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Which streamer should you buy?

Plenty of options exist for streaming Netflix, YouTube, Amazon and the rest. We've reviewed almost all of them. Here are our picks.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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. 

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So if your current streamer is getting long in the tooth, or you're just looking for something to go with that new 4K HDR TV, chances are you'll be happy with one of these.

Best overall: Roku Streaming Stick Plus

Roku Streaming Stick Plus
Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

Read the full CNET review of the Roku Streaming Stick Plus

Best if you don't mind spending $180: Apple TV 4K

apple-tv-4k-2017-13
Sarah Tew/CNET

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 Dolby Vision HDR, flexible upconversion, 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 "Apple person."

Read the full CNET review of the Apple TV 4K

Best if you don't care about 4K: Roku Streaming Stick

roku-streaming-stick-2017-03
Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

Read the full CNET review of the Roku Streaming Stick

Best if you want more than 'just a streamer': Nvidia Shield TV

nvidia-sheild-ces-2017-16.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

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 Google Assistant complete with smart home control, NAS access, native Kodi support, Plex server capabilityHDHomeRun integration and much more.

Read the full CNET review of the Nvidia Shield TV

Best if you want to use Alexa to control TV: Amazon Fire TV

Amazon Fire TV 2017
Sarah Tew/CNET

Price: $70 at Amazon

Why it's great: Alexa. It's great because of Alexa. If you own an Echo or Dot speaker you can use voice commands to Fire TV to launch apps, play shows, fast forward/rewind, and a whole bunch of other stuff. 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?

Read the full CNET review of the Amazon Fire TV

Best if you're a phone and/or YouTube junkie: Chromecast

google-chromecast-2015-29.jpg
Sarah Tew

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.

Read the full CNET review of the Google Chromecast

Best if you're just a massive cheapskate: Roku Express

roku-express-58.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

Read the full CNET review of the Roku Express

Read the full CNET review of the Roku Express Plus

What about the others?

If you were hoping for a mention of the Roku Ultra, Chromecast Ultra, Apple TV (non 4K) or Amazon Fire TV Stick, 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.

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