A streaming device is any device, such as a USB stick, video game console, or even a smart TV, that allows you to stream content from popular TV streaming services like Netflix, ESPN Plus, and Hulu packages. Streaming devices make it easy to watch on-demand content whenever you’d like, rather than waiting a week between episode releases.
Streaming devices can’t do much without a solid internet connection. Whether you’re hooked up to Wi-Fi, using Ethernet, or rocking a mobile hotspot, you simply won’t be able to stream anything without it. But here’s the good news: the internet is everywhere these days, and streaming devices are perfect for folks who want more control over their viewing habits. We’ve got the scoop on the hottest streaming devices out there, perfectly complementing your TV streaming service and ensuring seamless access to help you binge-watch all your favorite content.
Top 10 streaming devices
- Best overall: Roku Ultra
- Best for streamers on a budget: Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite
- Best for Google Assistant users: Google Chromecast with Google TV
- Best for kitchen use: Echo Show 15
- Best for Apple lovers: Apple TV 4K
- Best for gamers: NVIDIA Shield
- Best for game console streaming: Xbox Series X
- Best for Xfinity users: Xfinity Flex
- Best for built-in soundbar: Roku Streambar Pro
- Best for customization: Intel NUC
Best streaming devices compared
|Works with Ethernet;
Better range with Wi-Fi;
|Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite
|Compatible with Alexa for easy search functionality;
Gaming compatible with the Twitch app
|Chromecast with Google TV
|Streams Stadia games;
Ideal for Android users;
Supports 4K and HDR10
|Echo Show 15
Ideal for multi-purpose use in a smart home
|Apple TV 4K
|Can play Apple Arcade games;
|NVIDIA Shield TV Pro
|Onboard GeForce now;
Supports Gigabit Ethernet
|Xbox Series X
|Supports up to 8K HDR;
Can play Blu-Ray;
Can stream from external hard drives
|Free for Xfinity customers
|Comes with a free subscription to Peacock Premium;
Perform cross-app searches
|Roku Streambar Pro
|Easy, intuitive sound settings;
Best overall: Roku Ultra
|Remote and mobile control
|Larger than other Roku devices
|Built-in remote finder
|No Twitch app for gaming fans
|Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos compatibility
|Compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri
|Plug headphones into the remote for private listening
The Roku Ultra is the best streaming device overall on our list, as it’s ideal for the average household. The user interface is intuitive and straightforward, and the on-remote voice control makes it easy to search for any show you want to watch — even those with titles that are hard to pronounce (since you can spell out the word letter-by-letter). The Roku Ultra even has a companion app that allows you to use your phone as a remote and stream content directly from your mobile device.
The Roku Ultra has another thing going for it: affordability. At just $87.99, this streaming device strikes a balance between price and performance. It provides tremendous value in terms of a live TV streaming service, with plenty of free streaming services available. It can also connect via Ethernet if your Wi-Fi tends to be spotty.
And, you can plug headphones into the remote to listen to the TV without disturbing anyone around you. With Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos compatibility, you’ll get theater-like experiences right in your home.
The only downside to the Roku Ultra is that it’s a semi-hefty device, so you’ll need to find a suitable place in your house to put it. If your TV is mounted on the wall, you’ll need to mount a shelf or use an adhesive to give the Roku Ultra a place to sit.
Best on a budget: Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite
|No 4K streaming
|200,000+ free movies and TV shows
|No HD support
|Alexa voice remote included
|No Dolby Vision or Dolby Atmos
|Can control smart home devices
|Works with multiple music streaming platforms
|Can easily be hidden behind TV
Amazon’s Fire TV lineup of devices is nothing to scoff at. They’re chock-full of impressive features and an equally impressive content lineup. If you’re shopping on a budget, then the $29.99 Fire TV Stick Lite is the best option for you.
It lacks 4K and HDR content, but you can still stream all your favorite shows in high definition. Plus, it includes the Alexa voice remote. Not only can you use the Fire TV Stick Lite to control your smart home devices, but you can ask Alexa to bring up your favorite shows or launch different services.
