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With the cornucopia of content available to watch and new streaming services popping up on the daily, there’s never been a better time to upgrade your home streaming setup. If you don’t have a smart TV, adding a simple external device can allow you to access all of your favorite streaming services without leaving the couch.
Streaming devices are especially useful for cord cutters, combining a variety of content sources without the ridiculous monthly fees. Some devices create an easy-to-use streaming interface on your TV, while others simply make it easier to take content from your phone or laptop onto a bigger screen. The choice ultimately comes down to your budget and viewing habits, but in 2021, you can’t afford to not have one. Below, we’ve created a definitive breakdown of best streaming devices. For more tech upgrades, check out best sounds bars and best stereo speakers.
The best-known name in streaming devices is also the best overall value. A Roku stick is the size of a thumb drive, and by inserting it into your TV’s HDMI port you can stream just about anything. Roku has access to most of the major streaming services, including Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Prime Video, and more. Plus you get access to 150 live channels through the Roku Channel. You can stream in beautiful 4K, and accessing live TV won’t be a problem. Everything can be seamlessly managed with a voice-controlled remote, so this one is a no-brainer.
This hands free device makes excellent use of Amazon’s Alexa technology, allowing you to access your streaming services by simply saying a command. It’s powerful enough to stream all of the big services in 4K. It also functions as a universal remote, allowing you to dim your lights or adjust volume with your voice. Unlike many other devices, the HDMI cable is unfortunately not included. But the flexibility offered by the Amazon Fire TV Cube makes the sacrifice worth it.
This one is for serious media junkies who want to maximize their features. The NVIDIA Shield TV Pro is the Ferrari of streaming devices, allowing faster 4K streaming with more storage and RAM than any of its competitors. It can be connected through wifi or Bluetooth, but also contains HDMI and ethernet ports. The voice-operated control contains premium backlit buttons and comes with built-in Google Assistant features, and the menu screen can be customized. You can also buy a game controller from NVIDIA, which allows you to play all of your favorite games from the Shield TV Pro. The multitude of options makes this a coveted device for gamers and movie buffs alike.
It doesn’t get much easier than Chromecast. This compact device allows you to smoothly stream from your phone to your television. Using your phone as a remote is a great way to declutter your space. Casual entertainment fans who want a low-key way to watch Netflix and YouTube on their TVs should love this brilliantly simple gadget.
All the benefits of a Roku stick inside of a premium soundbar. This speaker will make all of your movies, shows, and music sound better, and it features built-in 4K streaming capability. Streaming fans who also want to upgrade their sound systems are unlikely to find a better value than this.
Loyal Amazon fans who don’t require the bells and whistles that come with the Fire TV Cube should check out this streaming stick. It can’t dim your lights, for example, but it offers the same 4K streaming technology as the Cube, for less than half the price. Featuring 8GB of storage and a voice controlled remote, this is an easy fix for all of your streaming needs.
If you own a lot of Apple products (and who doesn’t these days?), you won’t find better integration than the Apple TV. While it connects to every major streaming service, the big value add is the seamless access to your iTunes library of music and TV shows. The remote utilizes Siri voice technology, and can also control your smart home devices. The minimalist remotes have been the subject of punchlines for years, but Apple now offers the option of controlling your TV from your iPhone,.
The Roku Ultra takes the convenience of the streaming stick but turns up the power. For an extra $50, you get a stronger wireless connection without having to worry about your router location. It also comes with the option to plug into ethernet if you prefer a wireless connection. And in addition to the Roku stick’s 4K and HDR capabilities, the Ultra also allows you to stream movies in Dolby Vision. If you have experienced connectivity problems and want to make sure your streams never lag again, check this one out.
Roku fans on a budget don’t need to worry. The company also offers the Express, a cheaper option that still delivers 4K streaming with a simpler remote. There are no voice controls, and the device takes up a little more space, but it still meets the Roku brand standards. What could be better than easy streaming control that you don’t have to think too much about?
Remember TiVo? The DVR pioneer has entered the value streaming game with this sleek little device that allows you to access all of your favorite services with a simple remote. One benefit of this one is the ability to aggregate content. That means you can browse your favorite shows on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and more without having to switch between screens. For less than $40, it doesn’t get much easier than this.