Media Streamers:

Best media streamers of 2014


The dominance of disc-based media is coming to an end. With the rise of excellent streaming-media services like Netflix, Amazon Instant, Hulu Plus, Vudu, and Pandora, it's easier than ever to ditch your discs and embrace streaming content stored in the cloud. Below are our top streaming-media box picks. We've limited the list to standalone streaming boxes, but be aware that lots of other home theater devices are competent streamers these days, from Blu-ray players to game consoles. You'll also notice that we've focused our attention on boxes that specialize in streaming content from the Web, rather than handling your own local media collection. There are some great boxes that pride themselves on handling every codec known to man, but we think most buyers are better off embracing the convenience of cloud-based media services, even if it costs a little extra.

Apple TV

While it's still a step behind the Roku 3, the Apple TV is an excellent streaming box, especially for those invested in the Apple ecosystem.

4 stars Excellent

Roku 2

The Roku 2 offers tons of content sources and an innovative remote with built-in headphone jack for just $80, but the Roku 3 is still our favorite pick.

4 stars Excellent

Roku 1

The Roku 1 has a budget price and adds 1080p video output over the similar Roku LT, but its appeal isn't as obvious as Roku's other streamers.

4 stars Excellent

Google Chromecast

Google's new streaming stick is designed to let you push video content to your TV from smartphones, tablets, and the Chrome browser.

3.5 stars Very good