There are lots of ways to stream online content directly to your TV, including simple set-top boxes, compact streaming sticks and powerful game consoles. For the largest selection with minimum fuss, the Roku Streaming Stick+ ($70) is the way to go, packs a ton of streaming service options, plus 4K streaming. If your tastes skew minimalist, you can also check out the newly redesigned 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 (April 2019)
- Amazon and Google have come to a cease-fire in their streaming app war: Prime Video is coming to Chromecast and YouTube is coming to Fire TV.
- Roku OS 9.1 is rolling out to select Roku devices, bringing features such as Automatic Account Link, so you don't need to re-sign into apps on additional Roku devices, with support for 10 services including Pandora and Sling.
- Who needs a Roku box when you can get a Roku TV for cheap? Right now the 43-inch TCL 1080p Smart TV from 2017 is just $169, thanks to Amazon's $70 discount.
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.
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