Best media streaming devices

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Whether you’ve just gotten rid of cable or want to supplement your TV package with online video, now’s an excellent time to buy a media streaming device. Compared to the typical smart TV, standalone streamers such as the Roku Streaming Stick and Amazon Fire TV tend to have bigger app selections, faster performance, and more features. And with so much competition between device makers, the hardware is becoming faster, more capable, and more affordable.

We constantly test all the latest devices, including Roku players, Fire TV devices, Android TV devices, Apple TV, and Chromecast. We review each new generation of hardware and constantly revisit the software and app selection so we can help you determine which platform is right for you. Here are our picks for the best streaming boxes and sticks, along with all of our most current product reviews. Our recommendations will change over time as new products come to market.

Updated July 10, 2018 with our take on the Amazon Fire TV Cube, which weds Amazon’s streaming technology with its Alexa digital assistant. We’re confident voice control will be the best way to control our viewing experience one day, but the technology just isn’t mature enough to deliver that promise today. We also added our review of Sling Media’s AirTV. Unlike these other products, the AirTV enables you to stream live over-the-air television broadcasts across your home network and outside it to mobile devices wherever you have broadband access. 

Best budget streaming device

Hanging onto our 1080p TV? Plenty of us are, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense to drop a lot of extra cash on a streaming device that supports 4K if you’re TV isn’t capable of that resolution. Even if you’re thinking you’ll take the upgrade plunge relatively soon, you could very well end up with a smart TV that doesn’t need an add-on device for streaming.

We’re big fans of the latest Roku Streaming Stick (introduced in the fall of 2017) for a whole bunch of reasons—voice recognition, strong networking support, and more—but we’re particularly enthusiastic about the new remote control that can turn the TV on and off and control its volume. And if you do want 4K resolution, take a look at the new Roku Streaming Stick+, which is available at Amazon for $69.

Best 4K HDR streaming device

Early adopters of 4K HDR televisions will want a streaming device that plays 4K HDR content, and for that, Roku is still king. Compared to other 4K HDR streaming devices such as the Xiaomi Mi Box and Chromecast Ultra, the Roku Streaming Stick+ ($70) supports more sources of 4K and 4K HDR content. Roku also makes that content easy to find with a “4K Spotlight” app that highlights supported apps and videos. If you’re willing to spend a little more, the $100 Roku Ultra adds USB and SD memory card storage and the reliability of hardwired ethernet connectivity, but it’s not a must-have upgrade.

Other options to consider

Apple TV 4K is very expensive, but it’s an obvious choice for folks who’ve devoted themselves to the Apple ecosystem. It’s the only streaming box that supports iTunes videos, Apple Music, and AirPlay streaming—not to mention Dolby Vision HDR—and it serves as a HomeKit hub for remote control of your smart home.

The Siri remote offers great voice control features, and it has full support for TV volume and power. The previous-generation (1080p) Apple TV also remains available for a slightly less premium $149.

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