The Roku Ultra supports key features and has smart compromises that keep the price low.
Extremely fast and powerful due to quad-core processor. Supports 4K HDR including Dolby Vision and audio with Dolby Atmos. Includes a remote with a headphone jack for private listening. Lost remote finder feature is handy.
Voice assistant isn't as impressive as versions from Google or Amazon.
An intuitive, cost-effective way to stream from your favorite apps and cast content from your phone to the big screen.
Very simple unit to learn and use, and at a reasonable price. The Google Assistant feature offers helpful voice commands. Supports Netflix, Prime Video, HBO Max, Peacock, and others. Plug-and-play.
Users may experience occasional lag when switching between apps.
Based on our testing, this is an all-in-1 model; it supports gaming, a smart-home hub, and a media player.
It supports every AV format there is, including Dolby Vision, 4K HDR, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS Master Audio. Has dual USB 3.0 ports for storage expansion, USB cameras, controllers, and more.
No support for Apple TV+ service. Many features require a Google account.
This is one of the most versatile, inexpensive options for watching your favorite movies and TV in 4K.
An affordable unit that's optimized for 4K Ultra HD content. Features voice controls and supports Dolby Atmos. It offers access to millions of titles, and you can control other smart devices in your home. It's easy to set up.
You won't get 4K streaming unless your TV supports it.
An upgraded remote with rechargeable batteries and extensive voice control takes the Stick to a new level.
Plugs directly into HDMI port. Invisible when plugged in, takes up very little space. Handles 4K video with HDR and Dolby Vision. Redesigned remote sports rechargeable batteries and advanced voice control. Lost remotes can be located by voice.
Same as Streaming Stick 4K except for remote.
After going through an intensive research process to narrow down our short list of top products in this space, we tested NVIDIA SHIELD TV Pro to be sure that it’s worthy of our recommendation. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter and test to verify manufacturer claims.
A streaming device is a small unit that connects to your TV and lets you stream content. They’re inexpensive and a terrific option for those who aren’t ready to part ways with their older TV in favor of a smart TV. They’re easy to set up, as you only need to plug into a power source and your TV. Some require you to set up an account, but once you do, you’re ready to start streaming.
Although all streaming devices have similar capabilities, there are some notable differences between them. Before you buy one, it’s a good idea to know what type of picture enhancement functions it supports, the layout of the remote control, what type of voice assistant access you get, the device’s processing power and its user interface.
Our top pick, the Roku Ultra Streaming Device, delivers on all fronts. It packs a powerful processor for shorter load times, excellent Wi-Fi range for minimal buffering and lagging and several image-enhancing features, including HDR10+. We thoroughly tested another top option, the Nvidia Shield Android TV Pro. We analyzed its streaming and gaming capabilities as well as its picture and sound quality.
The Roku Ultra boasts many upgrades and features over other Roku streaming devices, making it the best Roku and our favorite streaming device overall. It offers the best Wi-Fi connectivity of any Roku and up to 50% more range and hands-free access to the Roku voice assistant. It supports 4K streaming and other technologies for an immersive experience, including Dolby Vision and HDR10+ for enhanced picture quality and Dolby Atmos for superior sound.
The remote is one of the best upgrades and a big reason why we love this streaming device. Unlike other remotes, you never have to worry about having batteries handy since it’s rechargeable and has shortcut buttons for quick app access, TV controls and a headphone jack for private listening.
In recent years, Google has taken a bit of a backseat in the streaming device game because of the emergence of other devices, such as Roku and Fire Sticks. However, we recognize the Chromecast with Google TV 4K as a top streaming device, especially for those looking for a good bargain pick.
This Chromecast has an interface similar to the Fire Stick, showing all your apps and favorite content in one place. It recommends TV shows and movies based on your viewing history, and you can create profiles for kids with active parental controls. The remote has a dedicated Google Assistant button you can use to search for content and control your TV hands-free.
We tested the Nvidia Shield and found it to be the perfect streaming device for hardcore gamers and anybody who’s used to using smartphones or tablets running Android operating software. It’s considerably more expensive than the other streaming devices on our list, but that’s because it boasts more features and functionality. Dolby Vision enhances color and brightness to give you better contrast, and Dolby Atmos provides superior sound quality.
The Nvidia Shield offers 4K HDR streaming from popular apps such as Netflix and Disney+ and GeForce Now cloud gaming, giving you access to over 1,000 games. We loved that the Tegra X1+ processor makes it 25% faster than the previous generation Nvidia Shield and is powerful enough to upscale HD content to 4K. Also, you can access Google Assistant or Alexa hands-free.
The Fire TV Stick 4K Max is one of the more affordable streaming devices we recommend. The powerful processor makes it 40% faster than the Fire TV Stick, meaning you’ll experience less lag and shorter loading times when booting up your favorite apps.
It supports Wi-Fi 6 for smoother streaming and Dolby Vision, HDR and HDR10+ for enhanced viewing. Fire TV Sticks offer plenty of options for free live TV streaming, and you can integrate it with your smart home setup to view your front door camera with picture-in-picture. The Alexa voice remote lets you search for content, control your TV’s volume and power, and manage other smart devices on your home network.
If you’re unwilling to shell out for our top pick, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K is an excellent alternative that’ll run you around $30 less. It boasts the same user-friendly interface that many users love and prefer over its main competitor, the Fire TV Stick, and it comes with a rechargeable remote.
It’s easy to plug in and set up, and as with other top streaming devices, it supports Dolby Vision and HDR10 for improving color depth, clarity and overall picture quality. You get access to over 275 free live TV channels, and the voice control feature works with whatever you prefer, whether it’s Siri, Google Assistant or Alexa. If you misplace your remote, you can say, “Hey Roku, where’s my remote?” to locate it quickly.
