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Best streaming devices in 2020

Best Streaming Devices

It's time to make sure you've got one of the best streaming devices. Otherwise, you could be missing a service or two or streaming Amazon Prime Video in lower resolution.

With the largest selection with minimum fuss, the Roku Streaming Stick+  is the best streaming device overall. If you're looking for something cheaper, consider the Google Chromecast, which matches a streamlined feature set with a low price tag, and still get one of the best streaming devices.

The big news right now is that we're expecting a 2020 Apple TV any month now. Leaked code suggests this new model will feature a much faster processor that's years ahead of the one in the current Apple TV 4K.

Looking for a new show to binge? Check out our guide to the best Netflix series for TV picks, our full Apple TV Plus review and our guide to everything you can find on Disney Plus. 

And yes, you don't need an Apple TV to watch Apple TV Plus, it's on Roku and Fire TV Sticks and Samsung Smart TVs.

The best streaming devices you can find today

Best Streaming Device: Roku Streaming Stick+

(Image credit: Roku)

1. Roku Streaming Stick+

Best streaming device overall

Number of Apps: Thousands | Size: 3.7 x 10 x 1.0 inches | Weight: 0.7 oz

Inexpensive
Full 4K HDR capabilities
Huge app selection
Customizable interface
Remote lacks an audio jack
Search could be deeper

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 about $60, 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.

Read our full Roku Streaming Stick+ review.

Google Chromecast (3rd Generation)

(Image credit: Future)

2. Google Chromecast (3rd Generation)

Best streaming device for your dollar

Number of Apps: Thousands | Size: 2.0 x 2.0 x 0.5 inches | Weight: 1.4 oz

Fast performance
Inexpensive
Intuitive interface
Boring, stripped-down design
No significant improvements over second gen

The 3rd generation Chromecast 2 is just as compact as before and features 15 percent faster performance. This device takes advantage of the well-designed Chromecast app that makes it easy 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. At $35, it's one of the best streaming device values available, but those with 4K TVs should look into the Google Chromecast Ultra instead.

Read our full Google Chromecast (3rd Generation) review

nvidia shield tv 2019

(Image credit: Gia Sergovich/Tom's Guide)

3. Nvidia Shield TV (2019)

Best premium streaming device

Number of Channels: 5,000 | Size: 6.5 x 1.6 x 1.6 inches | Weight: 4.8 oz

Excellent game-streaming
Quick rendering of UHD content
Lots of great apps
Attractive new design
AI upscaling doesn't add that much
Somewhat expensive

The 2019 Nvidia Shield TV doesn't just look unlike any other streaming device we've ever seen (it's more like a mobile power charger), it's also one of the best streaming devices, period. This tube for your tube is great at speedily spitting out UHD 4K content, and its thousands of apps means you're getting practically everything you could watch.  

This Shield TV also includes a remote control, rather than a game controller. We love this remote because it illuminates when you pick it up in the dark. You won't miss the lack of a packed in controller, thanks to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One controller support. That all adds up to the best streaming device for those willing to spend more.

Read our full Nvidia Shield TV 2019 review.

The Fire TV Cube is a solid sequel, packing speed to amplify Alexa.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide | Future)

4. Amazon Fire TV Cube

Best voice control in a streaming device

Number of Apps: Hundreds | Size: 3.4 x 3.4 x 3.0 inches | Weight: 16.4 oz

Speedier performance
Alexa's cable box controls are great
Great 4K HDR picture quality
Lively interface
Home screen can't be edited, packs ads
Awkward Ethernet adapter

Did you know Alexa could control your cable box (yes, some of us haven't cut the cord yet)? The Amazon Fire TV Cube (2nd Gen) packs a version of the virtual assistant that offers more entertainment device tricks than most, including switching HDMI inputs and tuning to cable channels. And thanks to a faster processor in this new model, commands happen up to four times as fast. This box (it's not technically a cube) streams content in excellent 4K, HDR quality, and its content-first interface seeks to cut down the time it takes for you to hit Play. Trying to master Amazon's cheaper streamer? Check out our how to use the Fire Stick guide.

