Today, we’ve got many options that allow us to stream online content on a TV. Firstly, there are Smart TVs with integrated Internet and Web 2.0 features that allow us to stream videos, music, view photos, and browse through social media. Then, we’ve got home video game consoles like PlayStations that come with built-in streaming services. I generally watch my favorite Netflix series on PS4. Just log in to the Netflix account and start streaming, it’s as simple and easy. But, it doesn’t mean that you either need a Smart TV or a high-end game system to watch online content on your regular TV. Here, dedicated media streaming devices come into play. A media streamer basically turns your TV into a Smart TV and allows you to stream content using an Internet connection. Just connect the device to your TV via an HDMI cable and start watching Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime, or any other content of your choice.
We all have heard about Amazon Fire Stick and Fire TV as the popular media streamers, but there are many alternatives to these popular TV streaming devices available in the market today. If you’re planning to buy the best TV streaming device, you’ve landed in the right place. We’ve picked the best content streaming devices that can turn your regular TV into a smart one and will complete your home theatre set up. We’ll cut through the jargon and brief you about the factors that you must consider before buying a streaming device. Plus, we’ve mentioned the key differences between the top streaming devices for TV, So, let’s get started.
Table of Contents
Do you need a Streaming Device if you have a Smart TV?
If you’ve already got a Smart Android TV, there’s no need to buy a streaming device. This is because a streaming device does precisely the same thing as a Smart TV- allows you to stream content. However, if you’ve got the regular non-Smart TV, streaming devices are a great help. They give superpowers to your regular TV and allow you to stream online content without the need for buying expensive Smart TVs or any additional hardware.
There are also non-smart TVs with dedicated OTT apps built-in but their performance tends to get worse over time. So, whenever you’re facing any lag or app crashing while streaming a video, it’s time to make your TV smarter and faster.
How to buy a good TV streaming device? [Buying Guide]
We’ve listed the most important factors that you must consider while buying a media streaming device for your TV.
Price is definitely one of the most important factors to be considered while buying a streaming device for your TV. These streaming devices start at $30 and go all the way up around $200. If your budget is tight, you can go for the budget-friendly and affordable TV streaming devices like Roku Express. On the other hand, if budget is not an issue for you, you can go for the premium options like Apple TV 4K and Amazon Fire TV Cube.
Usability and Installation
Next, you must have a look at the user interface the streaming device offers. The clean and easy-breezy interface makes it very easy to find and stream content on your TV. After all, you don’t want to spend more time searching for the content, rather than actually watching it. Also, you must pay attention to the installation process a streaming device demands. Some media streamers like Amazon Fire TV Stick and Roku Streaming Stick+ are super-easy to install. Just plug the device into the HDMI and USB port of your TV and you’re sorted. Whereas, some streaming devices require an HDMI cable and a power cable to connect to the streaming device.
Here comes one of the most important features of a media streamer- the kind of content it supports. You must give a thought to the content that you would love to watch. Whether you’re inclined toward Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+, and so on. This will surely help you narrow down the options and buy the best TV streaming device that will fit your bill and requirements.
For instance, Google Chromecast and Android TV are more inclined towards Google’s video and music services. In Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, the menus are heavily geared towards displaying Amazon Prime Video content and integration with Alexa devices. Similarly, Apple TV 4K is a great option for people who’ve invested in iPhone, iPad, or other Apple devices as you’ll be able to access iTunes movies and Apple Music, which is not directly supported by other media streaming devices. In short, all the other fancy features will be of no use if you can’t watch your favorite TV shows, movies, and other content.
Future Proof specifications – 4K and HDR Support
Resolution is another important and worth-considering aspect of a streaming device. All the devices that we’ve mentioned below support 4K resolution and HDR (High Dynamic Range) content. Now, it doesn’t mean that you should only look for devices with these specifications. If you don’t have a 4K TV and you’re anyway not gonna buy one soon, there’s no need to invest in a 4K streaming device as your TV does not support 4K resolution. On the contrary, if you’ve already got a 4K TV or planning to buy one in the upcoming Black Friday sale, you must invest in a 4K streaming device that takes the full advantage of the 4K and HDR capabilities of your TV.
Also, you must look for TV streaming devices that have support for Dolby Vision rather than just HDR10. Both of them are HDR standards, but Dolby Vision offers better image quality as compared to HDR10. Dolby Vision works with dynamic metadata, which carries scene-by-scene instructions to display the content as accurately as possible. The brightness, color, and contrast are adjusted according to the scene. On the other hand, the HDR works with static metadata, which means the boundaries of the highlights and shadows are set once, then the entire movie is shown with these preset values, without the TV adjusting them according to different scenes. In short, Dolby Vision delivers a more immersive viewing experience.
