There are so many streaming services nowadays, and while they might make for one of the easiest ways to view our favorite content, the hassle of finding which one of the services has the latest episodes of what we’re trying to watch can almost outweigh the convenience. Switching between them all is enough of a fuss, and that hassle is compounded when you run into a situation like watching the first two seasons of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure in English on Netflix only to find that you then have to turn to Hulu for Season 3 in the original Japanese and then need to tack on an extra subscription to catch Season 4 only to ultimately find out that all four seasons are available on Crunchyroll. A quality streaming device can help sort these situations out for you while also ensuring you’re getting a top-notch streaming experience.The best streaming devices ensure you’re delivering high-quality image and audio signals to your TV and speakers, so you can actually make the most out of your 4K TV and home theater. They can also streamline finding the content you want to watch, and get it playing quickly. We’ve put many of these streaming devices through rigorous testing, and narrowed down the field to only the best. So, if you’re looking to get a quality device, you need look no further than what you see here.TL;DR These are the Best Streaming Device:
1. Roku Ultra
Best Streaming Device
Picture: Quality 4K UHD at up to 60 fps HDR Support: HDR10 Audio: DTS Digital Surround, Dolby Atmos Voice Support: Google Assistant, Alexa Ports: HDMI 2.0a, Ethernet, microSD, USB, 3.5mm audio (on remote)
The Roku Ultra sits firmly in the middle of the streaming device market with its $99 price tag. It’s one of the most well rounded set-top boxes that’s able to stream 4K HDR content from a wide range of services including Disney Plus, Amazon Prime Video, and even Apple TV. This little box also grants you access to Netflix, Vudu, Hulu, Sling, HBO Now, and PBS kids.It also comes with a remote with very tactile buttons and a few handy shortcuts to launch Netflix, ESPN, Hulu, and Sling. This remote also comes with a headphone jack, which allows it to act as a wireless dongle for any pair of headphones you want to plug in. The only thing we don’t love is how old the interface looks, but it’s easy to navigate and you can skip most of it by just using voice search to find your shows for you.
2. Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K
Best Budget Streaming Device
Picture: Quality 4K UHD at up to 60 fps HDR Support: HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision, HLG Audio: Dolby Atmos Voice Support: Alexa Ports: HDMI (male connector), micro USB
The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K is just about the cheapest way to start streaming 4K content for just $50. It’s a simple stick-shaped device you plug into one of your 4K TV’s available HDMI ports then connect USB power and that’s it. This simple streaming stick grants you access to Netflix, YouTube, Prime Video, Disney+, Apple TV, HBO, and more.As with any of Amazon’s devices, you can ask Alexa to find the TV shows and movies or control playback without having to pick up your remote. Alternatively, you could use the Alexa-integration to ask questions or control your smart home. Unfortunately, the Fire TV Stick doesn’t have much of an App Store or any access to the Google Play Store, so Amazon dictates what apps you can install on this device. If you don’t mind have a little less freedom over what apps you can use, this is the best streaming device for users on a budget.
3. Nvidia Shield TV
Best 4K Streaming Device
Picture: Quality 4K UHD at up to 60 fps HDR Support: HDR10, Dolby Vision Audio: DTS-X surround, Dolby Atmos Voice Support: Google Assistant, Alexa Ports: HDMI 2.0b, microSD, Ethernet
Nvidia’s Shield TV is expensive for a streaming box, but it’s easily the best 4K streaming device on the market. It’s one of, if not the only, streaming device to have a built-in upscaling technology. Using a process Nvidia calls “AI-enhanced upscaling,” the Shield TV can turn anything you watch into a 4K video. That includes everything from blockbuster movies to Twitch streams and YouTube Videos. It supports a ton of different streaming services and has full access to the Google Play Store since it’s running on the Android TV platform. Plus, it even doubles as a Chromecast so you can stream to your TV from your phone or tablet.You can also game on it two different ways; if you have an Nvidia graphics card you can also stream games from your gaming PC to your 4K TV at 60fps. Alternatively, you can stream games directly from Nvidia’s servers using GeForce Now, which currently gives you the power of a Turing-based desktop over the air.
