Alright people, listen up. If you already have subscriptions to services like Netflix or Sling TV and are tired of watching your shows on a tiny laptop, then buying a TV streaming device is a no-brainer for you.
Streaming devices allow you to seamlessly connect your devices and app subscriptions straight to your TV, making it “smarter” than ever. Even if you already have a Smart TV, the power and services offered by TV streaming devices, for the majority of cases, far outperform what a Smart TV can offer you.
As long as you have a decent TV and a WiFi connection, then you can bring the world of streaming straight into your living room.
Endless Content at Your Fingertips
There are many different companies that offer a streaming service and each has its own take on the TV streaming experience. That means that each TV streaming device has its own set of unique features that might make it better or worse for you personally.
We at eHomeUpgrade have created this list of the best TV streaming devices to take you through the best ones out there and help you decide which is best for you.
Whether you are looking for a cheap streaming stick, something to stream beautiful 4K, or a device that could even stream your PC games to your TV, we should have an option for you.
- Best Choice – Roku Ultra
At the surface, the Roku Ultra offers a similar service to its close competitors: the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K and the Chromecast Ultra. However, digging a little deeper shows the many little touches that Roku puts in that sets its streaming experience apart from the rest.
Like its competition, it offers support for 4K and HDR and has an ethernet port to make your streaming smooth as silk. If an ethernet cord isn’t an option for you, the Roku also has a powerful WiFi connection that will be enough for 1080p.
- More horsepower and stability than the Stick +
- Supports 4K and HDR
- Ethernet port for faster connection speeds
- MicroSD card slot for more storage
- “Lost remote” button
- Headphone jack in remote for private listening
- Night Listening mode automatically adjusts the volume depending on the scene to avoid waking up kids
Roku Ultra Review
One of those nice touches on the remote is Night Listening mode, which automatically adjusts the volume depending on the scene to avoid waking everyone up in the house. The other feature is a headphone jack on the remote, which allows for private listening.
And how could you forget the always helpful “Lost Remote” button, which saves you from turning over every piece of furniture in your house by setting off a beeper on your remote when you press the button? Now that’s a useful feature.
At $96, the Roku Ultra is more expensive than it’s close 4K streaming competitors from Amazon and Google. But those looking for the best overall streaming experience will find that the Roku Ultra is worth the money.
- Fantastic Roku UI
- Lost Remote button is brilliant
- Headphone jack in remote for private listening
- Dolby Vision not available
- Best Value – Roku Streaming Stick+
The experience of using the Roku Streaming Stick + is very easy. Roku has arguably the best user interface on the market, so that makes finding the shows you want a breeze.
- Stream 4k and HDR with easy interface
- Dolby Atmos Audio
- 11ac MIMO dual-band wireless support
- HDMI and USB plugins (USB for power)
Roku Streaming Stick+ Review
The Roku Streaming Stick + may not be the best streaming device on the market, but it has a great mix between affordability and quality. Priced at $49, the Streaming Stick + allows you to stream 4K and HDR with Dolby Atmos Audio.
This streaming stick utilizes 802.11ac MIMO dual-band wireless, one of the most powerful WiFi capabilities on the market right now, to give you smooth streams while watching your favorite shows on services like Netflix or Hulu.
Overall, the Roku Streaming Stick + offers a great user experience mixed with an affordable price. If you are looking to use it for 4K streaming, though, make sure you have the internet to handle the amount of power needed, as there is no ethernet port available.
Make sure to check out our article on the best wifi extenders for ways to boost your WiFi power.
- Fantastic Roku UI
- Top-notch Wi-Fi connection
- Easy setup
- No ethernet port
- Premium Pick – NVIDIA Shield TV
The NVIDIA Shield offers an interesting mix between a gaming console and a streaming device.Priced up at $200, it offers a boat-load of features like 4K streaming and the ability to cast your PC games to your TV. The Shield TV looks like a very slim game console with a nice black and green design that would look good in any room.
The streaming device comes with Nvidia’s take on a game controller, which looks like a mix of the Xbox ONE controller’s shape and buttons with the PS4 controller’s DualShock sticks. It’s a decent controller, but thankfully the Shield TV is able to pair with better controllers like the Xbox ONE and the PS4.
The ability to stream your PC games to your TV is a really cool feature. If you subscribe to their GeForce Now service, you can get cross-saving between your laptop, desktop, and Shield TV. But you need to make sure you have a very good internet connection to stream your games on the NVIDIA Shield TV.
GeForceNow, NVIDIA’s cloud gaming service, states that you should have at least 25 Mbps to get 1080p resolution at 60 fps. Ultimately, they just suggest you should have an ethernet cable for the best game streaming experience.