The 8K is the new ultra-buzzed, top-of-the-line resolution that’s in an early adopter stage right now. Therefore, you won’t find a wide range of hardware under this category, neither TVs nor streaming devices. So, let’s just skip past that for now.
Now, apart from the future-proof specifications, you must also look for some additional features. The voice assistant support makes it very easy to stream content on your TV. Just like on your smartphone, it picks up your command, without having you to use the remote control to type everything. For example, Apple TV 4K supports Siri and Amazon Fire TV Cube & Fire TV Stick 4K supports Amazon Alexa. The voice assistant support makes it very easy to switch between apps, open movies & TV shows within seconds, and so on.
If you plan to connect an external device, like a USB storage device to view your offline media like videos or photos, an Ethernet cable for faster internet, or a microSD card, make sure to check if the streaming device has got additional connections or not. Also, don’t forget to check the internal storage and RAM of the streaming device because not having enough storage and RAM can run your device into performance issues. Undoubtedly, more RAM means your device has better future support.
You can also look for some additional features, including private listening options if you want to plug-in your headphones while watching, and multiple audio-codec support. It entirely depends on what you want from your device, so, make sure it’s well-packed with all the features that you need.
After Sales Support
One must do research on the after-sales support offered by different brands. We’re talking about guarantee, warranty, and repair services. You might need help after you’ve purchased a product, therefore, it’s a good idea to know the after-sales service of the brand, whose product you’re planning to buy. The ultra-popular and big brands like Amazon and Apple are already well-known for their amazing customer satisfaction. Plus, there are many tutorials on YouTube for popular products, which makes it very easy to solve those little issues yourself.
Now, let’s get started with the best TV streaming devices in 2020. We’ve mentioned all the important factors that will help you spot the key differences between the devices and grab the best media streamer.
The Best TV Streaming Devices in 2020
1. Roku Streaming Stick+ – Best TV Streaming Device Overall
Voice Assistant: Amazon Alexa
The ultra-popular US brand Roku has got an amazing lineup of streaming devices to watch online content on your TV from various services. The Roku Streaming Stick+ looks like a USB drive and plugs easily into the HDMI port of your TV. It has got advanced Wi-Fi receivers, which makes it super-convenient to use the device at different locations in your home, without worrying about the Wi-Fi range. It has a user-friendly interface, which makes it very easy to browse and search for your favorite content. Plus, it gives you the freedom to customize the look of the homepage, you can remove the apps that you don’t want on the main screen.
The ease of installation and more importantly the easy-breezy interface makes the Roku Streaming Stick+ a fantastic option to watch online content on your TV comfortably. Plus, you get access to almost every streaming app, along with complete 4K HDR compatibility at a decent price, which is a great deal.
The voice search lets you turn on your TV, adjust volume, and control the playback with your voice commands. You can switch to the private listening mode by downloading the Roku app on your smartphone. You can also plug the Roku stick in the USB port of your TV to power it up without the need to install a separate power adapter.
2. Roku Ultra – Best Premium TV Streaming Device
Voice Assistant: works with Amazon Alexa and Google-Assistant
If you want the ultimate Roku experience to stream content on your TV, have a look at the Roku Ultra. It’s one of the best high-end media streamers that we’ve on our list. Roku Ultra is a powerful and feature-packed set-top box that’s designed to offer a better streaming experience in large rooms.
Besides the features of Roku Streaming Stick+, this device boasts a faster processor, more memory, sports an Ethernet port, a microSD card slot, and a USB port. Another eye-catching feature includes a headphone jack in the remote control. The remote also has two customizable shortcut buttons for your favorite services and dedicated power/volume buttons to control your TV. The box has a remote finder button to help you trace the lost remote. There’s support for night viewing mode, which automatically adjusts the volume at night so that you don’t disturb your family members. And, not to forget, you’ll get the premium JBL headphones right in the box, with the Roku Ultra.
If you’re looking for a combo of 4K streaming and premium sound, the Roku Smart Soundbar is an impressive deal. If you want to level up the audio, you can also add the Roku Wireless Subwoofers and Speakers to set up a complete theatre-like entertainment system at your home.