4. Apple TV 4K
Best 4K Streaming Box for Apple Households
Picture: Quality 4K UHD at up to 60 fps HDR Support: HDR10, Dolby Vision Audio: Dolby Atmos Voice Support: Siri Ports: HDMI 2.0a, Ethernet
This is the most obvious pick of the bunch, because clearly if you’re all-in with the iPhone, iPad, Macbook, and iTunes you’re going to want the Apple TV 4K. The newest version supports 4K content and both HDR10 and Dolby Vision HDR formats. It also supports Dolby Digital surround sound up to 7.1, and Dolby Atmos.If you’re subscribed to Apple Arcade, you can play around with a great library of games on your 4K TV after pairing a Bluetooth controller like the Xbox One controller or Dualshock 4. Outside of Apple’s ecosystem, you also can also download and use apps like Netflix and Hulu. The remote is just awful with its flat design and Apple’s decision to make a third of it a touchscreen, but it’s easy enough to summon Siri to take the pain out of finding things to watch.
5. Chromecast with Google TV
Best Android TV Streaming Stick
Picture: Quality 4K UHD at up to 60 fps HDR Support: HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision Voice Support: Google Assistant Storage: 8GB Ports: HDMI, USB-C
Chromecasts have long been a great way to add a bit of smarts to your TV by letting you simply use all your favorite smartphone apps to choose what you want to watch and then have the Chromecast deliver that choice to your TV. Now, with the Chromecast with Google TV (yeah, the name is a bit of a mouthful), Google’s option for smartening up your TV has just gotten a whole lot better.The new dongle stills plug straight into the back of your TV with an HDMI connection, where it can deliver 4K/60Hz video signal with HDR. Just like older Chromecasts, you can still use your phone to cast media to it, but now it has its own Android TV-like interface built-in. You can install your favorite streaming apps directly onto the Chromecast with Google TV, and then get smart recommendations for what to watch from Google. It’s also easy to see where certain things are streaming, so you don’t accidentally select an option only to find you’re not subscribed to the service. The Chromecast with Google TV also has Bluetooth, so you can pair it with a Bluetooth speaker. A serious bonus of this kit is the included controller, which can be set up to control the Chromecast, your TV, and sound systems. It also features Google Assistant for voice control of not only the Chromecast but also smart home devices. Just get ready to power this device with its own adapter, as it requires more juice than the USB port on the back of your TV is likely to offer.
6. Pendoo T95
Best Android TV Box
Picture: Quality 6K at up to 30 fps / 4K at up to 60 fps HDR Support: HDR10+ Ports: HDMI 2.0, Ethernet, microSD, 2 x USB, AV port
It’s easy to find a cheap Android TV box running on some outdated version of Android, but pendoo’s T95 box offers up Android 10, so you’ll be up to date on the operating system and the features that come with it. This Android TV box is also fully kitted out with with a quad-core, 64-bit processor and 4GB of RAM to handle a wide variety of apps from the Google Play store, which is another thing many cheap boxes lack access to.You’ll connect the pendoo T95 to your TV over an HDMI 2.0 connection, which supports up to 4K/60 fps or even 6K at 30fps and even HDR10+. You can easily access online content with this box’s Wi-Fi or Ethernet connections, or you can load up your own content from a microSD card or USB drive. It may require a bit more tinkering to get everything working the way you want it, but it comes in at a lower price than many of its competitors on this list.
7. Roku Streaming Stick+
Best Streaming Stick
Picture: Quality 4K UHD at up to 60 fps HDR Support: HDR10 Audio: DTS Digital Surround, Dolby Atmos Voice Support: Google Assistant, Alexa, On-remote voice control Ports: HDMI 2.0a, mini USB, 3.5mm audio (on remote)
A streaming stick may sound like it can’t possibly be as capable as a full box, and while that may be generally true, you probably won’t feel like you’re missing out with the Roku Streaming Stick+. This compact streaming stick can deliver a full 4K UHD picture at 60fps, and it even delivers on HDR10 for impressive visuals that will let you take advantage of your TV’s display. On the audio front, you’re also getting support for DTS Digital Surround and Dolby Atmos, plus you can use Roku’s private viewing mode by plugging headphones into the remote control.That might already seem like plenty for $50, but it gets even better when you consider that the Roku Streaming Stick+ comes with a voice remote. So, you can avoid the frustrating experience of trying to type on a TV when you want to search for shows, movings, and streaming channels. You also can use your phone to control your Roku as well as Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa.
Mark Knapp is a regular contributor to IGN and an irregular Tweeter on Twitter @Techn0Mark