TV and Audio

The Best Streaming Devices in 2021

best streaming devices


Watching a popular TV show or one of your favorite movies is a widespread pastime activity. And no one wants it to be spoiled by bad picture or sound quality. Thus, it’s always wise to take care of your leisure time comfort and get one of the best streaming devices with a top-notch performance.

How to choose the best streaming device

TV

Whatever functions you would like to have, everything starts with TV you’ve got. Old TVs are compatible with Roku Express+ but if you are a lucky owner of 4K HDR TV then it’s better to have a look at Apple TV 4K, Roku Ultra or any other high-end model.

Content source

Pay attention to the sources you get most of your content from. Different streaming devices can offer different sources. So, if your streamer doesn’t support iTunes, for example, and you need it then there is no sense in buying Roku streamer and it’s better to get Apple TV 4K.

Wired or wireless

Some of the streamers support both types of the connection while others are suitable for a wired Ethernet or wireless connection only.

Performance

The general level of streamer performance depends on the supported type of resolution. Not all of the offered devices have 4K and HDR. What is more, some of them are not provided with Dolby Atmos audio that is responsible for immersive sound. The additional micro SD card slot is also an important feature, and if it’s absent then there’s a high chance that you will have a lack of memory.

Remote Control

Almost all modern streamers can offer remote control. Still, all of them include a different spectrum of available options. The updated versions of streaming devices have Siri or Alex voice control.

Gaming

If you need a streaming device not only for movies but also games then pay attention to whether your streamer has got any gaming options. In this case, the best example of perfect gaming streamer is NVIDIA SHIELD TV.

Best Media Streaming Devices

Last update on 2021-10-18 // The links above are affiliate // Images from Amazon

Fire TV Stick 4K

Great Streaming Device With Dolby Vision

fire tv stick 4k
If you want to experience a combination of top-notch image quality and immersive sound then check out Fire TV Stick 4K. This device delivers 4K Ultra HD streaming at up to 60fps. There is a great range of colors to make the image look more lifelike and thanks to Dolby Vision, HDR, and HDR10+ it comes with excellent clarity. In order to make everything even more true to life, there is Dolby Atmos audio for impressive sounding.

Fire TV Stick 4K is not only top-tier image and audio quality. It also means high-grade control and access to thousands of channels and websites. This streaming device comes with updated Alexa Voice Remote, so it won’t take you much time to find a nice comedy for the evening or your favorite track. Alexa can also check the weather forecast or bring down the light.

This streaming device offers an astounding variety of channels you can use to search for TV shows or songs. Fire TV Stick 4K provides content from Hulu, Netflix, STARZ, SHOWTIME, IMDb Freedive, and others. Access to YouTube and Facebook is also available. Note that this media streaming device comes with an improved processor for 802.11ac Wi-Fi what guarantees fast performance.

Pros:
  • affordable price
  • excellent image quality with Dolby Vision, Atmos, HDR10+, and HDR10
  • Dolby Atmos audio
  • fast performance
  • Alexa Voice Remote
  • supports thousands of channels
Cons:
  • no Google Play apps
  • cumbersome menu system
  • requires inconvenient power adapter

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Roku Express 4K+

Fantastic 4K HDR Streamer

Roku Express 4K plus
If you’re shopping for a brilliant yet decently priced 4K HDR streamer, the Roku Express 4K+ (2021) has your name on it. Retailing for less than fifty bucks currently, this streamer makes for a rock solid device for low budgets, even if it doesn’t offer Dolby Vision or Dolby Atmos passthrough.

Basically, the brand new Roku Express 4K+ is proof of concept that you can buy a piece of high-end technology at an affordable price if you’re ready to wait long enough, just like it was the case with SSDs back in the day.

Now, 4K HDR streaming devices are selling on the cheap, and that’s exactly what you’ll get for something like $40 give or take: 4K HDR streaming at up to 60 frames per second over HDMI 2.0b with support for HDR10+. Amazing, isn’t it?

