We rounded up the best media players in the game for you and your living room
A streaming device allows you to get all your TV shows, movies, apps, and games in one place and could save you money on your cable bill.
There are so many options to choose from, and we'll help you decide which device is best for you and your family.
But rest assured, the highest-rated devices are highlighted here because of their picture quality, ease of use, fair pricing, and voice control.
|Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K||$34.99*||4K Ultra HD + support for Dolby Vision, HDR, and HDR10+||8 GB||View on Amazon|
|Roku Express HD||$29.99*||HD||215 MB||View on Amazon|
|Apple TV 4K (3rd generation)||$104.99–$144.95*||4K HDR + Dolby Vision + Dolby Atmos + HDR10+||32 GB–128 GB||View on Amazon|
|NVIDIA SHIELD TV Pro||$199.98*||4K HDR + Dolby Vision-Atmos||16 GB||View on Amazon|
|Chromecast with Google TV 4K||$48.00*||4K HDR||8 GB||View on Amazon|
|Roku Ultra||$93.00*||4K HDR + Dolby Vision + Dolby Atmos||4 GB||View on Amazon|
|Fire TV Cube||$124.99*||4K Ultra HD + support for HDR + Dolby Vision + Dolby Atmos||16 GB||View on Amazon|
*Data effective 1/15/2023. Amazon.com List Prices (as of 1/15/2023 1:45 PM MST)
It comes down to the number of pixels per square inch of your screen. The more pixels, the better your image quality—so 1080p is good, but 4K has more pixels, so it’s a crisper image.
HDR means “High Dynamic Range,” which means you get more contrast between brights and darks. Basically, things stand out better.
You can talk and connect to Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant for voice control (with all of these devices) or use your smartphone or tablet as a remote controller or screen with these streaming devices.
Also, if you're new to the streaming world, our guide on how to stream TV might be of help.
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K is a consumer favorite
- 4K Ultra HD
- 8 GB storage
- Dolby Atmos surround sound
- Search and launch content with Alexa voice remote
- Works with Wi-Fi 5
- One-year limited warranty and service included, or option to upgrade to a 2-year warranty for $5 and a 3-year warranty for $8 (yes, a one-time purchase. Not another monthly subscription we have to worry about.)
The Fire TV Stick provides everything you might need and want
Amazon's Fire TV Stick is easy to set up, lets you download lots of streaming apps, and this $35 device gives you Dolby Atmos.
Once you can see the home page, sign into streaming apps such as Sling TV, Netflix, YouTube, Disney+, Max, Prime Video, and Pluto TV. And you can also listen to Nicki Minaj or Harry Styles with Amazon Music, Pandora, Apple Music, Pandora, and iHeartRadio.
Dolby Atmos is a nice bonus because who doesn't want to feel immersed in the scenes with home theater audio? (Keep in mind that this function only works with Dolby Atmos-compatible home audio systems.)
You'll have the perfect Amazon-connected home
If you want to keep things simple and are a Prime member, Amazon’s Fire TV Stick will work well with your other Amazon Alexa products for a more connected home.
(But you don't need other Amazon Alexa products to justify this purchase. If you're an Apple user like me, you can use it as just a streaming device.)
What we don't like: The search function is geared toward Amazon
Ya know how we highlighted the convenient Roku search feature across all platforms on your device? Yeah, well, the Fire Stick TV doesn't do that.
Yes, the voice remote will pull up any streaming service you ask for ("Turn on Max"), but if you ask the Fire TV Stick to find The Undoing, it will search for the show through Amazon instead.
Then you'll have to resort to using the unfriendly way of typing with the little remote.
Roku Express HD is best for those looking to save some cash
- 1080p HD
- 215 MB storage (can add an SD card for more storage)
- Simple remote with TV power, volume, and play/pause buttons
- Works with Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant
- Includes high-speed HDMI cable
- Free Roku mobile app
Roku has most of the streaming apps you need
Also, Roku can connect with Apple's Siri, Amazon Alexa, or Google Assistant, so Roku's interface makes searching content across all platforms easier. (But you don't have to connect to these voice assistants if you'd rather not.)
