On-demand movies and TV series are now a huge market. There are many streaming devices available for the various platforms, and it may be hard for some to decide which are best for them. Below is a list I created when researching which is best for myself and family. I hope this helps you decide:
Ten years back if you asked anyone what is a Smart TV or a smart streaming device, then people would have given you a huh?’ or an eh?’. Cable TV subscriptions were the only option for watching TV. Those were the times when you had to wait for a day to watch your favourite episode or a little disruption in the weather used to lead to weak signals. The cable subscriptions used to drain the pocket of the customer as the charges for the subscription was very high. But with time, technology has upgraded, and people are cancelling their cable TV subscriptions and either buying a smart TV or adding a smart streaming device to their old TV.
Here are some questions I found myself asking:
- What is a streaming device?
- What is the difference between Smart TV and Streaming devices?
- What are the best streaming subscriptions?
- Which streaming devices support Apple TV?
- Which streaming devices support YouTube TV?
- Which streaming devices will support Disney+?
- Which streaming do devices support Spectrum TV app?
- Which streaming devices have an Xfinity app?
- Which streaming devices have Ethernet port?
With such a variety of streaming devices available in the market, choosing the right one can be a real problem, to say the least. If you spend time looking through smart TVs, smart streaming devices and other things to deliver content to your smart home TV and entertainment system, then I am sure you are pretty confused at this point. Choosing the correct streaming device depends on your purpose for purchasing it, i.e., if you are a gameaholic then you might purchase a smart stream which contains best games in it and provides the best video quality and gaming experience. So in this article, I shall help you make the right decisions with your smart home and entertainment system by writing a detailed buyers guide.
The different types of streaming devices available in the market are categorized into various fields and are reviewed below.
Best High-end Streamer
Apple TV 4K
The Apple TV 4K comes in 32GB and 64GB and retails for about $179 to $199 depending on the retailer. Choosing this device helps you to choose which ecosystem you want to live in because once you plug in this device, some of your future choices are already made. If you run the voice search feature on the Apple TV to find a particular thing, then it will send you to I-Tunes to make the purchase. These devices are designed to work most smoothly within their own ecosystems. If you want to get the most from your Apple TV then better you already be an Apple fan with a bunch of their devices or a new willing convert.
If it comes to apps and daily functionalities, we dig just a little bit deeper, and then we find out that the Apple TV starts taking the lead as compared to other devices. It is convenient to use, and it also has a remote. The Apple TV remote has a little microphone button on it that helps you to issue commands to Siri, the virtual assistant, which is very usefully at the installation phase. In this streaming device, you can also have access to the Apple app store, which makes downloading games, other fitness and related applications very convenient. It also has a screen mirroring feature in it.
It is expensive as compared to the other available devices, but its best in class features makes it worth the price. It also delivers the best streaming video, making it one of the best high-end streaming device. It is even compatible with Dolby Vision HDR. If you are looking for a good quality streaming device, then you should definitely go for it.
Apple TV 4K website: www.apple.com/apple-tv-4k/
Best for Gamers
Nvidia Shield TV
For all you gameaholics reading this article, if you are searching for a streaming device which is game-centric and which will upgrade your gaming experience, then all your search ends here. Nvidia has a unique design forming a cylindrical shape and priced at $150 with its more Gamer looking alternative priced $180 – $200, which comes along with a backlit remote. It also has in-built Google Assistant and a microphone built on the remote control, just like Apple TV 4K has Siri to issue voice commands. It also contains an Ethernet port so that you get a wide connection on the go.
This streamer delivers several upgrades like the new Tegra X1+ platform, boasting AI- boosted upscaling to 4k for standard HD video. This is the most impressive feature of this streaming device which makes it different from other streaming devices as the active upscale using Artificial Intelligence improves the sharpness of the picture or video as compared to the standard HD video. It can serve up 4K HDR visuals for Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube content. It supports Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. This streaming device is not only best for enjoying movies and shows, but it’s also the best for gaming. It is the best streaming device for the gamers since it adds the GeForce game streaming service.
It runs Android TV operating system, so you can get this all set up using your Android phone. This makes the installation very easy as it takes minimal effort to install the device using your Android phone. You can download applications using your Google play store. If you are a gamer, then you can buy this streaming device to enhance your gaming experience.
