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Sunday, July 14, 2024

The Best Streaming Devices for 2023

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There are endless streaming services nowadays, and while they might make for one of the easiest ways to view your favorite content, the hassle of finding which one of the services offer what you're trying to watch is an added hassle. Sometimes your show is on Netflix, and then it switches to Hulu. Luckily, with a streaming device, it's easy to search (sometimes even by voice) and find exactly where to watch your favorite movies and TV shows. Plus, it's easy to swap these compact devices into different TVs, often giving them smart capabilities they may not have had.

The best streaming devices deliver high-quality image and audio signals to your TV and speakers. This means you can actually make the most out of your 4K TV and home theater setup. They also streamline finding the content you want to watch and get it playing quickly. Though the streaming device market isn't insanely saturated, yet, it's still important to find one that works best for your home. We've put many of these streaming devices through rigorous testing and narrowed down the field to only the best. So, if you're looking to get a quality device, you need to look no further than what you see here – and click here to find them in the UK.

TL;DR – These are the Best Streaming Device:

Roku Ultra

Best Streaming Device

Roku UltraRoku Ultra

If you want the best streaming device sitting under your TV, you need the latest Roku Ultra. This box comes at a reasonable price, and the new rechargeable Voice Remote Pro adds some cool capabilities. You still get the normal button controls, voice search, and 3.5mm headphone jack for listening to the TV without disturbing others, but now finding your favorite movies and shows is simpler than ever. You get hands-free voice control by yelling “Hey Roku”, and when you inevitably lose the remote in your couch cushions, you just call out to it, and it’ll play a sound. By going for a Roku device, you also get access to the Roku Channel for tons of free movies and TV shows to enjoy.

The Roku Ultra is ready to take on your high-end 4K TV. You get an HDMI 2.0 port that supports a 4K UHD video output with HDR at up to 60fps, so you’re in for superb video quality. It’s compatible with HDR10/10+, HLG, and Dolby Vision HDR formats, which helps ensure a match for the technologies supported by your TV. Besides the killer HDR support, the Roku Ultra also works with some high-quality audio formats, too. You can enjoy DTS Digital Surround and Dolby Atmos depending on what you're watching and what the TV or soundbar supports. As an added perk, you can even pair it with a speaker setup wirelessly over Bluetooth.

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max

Best Budget Streaming Device

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K MaxAmazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max

You don't need to spend a lot to add smart and streaming capabilities to your TV. Amazon’s Fire TV Sticks provide an affordable way to turn any TV or display with a free HDMI port into a smart one with all the benefits of Amazon’s Fire TV operating system. You get easy access to a ton of content plus all the smarts for finding that content with Amazon’s Alexa voice. Every major streaming service is available for download on the device, including HBO Max, which we know was an issue a few years back. Plus, it can be used in conjunction with your other smart home devices, so you can pull up the doorbell camera on your TV or ask Alexa about the weather.

Our favorite of the Amazon lineup is the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max. It provides all of that at an impressively affordable $55 price. It makes the most of your TV with support for 4K video at up to 60fps and wide HDR format support — HDR10+ and Dolby Vision included. Dolby Atmos audio is also supported. And, on top of some internal upgrades to the processor and memory that help the Fire TV Stick 4K Max run faster than its predecessor, this new stick also has Wi-Fi 6. This means you're in for a faster and more stable connection with a supported router, making it easier to get those high-definition experiences.

TiVo Stream 4K

Best Ultra Cheap Streaming Device

TiVo Stream 4KTiVo Stream 4K

TiVo, the brand behind TV DVR in the aughts has finally stepped into the media streaming world with its TiVo Stream 4K. Coming in around $40 and offering tons of capability, it’s giving Google’s Chromecast and Amazon’s FireStick a run for their money. You can stream your favorite movies and TV shows in 4K at 60 FPS, and it even supports HDR for some top-notch visuals on supported TVs. Support for Dolby Atmos and DTS also means you can enjoy some immersive audio.

