Best Streaming Device in 2020 (August Reviews)

The best media streaming devices offer all the apps and content you could want – but what really makes them great when you sit down to watch? Our top pick, the Fire TV stick from Amazon, is filled with features that make your entertainment center better than ever. That includes 4k resolution streaming support, 8GB of storage for all the apps you can want, and a control alternative with Alexa Voice Remote.

Amazon is also on top of the latest protocols with support for things like Dolby Vision (an HDR-like dynamic A/V format), so you can get the best audio/video experience possible, with confidence that your media streamer can keep up with your other hardware. However, we know other buyers may be looking for something a little different, so we included a number of devices with different specialties: Check out the full list to learn more!

Top 5 Best Streaming Devices

 #1  Amazon Fire TV Stick Streaming Device

Award: TOP PICK

WHY WE LIKE IT: It’s the best 4k streaming device we’ve found, and has compatibility for all the latest audio and video formats. Those interested in streaming quality above all else will love Amazon’s latest.


Pros

  • 4k streaming support
  • Dolby Vision support
  • Alexa voice compatibility

Cons

  • A lot of Amazon Prime ads
  • Not compatible with Apple TV


Amazon’s latest upgrade to the Fire TV Stick is packed full of top compatibility features – it works with 4k streaming, Dolby Vision, and all the apps you could want, including Sling, YouTube, and IMDB TV. There’s also 8GB of on board storage to pack those apps in. When it comes to image quality, the 4k resolution support is backed by support for HDR10 and HDR10+, ensuring some level of future proofing.

While there is a remote included with the stick, the device also has full compatibility with Alexa voice commands. You can instruct Alexa to find a show, play a favorite playlist, or open an app, all without touching a button. The Alexa compatibility extends to supported smart devices too, so you can dim the lights or adjust the thermostat with your voice as well. If you want the best for streaming movies and shows, this might be your pick.

 #2  Roku Streaming Stick+ Streaming Device

Award: HONORABLE MENTION

WHY WE LIKE IT: A small stick with well-rounded features, this Roku streamer has extra range that’s great for lecture halls or classrooms, , and it comes with 4k support! Remote and voice control are both supported, with dedicated buttons for Netflix, Disney+, and more.


Pros

  • Discrete headphone listening through app
  • Excellent range for large areas
  • Alexa compatibility

Cons

  • Roku’s platform is simple and not glitzy


Roku has been in the streaming/cable world for many years now, and the company knows how to make a great streaming stick. Despite its small size, this streaming stick supports 4K resolution and HDR video quality to upgrade your streaming experience. Roku also mentions that it has 4x the range of older devices, making it a great choice for auditoriums, outdoor movies, and other spacious areas.

We also like the private listening function, which allows you to connect headphones to a mobile device with the Roku app on it, and listen to TV audio through that device while you watch – an ideal solution if you need to keep the TV speakers quiet for whatever reason. There’s also Alexa compatibility if you like giving voice commands. To fully upgrade your at home TV experience, grab some of the best subwoofers too.

 #3  Google Chromecast 3rd Gen

Award: BEST BUDGET

WHY WE LIKE IT: The 3rd generation Chromecast is easier to use than ever, the best option for quickly installing apps and getting to the good stuff. It also supports Google Assistant voice commands for those who have a preference!


Pros

  • Best for Google Home
  • Super fast setup & screen mirroring
  • Great streaming device for YouTube TV

Cons

  • No 4k support
  • May struggle with surround sound


Chromecast has always been particularly easy to use, and the 3rd generation Chromecast fully leans into the “plug and play” model. As long as your TV has an HDMI port, you can set up the Chromecast in minutes. Google’s interface for the streamer is also minimalistic and gets you to your shows or movies at top speed. The device supports up to 1080p resolution and 60fps.

The great affordability also makes this Chromecast a great choice if you want to equip multiple TVs throughout a home or business with streaming and/or screen mirroring capabilities all at the same time. There’s also Google Assistant support, so if you’re more familiar with that than Alexa this could be a better pick for you. If you want to get into your own streaming, you’ll definitely also want the best streaming microphone.

 #4  TiVo Bolt OTA Streaming Device

Award: BEST CABLE REPLACEMENT

WHY WE LIKE IT: TiVo’s excellent box does it all, from live TV and saving episodes to supporting ultra high definition shows on apps like Netflix. If you want a great live TV streaming device, this is the one for you.


