Just like CRT television, cable has become a thing of the past. Now obsolete and out of date, cable boxes have become useless. If you haven’t already, I’m giving you the go ahead to throw that old box of wires in the trash. And you’re thinking, what? Throw it away? But what about my local shows? What about sports and news channels? How am I supposed to get those?
I’ve got those answers and more. Now online streaming offers you a wide range and selection of apps and programs that live stream news, sports, and even has opportunities to stream local programs.
Online streaming isn’t just the way of the future but what’s happening right now. A streaming device is required to keep up to date with your favorite series and movies, and watch them unfold in real time. But which one should you choose? I’m here to help navigate you through the plethora of choices for new streaming devices. After testing the devices myself, I’m ready to break the stats and specs down one by one and help you clearly see which device is best for your personal needs. I’ve narrowed your selection process down to our tops picks from the industry.
If you’re new to the streaming world, you can read this article about how streaming devices work and what features may be more appealing to you. After you’ve checked out that link and get your footing and feel ready to start discovering the best device for you, read on to see the most common questions posed when it comes to purchasing a new streaming device.
But Do I Really Need a Streaming Device?
While there are many ways to answer this, the question really boils down to one thing, do you actually want high quality streaming of your favorite programs in real time for a fraction of the cost of cable TV? The technological world has mostly moved over to online streaming and programs. You may have seen this notably with Netflix premiering its own original series and movies. Because of the move to online streaming, you can pull up just about anything these days on your cell phone or tablet, but what about getting it on your TV screen? This brings the comfort of watching from your living room, bedroom or wherever your device is situated in line with a high quality, hassle free viewing experience. Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and other online streaming sites will be available to play on your big screen at the touch of a fingertip. The cost also rivals that of cable companies depending on how many streaming apps and programs you subscribe to. For example, Hulu and Netflix are favorites for most people and the cheapest, yet still quality subscriptions cost under ten dollars a month, whereas cable will usually run you between sixty to one hundred per month, and you’ll still be missing some of your favorite shows. Online streaming also provides multiple episodes and full series all at once, so you can binge watch all you want.
I Don’t Have a Smart TV, Do I Need One?
While Smart Tv’s definitely have great qualities and seem to be paving the way of the future viewing process, they aren’t needed to work with a streaming device. Actually, that IS the beauty of the streaming device., it allows internet viewing on the TV without having to pay the big bucks for the cost of a new smart TV. So don’t rush out to buy a new TV. Now you can stream Netflix, Amazon, Google Chromecast and dozens of other programs and channels without having to camp out on Black Friday to get the best deal on a cheap Smart TV. By making this one, small upgrade, you’ll feel like you have an entirely new system sitting in your living room.
I DO Have a Smart TV, so Do I Really Need a Streaming Device?
That topic is debatable, but to make it simple, you may want one. While the Smart TV’s innovation and entrance to the market has changed the game for how we watch TV, they cannot perform the same as a streaming device. The TV’s do not always support as many apps and programs as the streaming boxes do. Depending on what is it that you want to stream, you may find that the device brings you clearer, faster, higher-quality streamed videos, games, shows and videos. It also allows for access to more channels, programs and apps that may otherwise not be supported by specific Smart TV’s.
I’ve Been Hearing About 4K, But What is It?
I know with all of the tech talk sometimes it feels like listening to a foreign language. It’s easy to get lost in the words so let me break it down for you. 4K, or Ultra HD (high definition), is tech lingo for the amount of pixels found in the resolution. High resolution, means a clearer, crisper picture. You hear a lot about 4K nowadays as it is becoming the standard to hold our viewing to. Just like when High Definition was first introduced, it seemed like a foreign topic but within a short time we’d never watch TV the same again. The definition was heighten due to the amount of pixels. As you can imagine by the word “ultra” this version of HD has many more pixels (3,840 x 2,160 to be exact), but if pixel count means little to you, then just think of it this way: it means a better quality picture with more clarity. Companies are steadily coming out with 4K or Ultra HD TV’s. while not all streaming programs are equipped to stream in the level of high definition, they are rapidly adapting and accommodating their programs to be able to handle and clearly stream in ultra HD. Within a few short years, HD will have become a distant memory, much like SD (standard definition).
Do I Need to Be Picky Choosing a Device?