This streaming device is also ideal for those who want to keep it hidden. It’s just a small device that plugs into an HDMI port in the back of your TV — out of sight, but certainly not out of mind. Even if you don’t have many streaming service subscriptions, the free platforms on the Fire TV Stick offer more than 200,000 free movies and TV episodes through IMDb TV, Tubi, and more.
You also get access to live TV through Sling TV plans, YouTube TV, and others, as well as music through Amazon Music and Spotify. Of course, the Fire TV Stick favors Amazon Prime Video over any other platform, so you can browse Prime Video or watch any movies you purchase from it with just a few clicks.
Best for Google Assistant: Google Chromecast with Google TV
|Supports 4K and HDR10
|Doesn’t support many live TV options
|Compatible with Google Assistant
|Not compatible with Alexa or Siri
|Ability to stream Stadia games
|Offers personalized recommendations
|Can easily be hidden behind TV
|Stream security camera feeds directly to the device
Chromecast is one of the most well-known and affordable streaming devices. It’s a middle-of-the-road option but still sufficient for many people. Where it truly excels, though, is in households that use Google Assistant in lieu of Alexa. The Chromecast allows you to access many features of Google Assistant and integrate them directly into your entertainment experience.
The Chromecast also supports 4K with HDR10 and Dolby Vision — impressive offerings for a $49.99 device. The included remote makes it easy to navigate the various menus, and the Google Assistant button allows you to initiate voice control with ease. You can even turn off the lights and lock your front door with just your TV remote.
One of the most remarkable features of Chromecast is that it organizes your content in a user-friendly way, meaning you’ll see your shows rather than your streaming channels. Additionally, you’ll have access to more than 700,000 movies, TV shows, and millions of songs.
Chromecast also makes it easy to cast straight from your phone. You can play recorded videos, display a slideshow of photos, and much more with just a few taps of a button.
Best for kitchen use: Amazon Echo Show 15
|Large 15-inch display
|Acts as a digital photo frame
|Best for those with Alexa setups
|Access to all Alexa features
|Ability to control smart homes
The Amazon Echo Show 15 isn’t necessarily what some people think of as a streaming device. It’s a 15-inch Alexa smart display, but it looks like a digital photo frame and is perfect to use in the kitchen. Not only does the display have access to many streaming platforms, including Amazon Prime Video, but it can also be used to browse recipes for your next meal.
At $249.99, the Echo Show 15 isn’t cheap, but the cost is well worth it. It goes beyond simple streaming, as it becomes a full-featured display with a built-in widget that can show your to-do list, shopping list, and much more. The touchscreen makes it easy to control and navigate through various menus, and you can also access all of Alexa’s features from one device.
You can even use the Echo Show 15 to video chat with friends and family through Alexa’s Drop-In feature. When it’s not in use, you can customize the display to act as a digital photo frame or show important information to your family.
Aside from the high cost, another downside is that the Echo Show 15 doesn’t make much sense for a non-Alexa household. If you primarily rely on Google Assistant or HomeKit, adding an expensive Alexa-focused smart display isn’t the most cohesive choice for your home.
Best for Apple users: Apple TV 4K
|Picture-in-picture functionality for HomeKit devices
|Only compatible with Siri
|Immersive sound through HomePods
|Works with all Apple services
|Acts as a photo display
|One of the best-designed remotes available
For Apple users and iTunes fans, the Apple TV 4K is the best streaming option on the market. Apple has long maintained a strategy of selling high-quality, high-dollar devices that deliver the best experiences rather than catering to a more budget-conscious crowd. This shines through in the Apple TV 4K. Starting at $179.00, it’s not cheap — but it’s certainly powerful.
The Apple TV’s included Siri Remote is one of the best streaming remotes out there. It’s incredibly responsive to touch and provides users with greater precision because of the touchpad. This is especially important to consider for big gamers since you’ll get access to Apple Arcade for some of the best mobile-focused experiences.