Roku has one of the best streaming device apps
Android and Apple users can download the Roku app through Google Play and the Apple Store.
The app works as a second remote (or your main remote if you tend to lose remotes like me). It allows you to listen privately with wireless headphones (this is also nice if your significant other tends to watch movies at a deafening volume level).
What we don't like: Lack of iTunes/Apple Music migration
Roku does support the Apple TV app, but unfortunately, your iTunes movies and Apple Music music aren’t coming with you—at least not without workarounds that don’t seem entirely legit.
Apple TV 4K is best for Apple users (or anyone)
- Siri voice control
- 32–128 GB for $105–$150
- Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos
- Can use Apple Arcade, Apple Fitness+, AirPlay, and Apple Music
- Private listening with up to two pairs of AirPods
- Includes four free subscriptions
- A12 Bionic chip gives a big boost to audio, video, and graphics for a better game and app experience
The Apple TV is perfect if you're part of the Apple ecosystem
If you've already bought into the iWorld of things (*raises hand*), it makes perfect sense to go for the classic appeal of Apple. It has a sleek design, an intuitive user interface, and easy syncing between devices.
Plus, if you have a ton of movies and music on Apple Music or iTunes, this is the only streaming device that makes integrating effortless.
If you want to switch from DVDs or Blu-Ray and go digital, the Apple TV keeps your purchased movies in a neat library organized by genres. I particularly like this feature because if I'm feeling like laughing, I can easily search the handful of comedy movies I have.
You get some free perks when you buy an Apple TV
When you set up your Apple TV 4K, you'll get free access to the following:
- fuboTV for 30 days (new subscribers only)
- Apple TV+ for three months (for new and returning subscribers)
- Apple Music for four months (for new and returning subscribers)
- Apple Arcade for four months (for new and returning subscribers)
What we don’t like: some consumers have complaints
As an Apple TV user for years, I couldn't think of any flaws with the device. Instead, I will share what some consumers claimed (which was similar to every device on this list), and I'll provide solutions.
- "The remote or device stopped working." Solution: You might have received a faulty device, so exchange it as soon as possible for a new one.
- "It's hard to download third-party apps as an Android user." Solution: Well, the Apple TV is made for Apple users or for those who don't mind not connecting it to an ecosystem. An Android user would benefit from the Google Chromecast or NVIDIA SHIELD (scroll down a little to see those).
- "The remote is hard to control/use." Solution: Admittedly, the Apple TV remote can make navigation a little tricky. Luckily, Apple gives you the option to use your phone as a remote!
NVIDIA SHIELD TV Pro has the most features for your streaming experience
- 4K HDR + Dolby Vision-Atmos
- Fast processor with 3 GB RAM
- 16 GB storage
- Built-in Google Assistant
- Works with Alexa and Amazon Echo
- Built-in Chromecast 4K
- GeForce NOW Cloud Gaming
- AI-enhanced upscaling
A connected home makes for a simpler life
The NVIDIA SHIELD TV Pro has a built-in Chromecast 4K and Google Assistant, many streaming apps to download, and gamers will like the GeForce Cloud Gaming feature.
This streaming device might be the priciest on your list, but it's very much worth it—especially for Android users and gamers. But if you're not either, don't let us stop you from ordering this bad boy.
The built-in Chromecast 4K allows you to stream from your smartphone. You'll have one place to go to on your phone to stream all of your services. This is nice if you want to save space on your phone instead of downloading each individual app for Hulu + Live TV, Sling TV, Disney+, and Google Play Movies.
With the NVIDIA SHIELD, you can tell Alexa, "Turn on Disney+" or "Hulu." And, remember, you can use it as a game console.
The NVIDIA SHIELD TV Pro is a streaming device and a game console all in one
Gamers, you can connect your game controller to the NVIDIA SHIELD to play epic video games like Elden Ring and Norco in 4K.
Not only will you get to bring your games to life, but your movies will look realistic with Dolby Vision HDR for lifelike and bright picture quality. And the Dolby Atmos surround sound will immerse you into your game or film like no other.