Nvidia Shield TV Website: www.nvidia.com/en-us/shield/shield-tv/
- World Class performance - blazing fast and versatile enough to be a streamer, game console, media server, and smart home hub. Fully customizable, SHIELD continues to evolve and get smarter with new features
- 4K HDR home Theater - enjoy the ultimate visual experience with 4K HDR quality, immersive sound with Dolby Atoms and dots-x Surround sound pass-through, and the most 4K entertainment; Power: 40 W power adapter (5-10 W typical consumption)
- GeForce Now Beta access - transform your shield TV into a powerful GeForce-powered PC gaming rig. Play hundreds of supported titles like Fortnite and access Features like cloud saves and cross-play
- Limitless content - apps for all the movies, TV shows, games, and music you dream of. Cord cutting apps. Chromecast apps. View Google photos and search for entertainment with simple voice commands
- Google and ecosystems - the Google Assistant, Google play movies and music, and works with Google Home. Alexa controls SHIELD hands-free with echo, Plus Prime video and music. Some HDMI to DVI/VGA adapters may not support Audio. If possible, Connect your shield TV to an HDMI port on your TV without using an adapter
Best for Amazon Fans
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K
When it comes to streaming, the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K gets everything right. It costs around $50 at Amazon and comes with a 1.7 GHz CPU and 8 GB internal storage which helps it carry the heavyweight easily, and it also offers a 4K HDR experience. It has excellent built quality and performance, and it is also intensely portable.
The pack comes with a dongle and a sleek remote control. Fire TV stick has a customized version of Android. It has the Amazon app store to download any app the customer wants. And we all know that Amazon comes with Alexa. The remote control of the Amazon Fire TV Stick has a button to use voice control for searching for apps. Like, if you want to download any app, you can ask Alexa, and then the Fire TV Stick will send you to Amazon app store to make the purchase.
Does the Amazon Fire TV Stick work with Google Assistant?
Not out of the box, you will need to use a workaround to get the Amazon Fire Stick to work with the Google Assistant (Home/Hub).
If we talk about the interface, then the fire TV stick is quite basic and parent proof. The only thing Fire TV lacks is gaming. This device is not a gaming device and not a good option for gamers. It caters the needs of a different class of audience. If someone who likes to kick back and just watch YouTube videos on their 4K HDR TV with Dolby Atmos sound, then Fire TV is the way to go especially the fact that you can share it with your parents. The fact that it is the least expensive and the most affordable device makes it one of the most bought streaming devices. If you are an Amazon fan, then this one is perfect for you.
- The most powerful 4K streaming media stick.
- Watch favorites from Netflix, YouTube, Prime Video, Disney+, Apple TV, HBO, and more. Stream for free with Pluto, IMDB TV, and more.
- Launch and control content with the Alexa Voice Remote.
- Enjoy brilliant picture with access to 4K Ultra HD, Dolby Vision, HDR, and HDR10+.
- Choose from 500,000 movies and TV episodes.
Best for Android and Google Assistant users
Google Chromecast is popular for its 4K ability, and it can cast’ content from your personal devices and mirror the same to the TV. Chromecast can cast your YouTube videos and Netflix from your smartphone, and once the videos get cast, it works directly with the router. So even if you turn off your smartphone, the Chromecast will automatically fetch the next video. The biggest selling point is its screen mirroring feature. It is often called the king of screen mirroring.
It has a circular design and costs less than $70. This streaming device comes with an HDMI extender. As already mentioned, these devices run best in their own ecosystem. So if you are comfortable and an old user of Google ecosystem, then this product is for you.
The disadvantage of Google Chromecast is that it does not come with remote control. You can operate the device through your phone or through the Google Assistant for voice search. Also, it does not support Amazon prime videos. Even if you try to cast prime videos from your phone, all you get is a blank screen. Lack of remote and restriction in watching are a major setback for this product as it is not user-friendly.
This device is super affordable, and if you have a budget constraint, then you should go for Google Chromecast.
Best budget streamer
Roku falls in the list of budget streamer because it is priced at less than $100. This device is better than Google Chromecast since it not only comes with a dedicated remote, but it also has a dedicated Netflix and Amazon prime button on it. You can watch Amazon prime in Roku, and this makes it better than Google Chromecast.
The design of this device is neither of a box nor of a dongle. It is a 1.5 inches tiny device which gets attached to your slim TV. It is an affordable and user-friendly streaming device where you can have access to plenty of apps. The time taken for loading the apps is very minimal. It’s quick and high performance makes it reliable. If you want to spend a bare minimum on a streamer, then this is the perfect device for you. It gives you the best value for your money.
