Whether you want to make your “dumb TV” smart or are looking for an alternative to your television’s underwhelming smart TV platform, media streaming devices are helpful. They plug into your TV’s HDMI port and bring access to tons of apps, games, and other features. However, not all streaming devices are made equal, so you want a media streamer that suits your needs. To help, we have picked the best media streaming devices that you can buy right now.
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Chromecast with Google TV is the best streaming device for most people. It runs on the Android TV 11 platform with the Google TV interface. The interface, which is still available on a limited number of devices, is one of the highlights of the device. It takes a content-first approach, and its recommendations are actually helpful.
You get access to pretty much all streaming services, live TV via YouTube and Sling, and cloud gaming support via Stadia. Moreover, you can still cast content from your smartphone or computer. On the technical side, the device can stream 4K content, and there is support for HDR10, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision.
Lastly, the bundled remote has a microphone for Google Assistant, which you can use to open apps, find content, and do other Assistant stuff.
If you prefer Roku OS or just dislike Android TV, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K is another excellent streaming device. The Roku platform is arguably the most straightforward smart TV platform on the market, and it brings access to pretty much all popular streaming services and live TV via the Roku channel.
Roku’s built-in search is a highlight of the platform and makes it super easy to find what you want to watch. On the technical side, as its name suggests, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K can stream content in 4K. It also supports HDR10, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision HDR for high dynamic range content. In addition, the device works with Apple AirPlay and HomeKit, and includes Alexa and Google Assistant. You will have to use the bundled remote for voice control.
Amazon is also a big player in the smart TV space. The televisions with the built-in Fire TV platform may not be the best on the market, but the Amazon Fire TV streaming devices are terrific. The company offers a host of streaming devices, but we recommend the Fire TV Stick 4K for most people.
The Fire TV OS also takes a content-first approach and suggests content that you might like to watch. It offers access to all popular streaming platforms, and you will be able to watch live TV via YouTube, Sling, and other services. Being an Amazon product, it comes with Alexa voice assistant that you can use to control the device or the compatible smart home devices.
On the technical side, the device support 4K streaming and has Dolby Vision, HDR10+, and HDR10 support. In addition, unlike Chromecast with Google TV and Roku Streaming Stick 4K, which just pass-through Dolby Atmos data to your TV or AV receiver, the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K can actually decode it. This is helpful if your TV or AV receiver can’t decode Atmos.
The Fire TV Stick Lite is another fantastic streaming device from Amazon, but it makes some sacrifices to achieve its low price tag. For example, it only supports streaming content in up to full-HD resolution and doesn’t have onboard decoding of Atmos or any other Dolby format. But it can still pass through that data to your TV or AV receiver.
The device runs on the same platform as Amazon’s 4K stick, so you get the same experience, same apps, same live TV options, and Alexa support. Unfortunately, there is no Dolby Vision support, but you get HDR10 and HDR10+.
Like Amazon, Roku also offers a streaming device for consumers who don’t need 4K streaming and other premium features. It’s called Roku Express, and it can stream content in up to full-HD resolution. In addition, the Roku Express uses the same platform, so you get the same streaming apps and live TV options.
Unfortunately, it only has single-band Wi-Fi, doesn’t support HDR, and its remote lacks a mic for voice control. You get a bare-bones experience, but the device gets the job done.
If you don’t want the Fire OS or Roku OS, Walmart’s Onn brand offers an inexpensive streaming device that is simply called FHD Streaming Device, and it runs on the Android TV platform. As the name suggests, it can stream in full-HD resolution.
There is no Google TV interface on the platform side, so you get the original Android TV UI, which is okay but not as refined as the new interface. But you get the same apps, same live TV options via YouTube or Sling, and Google Assistant. You can also use the device to cast content from your smartphone or computer. Unfortunately, there is no Dolby Vision or HDR10+ support, but HDR10 is available.
If you are a part of the Apple ecosystem and are ready to pay the premium for an Apple-branded media streamer, the Apple TV 4K is your best bet. In a typical Apple way, the device offers an overall excellent experience. It has a clean and easy-to-use interface and provides access to all popular streaming apps as well as live TV.
In addition, you get support for Apple Arcade for games, Fitness+ for workouts, and HomeKit to control smart home devices. There are many other nifty features like the ability to color balance what you watch and audio sharing to AirPods.
On the technical side, Apple TV 4K can stream 4K content and supports Dolby Vision, HDR10, and Dolby Atmos. Unfortunately, there is no HDR10+ support.
The Nvidia Shield TV is one of the most feature-rich media streamers on the market. It’s also the best streaming device you can buy if you like to play a lot of games because the Shield TV gives you access to Nvidia’s GeForce Now cloud gaming service. In addition, you can play tons of Android games on the device or use it to stream games from your GeForce RTX or GTX-powered PC. Steam Link support is present as well.
The Shield TV runs on the Android TV platform, which gives you access to all popular streaming services and live TV options.
On the technical side, it can stream content in up to 4K resolution and includes an AI-powered engine to upscale lower-resolution content to 4K. So if you don’t like your TV’s upscaling, the Shield TV can help. The device also supports HDR10, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos. Like the Apple TV 4K, it’s missing HDR10+ support. That said, it’s the only media streamer on this list to pass-through DTS:X over HDMI to your AV receiver
These are the best media streaming devices on the market. If you are looking for a no-nonsense streamer, the Chromecast with Google TV is your best option. However, if you don’t like Google’s TV operating system, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K and Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K are also great.
Which media streamer are you planning to buy? Let us know in the comments section. Meanwhile, you can also check our best Android TV streamer picks and the best TVs you can buy today.