If you’ve landed on this page, you’re probably aspiring to join cord-cutting wave but you need some expert guidance on the best media streaming device you can get. Our well-curated buying guide will help you decide on the best media streaming devices to transform your TV into the best multimedia hub you never thought it could be.
Why get a media streaming device?
One of the most popular reasons for getting a media streaming device is “cutting the cord”. This popular trend means getting rid of satellite and cable and turning to Internet-enabled streaming devices that provide access to popular video streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Video, YouTube TV and so on.
There are so many streaming services available nowadays that it is difficult to justify the over $200 dollars a month charged by cable TV companies. These services offer a cheaper way to watch TV that could help you save hundreds of dollars every year.
Some users also opt for streaming devices to supplement their TV package with online video especially if you want to access content that is only exclusive to online streaming services like Netflix.
Compared to standalone smart TVs, streaming boxes and sticks such as the Amazon Fire TV, Roku Streaming Stick, and the NVIDIA Shield TV tend to have greater performance, a wider app selection, larger storage and other exclusive features such as gaming support. Since the streaming device industry is becoming highly competitive with big players such as Xiaomi, Google, and Amazon, the quality of hardware and software on streaming devices is consistently increasing with devices becoming more capable, faster and well – cheaper. You can also check out our detailed guide on Why even Smart TV users need a streaming box.
We constantly test and review each new generation of devices and revisit previous selections to ensure we help you most updated decisions. Here are our latest picks for the best media streaming boxes and TV sticks along with our most recent individual product reviews. We will update this list over time as new products are released.
Best Budget HD Streaming Device.
If like me you’re still hanging on to your now old 1080p HD TV, then it doesn’t make much sense to go all out and buy an expensive 4K capable media streaming device since your TV won’t handle the resolution anyway. If you’re thinking of upgrading your TV soon, you’re also most likely to end up buying a 4K smart TV that won’t need a media streaming device add-on.
In the budget category, it is impossible not to fall in love with the Roku Streaming Stick which debuted in late 2017. The Roku Streaming Stick is a darling for various reasons – strong and stable networking support, voice recognition support, support for major content providers such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play Movies & TV, and a slew free live news on the Roku Channel.
One special feature of the Roku Streaming Stick is its remote control which can be used to turn your TV on and off, and also adjust its volume.
Click here to buy the Roku Streaming Stick on Amazon.
If you like the Roku Streaming Stick but the lack of 4K support is a deal breaker for you, don’t worry. The folks at Roku also have a premium version known as the Roku Streaming Stick+ with 4K support which is available here.
Best 4K HDR media streaming device.
If you’re on the early adopters of 4K HDR or UHD televisions, you’ll probably want a media streaming device that supports 4K media. In this field, Roku Streaming Stick+ is the king if you consider minimalism, price, and availability of 4K content sources.
Compared to other 4K media streaming devices such as the Chromecast Ultra, Xiaomi Mi Box, the Roku Streaming Stick+ is the best 4K streaming device since it supports more 4K and 4K HDR content sources. The Roku Streaming Stick+ also makes it easy to search for 4K content via the “4K Spotlight” app which basically highlights all supported 4K videos and apps. Click Here to buy the Roku Streaming Stick+.
If you’re willing to go all into the Roku ecosystem and make it rain (sic) – the Roku Ultra adds an SD card slot, USB port and wired Ethernet connectivity to the mix. However, it is not a must-have upgrade if all you need is streaming. You can get the Roku Ultra HERE.
Best media streaming box for gamers and power users.
Touted as the most powerful streaming device currently in the market, and quite pricey at slightly over $200, the NVIDIA Shield Android TV is the ultimate media streaming device for power users. The recent hardware revision means that the NVIDIA Shield TV is even more powerful and comes with a slew of nifty geeky features. For instance, it is possible to set up the NVIDIA Shield TV as a Plex Media Server to stream one’s personal media library to all other devices. You can also plug-in a USB drive and play media off it or use the NVIDIA Shield TV as a Samsung Smart Things controller if you’re into the smart home bandwagon. The NVIDIA Shield TV also supports 4K video.
If you want to play high-quality game titles online and yet you lack a proper console like the X-box One or the PlayStation 4, the NVIDIA Shield TV supports the GeForce Now cloud gaming service by NVIDIA. If the hassles of remote game streaming do not simply work for you, the Shield has a sizeable selection of downloadable games which include older console classics and modern indies. While none of the offerings are strong on their own, if you combine the NVIDIA Shield TV’s capabilities as a media streamer along with the gaming support and geeky features, the NVIDIA Shield TV sums up as a wholesome media hub for your home.
You can buy the NVIDIA Shield TV HERE.
Xiaomi Mi Box 4K (International Version).
One of the cheaper yet robust 4K HDR streaming devices in the market is the Xiaomi Mi Box which runs on Android TV and even supports some standard Android games.
However, the Xiaomi Mi Box does not have the Amazon app so if you’re an avid consumer of Amazon Prime Video content, then it isn’t the device for you. If the Xiaomi Mi Box sparks your interest, you can buy it HERE on Amazon.
The Apple TV 4K.
If you’re deep into the Apple ecosystem, the most obvious choice is the Apple TV 4K since it is the only streaming device with support for iTunes videos, Apple Airplay streaming, and Apple Music. It also adds Dolby Vision HDR, and also acts as a HomeKit hub that allows you to remote control your smart home devices. The Apple TV 4K supports 4K video, and the Siri remote that comes with the streaming box has great voice recognition and control features as well as volume and power control for your TV.
You can get the Apple TV 4K HERE.
If you’d like the previous-generation HD only (1080p, no 4K) Apple TV, you can get it here.
While this list of best media streaming devices is in no way exhaustive, it serves as a quick summary of what we found to be most suitable for various kinds of users. If you would like more insights and probably prefer doing your own research, you can also check out our guide on What to look out for when buying a media streaming device.