How to Choose the Best Streaming Device

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How to Choose the Best Streaming Device

Most TVs these days usually have a way to download familiar streaming apps like Netflix, Hulu, etc., but sometimes a dedicated streaming device is still the way to go. Dedicated streaming players usually have better and snappier interfaces than their native counterparts alongside other dedicated features like Dolby Atmos support, for example. Choosing the right streaming device is a great way to improve your home setup and in this guide we'll take a look at how to choose the right one for you.

While all streaming media players more or less do the same thing, the most important question you should ask yourself is if you're tied to a particular ecosystem. If so, that's a great place to start your search. For starters, there are obvious pros like ease of access to your content (especially if you have a large library of purchased content in one particular place). For example, anyone immersed in Apple's entertainment ecosystem will find that the Apple TV 4K pretty much checks every box for what you would want or need in a streaming device. Apple's most recent streaming device gives you access to hundreds of applications—everything from Netflix and YouTube to sports-content apps from all major sports leagues (NFL, NBA, etc.). It also gives you access to Apple-exclusive content and services, such as Apple Arcade. In terms of performance, Apple TV 4K supports streaming content up to—you guessed it—4K resolution, and it features arguably the best-looking and most user-friendly home setup screen. It's got a lot of other really great features too, including a voice-enabled remote with Siri support, but excellent integration with other Apple devices is what really sets this apart from the other options, especially if you're already invested in that marketplace.

Apple TV 4K
Apple TV 4K

The exact same could be said about Google's latest Chromecast device with Google TV. Chromecast has been around since the start of the "streaming wars" and it's always been great. Now, however, it's simply just one of the best streaming platforms you can buy. It features one of Google's other recent unveilings, Google TV, which supports thousands of Android apps. If you're already heavily invested in the Google/Android side of things, this is an absolutely stellar option for your home setup.

Google Chromecast with Google TV
Google Chromecast with Google TV

Amazon is another huge content marketplace, and it, too, has its own streaming device in the form of the Fire TV Stick 4K Max. If you're already invested in Amazon's ecosystem, it's an excellent choice for your streaming needs. We’re referring specifically to the 2023 edition, which offers Wi-Fi 6 support, as well as tighter integration with Alexa on top of features that have already become standard, like Dolby Vision support. Another standout feature is Ambient mode, which offers a bunch of customizable widgets or wallpapers that can be displayed on your TV. A redesigned interface, updated specs, and snappy performance make the Fire TV Stick a solid choice for those Amazon-powered home setups.

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max Streaming Media Player
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max Streaming Media Player

Now if you're not particularly tied to any of those of those marketplaces, Roku has got you covered as the all-around choice. The name Roku is as synonymous with streaming as Netflix. The company is a streaming media pioneer, having launched its first device in 2008. More than 16 years later, it remains at the forefront of the streaming media industry, thanks to devices like the Roku Streaming Stick 4K. Roku's platform pretty much supports every major content app you can think of and the Roku Streaming Stick 4K does it in well… 4K. It’s also inexpensive and features a discreet design that plugs in easily to the back of your TV. It even supports reliable voice control that's always on and is faster and easier than using an on-screen keyboard. Alongside full 4K HDR capabilities, Dolby Vision finally comes the Streaming Stick 4K, as well.

Roku Streaming Stick 4K
Roku Streaming Stick 4K

For those households where gaming is equally as important as streaming, NVIDIA Shield TV fills that niche pretty effectively. Like the other devices we've mentioned today, the Shield TV also gives you access to all the streaming 4K content you want, but it also provides a solid game-streaming experience if you’ve got a PC with NVIDIA graphics card installed. It’s also way ahead of the competition in terms of pure specs. With the Shield TV, you can stream games directly from your computer library or access them through gaming services like NVIDIA Games and GeForce Now. What's more, those games you access from your local library can be streamed in 1080p with no lag, meaning you can be watching a Netflix movie in bed one minute, then jump back into your latest video game adventure the next—all without having to get up and go to your PC.

NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV HDR 4K UHD Streaming Media Player
NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV HDR 4K UHD Streaming Media Player

Of course, maybe the best streaming device for you is truly none at all. While a lot of baked-in apps on TVs are notoriously slow, there still are some great choices out there, too! Some newer TVs have pretty great baked-in streaming support right out the box. Look for TVs from brands like Samsung, Vizio, TCL, or Roku to start your search. If you only ever use a handful of streaming services it's perfectly reasonable to skip it altogether because several of the most popular app interfaces like Netflix or Hulu have become pretty uniform these days.

If we missed your favorite streaming device, let us know in the Comments section, below!

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