- Simple setup with an included High Speed HDMI Cable
- Easy to use remote, intuitive navigation
- 500,000+movies and TV episodes, with voice search across 1,000+ top channels. Plus, catch hit movies, popular shows and more with no subscription or fees on The Roku Channel
- Tons of streaming services available. From movies and series on Netflix, Prime Video, HBO NOW and SHOWTIME to cable alternatives like Sling TV or YouTube TV to live sports and news on CBS News, ABC News and ESPN
- Free Roku mobile app for private listening, voice search and more.Power Consumption <2.2 Watts
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
The above list of streaming devices makes it easy for you to choose the best device you want to buy keeping in mind the purpose for which it is bought. However, there are certain questions in the mind of the audience before buying any streaming device. We have listed some major questions:
What is a streaming device?
Streaming media device is a way to get information from the internet to your TV and generally, it is a small device which you can plugin with an HDMI cable. One of the big reason why people like these devices because they have various features built-in them just like a smartphone. The make watching a movie or shows very easy. These devices also have many applications built in that allow you to watch additional content that you may not get through your cable provider. So these products are great for people who are looking to get more out of the TV or for people just looking to cut the cord. These devices have a faster and easy to operate a navigating system. So, if you are someone who is looking to make your non-smart TV smart or your smart TV smarter or looking to have access to extra content from your TV, then a streaming device is something you are looking for.
What is the difference between Smart TV and Streaming devices?
A Smart TV is a TV which has inbuilt applications whereas a streaming device is an additional device to your existing TV which provides you with additional applications. Streaming devices are better than Smart TVs because streaming devices can be added to your existing TV and it is less inexpensive than your Smart TV. Also, certain TV manufacturers have a partnership with certain content providing companies, and those companies might not provide that content to any other TV manufacturer. So maybe in a Smart TV, depending on the manufacturer, you might not get certain contents, but this is not the same in case of streaming devices. Also, a Smart TV takes time to open any application or load any application whereas, a streaming device is comparatively faster than the smart TVs in case of loading applications. Smart TVs are required to be upgraded, whereas there is no need to upgrade streaming devices.
Smart TVs are huge in size, and therefore, they are not portable, whereas, some streaming devices and tiny in size and they are easily portable. The remote control of a smart TV is overwhelmed with buttons which makes it difficult for the person watching TV to navigate. Therefore, it is not user-friendly. Whereas, the remote control of streaming devices have less number of buttons, which makes it easy for the customer to navigate and makes the device user-friendly. Some streaming devices also have voice control button on their remote, which makes it easy for the user just to press the button and give command through their voice. They don’t have to navigate here and there, and they can easily voice search the content. Smart TVs are a little complicated to use for people who are not that technology-friendly. On the contrary, streaming devices are not that complicated, and they come with a simplistic setting which makes them easy to use for everyone.
What are the best streaming subscriptions?
The next most frequently asked the question is that which is the best streaming subscription. When a person installs a smart TV or purchases a streaming device, then that person will want to take advantage of the streaming app. The following are some of the best streaming apps:
- Netflix (netflix.com) – It is one of the most popular streaming apps. This is the one app which you will find installed in all the streaming devices or smart TV. People have used the Netflix app on their phones, tablets and laptops for a long time. Netflix contains a wide array of movies, web series and many Netflix originals which can be seen only on Netflix.
- Hulu (hulu.com) – The second most popular streaming subscription is Hulu. It is almost same as Netflix, the only difference between the two is that Hulu also has a live TV which Netflix doesn’t have.
- Amazon Prime Video (primevideo.com) – It is also one of the popular streaming services, which is similar to Netflix. It also contains certain original contents which can be seen only on Amazon Prime.
- Disney plus (or Disney+) (disneyplus.com)- It consists of the all-time favourite Disney shows and movies. It is supported mostly by all
streaming devices. It is relatively inexpensive and gives you the theatrical experience at home.
- Apple TV plus (apple.com/apple-tv-plus) – This is one of the streaming subscriptions which was awaited by a majority of people. It is not only available for the Apple users, but non-apple users can also use it. It brings together a variety of shows and documentaries which are exclusively available on taking the subscription of this channel only. This is also inexpensive and starts at just $4.99 per month, and if you purchase any Apple device, then you will get the subscription free for one whole year.
Which streaming devices support Apple TV?
The Apple TV shows contents from connected streaming devices, I-Tunes or your library. The streaming devices which support Apple TV are:
- Apple TV (4th Generation) or newer;
- Roku Devices;
- Amazon Fire TV Stick and Fire TV Stick 4K.