Like with most major purchases, you should definitely be checking into the features and specs on a device before buying one. Of course streaming devices are not as expensive as actual TV’s, but you should still keep in mind that you want to purchase a quality electronic device. As we will discuss, some are better suited for your needs than others. The obvious example is that those who prefer Apple products will most likely be better suited for the Apple TV 4K, which contains the typical Apple setup, programs and syncs with your Itunes to bring whatever movies you already have in your Itunes library to life. Other features include what you are looking to stream, and how you plan to use your device.
What Features Are Important?
Below are a list of crucial features to consider for your streaming device. Not all will be found on every device, don’t worry! If the device you have your eye on is missing one from this list, that
doesn’t rule it out as a good buying option. I have just compiled a list of what I believe are the most important things to consider. As with all things in life, you’ll have to choose which are the most important to you and which you can do without.
This list includes (but is not limited to):
- HDMI compatible
- USB port
- Most Up-to-date version of Kodi software installed
- WiFi capabilities
- GB storage
- Gigabite Ethernet
- Bluetooth capabilities
- 5.1 Audio
Where Is the Best Place to Buy a New Device?
While devices are sold in many stores, I’d like to offer you the cheapest options. Keeping that in mind, this is an investment in your future viewing pleasure so these still come with a cost. A quality streamer being more pricey, obviously. Many devices are available at Walmart, Target, Best Buy or online at Amazon.com. We will list the location optimal for purchase with the device as we rank them. Just be wary if you are an online shopper that Ebay is not a recommended site for purchasing your new device.
Top Picks For You
Our Top Picks are listed out by best quality, easiness, accessibility, portability and the market it is best suited for. Scroll through to find which best suits your needs and will be most compatible with the technology you already have in your home.
1. Apple TV 4K
(For the apple lovers of the world)
No list is complete without an option open to our Apple loving community. If you are one of those who rejects the PC and Android markets in favor of Apple everything, then this is the gadget for you. I am sure the mere word Apple has drawn your eye. And Apple’s history of devices speaks for itself, if it’s a comfortable company for you then this streaming device with slide into one of your favorites with ease. This model is no exception to the exemplary standard that Apple has set for itself.
Apple made waves last September by unveiling the Apple TV 4K to the market. Paired with Dolby sound, the increible quality of viewing in 4K is matched by the exemplary sound of Dolby. This sound will hit you in 3D surround, encompassing you in the program you’ve selected. This is especially handy for those music lovers out there who will be streaming YouTube, Itunes and other music apps. Bringing your favorite shows in both visual and sound quality into high definition. You won’t want to waste gas and time driving to the movie theatre when you realize that you can bring it into your own home.
As with most of its newer products, Apple has made this one Siri compatible meaning that your relaxation and viewing is literally on command.
Maybe your next thought is, Okay..but what about live TV? What about baseball season, the nightly news or live YouTube channels? Apple thought of this as well and has partnered with major companies to provide you with options to view live streamed programs as well. Just search the program you need in the app store and you’ll never have to miss a single home-run again. And what’s more, it will be delivered to you in clear quality, as if you were in the stadium yourself.
All of the video streaming apps work together cohesively so you can switch from one program to the next without having to mess with leaving one app to open another. And as always with Apple products, you can stop watching your selected video halfway through, pick it up on your Ipad, Mac, or Iphone exactly where you left off viewing on your TV. This way your shows are always with you, on the go.
Sounds pretty good right? So what’s the problem with the Apple TV 4K? As always, Apple is compatible with Apple which is only compatible with Apple. This of course meaning that Apple’s exclusiveness comes with the perks of having access to iTunes and other Apple services, but the limitations of not being compatible with every other brand on the market. The other minus is the price. Apple presents quality, elite products and due to status and popularity of the brand name, and this allows for the company to demand a higher price. Not only because it is a higher quality product, but simply because of the demand of the market and the willingness to pay a steep price.
Who is the Apple TV 4K geared toward?
This product is most suitable for Apple users. As stated it is comfortable for those who are familiar with and regularly use Apple products. Your devices will relay information from one another and will save your iTunes movies.
Where is the cheapest place to purchase the Apple TV 4K?