The TiVo Stream 4K runs on Android TV but has its own interface where you can access various streaming apps, get show recommendations, and adjust settings. It’s possible to access live TV with either Sling or Locast, and you can even stream directly from your phone via Google Cast. Similar to the other streaming devices on this list, the remote has a microphone baked in that uses Google Assistant for simple content searching.

Nvidia Shield TV

Best 4K Streaming Device

Nvidia Shield TVNvidia Shield TV

Nvidia's Shield TV is a pricier option, but it's easily the best 4K streaming device on the market. Heck, it's one of, if not the only, streaming device to have a built-in upscaling technology. Using a process Nvidia calls "AI-enhanced upscaling," the Shield TV can turn anything you watch into a 4K video. That includes everything from blockbuster movies to Twitch streams and YouTube Videos. There's also support for HDR10 and Dolby Vision as well as DTS-X surround and Dolby Atmos for audio. Plus, you have access to a ton of different streaming services and the Google Play Store, since it's running on the Android TV platform. It even doubles as a Chromecast, so you can stream to your TV from your phone or tablet.

The remote the Nvidia Shield TV comes with is also fairly smart. It's motion-activated, so when you pick it up the buttons light up. Plus, there is a voice search, an IR blaster, and a built-in lost remote indicator. The most impressive feature of the Nvidia Shield TV, however, is you can game with the device. There are two different ways; if you have an Nvidia graphics card you can also stream games from your gaming PC to your 4K TV at 60fps. Alternatively, you can stream games directly from Nvidia's servers using GeForce Now, which currently gives you the power of a Turing-based desktop over the air.

Apple TV 4K

Best 4K Streaming Box for Apple Households

Apple TV 4KApple TV 4K

For Apple enthusiasts, the Apple TV 4K is the way to go, with its latest model coming in cheaper and offering upgraded performance over its predecessors' thanks to the Apple A15 Bionic chip. You do lose an ethernet port for a wired internet connection, but for $20 more, you can grab a version with that on offer, along with doubling the 64GB of storage and Thread home networking support. As for the remote, it still uses a touch-enabled clickpad for easy navigation and now charges via USB-C, though you can always use your iPhone to find media or pair the streaming box with a Bluetooth controller to play games on Apple Arcade, too.

With the Apple TV 4K, you’ll be able to watch 4K UHD footage at 60fps with HDR support, including Dolby Vision and now HDR10+. Similar to the last Apple TV 4K, advanced sensors in Face ID-enabled iPhones automatically calibrate the streaming device’s output video to tune the color, contrast, and brightness for better viewing on your TV. Beyond support for nearly every streaming app, including Apple TV Plus, there’s also iCloud or AirPlay to share photos and SharePlay for watching shows or movies and listening to music with friends from afar.

Chromecast with Google TV

Best Android TV Streaming Stick

Chromecast with Google TVChromecast with Google TV

Chromecasts have long been a great way to add a bit of smartness to your TV. They let you use all your favorite smartphone apps to choose what you want to watch and then have the Chromecast stream that choice to your TV. Now, the Chromecast with Google TV has made Google's option for smartening up your TV a whole lot better. It has its own Android TV-like interface built-in, so you can install your favorite streaming apps directly onto the device, and then get smart recommendations for what to watch from Google. It's also easy to see where certain things are streaming, so you don't accidentally select an option only to find you're not subscribed to the service.

The new dongle still plugs straight into the back of your TV with an HDMI connection, where it can deliver 4K/60Hz video signal with HDR. Just like older Chromecasts, you can use your phone to cast media to it or opt for the new built-in interface. The Chromecast with Google TV also has Bluetooth, so you can pair it with a Bluetooth speaker. A serious bonus of this kit is the included controller, which can be set up to control the Chromecast, your TV, and your sound systems. It features Google Assistant for voice control of not only the Chromecast but smart home devices as well. Just get ready to power this device with its own adapter, as it requires more juice than the USB port on the back of your TV is likely to offer.

