Roku Streaming Stick+
The Roku Streaming Stick+ is simply the most complete 4K HDR streaming device you can get for the price.
Google Chromecast (3rd Generation)
The new Google Chromecast is fast and intuitive, but the attractive little dongle is behind the times.
Amazon Fire TV Cube
The Amazon Fire TV Cube is an excellent marriage of an Echo speaker and a Fire TV device that's able to control your living room.
These days, you've got an abundance of choices for how to stream online content directly to your TV, from small HDMI sticks that tuck behind your TV to minimalist set-top boxes and even game consoles that double as entertainment centers. For the largest selection with minimum fuss, the Roku Streaming Stick+ ($70) is the way to go, as it's got a ton of streaming service channels, plus 4K streaming. If you're looking for something you can forget is even there, consider the Google Chromecast ($35), which matches a streamlined feature set with a low price tag, and still get one of the best streaming devices.
News and Updates (July 2019)
- Roku's domination as the most popular streaming platform continues, as the company increased the gulf between it and Amazon Fire TV.
- Dabby is an intriguing new streaming device that works with every streaming service that works with web browsers.
- Apple's tvOS 13 is due this fall and will bring multi-user support and an enhanced Apple Music app with on-screen lyrics.
Thanks to the Roku Streaming Stick+, the best streaming device, you no longer have to choose between price and content selection. The Roku Streaming Stick+ costs $70, and provides access to more than 5,000 channels — including the sometimes-elusive Amazon Video. The device is small and unobtrusive, and thanks to a wireless amplifier, it's easy to get a strong signal from anywhere in your home.
The 3rd generation Chromecast 2 is pretty similar to its predecessor, and most streaming sticks. It's portable and doesn't take up much room. This year's model doesn't push the ball much further, though, with slight gains in performance. Even Google is modest -- claiming speed gains of mere 15 percent at most -- about the update. Still, this device takes advantage of the well-designed Chromecast app that makes it easier to find streamable content, highlighting video from apps already installed on your phone. That app needs to carry the weight of an operating system for the Chromecast, though, as there's no on-screen menus to speak of. Those with 4K TVs should look into the Google Chromecast Ultra instead. And at $35, it's dollar-for-dollar one of the best streaming devices available today.
Best Voice Control
Tired of keeping track of all of the remotes for your TV, streaming devices and cable box (if you've still gone one)? The Amazon Fire TV Cube offers a great alternative, as Alexa can turn on your TV, adjust your volume and switch between channels on your connected devices. Also, this box (it's not technically a cube) produces excellent 4K, HDR pictures, and its content-first layout makes it easy to resume the show you're currently bingeing.
Best Android TV Player
The Nvidia Shield splits the difference between a streaming box and a gaming console, and has a lot to offer on both fronts. In addition to enjoying your favorite shows and movies on apps like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon (the only Android TV player that has it), you can download high-end Android games or stream top-tier PC titles from the GeForce Now program. The Shield can act as a Plex Media Server, and will eventually be able to control smart home tech through voice commands. Add in 4K HDR support, as well as the ability to play your own media via USB, and its versatility makes the Shield one of the best streaming players available.
Best Live TV Streamer
At first, the Dish AirTV Player may seem like a device exclusively to watch Sling TV. That's not the case. In addition to providing a full roster of Android TV apps, the AirTV Player also incorporates broadcast channels right from an HD antenna. If you want a whole host of live channels — some from Sling, some from your local antenna — the AirTV will deliver your favorites in real time.
Best for Apple Users
The Apple TV 4K delivers everything fans loved about the last iteration of the box, but its 4K HDR support makes it the best streaming device for those in Apple's ecosystem. In addition to watching iTunes movies and TV shows on your big screen, you can watch hundreds of streaming apps, play games, AirPlay content from other Apple devices and even control your smart home devices right from a Siri-enabled remote. The refined voice search gives it an edge over other streaming boxes, but you'll pay a lot for the privilege.
Best Game Console for Streaming
The Xbox One S is only $289, but streams movies and TV in 4K and supports HDR content. It's also going to get Dolby Vision capabilities in the near future, and you can install Kodi on the console, if that's your jam. It also plays 4K Blu-ray movies, unlike any of our other picks.
How We Test Streaming Devices
Testing streaming players is usually a simple process that prioritizes content over performance. Any streaming player worth its salt can play video well, but only a good one possesses straightforward navigation, robust search features and a wide variety of content to suit all tastes.
The first thing we evaluate is the setup, to see how quick and simple it is. From there, we take the user interface for a spin to see what content gets highlighted, what gets hidden, and how easy it is to navigate to our favorite channels. We'll also watch a few different shows on a variety of channels to gauge the quality of the video and audio.
After that, it's onto the extra features, like gaming, voice search and screen mirroring. These factors don't weigh quite as heavily toward the final score, but they're nice to have if they work well, and extremely distracting if they don't.
Stream live TV from popular channels with packages that start as low as $15 a month. This is a limited-time offer.