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If you're like most people over this past year, you've probably been streaming more TV shows and movies than ever before. Services such as YouTubeNetflix and Disney Plus have countless hours of entertainment on tap, but your home network's Wi-Fi connection might also be struggling with all of that streaming -- especially if kids are distance learning and grown-ups are video conferencing at the same time.

If your home network is having issues you could try disconnecting your streaming device from Wi-Fi: Using Ethernet instead, via a Cat 5 network cable, frees up your wireless for other devices such as laptops and tablets. Ethernet is also more stable and usually faster than Wi-Fi and doesn't have issues with walls, interference or distance (well, not in a house).

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Most of the best media streamers are Wi-Fi-only, although some work with a cheap adapter. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Read more: The best Wi-Fi extender for almost everybody  

The bad news is that you'll need to run wires from your router to your TV for streaming, but if you're stuck at home it makes a good weekend project, and Ethernet cable is cheap. During high-use times you might be OK running a temporary wire that you can remove later.

There's a catch, however. While many game consoles and smart TVs have built-in Ethernet ports, most of the best media streamers are Wi-Fi-only, although some work with a cheap adapter. Here's a list of the best wired streaming devices that either have built-in Ethernet ports or work with Ethernet adapters. Note that all of the products below also work via Wi-Fi.

Read more: How to improve TV streaming quality on Netflix, Amazon Prime and more

Sarah Tew/CNET

The top spot on this list used to be occupied by Roku's most expensive player, the Ultra, but the $40 Express 4K Plus has replaced it. Roku is our favorite streaming system as it has all the major streaming apps, the simplest interface and a content-agnostic platform that doesn't push any particular media streaming provider, like Amazon Prime Video or Apple TV Plus, over another. The Express 4K Plus also streams in 4K HDR, though it lacks Dolby Vision

Unlike the Ultra, the Express 4K Plus doesn't have a built-in Ethernet port on its small dongle-sized body, but you can easily add-on through a $10-$15 adapter from a retailer like Amazon (we tested it with a $12 cable from a company called UGreen and it worked fine). This combo isn't as elegant as a built-in adapter, but it would be around $50 cheaper than the $100 Ultra. 

Note that the price below does not include the adapter.

Read our Express 4K Plus review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Google makes a cheap adapter that lets you connect a wired Ethernet cable to its Chromecast streamers, including the excellent new Chromecast with Google TV. The combo costs a total of $70 -- $50 for the Chromecast and $20 for Google's adapter. We like Roku's system better than Google TV but it's very close, and in some ways, particularly Google Assistant voice support, this combo is a better choice than the Roku Ultra and a close second to the Express 4K Plus.

Note that the price below does not include the adapter.

Read our Chromecast with Google TV review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Although the Apple TV 4K costs more than twice as much as the options above, it's the better choice for people who can appreciate its advantages. Those include compatibility with Dolby Vision HDR, flexible upconversion, superior voice control features, a better remote and a slick user interface. The Apple TV 4K is so good for media streaming, it even makes sense if you're not an "Apple person."

Read our Apple TV 4K (2021) review.

 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Your Xbox or PlayStation has an Ethernet connection and plenty of streaming video apps, but the Shield is more versatile and includes a real remote so you don't have to navigate Netflix with your game controller. In addition to streaming in 4K and HDR with access to thousands of Android TV apps, it offers a robust library of games -- from GeForce Now cloud gaming, PC streaming including Steam Link to numerous native console-level and Android games -- built-in Google Assistant complete with smart home control, NAS access, Plex server capabilityHDHomeRun integration and more.

If GeForce Now isn't your thing, Google will be adding its Stadia platform to the Shield TV (as well as the Chromecast with Google TV) on June 23. 

Read our Nvidia Shield TV review.

 

Roku

Available only at Walmart, this is technically the cheapest current device with Roku's streaming system and an Ethernet port. The savings compared to the actual, non-LT Ultra isn't much, however, and it lacks that device's slick extras like Dolby Vision, programmable keys, fast app launching and the remote finder.

CNET

As we mentioned, Roku makes our favorite media streamers for live TV streaming apps like Netflix, and it's even better as a platform baked into a TV. This TCL 4-Series is one of the most affordable Roku TVs on the market, available in a range of sizes and with image quality that's perfectly fine for most people, especially at this price. And like all 4K-capable Roku TVs in North America, it has an Ethernet port.

Sizes: 43-, 50-, 55-, 65-, 75-, 85-inch (The price shown below is for the 43-inch size.)

Read our TCL 4-series Roku TV (2021) review.

 

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