Okay, for that kind of money, you won’t get high-end formats like Dolby Vision support or Dolby Atmos support; however, considering the price asked, you’ll get most (if not all) of the features that were selling for over $100 just a few years ago. To make it real easy, the Roku Express 4K+ can successfully replace the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K and Chromecast with Google TV, has a remote included in the retail package and has the same streaming apps.

Speaking of apps, you’ll get more than 4,500 channels, ranging from Netflix, HBO and Vudu, to some obscure thing dubbed “The Fireworks Channel”, and obviously, on-demand stuff like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Disney Plus, Apple TV, Peacock, YouTube, Crunchyroll, Plex and Pandora and Spotify.

What you won’t get is a competent voice-assistant like Google Assistant or Alexa. However, you’ll end up with the new Roku Assistant, a basic “robot” that can understand queries like “what day it is, what time it is” and similar stuff.

Pros:
  • Decent performance
  • Tons of apps
  • Amazing value
  • Bluetooth remote
  • Cool OS
  • 4K HDR and HDR10+
Cons:
  • Lacks Dolby Vision
  • Limited wireless range

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Roku Streaming Stick+

Great Streaming Device to Replace Cable

Roku Streaming Stick+
Here’s another example of best TV streaming device. Though both Streaming Stick+ and Ultra are representatives of the same Roku family, they have certain differences you should be aware of when choosing the most suitable product that corresponds to your needs and requirements.

So, Roku Streaming Stick+ is also a new 2017 model with great 4K, HDR and HD resolution. Still, unlike Ultra model this one is a wireless receiver only. It means that if you want to have a wired connection then Roku Ultra is the best option for you. But if you want to have the best streaming device to replace cable then here it is – Roku Streaming Stick+ is a great chance to do that.

This streaming device is great for wall-mounted TVs. You can easily plug the stick into the back of your TV and have a clutter-free setup. What is more, it has a strong streaming signal, so you will enjoy movies even if a router is far away from you.

Pros:
  • portable and compact design
  • 4K, HDR, HD streaming
  • Voice Control
  • powerful streaming signal
  • easy setup
  • great Wi-Fi connectivity
  • price
Cons:
  • no wired Ethernet connection
  • compatibility
  • no Dolby Vision support

Check Prices

 

Fire TV Stick (3rd Gen)

Dolby Atmos at Your Fingertips

Fire TV Stick (3rd Gen)
Maybe the coolest thing about the Fire TV Stick (3rd Gen) is the Dolby Atmos feature. Okay, Alexa and the remote control are cool too, but if you’re a movie aficionado and you have a Netflix subscription, you’ll be a happy camper.

So, the 3rd gen Fire TV brings more performance, being 50 percent more powerful than 2nd gen according to Amazon, and will help you get fast full HD 1080p streaming in a jiffy, plus quick-start apps. New improvements include HDR, a 60fps frame rate, and compatibility with Dolby Atmos audio.

Amazon also throws a Prime membership with the stick, which means you’ll have access to a literal information superhighway, i.e. 500,000+ movies and TV episodes, so you’ll never have to leave your house again.

Speaking of smart TVs, you’ll also get SLING TV, YouTube TV, IMDb TV, Tubi, Pluto TV, and more, plus access at music streaming services such as Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora etc.

To make it short and sweet, if you’re looking for a reasonably priced streaming option for your home cinema, the Fire TV Stick 3rd gen is a solid choice. As long as your TV set can support the same specs as the streaming device, you’ll enjoy richer and smoother images, even if the stick is not capable of 4K streaming in native resolution.

However, if your TV has competent upscaling (or you own a 4K TV), the Fire TV Stick (3rd Gen) can do the trick for you, and it will not cost as much as an UHD model.