Read our full Amazon Fire TV Cube (2nd Gen) review.

(Image credit: Roku)

5. Roku Ultra (2019)

Best streaming device for external media

Number of Apps: Thousands | Size: 4.9 x 4.9 x 0.9 inches | Weight: 8.0 oz

Great performance
Lots of high-quality channels
Inventive remote control
USB and microSD ports
Expensive
Almost nothing new from last year's model

The 2019 Roku Ultra isn't just a great streaming box with all of the perks you'd expect for $100 (4K HDR video and fast performance for starters). We love the new Roku Ultra for its USB port which allows for folks to play back their own collected movie files on the Ultra. This means you don't need to know what a media server is, or how to set one up. The other big boon of this model is that you can program the Roku remote's two customizable buttons to open your favorite channels, in addition to the pre-programmed ones for Netflix, Hulu, Sling TV and Vudu.

Read our full Roku Ultra (2019) review.

Dish AirTV Player

(Image credit: Dish)

6. Dish AirTV Player

Best streaming device for live TV

Number of Channels: 600+ | Size: 5.2 x 5.2 x 1.0 inches | Weight: 14.5 oz

Fantastic antenna integration
Robust Sling TV options
Plenty of Android TV apps
Confusing navigation
Leans too heavily on Sling TV
Disappointing remote control

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.

Read our full Dish AirTV Player review.

MORE: How to Stream Video from a Mobile Device or Computer to a TV

Apple TV 4K

(Image credit: Future)

7. Apple TV 4K

For Apple fans only

Number of Apps: Thousands | Size: 4.0 x 4.0 x 1.3 inches | Weight: 15.0 oz

Fantastic 4K HDR content
Intuitive home screen
Simple iOS and macOS integration
Expensive
Fiddly remote
No digital audio or USB ports

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.

Read our full Apple TV 4K review.

Xbox One S

(Image credit: Future)

8. Xbox One S

Best game console for streaming

Number of Apps: 50+ | Size: 11.6 x 9.1 x 2.5 inches | Weight: 102.4 oz

Lighter, sleeker chassis
Available with 2TB of storage
Can stream 4K content
HDR support for videos and games
Smartly redesigned controller
Can't play games in 4K

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.

Read our full Xbox One S review.

Xfinity Flex

(Image credit: Xfinity)

9. Xfinity Flex

Free streaming box for Xfinity internet customers

Number of Apps: Size: 5.1 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches | Weight: 8 ounces

It's free!
Good voice search
Cross-app searches
Lets you control xFi products
Stiff buttons on remote
Limited apps

Free for Comcast Xfinity Internet customers, the Flex is a very cheap way to get access to streaming services such as Amazon Prime Video and Netflix. Plus, the Flex lets you monitor and control other devices connected to your home network. 

However, the Flex has far fewer services than other streaming devices—there's no Disney+, nor is there Hulu or Spotify, to name a few—which limits its usefulness. Still,  because it's free, there's no harm in picking one up and waiting for other streaming services to arrive. 

Read our full Xfinity Flex review.

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.

  • jmazz
    With the exception of the "G-Box Midnight MX2," which is outdated right now, what the author does not tell you is that he is not being too specific about these media form factor devices that are on the market right now. That is either because the author is unfamiliar with this, or because he chooses not to be clear about it, or because he thinks that if it is not paid video watching it is not worth it. What he should have called the article is : "The best paid video content media players." There is a whole new market for media streaming boxes that can not only act as second choice desktops but do media streaming and much more as part of their function. These are boxes such as the Probox2 EX, the MINIX Neo X8, the Rikomagic MK902II ,etc. These type of media streamers are much more powerful then this restricted, low functionality, low power boxes in the article. The form factor that I am talking about will become even more powerful once they start using google's new mobile operating system Lollipop.

