There are multi-streaming devices on the market, but which one is best for you? To help you make a decision, we’ve reviewed all of them.
A streaming device allows you to stream your favourite movies and shows from Netflix, HBO Max, and Disney Plus on your TV. Roku, Google, and Amazon stream devices are tiny sticks or boxes that attach to your TV via an HDMI cable. They connect to your TV and turn it into a streaming hub.
Although many smart TVs have an operating system that can download streaming apps, add-on streaming devices are often simpler to use, offer better search capabilities, and provide more frequent updates than the OS already installed on your set. They are also a cheaper option for replacing your whole TV.
We have reviewed almost every streaming device and smart TV system, including Roku and Google Chromecast.
Breaking Down the Top Streaming Devices Right Now
Roku Express 4K Plus
Roku is our favorite streaming system. It has the most streaming apps, the easiest streaming platform interface, and the best search. Roku is also content-agnostic, so it doesn’t favor any particular media streaming service provider like Amazon Prime Video, Cyberflix, and Apple. Express 4K Plus is one of the most affordable streaming TV options, with 4K HDR. Even if your TV doesn’t support these formats, the next one will. This Roku device, thanks to AirPlay updates, is one of the most affordable ways to connect your iPhone to your TV. It’s cheaper than the company’s Streaming Stick 4K Plus, as well as other 4K HDR streaming devices. We also recommend it as our top choice for the best streaming device.
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Chromecast with Google TV
Although the Chromecast with Google TV may not be as great as the Roku Express 4K Plus 4K Plus, it is still a superior device. Chromecast beats Roku with Dolby Vision compatibility. But its greatest smart device strength is Google Assistant voice searching, which is great for finding things to watch. The integration with Google services like YouTube TV and Google Photos is also a plus. Although the interface is more sophisticated than Roku’s, we still prefer Roku’s simple, straightforward approach, clear search results, and lower price. The new Chromecast is an excellent smart streaming device for people who already live in Google’s world. Check out our Chromecast with Google TV Review.
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Roku Streaming Stick 4K
The Roku Streaming Stick 4K, the long-awaited upgrade to the Roku Streaming Stick Plus, is here. The interface is simple and offers large app selections, impressive search functions, and the same Dolby Vision support. Dolby Vision HDR, a stick-like design that is the key difference between the Express 4K Plus and the Streaming Stick 4K, is ostensibly the reason why the Streaming Stick 4K costs more than its sibling. We think the Streaming Stick 4K is a great device. However, the Dolby Vision upgrade is not something we like. This is mostly because it doesn’t offer a significant image quality improvement over standard HDR. If Dolby Vision is important for you, this device won’t disappoint.
Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite
Let’s start with this: The Roku Express might be better if you prefer the simplicity and app-based menus of Roku Express. The Express is far superior in terms of features and price, but the Lite is a better option. The best feature of the Fire TV remote is its built-in voice search. (The Streaming Stick Plus is the cheapest Roku with remote control), thanks to Alexa Voice Remote. Fire Stick remotes don’t require line of sight. The Lite is the cheapest option if you don’t have the budget for a 4K player.
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Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max
The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max is a fast device. The Max can load apps quickly and navigates around the system smoothly. The Max supports Wi-Fi 6 as well as nearly all of the most recent playback standards including Dolby Vision. Fire TV’s platform on the Max and the prominent placement of ads throughout the Max are both negatives. In screensaver mode, the TV is a huge rotating billboard of content and ads. We don’t like this. This is a great choice for anyone looking for a quick device or someone who is connected to the Amazon ecosystem. Fire TV Stick 4K Max, the most powerful Fire Stick available today, is worth the extra cost over the Fire TV Stick 4K.
The Roku streaming box that is the most expensive is twice as expensive as our top pick. But, you might enjoy its additional features enough to upgrade. The model 2022 is nearly identical to previous versions but comes with Voice Remote Pro.
If you love the remote but want to save a bit of money, Roku offers a bundle called the Roku Streaming Stick 4K Plus. This bundle also includes the Voice Remote Pro. Although the Streaming Stick 4K processor is not as powerful as the Ultra, it can perform nearly all of the same tricks as Dolby Vision HDR.
The Ultra delivers Dolby Vision video, quicker responses than the Streaming Stick 4K, and a wired Ethernet port. This is especially important if your home WiFi is already overloaded.
Apple TV 4K
The Apple TV 4K perfectly complements the 4K streaming devices. It’s the best choice for those who want to test every feature. This Apple TV 4K is also ideal for shoppers who wish to use Apple Arcade for gaming or take full advantage of their Apple One subscription bundles. The new remote is perfect for video enthusiasts, and older Apple boxes will also love it.
Apple’s old-fashioned remote control streaming device is not worth the cost, especially when Roku offers almost all major apps and AirPlay. You can get Dolby Vision on the Roku Streaming Stick 4K for a fraction of what it costs.
Although soundbars with streaming onboard are a recent innovation, Roku’s new Streambar is a great example. The Roku interface is still there, with 4K HDR and improved sound quality for all TVs, including dialog. Although it is smaller and cheaper than the Roku Smart Soundbar predecessor, we believe the new Streambar media streaming device makes more sense.
Nvidia Shield TV
The Shield is a premium media device with 8GB storage and 2GB RAM. This compares to 16GB storage and 3GB RAM. However, it is a great choice if you are looking for a versatile streaming player that can stream video from all platforms. It offers 4K streaming and HDR as well as a rich library of games for Android and consoles, Steam Link, and a built-in Google Assistant with smart home control, NAS access, and Plex server capability. HDHomeRun integration is also available.
How to test streaming devices
Each streaming device that we review is subject to hours of hands-on testing. This usually involves testing the device on several TVs and evaluating its setup. We also add popular streaming channels to the device and use it as our own. We test all the features on the platform to see how they compare against other competitors. We hook up rival streaming devices to one TV to allow us to switch between them easily and compare their experiences.
We consider the following metrics when rating a device: hardware design and features; remote capabilities and design; overall platform ease of use; effective layouts and designs; search capabilities; privacy settings; the number of apps and their performance, along with overall speed and reliability.
Are streaming devices subject to monthly fees?
No. No monthly fees are charged for streaming devices. You will need to pay monthly fees to access certain channels, such as Netflix, HBO Max, and Hulu.
Are you looking for a streaming device that can be used with your smart TV?
Not necessarily. Many smart TVs have their own streaming platform that allows users to download popular apps such as Netflix, Movie Plus, and Hulu. There are a lot of options available on Samsung smart TVs. TVs are now compatible with major streaming platforms like Roku, Google Chromecast, and Amazon Fire TV.
If your TV’s interface does not contain the content you require, it can cause problems. Spectrum customers who own an LG smart TV won’t be able find the Spectrum app via LG’s platform. To stream their cable package, they will need to purchase a Roku or Apple TV, or a Google Chromecast. Roku and Amazon streaming-centric devices tend to have more apps than a streaming service from a TV manufacturer.
Are all channels available on every device?
Each streaming device can access major streaming services like Netflix, Hulu Max, HBO Max, Amazon Prime, and Hulu Plus. However, not all streaming services have access to every channel. It is good to take a look at the Spectrum TV app as an example. The app is available on all platforms but not on Amazon Fire TV. Before you make a purchase, it is a good idea to check to ensure that the device you are purchasing has the necessary apps. You might find yourself in a difficult situation if your device does not have the app you need for your favorite service.