Pros

  • Offers both streaming and live TV
  • Easy DVRing and commercial skip
  • Supports 4k streaming movies

Cons

  • Requires monthly subscription to work


You may remember the TiVo name from the DVR days, but now the company has expanded into streaming devices and the Bolt OTA is one of its best offerings. TiVo approaches the streaming world a little differently: Apps like Netflix and Hulu are fully supported, but TiVo also supports live TV viewing and its traditional DVRing, all in one package. Classic TiVo capabilities like skipping ads easily are, of course, included.

The device also supports Alexa voice compatibility, and includes an app for mobile viewing or easier settings management if necessary. However, keep in mind that you need a monthly subscription to TiVo for this device to work, in addition to your streaming service fees. With this device’s wireless capabilities, you’ll be putting your best aux cable to the side for good.

 #5  Apple TV 4K

We're sorry, this product is temporarily out of stock

Award: BEST MULTI-SCREEN PERFORMANCE

WHY WE LIKE IT: Apple TV latest model comes with remarkable performance and the best storage out of all our picks. From gaming to syncing with iOS devices, it’s a powerhouse for anything you need.


Pros

  • 4K and surround sound support
  • Effortless switching between devices
  • Great support for Apple Arcade

Cons

  • Works best if you have other Apple devices


While Apple lives to keep everything “in house” as much as possible, we were pleased to see that the latest Apple TV still offers easy connections to multiple apps, including Netflix, iTunes, Hulu, ESPN, and anything else you could want. It also supports 4k, Dolby Vision, 7.1 Dolby surround sound, and HDR10. Thanks to Apple’s tight ecosystem, it’s also effortless to switch streaming around from iPhone to iPad to TV as you need it.

We also love the large 32GB storage (64GB also available). Remember, in 2019 Apple launched its Arcade full of games, and the storage capacity allows you to turn it into a gaming app machine if you prefer. If you want to organize the chords around your TV, you may want to also grab some of the best cable ties.

How We Decided

To really drill down and find out what makes a streaming box great, we looked past the apps they offer (which are largely the same no matter what device you get) and toward usability. With so many smart TVs present, it’s important for a streaming device to offer easier control and better service than you can get from the TV itself. Our top picks have rich, helpful interfaces and great remote control options, plus voice commands when possible.

Content quality is important too! The best and latest streamers offer support for 4k resolutions (if your streaming services have that kind of content and your internet bandwidth can keep up), as well as compatibility with HDR and the more advanced HDR10+, which allow for improved video quality. Speaking of compatibility, we also looked for devices that work with common audio protocols like Dolby and DTS, particularly newer versions like Dolby Vision.

Then we took a look at how streaming devices that could solve certain problems or provide additional features beyond content. Some of our picks are especially great for saving and watching live TV, even without a cable subscription. Others are perfect for gamers who already have all the content they want but need a way to stream it out to their fans. Extra capabilities like these are especially valuable when buying for a specific purpose!

Best Streaming Device Buyer’s Guide

The Most Important Features to Consider

  1. Pricing and Fees
    The good news is that most streaming devices are affordable, although you should still look at overall costs (buying an Apple TV, for example, is a very different prospect than purchasing a Chromecast). However, you should also check to see if there are any ongoing fees for the services you want. In many cases, this isn’t a problem, because your fees will be paid directly to the streaming services themselves – one monthly fee for Netflix, one monthly fee for Hulu, etc. However, it doesn’t always work out that way. One notable exception is TiVo, which requires a separate TiVo subscription to use anything else in the platform. Other devices like the Fire TV can be used without subscriptions, but are more designed to benefit from a particular subscription (in this case, Amazon Prime Video).
  2. Compatibility with Other Devices
    Compatibility is especially important when it comes to your display and your speakers. Generally, displays shouldn’t be an issue as every modern TV comes with HDMI. However, if you have an old TV or a display without HDMI, you should make sure the device has the right connections (or get an adapter, although this will decrease quality). Speakers are trickier. There are a lot of audio codecs out there, and not all streaming devices work well with all of them. Look in the “supported audio” sections of device specifications and try to make sure that your audio protocols are supported. Older speakers will have a tougher time dealing with streaming devices.
  3. Unique Capabilities
    Streaming devices try to separate themselves by offering unique types of content, which is a great way to pick a device if you don’t care about anything else. While streaming apps are generally the same from device to device, these unique features can vary considerably. Chromecast is one of the only streamers that offers Google Assistant voice commands. Amazon’s Fire Stick platform makes it easier to watch Amazon Prime content. Roku’s app allows for separated listening via mobile devices so you can keep the TV volume low…and so on. Pay attention to these extras to see which fit well with your needs.
  4. Control
    This is a more minor point, but remember to take a look at control options for the streaming device you are considering. Do you like the remote? Is it the right size? Do the buttons make sense to you, or will you have a lot of learning to do? Does the device have an app you can use for controls instead if you prefer that?