Pros:
  • Faster than 2nd gen
  • Volume controls
  • Dolby Atmos
  • HDR and 60fps
  • Affordable
Cons:
  • No native 4K
  • Annoying ads

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Chromecast with Google TV

A worthy Rival to Roku

Chromecast with Google TV
Google went a long way from being “just” world’s most used internet search engine, and Chromecast with Google TV is just another example of the company’s interference in our daily lives.

Kidding aside, we already said it: this humble device is a worthy rival to Roku, and it makes for an incredible value 4K HDR streaming device, which screams Google all around: the user interface is pure genius, in such it can be used by your boomer grandfather out of the box, and there are tons of convenient options/features available for regular folk who don’t need to spend a bunch of money on fancy gadgets.

So, Google didn’t reinvent the wheel with their Chromecast Google TV thing, and instead opted for perfecting something already good, and improved a nearly perfect technology in a quantifiable way. Basically, you’ll get a dedicated TV interface that you can control via remote, for instant access to all major streaming services, such as Amazon Prime Video (oh the irony), HBO Max, Disney Plus, and more.

Obviously, you’ll also get all apps carried over from Android TV, which includes productivity and gaming apps. The end result is a fabulous streaming device that offers a brand new experience in a user-friendly kind of way, and the best thing is that you don’t need to take an IT class to enjoy its full potential.

The only caveat is that if you’re an iOS user, you won’t be able to enjoy Apple TV Plus on Chromecast, and that’s a bummer. So, for heavily invested iOS users, look elsewhere.

Pros:
  • Supports 4K HDR
  • HDR10+, Dolby Vision,Dolby Atmos
  • Rock-steady Streaming
  • Built-in Google Assistant
  • Tons of apps
  • Cheap
  • Easy to use
Cons:
  • No Stadia
  • No Apple TV

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Apple TV 4K 2nd Gen

Expensive But Packed Full of Features

Apple TV 4K 2nd Gen
As with almost any Apple product, you get what you paid for. In this particular case, a premium looking and feeling streaming box, expensive and packed full of features. To describe it in a few words, we’d say that the 2nd gen Apple TV 4K is a slick streaming box capable of 4K in HDR, Dolby Vision and, to make things even better, high frame rate HDR for smooth and clear images, to the delight of sports and fast action fans.

The first gen was released 4 years ago, in 2017, and the 2021 version is powered by the A12 bionic processor, which is identical to what you can find inside an iPad or an iPhone (XS). The previous gen used the A10X SoC, and the hardware upgrade makes things even smoother and faster than ever before, though that was never a problem with Apple gear.

What’s important is processing power, which allows it to play 60fps HDR buttery smooth, and a cool color balance feature, which works by using the light sensor in your iPhone if you have Face ID , to check and tweak your TV’s color balance so it’s more accurate and in line with industry standards, without you having to manually adjust the TV’s settings.

There’s also a new Siri remote, which is better than ever, and uses a circular clickpad instead of the old touch sensitive thing, which makes scrolling better. Using the remote, you’ll be able to watch shows and movies from virtually all streaming services, including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus, Arcade,Apple Music and even Apple Fitness+.

You can also use the device for more than streaming, i.e. as a HomeKit Hub to control your smart appliances by remote, provided you also own a HomeKit-enabled video doorbell or home security camera for live feed. Moreover, you get Thread smart home technology built in, in order to allow various smart gadgets produced by different manufacturers to work together seamlessly.

Pros:
  • Impeccable performance
  • Premium look and feel
  • High Frame Rate HDR
  • Siri remote
  • Dolby Atmos
  • Tons of features
  • Smart home technology built-in
Cons:
  • Crazy expensive

Check Prices

 

Roku Streambar

Brilliant Budget Streambar

Roku Streambar
If all you have in this world is $100 and you’re looking for a half sized soundbar capable of full sized sound, not to mention 4K HDR streaming, the Roku Streambar is the droid you were looking for.