The 32GB model is listed here at various retailers:
Walmart 149.99 (2-day shipping online)
Apple Store $179.00
Best Buy $179.99
(For Those on a Budget)
Not ready to drop a lot of money on a streaming device? Perfectly comfortable casting information from your phone, tablet or laptop to the big screen? Then the Google Chromecast 2.0 is your one stop shop. This tiny device is portable, easy to work with and virtually unnoticeable in the middle of a room. Discrete, yet powerful, by connection to chromecast you can easily stream to your television, running the program in the background of your phone, tablet or other device and in the same time pull up other windows, messages or apps to play on. Choose from whatever programs, apps, movies or shows you already have downloaded and saved to your device and instantly cast them to your TV.
Google has worked to update and upgrade it’s Chromecast product from previous versions. Now adapted to accommodate the internet demands, Chromecast is running on 802.11ac wireless internet. That just means its high-speed on and the same level as the rest of top devices.
Apps run seamlessly through the Home app on the Chromecast meaning it’s easier to find what your heart desires. That’s right, no more opening and app, searching through it, closing, opening another app and repeating the process until you find the program you were desperately searching for. Simply type in the name of the show, movie, or song you are looking for and Chromecast will do the work for you, filtering through the apps to find exactly what you are searching for. Easy, right?
Now you can stream music from YouTube and Spotify from the Chromecast and get your house parties started, or simply to fill your home will feel-good music.
If you’re looking to use this device for work, that is also an option. Because this is a Google product, it is heavily connected to the Google system/ Meaning if you also store your information and email in Google then you will have no trouble streaming information from your phone to your TV. You can cast documents, projects, email and virtually anything that you already have on your phone to the Chromecast.
You can cast to the Google Chromecast from Android or Apple products, the only negative part is that not all of the Apple apps with be compatible, but then neither are all of the Android apps. While other streaming devices have already established compatibility with a slew of programs, channels and apps, Chromecast is slightly limited in this area.
Who is the Google Chromecast 2.0 geared toward?
This app is perfect for those who do not have HDR or 4K compatible televisions. It’s ideal for someone on a budget, and for someone who is not searching for a fancy new device. Someone who would prefer and easy to hide plug-in that connects to your phone, laptop or tablet and simply cast to the TV. If you’re just seeking a way to display the programs and information that you already have at your fingertips. Then this is the perfect, cheapest option for you.
Where is the cheapest place to purchase the Google Chromecast 2.0?
Best Buy/ $35.00
Google Store/ $35.00
3. Nvidia Shield (2017)
(This is the best choice for serious gamers)
Not only is this device good for streaming your favorite shows and movies but it is also a great gaming console. With handheld remotes and remote control access both the movie lover and heavy gamer will find this device easy and comfortable to handle. However, if you prefer, the sensitive voice recognition picks up on your every command, so you have the choice to be hands free. You can stream online high-speed games in 4K.
Now adapted to support Google Assistant as well as Amazon Instant Video, the possibilities for what to stream have expanded exponentially. With all of your favorite companies working together cohesively, your streaming experience is upgraded and feels more personalized.
And Bluetooth to connect to the gaming controller? Forget about it! Nvidia’s new design works out that the gamepad works perfectly without bluetooth.
Google Assistant provides the voice commands that we have come to expect in all of our devices. Easily speak into the controller to get going.
An obvious downside of this product is much more expensive than some of the other android compatible devices. Coming in close to $200 this particular device needs some serious consideration before dropping the money for it. Will you actually use the gaming capabilities? Or are you just looking to watch movies and Netflix? If you are looking for a fast streaming of games then this product is perfect for you.
Another difference and possible downside for this particular streaming device is that is it quite a bit larger than other devices. I suppose with more power, comes bulkier equipment. However if you are wanting a pocket-sized portable device, then this one is not for you. The machine itself only measures 5.0”x8.8”x0.36, so in reality is not very big at all, just not the smallest on this list.
Who is the Nvidia Shield geared toward?
The Nvidia device is geared toward gamers. While it also is great for all categories of streaming it is in itself a gaming console and therefore best suited for those who are interested in streaming online games.
Where is the cheapest place to buy the Nvidia Shield?
(A device for everyone)
Roku majorly updates it’s line of streaming devices with the Streaming Stick Plus. With six new features not found in previous models, the Roku brand is now in line with its competitors for voice command. As with the others you can now kick back, relax and instruct your technology to do exactly what it is you need. This hands free method is a must in today’s market and the digital world transitions into voice dictated reality. The wireless capability has also been upgraded to 802.12ac dual-broadband, bringing you the fastest connection. The wireless receiver itself has also been improved to give you four times the reach as before. Faster speed, farther distance and hands free access, what more do we need? Now adapted with TV remote control buttons to control so you need only one remote to turn on your device, the television and to control the volume. Specific channel shortcuts, screen mirroring, and Dolby audio pass-through have also carried over into this model so you’ll still be able to perform the same functions as earlier models. The Dolby sound adds the effect of being in the cinema yourself.