3. Amazon Fire TV Cube (2019) – Best media streamers for Amazon Echo owners
HDR: Dolby Vision, HDR10+, HDR10
Voice Assistant: Amazon Alexa
Extra Features: Ethernet adapter, micro USB port, IR extender cable
If you’re looking for better and more featured packed alternatives to the Amazon Fire Stick and Fire TV, then this product might have found the perfect alternative. Amazon Fire TV Cube is packed with powerful features that allow you to control everything in your home entertainment setup. It features a far-field microphone array that gives you access to Alexa hands-free, with a minimal need for the remote. You can ask Alexa to turn on the TV, dim the lights, send an announcement to the other family members that the movie is about to start and play your favorites. Plus, you can check the weather, the latest news, turn off the lights, and more, even when the TV is turned OFF. Amazon Fire TV Cube comes with an Ethernet adapter to allow you to connect to a wired LAN network.
The other impressive features include 4K resolution, Dolby Vision, HDR10+, and HDR10 playback support. Besides Amazon Prime Video, this Fire TV Cube also allows you to stream content from Netflix, YouTube, Disney+, Apple TV, STARZ, and others. You get to experience Dolby Atmos audio on select Prime Video and Netflix titles when you connect this device to compatible home systems.
Also, it’s very easy to set up and use Amazon Fire TV Cube. Just place the Fire TV Cube at least 1-2ft away from the speakers, connect the device to your TV’s HDMI port via HDMI cable (not included in the box) and home internet, and follow the simple on-screen instructions. All in all, this Fire TV Cube is the best TV streaming device for Amazon lovers.
Also read: Best HDMI Cables for gaming
4. Apple TV 4K – Best TV streaming device for Apple users
HDR: Dolby Vision, HDR10
Voice Assistant: Apple Siri
Extra Features: Gigabit Ethernet port, Multi-user support
For the loyal Apple superfans, who’ve already invested in the Apple ecosystem, the Apple TV 4K is the best TV streaming device that you can get for yourself. If you own an iPhone, an iPad, or a MacBook, you’ll get a more immersive experience with the Apple TV 4K. The latest versions of iOS and iPadOS allow you to automatically add the Apple TV remote to the Control center of your Apple device. Also. there’s an option to autofill the saved passwords from the iPhone or iPad to access the apps on your Apple TV.
You can watch the purchased movies or TV shows from iTunes movies in 4K HDR version for free. You can also access content from the major streaming services like Netflix, Starz, HBO Max, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video. There’s an app store as well that allows you to download tvOS-based apps and games. You can also use AirPlay to view the photos and videos from your iPhone or iPad on the TV. Plus, there’s a remote that lets you talk to Siri and search for your favorite movies, music, and games.
The recent software update has recently added support for Apple Arcade to the Apple TV 4K, which turns your TV into a gaming platform. You can use Sony and Xbox Bluetooth Wireless controllers to play Apple Arcade games. Apple TV 4K is a great option if you’re looking for the best TV streaming device for your kids.
Apple TV 4K is available in two versions- the 32GB and the 64GB storage options. It’s worth mentioning that if you invest in any new hardware, Apple is giving away a one-year free subscription of its Apple TV Plus service. With tvOS 14, Apple is planning to deliver a higher level of integration between the Apple TV 4K and Apple’s HomeKit devices.
5. NVIDIA Shield TV and Shield TV Pro – Best TV Streaming device for Gamers
HDR: Dolby Vision, HDR10
Voice Assistant: Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa
Extra Features: Gigabit Ethernet and 2x USB3.0 ports
NVIDIA Shield TV Pro is the best premium media streamer for the gamers. The device runs on Android-TV and offers access to the supported media streaming apps. Besides streaming Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Vudu content in 4K and Dolby Vision, the NVIDIA Shield TV Pro has an impressive library of games. There’s support for GeForce NOW that delivers real-time gameplay straight to the cloud to your TV. Therefore, you can instantly transform your NVIDIA TV into a GeForce-powered gaming rig. Plus, it gives you the ability to stream from your smartphone or PC to the NVIDIA TV.
It’s worth mentioning that the NVIDIA designed wireless game controllers are included with the NVIDIA Shield TV, but you’ll have to buy them separately in case of the NVIDIA Shield TV Pro. Otherwise, you can also pair Xbox One or Sony PlayStation 4 controllers, as they are compatible with the NVIDIA Shield TV Pro. One of the attractive features of NVIDIA Shield TV Pro includes next-gen AI upscaling, which upgrades HD video to 4K with a high degree of quality to deliver crisper and clearer visuals.
The AI remote control with backlit and dedicated media buttons, IR blaster, 3GB RAM, 16GB internal storage, built-in Google Assistant, surround sound with Dolby Atmos, and the super-fast NVIDIA Tegra X1+ chip makes the NVIDIA Shield TV Pro a fantastic package for the gamers.
