaming.
For those looking to stay in the Google family, but want a little more juice than what the Chromecast can offer, then consider the Chromecast Ultra. This beefed-up Chromecast features 4K streaming with a wide amount of HDR support.
It also features a 802.11ac WiFi connection for blazing fast connection speeds. Thankfully, the Ultra also features an ethernet plugin on the power brick, which is absolutely necessary for 4K streaming.
As with the regular Chromecast, all of the control is in your device. Whether you are using your phone, tablet, or laptop, you can easily cast apps like Netflix or even Amazon Video by just clicking the Chromecast button in the app. Putting the control into your device takes away confusing steps like having to learn a new remote or navigating a new user interface, so the learning curve is very small to use a Chromecast.
Even though movies and shows aren’t widely available in 4K or HDR yet, being able to stream 4K and HDR sets the Chromecast Ultra up well for the future. The Chromecast Ultra becomes especially appealing for big YouTube users, since it is one of the only streaming services that pairs directly with YouTube. Yes people, that means streaming your favorite cat videos in 4K.
Chromecast Ultra: come for the easy setup, stay for the future potential of 4K and HDR.
The NVIDIA Shield offers an interesting mix between a gaming console and a streaming device.
Priced up at $200, it offers a boat-load of features like 4K streaming and the ability to cast your PC games to your TV. The Shield TV looks like a very slim game console with a nice black and green design which would look good in any room. The streaming device comes with Nvidia’s take on a game controller, which looks like a mix of the Xbox ONE controller’s shape and buttons with the PS4 controller’s DualShock sticks. It’s a decent controller, but thankfully the Shield TV is able to pair with better controllers like the Xbox ONE and the PS4.
The ability to stream your PC games to your TV is a really cool feature. If you subscribe to their GeForce Now service, you can get cross-saving between your laptop, desktop, and Shield TV. But you need to make sure you have a very good internet connection to stream your games on the NVIDIA Shield TV. GeForceNow, NVIDIA’s cloud gaming service, states that you should have at least 25 Mbps to get 1080p resolution at 60 fps. Ultimately, they just suggest you should have an ethernet cable for the best game streaming experience.
If you don’t have a good connection, then gameplay while streaming can get a little choppy. For a smoother experience, you can download games straight to your NVIDIA Shield TV from the Google Play store. The Google Play store doesn’t have the biggest selection of games, but you can still find major games like Fortnite.
The base model of the Shield TV starts at $200 comes with 16GB, but you can upgrade to 500GB at $300. Thankfully the NVIDIA Shield TV has slots for MicroSD and Micro USB storage, so you should have plenty of space for your games.
As for show and movie streaming, the Shield TV offers 4K streaming on apps like Netflix, Vudu UltraFlix, Amazon Video, and YouTube, with HDR being available on select services. HD streaming is available on all others, like Sling TV, PS Vue, or HBO Now. The combination of 4K streaming and the Shield TV’s support for 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound makes this an awesome device for your home theater.
Overall, the NVIDIA Shield TV offers a great option for PC gamers who want a cheaper option for a combo gaming and streaming device than something like a PS4 or an Xbox ONE. At $200, it’s much more of an investment than the other streaming devices on this list, but it also comes with a lot more.
Streaming services are taking the capability of TVs to the next level. You’re no longer limited to just watching cable or playing video games and you’re no longer limited by how long your HDMI cable is to plug your laptop into your TV. The world of streaming is now at your fingertips, it’s just a matter of how you want to experience it.
As you saw in this review, there is a wide variety of streaming services out there. If you are a hardcore PC gamer, the Nvidia Shield TV is a great option for bringing your favorite PC games from your monitor to your big screen. Apple lovers can extend their Apple joy by making their TV essentially another large Apple monitor while letting their old friend, Siri, guide their way.
These great streaming services show that it is hard for Smart TVs to keep up with services like Apple, Amazon, Google, or Roku, who are massive companies that are dedicated to an expansive and easy user experience. In short, Smart TVs are simply being out-smarted. Take your TVs IQ to the next level and pair it with the streaming service of your choice.
A: The cheapest device to stream Netflix is a Google Chromecast, which starts at $35 on Amazon.
A: Streaming devices plug into your TV and become a hub for streaming content from the Internet. Streaming devices allow you play popular apps, like Netflix or Hulu, directly on your TV. Many streaming devices come with a remote, but the majority of them allow you to control your streaming with your smartphone. Most new devices are also capable of streaming 4K and HDR.
A: Many smart TVs have apps loaded directly in the TV, but many streaming devices have capabilities and processing power that is beyond what smart TVs can handle. This is especially true when streaming 4K videos.
Streaming devices often times have compatibility that is beyond what Smart TVs can offer. By the way, make sure to check out our article on the best Smart TVs to pair with your streaming device.
A: The best TV stick for you depends on what you are looking for. If you are just looking for a simple streaming device and don’t want to spend a lot of money, then the $35 Chromecast would be the best choice.
If you are looking for a streaming device that is capable of things like 4K and HDR streaming, then the Roku Ultra offers the best all-around experience through a great user interface, powerful performance, and useful features like “private listening” mode.
If you are looking to stream your PC games on your TV, then the NVIDIA Shield TV is the easy choice.