Most of us have one, okay many, streaming services that we love. It seems like there are always new streaming services in the mix, so the sky’s the limit on what you can watch.
You need to find the best device on which to enjoy these ever-increasing services. Are you a gamer? Do you want a smart speaker? Are you just looking for a plug-and-play?
We’ve rounded up what we feel are the top streaming sticks to turn your TV into the Smart TV of your dreams.
Top Streaming Sticks
Let’s take a look at the top streaming sticks and the pros and cons of each one.
1. Roku Streaming Stick+
With the best user interface and easy plug-and-play design, the Roku Streaming Stick+ is the top streaming stick overall on the market right now.
Its affordable price makes it easy to break up with your cable company, and its sleek design means you can take it anywhere with wifi and a TV. Set it up in your home, or take it to a hotel or the cottage. Anywhere you go, it can go with you.
The Roku Streaming Stick+ streams 4K, HDR, and Dolby Atmos audio, giving you a fantastic TV viewing experience with crisp sound.
The remote is also best in class. It includes voice search and can power your TV. Volume up and down buttons, mute, and dedicated app streaming buttons come standard, and there’s even a lost-remote function through the app.
Another great feature of the Roku Stick+ is the private listening mode through the app – use your headphones to watch your favorite shows without waking up the house.
There aren’t many drawbacks to the Roku Streaming Stick+, though if I had to pick something, it’s the lack of Dolby Vision support that its competitor, the Amazon Fire TV Stick, has.
What makes it best?
Easy setup, a clear and easy-to-navigate user experience, and a tremendous remote make the Roku Streaming Stick+ one of the best streaming devices overall.
2. Apple TV 4K
If you’re already heavily into the Apple system, the Apple TV 4K integrates seamlessly with all of your other Apple devices.
It also copies all of your login information into the Apple TV without having to download apps and fill out usernames and passwords.
Another great feature is the automatic sync of all content you’ve ever purchased on iTunes or any previous generation Apple TV. Not only that, but Apple will automatically upgrade it to 4K for free when it becomes available in that format.
It boasts Dolby Atmos, 4K, and HDR in both Dolby Vision and HDR10, one of the best offerings of all in this list. You can also pair up to two homepods or homepod minis to create a rich, impressive wireless sound experience.
Siri integration on the Apple TV 4K allows you to use voice commands to search for specific content or ask Siri for a type of media. For example, start a search for Bruce Willis movies, and you’ll be watching Die Hard in no time flat.
One of the features that sets this streaming device apart from the rest is the Apple Arcade. It transforms the Apple TV box into a gaming console compatible with both Xbox and Playstation Bluetooth wireless game controllers.
With picture-in-picture capability, Airpods pairing (up to two sets simultaneously), and the AirPlay 2 wireless link streaming 4K content, the Apple TV 4K is one of the best streaming devices for Apple and non-Apple users alike.
While it offers all the usual streaming apps like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video, it lags behind others in the total number of available streaming services. Apple TV 4K works best for people already integrated into the Apple systems.
To experience all the benefits of the visual features, you’ll need an HDMI cable rated for ultra-high-speed connections.
What makes it best? If you’re already heavily into Apple products, this is a seamless, high-quality choice.
3. Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite
It is Dolby Atmos compatible, with 1080p full HD and HDR support. It’s not the absolute top with viewing capabilities, but it still gives incredible quality, and at about $25, it’s unbelievably affordable.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite comes with a decent user interface, though it notoriously features Amazon Prime Video and ads front and center.
The remote comes with Alexa inside, allowing you to play content and search within apps with voice commands right to the remote.
Although there is a voice-controlled remote, it does not offer power, volume, or mute buttons. And if you’re into gaming, The Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite doesn’t support Luna, Amazon’s new gaming service. For those features, you’ll need to upgrade to the FireTV Stick 4K for about $20 more.
What makes it best? It’s affordable and has convenient features in step with its similarly priced competitors.
4. NVIDIA Shield TV
The integrated NVIDIA Tegra X1+ processor means this baby is fast. It also comes with Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos surround sound, which makes for excellent TV viewing and gaming.
The new remote has several features, including motion-activated backlit buttons and a customizable button.
Voice control via the built-in Google Assistant, Bluetooth, IR control for your TV, and a built-in lost remote locator; everything you need is all in one place (and it won’t get lost!). You can even control your device with any Google Home or Alexa and Echo.
The NVIDIA Shield TV includes Google Assistant and Chromecast, which makes for even more quality content.
