It’s official: streaming media has officially won the content wars. Physical media fought hard, but in the end, its limited resources could not compete with the ever-expanding, ever-improving technological juggernaut that is online streaming. Please take a moment to honor all the fallen Blu-ray players and cable boxes that served us so well over the years.
All right. Now that that’s finished, we can celebrate the winner of the content wars: streaming! Here are the best streaming media devices you can buy in 2024.
Roku Streaming Stick 4K
At this point, the name Roku is as synonymous with streaming as Netflix. The company is a streaming media pioneer, having launched its first device way back 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. We're happy to report that the Streaming Stick 4K is a noteworthy upgrade from the Streaming Stick+ it replaces. Alongside full 4K HDR capabilities, Dolby Vision finally comes the Streaming Stick 4K, as well.
With access to more than half a million movies and episodes spread out across some 3,000 channels, the Streaming Stick 4K delivers a near-endless supply of entertainment in a discreet, inexpensive package that installs easily. It supports Full HD and UHD 4K video and if you pair it with the newly upgraded Roku Voice Remote Pro, it's easier than ever to operate with an always-listening mic built into it.
Google Chromecast with Google TV (4K)
Years from now, historians will claim it was Google finally developing a Chromecast remote control that signaled the end of the content wars. Why did it take the company so long? Who knows? But it's here, and with it comes a new, stand-alone Chromecast device with Google TV. Make no mistake: Chromecast was a great streaming tool before this latest edition was released. But now, it's 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. Like the Streaming Stick 4K, it supports 4K streaming, is inexpensive, and features a cool, compact design that's inconspicuous. Also, did we mention it comes with a remote? It comes with a remote, and it's awesome.
Apple TV 4K (2022)
For anyone immersed in Apple's entertainment ecosystem, there aren't a whole lot of options when it comes to streaming. Luckily, that doesn't matter, because you only need one: Apple TV 4K.
Apple gave the Apple TV 4K a refresh in October 2022. This version of the Apple TV 4K is powered with the A15 Bionic chip and features HDR10+ support. It also ships with the redesigned Siri Remote, equipped with USB-C.
The Apple TV 4K comes in two configurations: Apple TV 4K (Wi-Fi), which offers 64GB of storage; and Apple TV 4K (Wi-Fi + Ethernet), which offers support for Gigabit Ethernet for fast networking and streaming, Thread mesh networking protocol to connect even more smart home accessories, and twice the storage for more apps and games (128GB).
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, including a voice-enabled remote with Siri support and excellent integration with other Apple devices. but all that good does come even cheaper now, with a lower price of $129 for the base model and the 128GB model ringing up at $149. Still, for being the only Apple-friendly streaming device in town, it's quite excellent.
NVIDIA Shield TV
Although it's held in high esteem when it comes to graphics cards and gaming, not enough people are singing the praises of NVIDIA's streaming platform, specifically the NVIDIA Shield TV. Like the other devices on this list, the Shield TV gives you access to a near-endless trove of streaming 4K content, but it also provides the best game-streaming experience. 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. And those are just some of the highlights. For an even deeper look at why we think the NVIDIA Shield TV is so great, check out this review.
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max
Sure, Amazon's Fire TV Stick 4K Max is a mouthful, but if your household is 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—like being able to track and display any upcoming deliveries, for example. It’s probably not worth upgrading if you already have the original model, since this version is very similar. However, a redesigned interface, updated specs, and snappy performance make the Fire TV Stick a solid choice for those Amazon-powered home setups.
Farewell, Physical Media
One of the reasons streaming media ultimately won the content wars is because there are so many high-quality streaming devices available. The above list represents some of the very best of those devices. Were there any that we missed? Let us know in the Comments section, below!