2017’s Best Streaming Devices
The Best Equipment To Power Your Next Netflix MarathonCable may still be king, but the future is streaming. One in five American households have cut the cord and set their TV boxes free, pivoting to embrace streaming providers like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. Streaming devices have evolved to meet increasing demand, with smaller, faster models equipped with dazzling new features that put most standard DVRs to shame. We’ll take a look at the newest crop of streaming boxes and make some recommendations about which models will work best for your next Netflix and chill moment.
Our Top 5 Picks for Streaming Devices
|1. Roku Premier+ Best Overall||4.2/5||$86.17||YES||Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, VUDU, Sling TV, and PBS KIDS|
|2. Google Chromecast Best Value||4.6/5 (Best Buy)||$35.00 (Best Buy)||NO||Netflix|
|3. X-Box 1 Best for Gamers||4/5||$265.00||YES||Netflix, Amazon Prime|
|4. Amazon Fire TV Best Storage||4.5/5||$89.99||YES||Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video, Sling TV|
|5. Google Chromecast Ultra Best Stick||4.6/5||$69.99 (Best Buy)||YES||Netflix, HBONOW, Google Play, You Tube, Plex, Spotify|
What Should I Consider When Choosing a Streaming Device?
Box vs. StickStreaming devices fall into two basic categories: small and smaller. Your choices are either a larger streaming box that’ll probably fit in the palm of your hand or a streaming stick, which is the same size as a USB memory stick. While sticks lack some of the processing power and port options of a streaming box, these tiny memory-stick devices are cheap and portable. If, however, you’re interested in streaming 4KHD or you have a full theater set-up that utilizes Dolby Audio, you’ll want to stick (pun intended) with a streaming box instead.
CompatibilityWhile you can download most streaming apps onto any device, there are some clear advantages to using a box that integrates your favorite streaming content provider. For example, if your favorite shows are available on Amazon Prime, you may want to consider the Fire TV rather than the Google Chromecast, because the latter is geared towards Netflix and Google Play. The ease of use and the ability to quickly find content will outweigh any potential cost differences.
4K Ultra HDGot a fancy new 4K Ultra HD TV? Stick with a compatible box that will allow you to stream 4K programming. Our favorite device, the Roku Premier, also supports HDR and Dolby Audio so you can make the most out of the magnificence of your sixty-inch TV screen.
Internet SpeedIf you’re investing in the streaming technology you need to cut the cord with your cable provider, internet speed should be part of your calculations. How much speed do you need to stream effectively? It depends on the number of your devices, what type of content you are streaming, and how much of it. To get a better idea of the internet speeds we’d suggest for your connected household, use the How Much Speed Do You Need Tool.
Making ConnectionsFor a speedy, seamless streaming experience, you want to pay attention to things like how many bands your device supports and the Wi-Fi protocol it’s using. Optimally, you want the latest protocol, 802.11 ac and a dual-band device that utilizes MIMO to optimize your signal performance. Not sure what all that tech speak actually means? Learn more about internet protocols in our router equipment guides. Additionally, if you have a home theater, make sure the device you select has all the ports you’ll need. Many of the less expensive streaming boxes do not support sophisticated audio outputs.
Internal StorageIf you’re living your life in the cloud, storage capacity may not be an issue for you. A few streaming devices offer some storage capacity, so you can have content at your fingertips without worrying about connectivity. While even the largest storage capacity on a streaming device is still vastly smaller than the average DVR, if you want more, opt for a device that has a USB port, so you can connect external storage.
Top 5 Streaming Devices
Amazon Rating: (4.2 /5)Roku’s Premier Plus is so smooth, it should be criminal. A faster processor, support for 4K Ultra HD and HDR (high dynamic range), and a remote that integrates Netflix, Hulu, and more make this streaming box our device of choice for cord cutters.
Google Rating: (4.6 /5)
3. X-Box 1
Best for Gamers
Amazon Rating: (4.2 /5)
Best for Storage
Amazon Rating: (4.3 /5)Alexa, everyone’s favorite new cloud-based voice assistant that is always at your service. We rate it highly for being one of the few devices with internal storage and plenty of options for adding more storage externally.
Google Rating: (5 /5)
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Kaz is a writer, blogger and social media junkie. She uses her tenacity to investigate the best of the Internets.