The Fire TV Cube has an octa-core processor, making it the most powerful Amazon streaming device, and it’s a terrific option for those who want total hands-free access to Alexa. For example, the Fire TV Cube lets you control your TV’s power and volume, get live sports scores and weather updates and search for content without a remote.
It offers Wi-Fi 6E support for smooth streaming and technologies such as Dolby Vision, HDR and Dolby Atmos audio for an immersive viewing and listening experience. It has a built-in HDMI port to hook up a cable box and manage live TV completely hands-free with Alexa. Also, unlike all other Fire TV streaming devices, the Fire TV Cube has 16GB of built-in storage instead of 8GB.
Like the Google Chromecast, the Apple TV isn’t as popular as it was a few years ago. However, the Apple TV 4K 2022 is a solid streaming device, especially for those dedicated to maintaining an ecosystem of Apple devices for fluidity and accessibility.
The Apple TV 4K 2022 supports 4K Dolby Vision and HDR10+ for enhanced picture quality, making it as good as any other high-end streaming device when it comes to pure streaming. It has an A15 Bionic chip that delivers fast performance, and if you have an iPhone, iPad or Mac computer, you can use AirPlay to share photos, videos and other content. The remote is also particularly intriguing, as it has a touch-enabled click pad and offers access to Siri.
We thoroughly researched what each top streaming device offers and tested two to determine if they hold up: the Roku Streaming Stick+ and the Nvidia Shield Android TV Pro.
There are two popular form factors in streaming devices: small black boxes about the size of a hockey puck and thin sticks roughly the size of a pack of gum. There was a big divide between the two in the early days of streaming sticks, as streaming boxes were more powerful than streaming sticks by a mile. However, the gap has closed, and modern streaming sticks can do almost everything streaming boxes can.
If you want a portable streaming device or something that won’t take up any room around your TV, go for a streaming stick. If you don’t need portability, or if you want a streaming device with niche features like an Ethernet port or game streaming, go for a streaming box.
A user-friendly interface is a must, even if you consider yourself tech-savvy, as it makes it easier to keep track of your apps. Some streaming devices have more convoluted user interfaces which, although they provide recommendations based on your viewing history, can make it a chore to search for content, find your favorite apps or tweak settings.
If you regularly purchase videos from services like iTunes or Google Play, you’ll want to make sure the streaming device you buy supports them. Google Play and iTunes both limit their TV selection to specific devices. For example, you can only access your iTunes-purchased TV shows on an Apple TV, and TV content from the Google Play store can only be played back on devices like those from Roku or Nvidia.
Streaming devices are great on their own, but if you pair them with another device, such as a tablet or smartphone, you can unlock additional functionality. For example, if you’re an iPhone owner, you can use your iPhone as a remote control or game controller with an Apple TV. Similarly, if you already own one, you can use a Bluetooth game controller with one of Nvidia’s Shield TV boxes.
Most streaming devices have a digital assistant such as Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant on board. You can access these voice assistants through a dedicated button on the remote most of the time. However, the best streaming devices let you access them hands-free without a remote. You can use a voice assistant for various things, including searching for content, launching apps, managing music playback, checking weather and sports scores, and even controlling other smart devices on your network.
Private listening is a feature that lets you connect headphones to your streaming device. Most streaming devices allow you to hook up wireless Bluetooth headphones, but some have remotes with headphone jacks built right into the remote for connecting wired headphones.
The best streaming devices have features that can significantly improve your viewing experience by enhancing picture quality. Technologies such as HDR, HDR10, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision effectively enhance color depth and contrast to improve clarity. Some streaming devices even have an upscaling feature that upgrades standard HD content to 4K.
Most streaming devices support basic gaming, and playing mobile games on the big screen is more comfortable than playing on your smartphone if you’re at home. That makes streaming devices such as a Fire Stick or Nvidia Shield appealing to gamers, as they offer game streaming and cloud gaming services.
You may be more interested in game streaming if you’re a PC gamer. With game streaming, you can use your streaming device to play PC games from a PC gaming rig on your network. You’ll need a high-powered gaming PC to take advantage of game streaming and a strong Wi-Fi signal, but once you’re all set up, you can play PC games from your streaming device as if your computer were in the same room.
A. You can get a high-quality streaming stick for $30 to $50 with many outstanding features, such as 4K streaming, access to voice assistants and even image-enhancing functions like HDR. However, if you want a more robust streaming device with a powerful processor and premium features like gaming and hands-free voice assistant access, you can expect to pay $100 to $200.
A. Cable providers are afraid of cord-cutters, so they now offer their own streaming devices to lure back former cable customers. While these devices can be tempting, they don’t deliver the quality of experience you can get from a proper streaming box. Cable-provided streaming boxes are often slow, leaving out key streaming providers and lacking features like HDR or voice assistant compatibility.
A. If you have a movie collection in iTunes of films you’ve purchased, you can connect your iTunes account with MoviesAnywhere. This service lets you play your purchased movie content on any streaming device. However, MoviesAnywhere only applies to movies — not TV shows — so if you’ve bought a lot of TV episodes from iTunes in the past, the only streaming box that will play them is an Apple TV.
A. All 4K streaming devices are backward compatible, meaning you can connect one to a standard 1080p HD TV, and everything will look and stream just fine. You won’t be able to enjoy the resolution of a 4K video stream, but content will stream at the highest capability your TV can deliver, provided you have a strong internet connection.
Get emails you’ll love.
Learn about the products you’re wondering if you should buy and get advice on using your latest purchases.