You can even use the remote to fast forward or rewind with a swipe of the finger. The Apple TV 4K supports 4K video, HDR, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos. If you decide it’s time to get up and move, Apple Fitness Plus works seamlessly with the Apple TV, as does Apple Music. You can even use Audio Sharing to stream the sound directly from your AirPods to keep volume levels down for your neighbors or when the kids are sleeping.
Combine the Apple TV with HomePods to create an immersive surround-sound experience. You can also get a picture-in-picture display of your smart cameras, provided that they’re HomeKit-compatible.
Best for gamers: NVIDIA Shield TV Pro
|Built-in GeForce Now
|4K HDR support
|Comes with many features unnecessary for non-gamer households
|Gigabit Ethernet support
|Bluetooth support for a wide variety of gaming controllers
|Built-in Google Assistant
|16 GB of internal memory
Gamers are a particular bunch when it comes to streaming. Not only do they expect to be able to view their favorite shows in the highest resolution possible, but they also like to stream games directly from their PCs to their TV. For that, there’s no better option than the NVIDIA Shield TV Pro.
This streaming device is a powerhouse in a small package. Think “Aladdin”: big Genie, tiny bottle. Not only does the NVIDIA Shield support 4K HDR, but it also supports Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. It has 16 gigabytes of onboard memory, supports Wi-Fi and Gigabit Ethernet, and has two USB 3.0 ports. It’s basically a miniature computer that streams TV shows.
The built-in GeForce Now service is the feature that really sets the NVIDIA Shield TV Pro apart from the rest. It’s a game streaming platform on par with Xbox Game Pass, and the NVIDIA Shield Pro TV allows you to tap into it without additional devices (besides a controller). The Shield Remote also has a built-in microphone, responds to voice commands, and can be programmed in three different ways.
When it comes to gaming, there’s no better option than the NVIDIA Shield TV Pro. The best part is that it isn’t too pricey. While it’s more expensive than the Fire TV Stick, it’s still only $199.99.
Best for game console streaming: Xbox Series X
|8K HDR resolution
|Xbox Game Pass
|Inconsistent stock in stores
|Numerous ports and external hard drive support
|Unlike previous versions of the Xbox, the Series X doesn’t have an official dedicated media remote
|Blu-Ray DVD support
|Great option for gamers
|More streaming TV and music support than PS5
If you need a game console first and a streaming device second, then the Xbox Series X is the way to go. There are several reasons, but the first and foremost is its availability. While the PlayStation 5 is almost as powerful, it’s also more difficult to get your hands on. The Series X is currently more readily available to gamers.
Another reason why the Xbox Series X is the way to go is because of how much power it has, supporting up to 8K HDR resolution for a picture quality unlike anything you’ve seen before. In fact, you’ll have a hard time finding a TV streaming services that even match that output. The Xbox Series X can also play Blu-Ray, DVD, CDs, and more. If you have a lot of videos downloaded to an external drive, you can hook them up to the USB-A port on the front of the Series X to stream them.
This device is also a gaming console with a vast lineup of incredible titles, especially if you consider Xbox Game Pass. While that’s an additional monthly cost, it gives you access to a library of over 500 games with new titles rotating in and out each month. These aren’t just shovelware titles; Xbox first-party games often go straight to Game Pass.
The downside of the Series X is its high cost. It’s $499 and still not super easy to get your hands on. The Series X is rarely sold in stores, and you’ll have to jump on the online sales before the stock dries up.
Best for Xfinity customers: Xfinity Flex
|Free for Xfinity customers
|Lacks many streaming platforms
|Free Peacock Premium subscription included
|Only available to Xfinity customers
|Cross-app content searches
|Control xFi smart home devices
|Can be used to monitor your home networks through your phone
Comcast is one of the most common internet service providers in the United States, which means you’re probably reading this on an Xfinity-powered internet. The good news is that Xfinity provides its customers with a free Flex device; all you have to do is ask. The Xfinity Flex is a dedicated streaming device that provides access to a wide range of services and free TV.
