So you want a new device to connect to your TV and stream video, but not sure which one? I've got you covered.
I've reviewed pretty much every major streamer on the market today, from Roku to Amazon to Chromecast to Apple TV, along with every major Smart TV system. Lemme tell ya, with the exception of TVs that actually run Roku's or Amazon's software, a streamer is better than the smarts built into your set. It has more apps, better search, more frequent updates and just more.
And most streamers are super-affordable, especially given how much you'll likely be using it -- like, every day, often for multiple hours at a time.
So if your current streamer is getting long in the tooth, or you're just looking for something to go with that newTV, chances are you'll be happy with one of these.
Best overall: Roku Streaming Stick Plus
Price: $65 at Amazon
Why it's great: Roku is my favorite streaming system, with the most apps, the simplest interface, the best search and a content-agnostic platform that doesn't push any one provider, like Amazon video or iTunes over another. The Plus is the company's cheapest streamer with 4K HDR, and even if your current TV doesn't support those formats, your next one probably will. Its accent on practical features, like a remote that can control your TV's volume and power, seals the deal.
Best if you don't mind spending $180: Apple TV 4K
Price: duh, it's $180 at Apple
Why it's great: The perfect foil to the Roku Plus, the Apple TV costs $100 more but is the better choice for people who can appreciate its advantages. Those include compatibility with Apple person."HDR, , superior voice features, a better remote and a smoother, slicker user interface. The Apple TV 4K is so good, its even makes sense if you're not an "
Best if you don't care about 4K: Roku Streaming Stick
Price: $40 at Amazon
Why it's great: Take all of the great features that matter on the Streaming Stick Plus, remove 4K and HDR, and you have the basic streaming stick. The new 2017 version includes that TV control remote, and just like its predecessor it's super-snappy and eminently affordable. That said, if you anticipate getting a 4K TV soon, spend the extra money on the Plus.
Best if you want more than 'just a streamer': Nvidia Shield TV
Price: $200 at Amazon
Why it's great: Sure, it's expensive at $200 -- or $180 if you don't want the game controller (you do) -- but if you want a Jack-of-all-video, the Shield is it. In addition to streaming in 4K and HDR, it offers a robust library of games, both console-level and Android, built-in smart home control, NAS access, native Kodi support, Plex server capability, HDHomeRun integration and much more.complete with
Best if you want to use Alexa to control TV: Amazon Fire TV
Price: $70 at Amazon
Why it's great: Alexa. It's great because of Alexa. If you own anor speaker you can use voice commands to Fire TV to launch apps, play shows, fast forward/rewind, and a . Talking into the remote also works well. Of course you'll get a screen full of Amazon promotions every time you turn it on, which is one reason we like Roku better in the 4K HDR streaming space. But... Alexa, right?
Best if you're a phone and/or YouTube junkie: Chromecast
Price: $35 at Walmart
Why it's great: Because phone. In fact, kid, if you're reading this on your phone and wondering whether there's a YouTube video that provides the same information, but in motion, longer and preferably selfie-confessional style, you might prefer to stream via Chromecast. It doesn't have a remote, which to people like me makes it inferior, but which you may consider a win.
Best if you're just a massive cheapskate: Roku Express
Price: $27 at Amazon
Why it's great: DO YOU SEE THAT PRICE? Welp, that's why it's great. And for that price you might expect it to suck, but it really doesn't. The Express delivers all of the goodness of Roku's platform, includes a remote and even comes with an HDMI cable and a little sticker to keep it in place. Unlike last year's version, response times are nice and quick. And if you need one that works with TVs that lack HDMI, check out the $35 Express Plus.
What about the others?
If you were hoping for a mention of the, , or , this is pretty much it. They're fine, but not as recommendable as the ones above because the niche they fill is even more narrow (the first two) and/or I like a competing product in the same price range better (the last two, eclipsed by the Apple TV 4K and the Roku Streaming Stick, respectively).
Anyway, seven picks is plenty.
Best TVs right now: The past year's best sets, all in one place.
Smart Home Matrix: Want to know what will work best with your smart home? Start here.