    What the boxes such as Apple, Roku boxes excel at is streaming paid video and not much more while the media boxes that I mentioned offer you the use of unrestricted applications use, the streaming of media through applications such as XBMC (KODI) ,and a lot more interaction with your media.

    Many of these boxes have quad-core processors and powerful video processors that put Apple and Roku boxes to shame in terms function and even usability.

    So, tech reviewers will soon be forced to make a distinction between specialized video
    watch boxes and real media streaming boxes.
    Reply
  • morganfj
    ROKU 3 is problematic to a small degree.. But the worst part of ROKU is that there is NO real CARING Customer support... For example... Failure to play files which are stated as playable (MKV and MP4 both H.264 Audio - NO Other Formats!!!) MKV if set to 5.1 will have no sound and many newer MP4 files will freeze the unit causing reset.... ROKU's answer.. CONVERT the File and to same format and try again... IN FACT Most questions are about failures to operate correctly are answered via FORM LETTER.
    The Problem ROKU is hardwires the decoder.. NO upgradable Codecs are used.. thus any updates to Converter's Coders can not be upgraded to ROKU, and this unit is already years out of date.. Older files may work, but don't count on downloading newer files and having them work... THIS WILL ONLY GET WORST!
    Next Problem: RESETS.. Seems that ROKU will on occasions.. especially in USB mode.. FREEZE and RESET..... This will drive you crazy.. Again.. Primary software is hardwired and very little update capability was put into this old unit...

    BOTTOM LINE.. The ROKU 3 you by today is IDENTICAL to the units built 4 years ago.. Some minor software is updated as is the software in these older units.. but Major changes CAN NOT BE CORRECTED by software due to design. Considering inexpensive microprocessors and min. memory used. RODU could have used a software system that was fully upgradable also a good Upgradable Decoder COULD HAVE BEEN USED along with CODECS instead of limited hardwired Codes.. This would have allowed for ALL formats to be played and upgraded as changes are made...BASICALLY: They saved a buck in this $99 unit at the consumers COST!

    I FEEL THAT PLACING this old unit at the top of the list is irresponsible of this site.. SIMPLE SELLS NuMBERS does not make the Better Product....
    Reply
  • Daniel Muvdi
    you don't mentioned Fire Tv that its completly wrong in my opinion is one of the best so far.
    Reply
  • davesr1980
    This review is for this media players that they are calling the best are the most basic and waste of money unit the more you use them the more you wish they could do and most of the unit listed can do half of what a good player can do for instance kdlink hd700 hd700 or a200 is listed and the are most definitely in the top 10 so I assuming top ten units you can pick up in Walmart or best buy
    Reply
  • lost_n_austin
    Good grief, nothing whatsoever here about devices optimized for file playback.

    Move along... move along...
    Reply
  • KADIEMAC
    I cut the satellite cord a month ago and went with the ROKU3. I am loving it !! The only problem that I have encountered was I could only get a fragmented lined homepage a few days ago. I unplugged it from the power source and it reset. We had a power outage in my area that night. I'm not sure if that played a part but I've had no issues since. I'm glad I am no longer under Directv's thumb!!
    Reply
  • Dave4321
    Any android player with a decent processor can stream any game with the Limelight/Moonlight app as long as you have an Nvidia graphics card. I can stream any game with my Fire TV.
    Reply
  • mca10spro
    you don't mentioned Fire Tv that its completly wrong in my opinion is one of the best so far.
    Reply
  • mca10spro
    I agree. I am looking at the Fire TV. It looks pretty good. Also, just today I saw a samsung device.
    Reply
  • svexec
    what's TOTALLY missing from the market is a simple web browser url locator to view ANYTHING so I can surf the net on my TV without a laptop and view hulu free version!!! Remember the good old days of WebTV?
    Reply