If you’re already an Xfinity customer, this device is a no-brainer. If you aren’t an Xfinity customer, well — you have better options. The Flex is a budget-friendly choice since it comes at no charge, but it lacks many of the services that other platforms offer. For example, there’s no built-in Spotify, and it doesn’t allow for easy mobile streaming.
The best perk? Flex users receive Peacock Premium for free, allowing you to keep an eye on your home network straight from your mobile device.
Best built-in soundbar: Roku Streambar Pro
|Ability to stream music from your phone
|Not ideal for mounted TVs, as it needs to be placed on a surface underneath your TV
|Compatible with Apple AirPlay
|Easy to expand with additional woofers
Roku makes its second appearance on our list with the Streambar Pro for $179, one of its most premium offerings. It packs all of the same features as the Roku Ultra, but with a few added perks: namely, the fact the entire device is a soundbar.
The Streambar Pro creates surround-sound quality audio throughout the entire room, and it’s easy to adjust sound settings on the go. For example, you can lower the volume of commercials without impacting the overall audio levels. It’s also easy to expand with the Roku Wireless Subwoofer to create a deeper bass as you listen.
If you want to improve your streaming experience with a soundbar, the Streambar Pro is an excellent choice. It’s a two-in-one device that performs both of its tasks exceptionally well.
Best for customization: Intel NUC:
|Viewing experience customization
|Supports up to 64 GB of RAM
|No hard drive included
|Works with external hard drives
|Can also be used for gaming
|Intel i7 processor
If you’re an entertainment buff and want precise control over everything you see and hear, then there’s no better option than the NUC. The acronym stands for Next Unit of Computing, a fancy term for a bite-sized media center PC. There are dozens of options on the market, but the Intel NUC BGA1449 Mini is a great starting point.
At $719, it’s not cheap. But since the NUC is a PC, it’s capable of everything a PC can do, yet it’s designed with more dedicated, niche uses in mind. The BGA1449 Mini includes a Thunderbolt 3 port for high-speed data transfer, one HDMI port, one Mini DisplayPort, and two USB 3.1 ports.
It can support up to 64 GB of RAM, and while it doesn’t include a hard drive, NUCs are ideal for use with external drives that contain all of your information. Since it’s a PC, it can access the internet and stream any service you can find.
These devices aren’t for everyone. Their high cost is prohibitive, but if you’re someone that needs to be able to customize every part of your viewing experience with plugins, overlays, and more, it’s hard to go wrong with this option.
How to choose the best streaming device for you
There are a lot of factors that go into choosing the right streaming device, but it ultimately boils down to your tastes. If you prefer Alexa over Google Assistant, go for the Fire TV Stick. If you need something easy to use for the entire family, opt for a Roku.
The more expensive options, like the NUC or the StreamBar Pro, are for entertainment enthusiasts. If you just need a device that will make it easy to stream Disney Plus for your kids (and so you can watch “The Boys” after they fall asleep), a more affordable device will work just fine.
There’s no perfect streaming device. The Roku may be the best option overall on our list, but it’s not great for gaming addicts. The Fire TV Stick is affordable but caters more to Amazon Prime Video than any other streaming service. Take the time to evaluate each streaming device based on its compatible platforms, and choose the one that best fits your lifestyle and budget.
What device is best for streaming?
There’s no “best” option for streaming. It all depends on your wants, needs, and budget. For example, if you need a device primarily for watching TV or movies, Roku is a solid option. The Xbox Series X or NVIDIA Shield TV Pro, on the other hand, is a go-to choice for die hard gamers.
What is the cheapest streaming device?
The cheapest streaming device on our list is the Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite. At only $29.99, it offers competent streaming at an affordable price. However, Xfinity customers can get the Xfinity Flex for free.
What is the fastest streaming device?
Speed is tricky to measure in a streaming device. A NUC would likely be faster than anything else, but the cost makes it prohibitive for some users. The Apple TV 4K is probably the most consumer-friendly, fastest device available.
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