Media Streamers:

Best media streamers

Updated March 4, 2014 7:06 PM PST

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.

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Roku 3

The Roku 3 is the best streaming-video box yet, with tons of content sources, lightning-fast performance, and an innovative remote with built-in headphone jack.

Price: $91.95 - $106.94 Check prices

4.5 stars Outstanding Roku's speedy streamer is the best box yet

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.

Price: $69.97 - $74.81 Check prices

4 stars Excellent

Roku LT (2013)

The Roku LT is the best budget streaming-media device, easily topping the $35 Chromecast.

Price: $49.99 - $55.51 Check prices

4 stars Excellent

Apple TV (2012)

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.

Price: $95.00 - $99.99 Check prices

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.

Price: $49.97 - $69.99 Check prices

4 stars Excellent

PLAiR 2

Plair 2 is an interesting Chromecast alternative that offers access to the full suite of Android apps, but it's just not reliable enough to recommend.

Price: $24.99 - $24.99 Check prices

2 stars Mediocre
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