Streaming Device FAQs

Which Streaming Device is Easiest to Use?

To a certain extent, this depends on what platforms you are comfortable with and what you have used in the past. If you are more familiar with Amazon devices, the Fire Stick might be the easiest option for you. If you use a lot of Apple devices, the Apple TV may be the easiest to learn. Android fans might want to take a look at the Nvidia Shield TV, Shield Android TV, or simply the Nvidia Shield – an Android TV-based digital media player produced by Nvidia. But if you don’t really have any built-in preference for anything, two of the easiest streaming sticks to pick and use right out of the box are the Roku and Chromecast. Both these streaming devices have plenty of features, but you only need to learn a few simple basics to get them to work. Also pay attention to voice assistant compatibility if you have a preference!

Do I Need a Streaming Device If I Have a Smart TV?

This is an excellent question that’s not always easy to answer. In general, smart TV features and streaming device features have broad overlap: They allow you to access the same apps on the same screen. Streaming devices are most useful when people want to add smart features to a TV that doesn’t have them, while those with smart TVs don’t really need them. However, there are some exceptions. Certain devices may give you access to apps or discounts that the average smart TV doesn’t have. Additionally, smart TV interfaces and controls can sometimes be very awkward, and some people might prefer an affordable streaming stick with easier controls or voice commands instead.

What’s the Best Streaming Device for YouTube TV?

Your choice! YouTube TV is available on basically every streaming device platform around, so there’s no compatibility issues to worry about. YouTube TV performance will depend on things like your bandwidth and site traffic, things that aren’t affected by your streaming device. However, if you want to keep everything in the family then Chromecast is probably your best bet, as Google owns both YouTube and Chromecast.

What’s the Best Streaming Device to Replace Cable?

Any good streaming device can help you replace cable, because the most important aspect is what streaming services you sign up for. However, Roku and TiVo in particular have worked hard for many years to build broad platforms that are as close an approximation of cable as possible, and able to work with cable systems when necessary. Their experience in this sector makes them very good choices to start with.

What the Best Streamer for Gamers?

This is an interesting question. In most cases, gamers won’t need a streaming device, because they have consoles or PCs that already have all the streaming services they could want available right from platforms like PlayStation or Xbox. A streaming device in these cases is simply unnecessary. However, there are cases when gamers can benefit from an additional streaming device. One of our picks, the Elgato model, is specifically designed for gamers that already have streaming services, but need extra capabilities for streaming their own content to Twitch, YouTube, or other platforms. Devices that enable this are the best for serious gamers that are working to build an audience.