Check Price on Amazon:
Also read: How to improve gaming on Android
6. Roku Express – Best streaming devices for a non-4K TV (HDTV)
Voice Assistant: Amazon Alexa
Extra Features: Micro USB port and includes an HDMI cable
If you’re looking for the best media streamer for an HDTV, Roku Express is a good trade. It’s an affordable TV streaming device that allows you to stream free and premium content on your non-4K TV. Also, it makes no sense to pay extra for the advanced features like 4K resolution and HDR playback when your TV doesn’t support them. Roku Express is a small set-top-box that connects to your TV via an included HDMI cable. It offers a great line-up of content from Roku channels as well as other major streaming services, including, Prime Video, Apple TV, Netflix, HULU, Disney Plus, and others.
One of the standout features of this device is that you can download the free Roku app for iOS and Android and use it as a remote, a content casting device, a voice remote, and utilize it as a private listening accessory. The UI of Roku Express is clean and easy to use, plus the remote has a minimal design featuring shortcut buttons to popular streaming services. You can add voice control support by pairing it up with an Alexa device.
7. Mi Box 4K – Best budget media streamer
Voice Assistant: Google Assistant
Extra Features: USB2.0 and 3.5mm audio out port
If you’re looking for an Ultra HD streaming device at an affordable price, take a peep into Mi Box 4K. It’s an Android 9-powered streaming box that connects to your TV via HDMI cable and allows you to access online content. Mi Box 4K is a viable option for anyone who wants to turn the regular TV into a Smart TV, without breaking the bank. You get access to over 200,000 TV shows and movies, 30,000,000+ songs, and more than 1,000 Chromecast enabled apps. Netflix, Disney+ Hotstar, YouTube, and Amazon Prime Video come preloaded on this streaming device.
There’s a built-in Chromecast support that allows you to cast up to 4K Ultra HD content from your smartphone or tablet to the TV. It comes with HDR10 format and has the ability to dynamically adjust to all types of screens, including HD, FHD, and UHD to deliver the best possible viewing experience across all resolutions. There’s HDR10 support for Netflix and Amazon Prime Video titles, but Mi Box 4K does not support Dolby Vision.
There’s a minimal design remote control that looks a lot like the one that comes with the Mi TV. It has got a power button, a dedicated button that brings up the Google Assistant, two hotkeys for Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, along with the volume controls. Mi Box 4K also supports Google’s Data Saver technology that’s advantageous to people who use their mobile data via hotspot to watch content on TV. There’s a 3.5mm audio out port and a USB2.0 port to connect external devices. Plus, you can also connect your Mi True Wireless Earphones 2, other wireless headphones, or game controllers via Bluetooth 4.2.
8. Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K
HDR: Dolby Vision, HDR10
Voice Assistant: Amazon Alexa
A better alternative to the original Fire Stick is the all-new second-gen Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K. It has the same form factor but provides better performance and features. It is geared towards Amazon Prime media. The Amazon Prime Video and Music are built right into the menu, while there’s support for other streaming services as well. You can stream your favorite titles from Prime Video, Netflix, YouTube, HBO, Sling TV, HULU, ESPN, and other streaming services.
Priced decently at $50, the Amazon Fire TV Stick is a fantastic option to stream 4K content with both HDR10 and Dolby Vision. It allows you to experience Dolby Atmos audio on select Prime Video titles when you connect this device to compatible home systems. Plus, it comes with an Alexa voice remote that allows you to search your favorite content using voice commands. It’s super-easy to install, just plug the stick into the HDMI port of your TV and start streaming.
If you don’t have a 4K TV and you’re not planning to get one anytime soon, then you can go for the HD version of Amazon Fire TV Stick and save yourself a few bucks. It’s a great streaming device to watch online content on an HDTV.
9. Google Chromecast Ultra – Best Media Streaming Device to Cast to TV
HDR: Dolby Vision, HDR10
Voice Assistant: Google Assistant
Extra Features: Ethernet port
Google Chromecast Ultra lets you cast the streaming apps that you’ve got on your smartphone or tablet to the TV wirelessly. There’s no need for a remote, you can use your phone to control playback and search for your beloved titles. It plugs easily into the HDMI port of your TV and offers smooth streaming with minimal buffering. Just open the streaming app on your phone, tap the cast button, and you’re all set to watch content on the big screen. The device doesn’t have an on-screen interface of its own, rather it just shows up the content from the streaming apps.
Google Chromecast Ultra is one of the best TV streaming devices for watching YouTube content. The device supports 4K resolution and HDR10 and Dolby Vision content playback on your 4K HDR TV. There’s support for Google Assistant as well as any Google smart home devices. It also boasts an Ethernet port to allow you to connect to a wired LAN network for a stable internet connection. All in all, It’s a great TV streaming option for Google and Android fans.
