Updated: Sep 29, 2022
Roughly 64% of adults are making the move, or have already made the move, to become a streaming-only household. Streaming has gotten more popular over the years for several reasons, including that it's cheaper and it's on-demand.
Do you stream, or are you still a cable/satellite user? Maybe you're both. If you're interested in streaming but haven't made the move yet, keep reading to help you make a more informed decision.
First, if you have a smart TV, you don't always need a streaming device. Most TVs have the same amount of apps as a third-party device. Second, not all streaming devices are the same. I'll share the differences below. Last, streaming devices do not have a subscription. You purchase the device and pay for the apps/streaming services monthly.
Below are six different brands and what they offer. Anymore, most streaming devices are very similar but offer a few differences. They're all pretty easy to set up. The most time-consuming part of the setup is signing into the apps. There is a device for all budgets, too. They range from $29 to $200. Below are some of the more popular streaming devices and what they offer.
Starting with Roku
The online consensus is that the Roku Express 4K+ is the best Roku device and the overall best streaming device. It's sitting at $29 at the time of me writing this. The remote is voice-controlled and also works as your TV controls. It offers 4K and HDR color. It also offers Airplay, so you can now connect your Apple devices to your TV.
Another high-ranking Roku device is the Roku Streaming Stick 4K+. This one is currently priced at $44. The "box" with this is perfect for mounted TVs because it plugs right into your TV with no cords. It has Dolby Vision, but it appears it's not as impressive as it could be. The remote has a "private listening" option, so you can plug in headphones. The remote is voice-controlled and rechargeable. One of the better options on the remote includes setting your own shortcuts.
Lastly, one of the newer and more interesting Roku devices is the Roku Streambar Pro. I've written about the original Streambar before. It's priced at $180 right now. This device includes a soundbar with Dolby Audio that has to ability to automatically quiet loud commercials and is considered "virtual surround sound." You can connect via Bluetooth and Airplay. The remote is also voice-controlled and has personal shortcuts.
All Roku devices offer the same base options, so if you're looking for a device that does a little more, those listed above are some of your best choices. We recommend Roku devices.
Sidenote: you can also purchase a Roku TV. There are tons of options when it comes to TVs, so check all of the specs when you're researching those.
Next is the Apple TV
There are currently two Apple TV devices: Apple TV HD and Apple TV 4K. The 4K one has better specs than the HD one but is $30-$50 more depending on the amount of storage you buy. I recommend the 4K (second-gen version, so I'm going to speak on that here). First, the remote has been upgraded. It's controlled by Siri, has a "click pad" making navigation easy, and finally has a back button. You can play Apple Arcade with this device, and rumor has it, Apple is making a gaming controller for the Apple TV. There are no major streaming differences with this device. It all just comes down to brand preference.
If you don't use Apple TV or Apple products, this device may be a waste of money for you.
Yeah, TiVo is still alive and kicking, and they're offering their version of a streaming device. The TiVo Stream 4K costs $40, offers all major streaming apps, and has a remote that is controlled using Google Assistant.
Amazon Fire Stick
One of the better and cheaper streaming devices is the Amazon Fire Stick Lite. The remote is controlled with Alexa and doesn't have to be pointed directly at the box to work (unlike most of the Roku devices). The home screen of any Fire Stick isn't as simplistic as it could be, but it is able to house all major streaming apps, and sometimes more. However, just a disclaimer, if you've acquired a jailbroken Fire Stick, Amazon is cracking down on those. They're also starting to block third-party apps that allowed you to customize your home screen. Overall, a great device.
Amazon also has the Fire Stick 4K Max. It's one of the faster streaming devices and only costs $55. The apps load quickly, navigation is easy, and it runs smoothly. However, there are more ads than one cares for on their home screen. If you're looking for a device to connect to your current Alexa or Amazon account, and something that loads fast, this is the best option.
If you don't really use Amazon or Amazon products, this device may be a waste of money for you.
Even Google has a device
The Google Chromecast has been around for a while now. I got my first one in the winter of 2014. It worked wonderfully for years and paired well with my Samsung phone I had at the time. It's still considered a great device. The newest one, Chromecast with Google TV, is seamlessly integrated with other Google services, including YouTube. This costs $50 and is better suited for people who are avid Google users.
A streaming device for gaming?
I'll be honest. I've never heard of this device until I started researching this topic. The Nvidia Shield TV was created with gamers in mind. It does cost $200, and that doesn't include any add-ons, but that might be worth it. Streaming is available in 4K and HDR. It also has a library of games (console-level and Android), Steam Link, Plex Server access, smart home control, and a few more neat options. If you like to play video games (or even if you use Plex), this may be the device for you.
Now, these are just some of the more popular streaming devices. There are more out there. I say if you're picky, definitely do a bit more research. Make sure you're getting exactly what you want.