We don't know about you, but the price tag for this streaming device/ game console doesn't look so bad anymore.
What we don’t like: There are mixed reviews about NVIDIA SHIELD's remote
We looked at the most recent reviews about the remote, and this is what we saw:
- "The remote control is good ... but will burn through batteries at least once a week with moderate usage."
- "Absolutely the best remote available."
- "I'm sure it's great, but the remote it came with doesn't even work."
- "Pairing the remote to the TV's IR was straightforward ... [but] you have to hold the remote at a particular angle to the TV."
- "The remote has completely replaced my keyboard, and it's so quiet and small, you don’t notice it’s even there. Easily a cord-cutters dream."
Unfortunately, we have yet to see a consumer who found a solution like some did with the Apple TV remote. But we can tell you that if your remote doesn't work or dies quickly, request a replacement (whether you bought it from Amazon, Best Buy, etc.)
You spent your hard-earned money on this $175 device, so don't sit on a faulty remote!
Chromecast with Google TV is known for a great user experience
- 4K HDR
- 8 GB
- Voice control with remote
- Compatible with Google Assistant
- Compatible with almost any TV that has an HDMI port
- Can connect with 2.4 or 5 GHz network
- It comes with four free subscriptions
- It has three features the other streaming devices on our list don't have
The Google Chromecast's three unique features are pretty great
The first convenient feature the Chromecast gives is personal recommendations based on your subscriptions, watch history, and content you own. So if you've watched Wednesday, it might recommend Enola Holmes or Riverdale.
The second feature is helpful for those with children in the house. You can create a kids profile to access movies and shows for the family. This includes picking a fun avatar and theme, setting parental controls to restrict what streaming services can be shown, limiting watching time, and setting a bedtime.
And the third feature is more like a bonus: the Chromecast with Google TV is made with recycled materials. It's a minor step to feeling green, but it's something!
Enjoy 10,000 apps for your entertainment
You'll also get to enjoy four free subscriptions:
What we don’t like: Depending on where you look, the recent reviews can be confusing
On Amazon, consumers have said it's slow, the only live TV streaming service it works with is YouTube TV, and the home page isn't customizable.
On Best Buy, consumers say the Chromecast is an excellent product, easy to install, has a great price, works flawlessly, and it's totally worth it.
So, take the reviews with a grain of salt. And again, if your device has any problems ... exchange it, exchange it, exchange it.
Recap: What is the best streaming device?
You can find a million ways to get your streaming services up on the big screen (nope, not exaggerating), but depending on your needs and budget, finding the perfect one should be easy with a few considerations.
- Amazon Fire TV Stick: The Fire TV Stick ($35) is a consumer favorite with over 200,000 reviews and a 4.7- star rating. It supports 4K and Dolby Atmos for immersive video and sound. It works well with your Amazon Alexa products, is way easy to set up, and has loads of downloadable apps for on-demand streaming, live TV, and music.
- Roku Express HD: For $30, you get all of the popular streaming apps on a smooth and easy-to-use interface. The search function is also really nice when you want to figure out which streaming service has The Other Guys. Roku's app is one of the best—you can use it as a remote or watch TV with wireless headphones.
- Apple TV 4K: The Apple TV is a bit pricier than the first two at $105–$145, but if you’re in the Apple ecosystem or want more of a quality streaming device, the Apple TV just makes sense. Having your streaming services and movies on one device the whole family can enjoy will be worth the money.
- NVIDIA SHIELD TV Pro: If you're a Google Chromecast/Android user or a gamer, you'll like the SHIELD ($200). The Dolby Vision and Atmos will give your games and movies a vivid picture and surreal surround sound.
- Chromecast with Google TV: Most known for its simplicity, Google Chromecast ($50) gives you personal recommendations, parental controls, and four free subscriptions. This device is best for those who want the ease of use and Google Assistant users.
Enhance your streaming device of choice with one of the best internet providers for seamless streaming or one of the best VPNs for streaming so you can access streaming content that’s not usually available.
Check out the top-ranked internet providers for smooth streaming.
Fin the best streaming services to add to your device.