Streaming devices are more popular than ever and you might be wondering why. No matter the service plan, they let users watch the shows and movies they want when they want to watch them, which is a huge part of the appeal. 

Whether you’re new to these devices or you want to upgrade the one you already have, you can find plenty of great offerings to choose from.

What are streaming devices? 

They’re devices that let you stream media on your TV from online streaming services, such as Netflix and Hulu. They’re especially useful for people who don’t have a smart TV that can connect to Wi-Fi and stream media directly. However, even if you do have a smart TV, some can be slow and suffer from annoying lags, while others only come with certain apps and don’t let you download others. The right streaming device will overcome these issues. 

Why are streaming devices more popular now than ever? 

The popularity of streaming devices is increasing in line with the popularity of streaming services. Not too long ago, you could only watch what was on TV as it was aired, unless you recorded it to watch later. Streaming services, on the other hand, give users the freedom to watch any available movie or show at any time, which is changing the way people consume media. Many people would rather binge-watch shows in a weekend rather than watch one episode a week over the course of five months. 

What’s more, most streaming services have their own exclusive shows and movies that can’t be found anywhere else. People who want to check out these exclusives must subscribe to the relevant streaming service. This encourages people to subscribe to a range of services and therefore they may choose to buy a streaming device to easily watch these services on their television. 

What can I watch using a streaming device?

You can use your device to watch any compatible streaming service. Most come preloaded with apps for all the major streaming services, including Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max and Disney+. The majority also have space to download less popular streaming service apps, which is ideal if you have some niche tastes in movies and TV shows. 

You don’t get these services included with the price of the device, however. You’ll need to subscribe to any streaming services you want to use. These generally have either a monthly or annual fee, though a handful of services can be watched for free with ads. 

What to look for in a streaming device

4K definition

The price of 4K TVs have dropped in recent years to the point where roughly half of U.S. households own one. If you don’t already have a 4K TV, the likelihood is you’ll upgrade to one when you next replace your television. It makes sense to choose a 4K-compatible streaming device to make the most of your 4K TV so you don’t need to upgrade your device when you inevitably upgrade your TV. 

Voice controls

Some models have built-in voice controls so you can search for shows and movies without the hassle of typing the title, which is time-consuming using a remote control. 

Choice of streaming services

A quality streaming device should come with all the major streaming services preloaded and with the option to download more. This gives you the choice to watch all your preferred streaming services.

Powerful processor 

You might wonder about the price disparity when comparing models, but the most expensive offerings usually have powerful processors. These powerful processors avoid the annoying lag some devices, and some smart TVs, suffer from.

Best streaming devices

Fire TV Stick 4K Streaming Device

Fire TV Stick 4K Streaming Device

This affordable 4K streaming device is perfect for people happy with a basic one. All the major streaming apps, such as Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and Hulu, are already downloaded and it comes with an Alexa remote capable of voice control.

Sold by Amazon

Google Chromecast

Google Chromecast

Want to use your phone, tablet or laptop to control your streaming device? Then this bare-bones device is the one for you. You can even cast whatever is on your laptop screen straight to your TV.

Sold by Amazon

Roku Express 4K

Roku Express 4K+

Capable of streaming shows in HD, 4K and HDR, this is a great choice whatever your current TV setup. It’s easy to use and lets you watch live TV, as well as shows and movies from practically any streaming service.

Sold by Amazon

Apple TV 4K

Apple TV 4K

While it’s pricier than most of its competitors, it has a Siri voice remote and a super-fast processor so there’s no annoying lag. Not to mention, Apple isn’t generous with sharing its users’ information, so it’s an ideal choice for those concerned about privacy.

Sold by Amazon


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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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