Best Devices for Streaming in 2020
January 17, 2020
These days, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t use some form of streaming to watch TV shows and movies or even browse the internet via their television. In 2019, many people decided to finally “cut the cord” and cancel their expensive cable subscriptions in favor of streaming services.
Streaming has dozens of benefits, the main one being that you can watch almost anything you want, whenever you want to. The best streaming devices offer the ultimate convenience and flexibility, not to mention, streaming can save you hundreds of dollars on your yearly cable expenses.
Although streaming devices haven’t been around for that long, they’ve become popular very quickly. Each year, new devices hit the market with more impressive features and capabilities. So if you’re thinking about getting a streaming device for 2020, how do you know which one is the best for your needs and budget?
In this article, we’ll compare some of the top streaming devices, reveal their pros and cons, and explain who they’re best for.
|Product||Best For||4K?||HDR?||Web Browser?||Tablet/Smartphone Control?||Voice Control?||Starting Price|
|Amazon Fire TV Cube||Voice controlled viewing experiences||Y||Y||Y||Y||Alexa||$119.99|
|Amazon Fire Stick 4K||Apple users||Value||Y||Y||Y||Alexa||$49.99|
|Roku Premier +||TV Shows||Y||Y||N||Y||Alexa, Google Assistant||$39.99|
|Apple TV 4K||Apple users||Y||Y||N||Y||Siri||$179|
|Nvidia Shield TV||Gaming||Y||Y||Y||Y||Alexa, Google Home||$149.99|
|Google Chromecast Ultra||Streaming content from your smartphone||Y||Y||N||Y||Google Assistant||$69|
|Roku Express||Budget||N||N||N||Y||Alexa, Goodle Assistant||$29.99|
|Roku Streaming Stick +||Wide Variety of Apps||Y||Y||N||Y||Alexa, Google Assistant||$49.99|
Best streaming devices
Amazon Fire TV Cube
The Amazon Fire TV Cube is Amazon’s latest streaming device, and it’s perfect for the consumer who loves Alexa and wants to connect their voice assistant to their TV. Staying true to its name, the Fire TV Cube is a small, box-shaped device that hooks into the back of your TV and sits on the console. It’s a great streaming device for people who want to watch movies and TV with a nearly hands-free experience. The Fire TV Cube can be controlled completely through Alexa, including changing the TV’s input and adjusting the volume.
The audio and visuals of the Fire TV Cube are also impressive. For example, asking Alexa for the temperature will bring up the weather screen, and checking on your commute will show you the best route. In terms of sound, the Fire TV Cube connects to your soundbar or audio system through an HDMI and provides a digital signal for your equipment to decode rather than outputting sound through a headphone jack.
Overall, the Fire TV Cube has gotten rave reviews from users, and there really aren’t many downsides. That being said, the Fire TV Cube’s voice controls are what make this product stand out. If you’re not someone who already uses Alexa regularly, then you won’t be getting the full value of the product.
Amazon Fire Stick 4K
The Amazon Fire Stick 4K is considered to be a step down from the Fire TV Cube, although it has many of the same features. The Fire Stick is a dongle that plugs into the back of your TV and can be used to stream 4K TV shows, movies, music and more. Users can access over 500,000 programs from Netflix, YouTube, Prime Video, Disney+, Apple TV, STARZ, SHOWTIME, and more.
The Fire Stick 4K is known for being incredibly fast, which is a big upgrade from previous generations of the device. With the Alexa-enabled voice remote, users can control their TV, soundbar, and volume with simple voice commands for quick browsing. The Fire Stick 4K is compatible with most TVs and audio systems.
Overall, the Fire Stick 4K is a great streaming device for any consumer who is looking for a good deal, assuming they already use Alexa. If you like watching Netflix, or use apps like STARZ or SHOWTIME, keep in mind that the Amazon device prominently shows the direction of Amazon content on the home screen, which can be annoying when searching for a specific app.
The Roku Premiere+ is one of the best new streaming devices on the market and has earned a loyal following since its release. Roku is known for providing an expansive library of TV shows and movies—many of which are free—as well as apps for even more access to entertainment channels. The Roku Premiere+ is extremely fast, easy to use, and has one of the best interfaces of any streaming device.
Where this Roku device really shines is in the quality of the video. Users can stream digital content in HD, 4K, or HDR, for a picture that’s incredibly crisp. Not to mention, the Roku Premiere+ is one of the cheapest 4K streaming devices, which is perfect if you’re looking for a good deal, but don’t want to sacrifice picture quality.
There aren’t too many downsides of the Roku Premiere+, other than the fact that it’s exclusively available at Walmart. That means it might be harder to find it on sale through another retailer, or if low stock becomes a problem.
