This guide will help you find the best device that connects to your TV and streams video — something you’ll likely use every day for multiple hours at a time to watch movies and TV. We’ve reviewed every major smart TV system and all the majormedia devices on the market today, including Roku, Amazon, Chromecast, and Apple TV. With the exception of TVs that actually run Roku’s or Amazon’s software, TV streaming have more apps, better search, simpler remotes and more frequent updates than the smarts built into your set.
So if your current media streaming device is getting long in the tooth, or you’re looking for the best streaming device to go with that newTV, chances are you’ll be more than happy with one of these.
Roku is our favorite streaming system, with the most streaming apps, the simplest interface, the best search and a content-agnostic platform that doesn’t push any one media streaming provider, like Amazon Prime Video or iTunes, over another. The Plus is one of the cheapest streaming TV options with 4K HDR, and even if your current TV doesn’t support those formats, your next one probably will. Its accent on practical features, like a remote control that can control your TV’s volume and power, seals the deal.
Read our Roku Streaming Stick Plus review.
The perfect foil to the Roku Streaming Stick Plus, the Apple TV costs over $100 more but is the better choice for people who can appreciate its advantages. Those include compatibility with Dolby Vision HDR, flexible upconversion, superior voice control features, a better remote and a smoother, slicker user interface. The Apple TV 4K is so good for media streaming, it even makes sense if you’re not an “Apple person.”
Read our Apple TV 4K review.
With Alexa, Amazon has done more than any other company to integrate voice commands into the ways we consume media. The Fire TV Stick 4K bakes Alexa right into the remote, and you can use voice control to search for Gremlins or turn on your Christmas tree. Or both at the same time. Throw in a massive selection of content with an easy-to-use menu and the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K represents excellent value for money when it comes to streaming media.
Read our Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K review.
For the price of a Blu-ray movie disc, you can get a whole media streamer, which comes with plenty of free content. The Express delivers all of the goodness of Roku’s platform, and it includes a remote, an HDMI cable and a little sticker to keep it in place.
Read our Roku Express (2019) review.
The Chromecast is one of the cheapest ways to get video to stream on your TV, but unlike the other streamers here it doesn’t come with a remote. Instead it works in combination with a phone or the Google Assistant for voice control and voice search. The latter method is great for calling up shows on Netflix or Disney Plus.
Read our Google Chromecast 2018 review.
Soundbars with streaming onboard may be a relatively recent development, but Roku’s Smart Soundbar came fully formed out of the gate. With excellent sound, the Roku interface users know and love and an affordable price, this a great option for a media streamer in a bedroom or holiday house.
Read CNET’s review of the Roku Smart Soundbar.
At $100, this the most expensive Roku, but if you must “have it all” then the Roku Ultra has a lot to offer. While the image quality and operating system are indistinguishable from the Streaming Stick Plus, the Ultra is especially handy for the forgetful among us. The Ultra offers both a remote finder and two extra customizable shortcut buttons for your favorite services.
Read our Roku Ultra (2019) review.