You might need one of our picks for the best streaming devices to get Netflix, Hulu or Amazon on your TV. And let's be honest, last year had too many good shows to watch, so we're still catching up on The Mandalorian and The Witcher). When it comes to piping them directly into 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+ is the best streaming device overall, as it boasts a ton of streaming service channels, plus 4K streaming. If you're looking for something cheaper, 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. It's also really portable, which is why I've got no problems with just bringing it to one of my colleagues apartments to watch some shows this weekend.
Now that Disney Plus is here, we're fully ensconced in Mandalorian-fever over its show-stealing co-star. We've also got links to the Disney Plus app for your streaming devices. Meanwhile, we's also catching up on Apple TV Plus shows now that season finales have hit.
Looking for a new show to binge? Check out our guide to the best shows on Netflix, 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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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