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If you are a late smart TV user, picking up one of the best TV streaming devices will be essential for a top-notch viewing experience. In addition to reducing unnecessary cables and other clutter, picking up a discreet streaming device gives you the ability to watch virtually anywhere, as long as you have an HDMI-compatible display and a stable internet connection.
The form factor is the most obvious difference between these devices, but it’s far from your only concern. We recommend that you stay up to date on the streaming services or applications offered on a particular platform, as well as the supported formats as not all streaming devices yet offer 4K or HDR.
Our guide below will tell you who supports what, but if you’re new to streaming gaming be sure to check out our guide to the best TV streaming apps and services as well.
Unless you’re an avid Youtube viewer, the obvious choice is Amazon’s current version of Fire TV Stick. This device houses a litany of services and applications and won’t break the bank. However, users who shop in the Apple ecosystem may find more utility with the latest iteration of the Apple TV.
As we have tested
Our expert reviewers and testers test media streaming devices using them just like the average consumer would. We observe how easy the setup process is, particularly when it comes to linking accounts and using the software platform to find and manage content. We also use objective measures by looking at their specifications, their streaming quality, and whether they are capable of streaming at 4K HDR. Finally, we look at the price and compare the device with rivals to make our final judgment. All media streaming devices were purchased from Lifewire; none were provided by the manufacturer.
Learn about our trusted experts
David Beren is a tech writer with over 10 years of industry experience and founded his own tech site in 2008.
Yoona Wagener has a background in content and technical writing. She has written for Bustle, Idealist Careers, BigTime Software, and other small tech companies. She is an expert on streaming devices, home theater and entertainment setups.
Alice Newcome-Beill is still a staunch defender of her multimedia PC, but she loves the mobility and usefulness of modern streaming devices.
Erika Rawes has been writing for Lifewire since 2019. She has previously been published in Digital Trends, USA Today, Cheatsheet.com, and more, specializing in the latest consumer electronics and gadgets.
What to look for in a TV streaming device
If you have a 4K TV and a fast internet connection, a TV streaming device that supports 4K is the perfect way to enjoy ultra-high definition content. If you don’t have a 4K TV yet, purchasing a 4K resolution streaming device will future-proof your setup.
Streaming devices typically connect to the internet via Wi-Fi, but plugging in a physical Ethernet cable is much more reliable. If you want to avoid hassles like buffering, make sure you have the ability to use Ethernet when you really need it. Some streaming TV devices have an optional Ethernet adapter for this very reason.
Availability of the app
Most TV streaming devices support most video streaming services, but don’t assume this will always be the case. If you already subscribe to any streaming service, make sure the streaming device you choose actually has apps for them.
If you already own a Smart TV, do you need another streaming device?
Depending on who makes your TV and the services you subscribe to, you may not even need a Roku, Fire Stick, or Chromecast. Most Smart TVs have access to a wide variety of streaming applications, although some models have some curious omissions. LG TVs, for example, currently don’t support Discovery Plus and a number of other fringe services.
What kind of internet connection do you need to make your streaming device effective?
With the vast majority of content streaming at least 1080p, a minimum internet connection of 5 Mbps is required. Of course, having better bandwidth will allow you to stream 4K content seamlessly.
Will a streaming device work in your country?
Yes. While there are some services and programs that may be region-specific or region-specific, you can still get around these restrictions by using a VPN.