Apple TV 4K
The Apple TV 4K is the best streaming device on the market, and not surprisingly, it also comes with the biggest price tag. Apple TV is a great option for people who already use Apple products, rely on Siri for voice commands, and are familiar with the iOS interface. To use Apple TV 4K, you’ll need a TV with HD capability or better, as well as a wired or wireless network, and an HDMI cable or Dolby Vision.
The device allows you to seamlessly stream content from a wide variety of apps, including Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, HBO Now, NBA, Bloomberg, CNN and live-channel apps, like DirecTV Now. Users can either choose to use the remote or control their viewing experience through Siri. Additionally, Apple is constantly updating the device with new features, like Apple Arcade, so the device never becomes outdated.
The only major downside to Apple TV 4K is the price. It’s still widely thought of as the best of the best in streaming, but there are less expensive competitors that provide essentially the same features and experience.
Nvidia Shield TV
Nvidia is well known for its gaming chips, which is why the Nvidia Shield TV is ideal for streamers who also want to use their device for gaming. The Nvidia Shield TV comes with the Nvidia GeForce NOW™ game streaming service, which can be used with a compatible game controller. Users can also access Nvidia GameStream™, as well as Android gaming through the Google Play Store.
The device includes some typical streaming apps, such as Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video and Vudu. The Nvidia Shield TV can also be used for listening to music and includes Google Play Movies & TV, Amazon Music, and Google Play Music.
As we mentioned, the Nvidia Shield TV is definitely going to be best suited for a gamer, given the device’s robust lineup of game streaming platforms. This device lacks many of the TV and movie apps that its competitors do, but it’s enough for people who stream shows on occasion. That being said, one of the downsides to this device is the price—it’s comparable to the Apple TV 4K, but lacks many of the features of Apple’s device.
Google Chromecast Ultra
Google Chromecast Ultra is a popular streaming device, but it functions a bit differently than many other devices. Instead of relying completely on apps through the platform, Google Chromecast Ultra allows users to play shows and movies from their smartphone, tablet, or laptop, and beam it to their TV screen. If you start watching a movie in bed and want to move to the living room, it’s easy to resume on the big screen, right from where you left off.
Additionally, Google Chromecast Ultra comes with 4K-enabled apps, like Netflix and YouTube, as well as a range of free, paid and subscription content for over 200,000 shows and movies. Whether you’re streaming on a 4K or HD TV, Google Chromecast Ultra automatically optimizes the content for the best picture quality possible. If you prefer a hands-free experience, you can use Google Chromecast Ultra with Google Assistant.
The Google Chromecast Ultra is a solid device all around. However, if you already have a TV that is capable of HD and 4K streaming, this device won’t have many benefits. Most smart TVs that are HD and 4K-enabled already offer apps like Netflix, and stream them in high definition automatically.
The Roku Express is a budget streaming device that packs a big punch, considering the small price tag. If you’re looking for a streaming device, and cost is your main concern, this is the best option for you. However, keep in mind that the Roku Express is a no-frills streaming device, meaning it lacks some of the impressive features that its competitors do.
Roku Express users can stream over 500,000 movies and TV episodes in HD from apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Sling, and thousands of other free and paid channels. If you use a voice assistant, your Roku Express can be controlled with Alexa or Google Assistant. The device also comes with popular music apps, including Spotify, Amazon Prime Music and Pandora.
The biggest downside to this device is that it’s not as comprehensive as some of the other streaming devices on the market. But if you’re not sure what type of device you’re looking for, the Roku Express is a good starting point, especially for the price.
Roku Streaming Stick+
The Roku Streaming Stick+ is an upgrade from the Roku Express and is only slightly more expensive. However, this device includes some of the features that the Express doesn’t have, like 4K streaming. One of the major selling points of the Roku Streaming Stick+ is its long-range receiver. This device offers 4x the range and a stronger signal for streaming to TVs that are far away from your router.
Like the Roku Express, the Streaming Stick+ offers free TV, live news, sports, and over 500,000 movies and TV episodes that can be accessed through free and paid channels. Users can control the device through the included remote, through a smartphone app, or with Alexa or Google Assistant. Users can also customize the Roku’s home page, so you can move your most-used app tiles into plain sight.
When it comes to downsides, there aren’t many for this device. The voice search isn’t quite as good as streaming devices that have their own voice technology, like Amazon, Apple and Google.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, not all streaming devices are created equal. Each one has its strengths and weaknesses, and are better suited for different types of consumers. If you’re looking for a streaming device, keep in mind that price, picture quality, voice features, apps and sound are the main features you’ll want to compare. Do some research before you choose a device, and consider which features are most important to you.