If you don’t have a 4K TV, you can ditch the 4K streaming devices and opt for the Google Chromecast (3rd generation). It allows you to stream content at up to 1080p resolution at 60fps.
Differences between streaming devices:
(Roku Streaming Stick+ vs Roku Ultra vs Roku Soundbar vs Roku Express vs Apple TV 4K vs Google Chromecast vs NVIDIA Shield TV Pro vs Amazon Fire TV Cube vs Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K)
|Roku Streaming Stick+||4K||HDR10||Amazon Alexa||Roku OS||No need|
|Roku Ultra||4K||HDR10||Works with Amazon Alexa, Google-Assistant powered devices||Roku OS||Not Included|
|Roku Soundbar||4K||HDR10||Works with Amazon Alexa, Google-Assistant powered devices||Roku OS||Premium High-speed HDMI cable included|
|Roku Express||1080p||No||Amazon Alexa||Roku OS||High-speed HDMI cable included|
|Apple TV 4K||4K||Dolby Vision, HDR10||Apple Siri||Apple tvOS||Not Included|
|Google Chromecast||4K||Dolby Vision, HDR10||Google Assistant||Google Cast||No Need|
|NVIDIA Shield TV Pro||4K||Dolby Vision, HDR10||Google Assistant||Android||Not Included|
|Amazon Fire TV Cube||4K||Dolby Vision, HDR10+, HDR10||Amazon Alexa||Amazon Fire TV||Not Included|
|Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K||4K||Dolby Vision, HDR10||Amazon Alexa||Amazon Fire TV||No Need|
|Mi Box 4K||4K||HDR10||Google Assistant||Android||Included|
Differences between platforms
Roku is a great platform when it comes to streaming media. Firstly, it’s very convenient to install, then there’s an excellent user-interface, which is consistent across the entire lineup of streaming devices, from Roku Express to Ultra. Then comes the most important factor- content. Roku has almost every streaming app, therefore, you will never have to worry about if my favorite shows are there or not. The Roku Streaming Stick+ is a great deal for anyone who’s looking for a 4K HDR support at a reasonable price.
It’s an ideal option for iOS users, who’re looking for high-quality streaming experience on their TVs. You can access all of your iTunes movies and music, that too in upgraded 4K version for free (when and if they support 4K). Also, if you’ve been using Siri on your iPhone, you would definitely find it very easy to browse through the content using this digital assistant. Apart from the iTunes content, Apple TV offers access to most of the streaming apps. Also, AirPlay and Apple Arcade support will surely earn some extra brownie points from iOS users. With the latest software update, Apple TV has integrated security cameras right on your TV. Apple has been known for its excellent customer service. In short, if invested in the Apple ecosystem, this is the best streaming box for you.
Just as Apple TV is a smart pick for iOS users, Android TV is the best 4K streaming box for Android users. We’re talking about the NVIDIA Shield TV and Mi Box 4K. If you’re into gaming, then NVIDIA Shield TV Pro is undoubtedly the best streaming box for you. It offers access to almost all the major streaming apps and has an exciting library of games as well. Therefore, you can stream 4K content and play games by investing in a single device. Mi Box 4K is a smart and budget-friendly deal for watching online content and playing games. Android TV gives you access to Google Play Store and has built-in Chromecast too.
It’s an ultimate choice for the Amazon superfans. If you watch a lot of movies or shows on Amazon Prime and own Amazon Echo smart assistants, the Amazon TV is sure to be your best bet. You can choose between the different options. The Amazon Fire TV Cube is the clear winner for us in its entire lineup. It boasts Dolby Vision, HDR10+, and HDR10 content playback, plus there are thousands of channels and apps to easily keep you hooked. Moreover, there are hundreds of online tutorials on how to get more out of your Amazon media streaming devices.
What makes Chromecast different from other platforms is that it doesn’t have a user-interface or operating system of its own. It just streams content from your smartphone/tablet and lets you enjoy your favorite streaming apps optimized for the big screen. You can control everything from your iPhone, iPad, Android smartphone, MacBook, or whichever device you’re using. It has got almost all the apps and is super-easy to install. But you can’t plug-in a USB drive to access offline media.
With this, we’ve come to the end of our guide on the best TV streaming devices in 2020. We hope it has assisted you to spot the differences between platforms and helped you in finding alternatives to the Amazon Fire TV and Fire Stick. Do let us know which streaming device do you use, in the comments section below.