So you’re reading through this and thinking it sounds pretty good, but they all do. So what’s so special about the Roku Streaming Stick Plus? Why purchase this device over another one, other than the fact that it’s inexpensive comparatively?
The answer is the portability, accessibility and overall easiness. Hands down the best device if you’re looking for portability. The stick itself is as thin as your typical USB drive, just slightly longer and with an HDMI port. You can carry it in your pocket, in your purse, briefcase, backpack, or really wherever else. And don’t let the size deter you, because it is chock full of power and capability. Cramming all of that data and use into a pretty little package. Lightweight and easy to remove and insert, it’s a must have if you’re on the go or if you plan to move your device from one place to the next regularly.
Who is the Roku Streaming Stick Plus geared toward?
This product is really great for anyone who is on the go, and wants to use this device in different locations. But honestly this device is pretty universal due to how simple it is to set up and start working with it. The only thing is you should be careful not to lose it!
Where is the cheapest place to purchase the Roku Streaming Stick Plus?
Best Buy/ $69.99
(Perfect for Amazon Prime Users)
Amazon took the economy by storm in recent years. Keeping up with the digital age, Amazon allows its consumers to work, shop, and market from home. With fast shipping, low prices and abundant choices, it’s no wonder that when Amazon came out with a streaming device that it would make it to the top of most lists.
Those of you already in sync with Amazon Prime, you know the benefits of having access to the Prime market of videos. While the Fire Stick can also stream Netflix, Hulu and other programs it was clearly created to cater to the Amazon market. This means it is complete with streaming from Prime Music, as well as from the Prime Market.
This device can be used with the Amazon Fire TV, or with any other television. Providing faster, clear quality and upgraded WiFi and Dolby sound. The device is equipped with 8 gigs of memory storage and an HDMI port.
It’s sleek design and compact size makes it perfect for transporting from o9ne room to the next or for bringing to a friends house. This streaming device is on the cheaper end of the spectrum, and therefore results in the lack of a few aspects, but overall is a quality device that provides many options as far as what to stream.
Another unique feature is that the Fire Stick learns your habits and helps you customize your viewing experience by pulling programs that it believes will be the most interesting to you. Just like Netflix provides you with a “For You” section based on your previous selection, the Fire Stick will do this not only with individual shows but with all apps and programs available.
The downside of this particular streaming device is that is has not been upgraded to handle streaming in 4K. As the world hasn’t completely adjusted to 4K this may not be an immediate problem, but in the foreseeable future, this will cause the Fire Stick to be outdated much faster than the other devices on this list.
Who is the Amazon Fire Stick geared toward?
This little gadget is perfect for those who are heavy in to Amazon Prime. As Amazon Prime members reap the most benefits of this device. Compact and coming with a voice powered remote, it’s comfortable for all. Yet without a doubt more useful to those who want to stream Amazon Prime videos.
Where is the cheapest place to purchase the Amazon Fire Stick?
Amazon.com (plus Alexa Voice Remote) / $39.99
So What’s it Going to Be?
When it comes down to it, each device has its own perks. No one device has everything, but then you do not need every feature, do you? Each device has been designed to sell on an open market to the vast majority, however within the majority there are subgroups and categories that best fit your needs. We all have different needs and desires for our entertainment. Whether you need gaming, Apple brand recommendation, connectivity to Amazon or if you’re simply hoping for a better picture while watching Netflix, you should be safe choosing one from this list.
One thing each device agrees on is creating a strong technological device with high speed internet, WiFi capabilities, high definition audio and easy use. So what do I suggest?
The Nvidia Shield. Though costly, this one is worth the investment and will provide your house with a device that means any and every need. You have the chance to expand your leisure time into a gaming experience, a cinematic movie night or just a time to binge-watch your favorite shows with all of your friends. You can also be the host of all of the sporting events. Or enjoy a quiet night at home listening to music live streamed on your TV, filling the house with the vibrations of your favorite tunes.