Roku Streaming Stick 4K+

Best Streaming Stick

Roku Streaming Stick 4K+Roku Streaming Stick 4K+

Roku’s products tend to balance high-quality capabilities with an affordable price. At $70, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K+ is delivering a 4K/60fps capable streaming stick with support for the most popular HDR formats as well as DTS and Dolby audio signals. And, since this is a stick rather than a box, you just plug it directly into the HDMI port of your TV, keeping it hidden behind the TV. Don't worry though, it still does everything a streaming box can do.

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K+ comes with Roku’s Voice Remote Pro, which lets you search for content using just your voice. You can also use your favorite smart assistants as it supports Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant. The remote comes with a headphone jack, so you can watch TV and listen privately with your favorite pair of wired headphones. And, you won't lose the remote, as you can call out to Roku to find the remote, and it’ll play a sound. Also, unlike most remotes, Roku is rechargeable, so you won't be scavenging for batteries late night when you just want to watch your favorite sitcom before bed.

Where to Get the Best Streaming Box in the UK

Roku UltraBest Streaming DeviceRoku Ultra £199.99Amazon Fire TV Stick 4KBest Budget Streaming DeviceAmazon Fire TV Stick 4K £49.99Nvidia Shield TVBest 4K Streaming DeviceNvidia Shield TV £129.00Apple TV 4KBest 4K Streaming Box for Apple HouseholdsApple TV 4K £177.95Chromecast with Google TVBest Android TV Streaming StickChromecast with Google TV £44.99Pendoo T95Best Android TV BoxPendoo T95 £39.95Roku Streaming Stick+Best Streaming StickRoku Streaming Stick+ £29.99

Streaming Devices FAQ

Is it better to get a smart TV or a streaming stick?

If you’re planning on purchasing a TV nowadays, it’s more than likely coming with a built-in operating system that lets you connect to the internet and access smart features. Companies like LG have their own smart platform to download streaming services, while other manufacturers offer familiar platforms like Roku and Google TV. That means you can ditch the wires and the extra hassle that comes with setting up a streaming stick.

However, oftentimes, especially on more affordable smart TVs, these built-in streaming platforms just don’t run as well and have a less user-friendly interface than a standalone streaming stick. Over time, these issues can worsen, as there’s no way to update a TV's processor to match the changing technology, like going from Wi-Fi 5 to Wi-Fi 6E. Software updates are also less likely on proprietary platforms, as TV manufacturers' main focus is usually on upgrading hardware.

Now, streaming sticks aren't immune to the issues smart TVs face, but they are a fraction of the cost and much easier to upgrade. You’ll also often find their user interfaces are easier to navigate and run faster. But, they will take up one of your TV's HDMI ports and usually an outlet, so make sure you’ve got the space.

In general, if you’re purchasing a new TV, its smart functionality should be one of the last features you focus on. Picture, sound, size, and portage are far more important. Streaming sticks can easily and relatively cheaply make up for any smart functionality your TV is lacking.

Is 4K streaming worth it?

For the most part, yes. However, there is a catch to 4K streaming.

Many streaming services charge more to stream content in 4K. Netflix charges over four dollars more per month than their standard plan, while HBO Max, which is becoming Max, will start charging four dollars extra to stream in 4K. Hulu doesn’t charge, yet. Though, it’s only supported on certain streaming devices. By some miracle, Prime Video offers 4K for no extra costs. But for the most part, you usually need to be willing to spend a bit more to get access to Ultra HD content.

You may be wondering if there are even enough 4K movies and TV shows available on these platforms that make it worth the investment. A couple years ago, we probably would’ve said no. But recently, there’s been a major jump in 4K content, that may make it worth the splurge.

If you’ve already spent a good chunk of change on a larger 4K TV and often stream your content, the four times as many pixels as standard HD are noticeable. So, your viewing experience can be significantly improved watching UHD content. We’ve only recommended 4K streaming devices, ensuring you’re future-proof and ready to enjoy 4K content, if you choose.


Kevin Lee is IGN's SEO Updates Editor. Follow him on Twitter @baggingspam

Danielle Abraham is a freelance writer and unpaid music historian.

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