Basically, for peanuts money you’ll have both decent sound for your Smart TV, and Roku’s famous streaming interface. The Roku Streambar makes for a ridiculously simple to setup soundbar/streaming device, which is compact, versatile and capable of upgrading your multimedia experience in a meaningful and affordable way.

The premise of the Roku Streambar is to provide better sound quality and comprehensive streaming via just one device. The streambar combines sound leveling for commercials, clear dialogue and 4K streaming with the ability to stream music from your smartphone via Bluetooth or with Spotify connect, which is kind of awesome.

And the most important thing is that SQ is much better than your TV’s built-in speakers; if you need more bass, you can always buy Roku’s subwoofer/surround sound system, which are all connected wirelessly.

Pros:
  • Easy to use
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • 4K/HDR streaming
  • Good value for money
  • Surprisingly good SQ
  • Compact and elegant design
Cons:
  • No Dolby Vision or Dolby Atmos

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NVIDIA Shield TV Pro

Excellence in a Tiny Package

nvidia shield tv pro
NVIDIA Shield TV Pro is a streaming device that offers a combination of excellent gaming and 4K performance, enhanced with plenty of practical features that allow you to have a full multimedia centre in one place and help you enjoy your favorite movies and gaming titles to the max.

This tiny, Android-powered device offers decent connectivity with one HDMI (4K compatible) port and two USB 3.0 ports and comes with excellent networking capabilities that include one LAN port, built-in dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0 connection.

Inside this “monster” there is a Tegra X1+ CPU that brings a significant 25% performance increase over the previous generation of NVIDIA Shield TV Pro, equipped with regular Tegra X1 processor, and 3GB of RAM and the rather modest 16GB of storage, which is kinda disappointing considering its high price.

NVIDIA Shield TV Pro comes equipped with an upscaling feature, HDR support, built-in Chromecast 4K and even Google Assistant voice control. In other words, this device has everything.

However, when compared to the previous NVIDIA Shield TV Pro generation, this new one doesn’t bring any huge upgrades. Still, what it brings is more than enough to keep it at the prime spot and maintain it as the best streaming device you can buy for your money.

Pros:
  • Powerful performance
  • Excellent 4K and gaming capabilities
Cons:
  • Limited storage space
  • It is delivered without the controller

Check Prices

 

Fire TV Cube (2nd Gen)

The Best Media Streaming Device Overall

fire tv cube 2 gen
Looking for the best of the lot? Then have a look at Fire TV Cube. As well as Fire TV Stick it comes with Alexa Voice Control. As there are far-field voice recognition, 8 microphones and beamforming technology this streaming device is able to hear your voice from any direction. Alexa will also search content for you, play it as well as pause or fast forward. What is more, you can use your voice to control TV power and volume, soundbar and even change satellite channels.

Fire TV Cube provides a high-grade image quality of 4K Ultra HD at up to 60 fps. There is also unparalleled sound quality thanks to Dolby Atmos audio. Note that this streaming device comes with a built-in speaker, so you may easily listen to the weather forecast or news as well as control smart home devices even with your TV off.

There is access to thousands of channels with more than 500,000 movies to choose from. Fire TV Cube also supports YouTube, Reddit, Facebook and other websites with Firefox and Silk browsers.

Pros:
  • Alexa Voice Control
  • far-field voice recognition
  • Amazon’s parental controls
  • access to tons of content
  • good processor
  • 4K Ultra HD
  • Dolby Atmos audio
  • wired Ethernet connection
Cons:
  • expensive
  • no HDMI cable

Check Prices

 

Summary

We all love quality. Streaming devices aren’t an exception. A good product will make your TV more functional and powerful, the best one will make it show its best performance ever. Find a streaming device that will suit your TV. Then check whether it has all options you are looking for and hurry up to enjoy your favorite movie or TV show.

About author

TheTechLounge editorial team consists of versatile tech enthusiasts. Each of us specializes in the specific area (from photography to virtual reality).
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