Apple TV has numerous shows for kids which provides child-friendly contents. It also consists of various movies, shows, sports and news. The subscription of Apple TV is minimal and starts at just $4.99 per month.
Which streaming devices support YouTube TV?
There are many streaming devices which supports YouTube TV. These devices include Google Chromecast, Apple TV, Roku and Fire TV Stick. YouTube TV is a streaming service based on subscriptions with the help of which you can watch live TV from the available cable networks. You can watch your favourite match, cooking channel, any breaking news or any other show as and when it gets aired. The best feature of YouTube TV is that it has cloud storage so that you can record your favourite shows and can watch them later. The YouTube TV memberships give you six accounts, and you can share them with anyone above the age of 13 years. YouTube TV membership is not that expensive even. It just costs $49.99 per month, and you get one membership with up to 6 accounts.
Which streaming devices will support Disney+?
Disney Plus is a live app and is available at the cost of $6.99, which gives you access to the whole Disney vault. There is a broad list of devices which supports Disney Plus. Amongst them the streaming devices which support Disney plus are Amazon Fire TV Sticks, Roku boxes and sticks, Google Chromecast and Chromecast enabled devices and Apple TV. It is interesting to know that Amazon Fire TVs were the first streaming devices to support Disney plus when it was launched.
Which streaming do devices support Spectrum TV app?
Spectrum TV app allows you to view your favourite programmes at the same time on all compatible apps. To start watching through this app is a very simple procedure. You just have to download the app from the respective app store and then log in. Google Chromecast and Roku devices are some of the streaming devices which support spectrum TV app.
Which streaming devices have an Xfinity app?
Xfinity stream app is an app where the customers who have subscribed to the Xfinity TV can access it in other devices. This app supports more than 20 devices which include Apple TV, Roku devices, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast etc. This app is available to the customers through the Xfinity Partner Program wherein the manufacturers of the other devices provide access to the customers to watch this app under terms which are mutually agreeable. This is beneficial for the customers as they can utilize their subscription of the Xfinity TV by watching the shows in other devices as well.
Which streaming devices have Ethernet port?
Ethernet port is a very important feature when you wish to stream 4K and HDR content via a streaming device. Ethernet port is the most reliable source when huge amounts of data are involved. It gives the best streaming experience, and the shows run smoothly without connectivity issues or buffering. The following streaming devices come with an Ethernet port:
- Google Chromecast Ultra – This device is one of the most affordable streaming devices available with Ethernet port. This port gives 5GHz Wi-fi connection. This makes this device reliable.
- Roku Ultra – This streaming device is the equivalent of the above mentioned Google device. It has almost the same features as Google Chromecast ultra, Ethernet port being one of them.
- Apple TV 4K – The last streaming device in this list is Apple TV 4K. We have already discussed above the wide array of features that this device offers. Among other features, Ethernet port is one of the most vital features.
In the time, when the world is going wireless, there is still a need for a wired device. The huge amount of data which is required for streaming, it is taken from the Wi-fi, then this shall cause interruptions. This is the reason why Ethernet ports are called a vital feature for the streaming devices.
The innovation in technology leads to fading of the older technologies. For example, landlines were substituted with Cell phones and Desktops were substituted by Laptops. Similarly, the streaming devices and smart TVs have taken the place of the cable subscriptions. With the growth in this industry, we shall see more big companies entering into this line of business taking it further to the next level.
Streaming devices help you save money by cutting the cable cords. But if you are expecting that streaming devices will be the same as the cable, then you are wrong. Streaming devices have their own way of working. Also, if you are a person who loves watching cable channels, then you must not shift from cable to streaming device. If you want to come out of the cable world and want to try something new then you must opt for installation of a streaming device.
Once you have made up your mind, that you want to cut the cord and bring home the new experience of streaming device, then the next question that arises is which streaming device is the best. There is no answer to this question. This is because all devices have their own audiences. For some people, the budget is a big-time constraint, so they compromise on features and quality and end up choosing the streaming device, which is inexpensive and affordable. On the contrary, for some, quality is the most important condition while choosing any streaming device and therefore, they end up buying a high-quality product which might be a little expensive. The purpose for which a person buys a streaming device also is a major factor in deciding which device to buy. For example, if a person wants to buy a device just for streaming purpose, then they won’t go into devices having gaming features. Whereas, if a gamer is about to purchase a streaming device, then she will purchase a device which has gaming features in it.
All devices have their respective audiences, and you need to decide which type of audience you are to choose the correct streaming device.