Latest Streaming Device Reviews & Buyer Guides

Roku Streamlines Products into Three TV Accessories
Roku Streamlines Products into Three TV Accessories
Thinking about a Roku? The new product lines are now much easier to compare!
Roku SE Unveiled, Specs, Price And Release Date
Roku SE Unveiled, Specs, Price And Release Date
Is this Roku’s best streaming device yet? The battle for the cheapest streaming box is official: today Roku announced the Roku SE.  Price for the purple tags box will be $50 when it goes on sale.  Or will it?  In an attempt to drum up publicity, it will actually sell…
Sling TV Review: An Internet TV Solution That Simply Works
Sling TV Review: An Internet TV Solution That Simply Works
I’ve been a cordcutter for quite some time. After Time Warner Cable started charging upwards of $180 for the only monthly cable television package that was worth anything, I realized it was time to just stop caring about live television. Over the past few years — and yes, I’ve been…
Ematic MediaBeam Streaming Media Player Review
Ematic MediaBeam Streaming Media Player Review
A lot has been made of Chromecast, Google’s combination of a “Smart TV” dongle and linkage with a smartphone or computer. But the first out of the gate isn’t always the winner, so don’t count the MediaBeam out because it doesn’t have as big a “name.” Or ignored,  as this…
Fire TV vs. Roku 3: Which One to Buy, Why (comparison)
Fire TV vs. Roku 3: Which One to Buy, Why (comparison)
So far we’ve compared Fire TV to Apple TV, and Fire TV to Chromecast. In both occasions the new streaming media player from Amazon has won. But the Roku brand has become synonymous with internet-based TV since the first generation model released in 2008, and offers a wide selection of…
Fire TV vs. Chromecast: Which One to Buy and Why (comparison)
Fire TV vs. Chromecast: Which One to Buy and Why (comparison)
Is it fair to compare Amazon’s Fire TV with Google’s Chromecast? Maybe not. Amazon’s $99 low profile 4.5″ x4.5” box was built with more processing power and memory than Chromecast, and is really better compared with Apple TV and Roku 3. But the smaller, $35 Chromecast dongle packs a lot…
Google Chromecast Lets You Stream Any Content from the Chrome Browser, Netflix & YouTube
Google Chromecast Lets You Stream Any Content from the Chrome Browser, Netflix & YouTube
It is easier than ever to find the best streaming device. Apple’s Apple TV has long offered consumers the ability to beam music and video from any Apple device to their living room’s TV. However, the caveat is that it only works with Apple devices.  Google doesn’t agree with this…
Apple TV vs. Roku 3 (comparison)
Apple TV vs. Roku 3 (comparison)
Having a difficult time deciding which set top-box is for you? We’ve analyzed Apple TV and the Roku 3 side by side to bring you the most comprehensive comparison available. Here’s a breakdown of two of the most popular alternatives to conventional cable boxes and why one of them might…
Corsair Voyager Air 1Tb Wireless Media Hub Review
Corsair Voyager Air 1Tb Wireless Media Hub Review
Just last week I mentioned many of the changes happening at Corsair. The company has been busy making very interesting strategic moves. New business level acquisitions will see the company peppered with a new line of audio devices, undoubtedly. Continuing to branch out into uncharted territory, Corsair has sent us…
Belkin G1V1000 @TV Plus Review
Belkin G1V1000 @TV Plus Review
Some reviews are difficult not because of the technology discussed, but because the purpose of that technology doesn’t come across as having any value. We can all say that TV has its good moments amidst the bad — and that’s why we watch so much of it. But not in…
D-Link DMS-310 MovieNite Streaming Media Player Review
D-Link DMS-310 MovieNite Streaming Media Player Review
The best streaming services demand the best streaming devices. D-Link is pretty well known for their routers — media players, not so much. But I remember hearing a while back that they’d been selling the Boxee media player, but got rid of it in favor of… Their new DSM-310 MovieNite…
Roku LT is their Cheapeast Yet; $50
Roku LT is their Cheapeast Yet; $50
In addition to adding HBO Go to their list of channels, Roku today introduced the Roku LT. The LT might as well refers to light, as in a light price since it only costs $49.99, $10 cheaper than the model up. But all things relative (to other Roku players) you…

If you're looking for in-depth and comprehensive streaming reviews, you've come to the right place. In today's world of seemingly inexhaustible on demand content, you might find it hard to find the right streaming service.

You may even end up wondering why you shouldn't just pay for a subscription to all services. Whatever your worries are, we aim to make it as easy as possible to follow your cord cutting dreams and find the right streaming service for you.

Our reviews cover all the different kinds of internet TV platforms, where you can watch live TV channels, including live channels and local channels you would normally find on cable TV. And sports fans can enjoy streaming, too! With live sports channels on many of the platforms we review here, you don't have to miss any game. We also researched all the premium channels like CBS All Access and HBO.

Live TV streaming services are plentiful, so we've taken the time to research and test all the companies out there. From YouTube TV to Hulu with live TV to Playstation Vue, we've got all the bases covered.

We haven't forgotten about the host of streaming devices, either! In our streaming reviews, we give you a look into different streaming devices like Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Apple TV and more. Using the right streaming device to access your favorite TV shows is just as important as the actual plan you choose, so we cover these devices in depth, as well.

Cord cutters unite on Gadget Review. After you've checked out our streaming reviews, you'll be equipped with the right research to get the best deal for your streaming wants and needs. Our reviews and buying guides can help you get past the 30 days trial to a regular subscription in your home.

Back to top button
Close