- 4K and HDR paired with premium gaming features
- MircoSD and Micro USB slots
- Includes a controller
- Built-in Voice Search
- GeForceNOW: stream games to your Shield at 1080p
- Performance depends on internet speed
- Audio: Supports 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound, as well as Dolby Atmos
NVIDIA Shield TV Review
If you don’t have a good connection, then gameplay while streaming can get a little choppy. For a smoother experience, you can download games straight to your NVIDIA Shield TV from the Google Play store. The Google Play store doesn’t have the biggest selection of games, but you can still find major games like Fortnite.
The base model of the Shield TV starts at $200 comes with 16GB, but you can upgrade to 500GB at $300. Thankfully the NVIDIA Shield TV has slots for MicroSD and Micro USB storage, so you should have plenty of space for your games.
As for show and movie streaming, the Shield TV offers 4K streaming on apps like Netflix, Vudu UltraFlix, Amazon Video, and YouTube, with HDR being available on select services. HD streaming is available on all others, like Sling TV, PS Vue, or HBO Now.
The combination of 4K streaming and the Shield TV’s support for 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound makes this an awesome device for your home theater.
Overall, the NVIDIA Shield TV offers a great option for PC gamers who want a cheaper option for a combo gaming and streaming device than something like a PS4 or an Xbox ONE. At $200, it’s much more of an investment than the other streaming devices on this list, but it also comes with a lot more.
- Stream your PC games straight to your TV
- Supports other controllers
- MicroSD and Micro USB slots available for more storage
- Limited HDR support
- High network requirements
- Amazon Fire TV Stick
If you either have an Amazon Prime account or are secretly in love with Alexa, then I would suggest considering the Amazon Fire TV Stick.
Amazon’s streaming stick is only $40 and it offers super-fast speeds through its 802.11ac WiFi chip and 1.7GHz quad-core processor. You can stream shows from major apps like Amazon Video or Netflix in 1080p resolution.
- 11ac WiFi chip, 1.7GHz quad-core processor
- No 4K support
- Remote included
- Voice control button helps skip keyboard
- FireTV remote app available for smartphones
Amazon Fire TV Stick Review
The Amazon Fire TV Stick is a solid streaming stick at $40. If you are considering it, I would highly suggest upgrading to the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K since it’s only $10 more and offers quite a few additional features, like 4K streaming. Don’t worry, secret Alexa lovers, she’ll be there too.
- Great Alexa integration
- Cheap price
- Super fast performance
- No 4K support
- Universal search capability limited to major apps
- HDMI plugin can block the ones next to it
- Cheapest 4K Option – Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K
If the Amazon Fire TV Stick isn’t quite good enough for you and you’re looking for just a little extra “oomph”, then check out the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K. Unlike the normal Fire TV Stick, the Fire TV Stick 4K has support for HDR, both HDR10 and Dolby Vision. With the Fire TV Stick, you can stream 4K shows and movies from Netflix or watch live TV through apps like SlingTV.
The overall setup of the Fire TV Stick 4K is pretty slick. It has a very intuitive remote that can navigate you through the menus and even perform other functions on your TV. The best part about the remote is that it includes voice control, so you can Alexa to search through menus.
Unfortunately, voice search is limited to only a few apps, so you will have to dig through the menus of apps unsupported for voice search to find the shows you want.
- HDMI extender included
- Intuitive remote that connects to your TV as well
- Remote includes Alexa Voice Control
- Supports both HDR10 and Dolby Vision
- Remote Fire TV Remote app including digital keyboard and digital remote keys
- Use Alexa to control playback with many apps and even switch HDMI inputs
- Dolby Atmos
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Review
Speaking of the menus, the Amazon Fire TV’s menus are a bit annoying to navigate. Amazon, of course, has many of its shows advertised at the top of the menus. To get to the show you want to watch, you may have to click through many pages before you can actually press “Play”.
Compared to menus of other streaming services out there, the experience of the Fire TV’s menus seems like its a bit of a hassle. There are also a few annoying software bugs that pop up now and again that certainly don’t help the experience.
While the menus may not be a favorite, there’s no doubting that the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K is a great way to experience 4K streaming. Starting at only $50 on Amazon, the Fire Stick Stick 4K is also the best budget option for those looking to dip their toes into 4K and HDR. Most other 4K options are at least $20 more.
- HDR10 and Dolby Vision support
- Great voice control with Alexa
- Solid remote control
- Great amount of features for price
- UI isn’t the best
- Stick blocks other HDMI ports
- Software bugs can interrupt experience
- Best Streaming Option for Apple Fanatics – Apple TV
Are you the owner of an iPhone, an iPad, an Apple Watch, a Macbook, and an iCar? Ok, the last one isn’t a thing (yet), but if you own at least one of the first four Apple devices then you should consider the Apple TV.
Apple is known for having a seamless ecosystem between each of their devices, so why not let your TV join the party? With Apple TV, you can do just that. Stream shows, watch movies or even use AirPlay to put your Apple device’s screen onto your TV.
- A10X Fusion Processor
- Use Siri to search for content
- Supports 4K and HDR in both Dolby Vision and HDR10
Apple TV Review
Apple TV is one very powerful device. It supports an A10X Fusion Processor, so the whole experience is smooth as hell. It supports both 4K and HDR in both Dolby Vision and HDR10. You can use the major apps, like Netflix or Hulu, straight through the Apple TV, or find things from the Apple library.
The remote that comes with the Apple TV is a pretty nice design as well, so getting through the menus is smooth.
The one problem with Apple TV is the price. At $150, it’s a lot more expensive than the other streaming devices like it. But if you are looking to stay in the Apple family, then you won’t be disappointed by what Apple TV can offer.
- Seamless experience across all Apple devices
- Insanely powerful processor
- Apple library not as extensive
- Expensive compared to other competitions
- Best Budget Option – Chromecast
By far the most simple experience you could ask for in streaming goes to the Google Chromecast. The setup for the Chromecast is incredibly easy – which consists of plugging it into the wall, plugging the Chromecast dongle into an HDMI port, and then quickly pairing it with your Google account.
- Syncs with your phone and other media devices
- 60 fps for 1080p content
- Uses the apps on your phone or other devices to control playback and search for content. Also can search with Google Home
All of the control when streaming with the Chromecast is on your devices – no extra remote or complicated UI here. All you do is touch the Chromecast icon in Google’s approved apps, like Netflix, and then select the show you want to watch.
When the show pops up on your TV, you will see the usual pause/play and timeline scroller show up on your device. You can use your Google Home to control your Chromecast with the Google Assistant. It all adds up to be a very straightforward and refreshingly easy user experience
But the simplicity of Chromecast’s experience may not be for everyone. There isn’t a remote and there’s no support for 4K. For being the cheapest streaming experience out there though, it’s very good. For those looking for a more powerful version of the Chromecast, check out the Chromecast Ultra, which has 4K streaming.
- Easy setup experience
- Straightforward use/small learning curve
- Wall plugin for power (unlike Roku)
- No 4K support
- No ethernet plugin
- Best Value 4K Streaming – Chromecast Ultra
For those looking to stay in the Google family, but want a little more juice than what the Chromecast can offer, then consider the Chromecast Ultra. This beefed-up Chromecast features 4K streaming with a wide amount of HDR support.
It also features an 802.11ac WiFi connection for blazing fast connection speeds. Thankfully, the Ultra also features an ethernet plugin on the power brick, which is absolutely necessary for 4K streaming.
- 4K Ultra HD compatible
- Support for HDR (HDR10 and Dolby Vision)
- Ethernet plugin available in wall plugin
- WiFi connection is 802.11ac compatible
Chromecast Ultra Review
As with the regular Chromecast, all of the control is in your device. Whether you are using your phone, tablet, or laptop, you can easily cast apps like Netflix or even Amazon Video by just clicking the Chromecast button in the app.
Putting the control into your device takes away confusing steps like having to learn a new remote or navigating a new user interface, so the learning curve is very small to use a Chromecast.
Even though movies and shows aren’t widely available in 4K or HDR yet, being able to stream 4K and HDR sets the Chromecast Ultra up well for the future.
The Chromecast Ultra becomes especially appealing for big YouTube users since it is one of the only streaming services that pairs directly with YouTube. Yes, people, that means streaming your favorite cat videos in 4K. Chromecast Ultra: come for the easy setup, stay for the future potential of 4K and HDR.
- Affordable 4K streaming
- Wide HDR support
- Easy setup and use
- Dual-band WiFi and Ethernet for blazing fast connections
- YouTube 4K videos supported
- Will grow more useful as 4K and HDR are more widely used
- Wall plugin needed for power (unlike Roku)
Frequently Asked Questions: Best TV Streaming Devices
What is the cheapest device to stream Netflix?
The cheapest device to stream Netflix is a Google Chromecast, which starts at $35 on Amazon.
How do streaming devices work?
Streaming devices plug into your TV and become a hub for streaming content from the Internet. Streaming devices allow you play popular apps, like Netflix or Hulu, directly on your TV.
Many streaming devices come with a remote, but the majority of them allow you to control your streaming with your smartphone. Most new devices are also capable of streaming 4K and HDR.
Do I need a streaming device if I have a smart TV?
Many smart TVs have apps loaded directly in the TV, but many streaming devices have capabilities and processing power that is beyond what smart TVs can handle. This is especially true when streaming 4K videos.
Streaming devices often times have compatibility that is beyond what Smart TVs can offer. By the way, make sure to check out our article on the best Smart TVs to pair with your streaming device.
Which TV stick is the best?
The best TV stick for you depends on what you are looking for. If you are just looking for a simple streaming device and don’t want to spend a lot of money, then the $35 Chromecast would be the best choice.
If you are looking for a streaming device that is capable of things like 4K and HDR streaming, then the Roku Ultra offers the best all-around experience through a great user interface, powerful performance, and useful features like “private listening” mode. If you are looking to stream your PC games on your TV, then the NVIDIA Shield TV is the easy choice.