Gamers rejoice: you can stream games from your PC straight through the box as well.
The biggest con is its price. It’s expensive compared to other streaming sticks available.
Reviewers also found that many of the games and apps in the Google Play store weren’t compatible when trying to download them.
What makes it best? Fast processor, Google integration, and a super-remote keep the NVIDIA Shield TV on the list.
5. NVIDIA Shield TV Pro
Looking for no-compromises? With 4K, Dolby Vision HDR, and Dolby Atmos capability, the NVIDIA Shield TV Pro has one of the top audio and visual experiences on the market.
Where the Shield TV shines, though, is in its ability to stream games from your PC. With its lightning-fast NVIDIA Tegra X1+ processor, lagging is a thing of the past. Gamers – this is the box to get if you want to enjoy your gaming PC on any screen in your home via Nvidia GameStream.
Serious gamers will also appreciate the 200+ games already available via Android TV and premium gaming features. It includes an Ethernet option for low-latency streaming, and it’s compatible with Sony’s DualShock 4 and Xbox One controllers.
The NVIDIA Shield TV Pro has two USB ports on the box for extra storage expansion. It also comes with Chromecast to expand your viewing options, as well as a voice-capable remote with Google Assistant built-in (though it’s also compatible with Alexa).
It’s one of the more expensive options and works best for those already integrated into the Android system. Like the Apple TV 4K, it needs ultra-high-speed HDMI cables to access all the visual benefits.
What makes it best? Hands down, it’s the best system for gamers.
6. Roku Ultra 2020
Although the Roku Ultra is bulkier than the Stick+, it has more speed and options. Enjoy an incredible viewing experience with 4K, HDR10, and HLG, as well as being Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos capable.
Like the Stick+, the Ultra has the best operating system of all the streaming choices. Nothing beats the ease of use that Roku provides.
The remote has so many great features like the lost remote option, TV control buttons, and two buttons that can be user-customized. It also has a headphone jack for private listening – with JBL headphones included in the box.
One of my favorite features of all the streaming devices is the Roku Ultra’s night mode. It automatically adjusts the volume of the TV scene-by-scene, so your TV viewing isn’t waking up the kids every time something explodes.
The voice commands are compatible with either Alexa or Google Assistant, and you can use the Ultra as a Bluetooth receiver, streaming anything from your phone or tablet.
The Ultra also comes with an Ethernet port for more reliable streaming.
As with the other premium boxes, you need HDMI cables rated for ultra-high-speed connections to get the best out of what the Ultra offers.
Users reported that the speed upgrades from the previous generation were mediocre. If that was your only reason to upgrade – skip it.
What makes it best? The best-in-class user interface, night mode, and Bluetooth streaming make the Ultra one of the best.
6. Google Chromecast with Google TV
Google Chromecast with Google TV is a steal of a deal. It’s cheaper than Chromecast Ultra and does all of the same things and more, including being a fully functional Android TV streamer.
If you’re already using Android, it will automatically download all the streaming subscriptions you have through your Google account, meaning no tedious setup of each app with usernames and passwords.
It features HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos, which places it as a contender on this list. The remote can control the TV power, volume, and mute functions.
It has an excellent user interface. You can build your watchlist and create individual user profiles. If you’re a YouTube TV subscriber, you can access the YouTube TV Guide and its DVR features.
It’s not a quick plug-and-play device; the initial setup will take some time. If you’re a Google user, it’s excellent, but not so much if you’re not heavily into the Google ecosystem.
Some reviewers didn’t like that the Library feature was just one long scrollable line, rather than grouped by genre or recently watched.
What makes it best? It’s very affordable for the features it includes, and the interface is excellent for Google users.
7. Amazon Fire TV Cube
The Amazon Fire TV Cube is Amazon’s fastest offering. And it’s fully integrated. Forget making your TV a Smart TV; this has you on your way to making your home a Smart Home.
It can control your entire entertainment system without all the remotes. Ask Alexa to dim the lights, turn on the TV, and play whatever show you want to watch.
It can even work through other Alexa devices throughout the house. It’s the only streaming device with a built-in smart speaker.
Included are ports supporting HDMI CEC, HDMI ARC, and IR blasters that allow you to use voice commands to turn on your TV, scroll between apps, and switch inputs to other devices like gaming consoles or Blu-Ray players.
4K HDR and Dolby Atmos guarantee a fantastic viewing experience.
Like the other boxes, the Amazon Fire TV Cube comes with an Ethernet option for best streaming.
And if you’re worried about Alexa always listening, fear not; it comes with privacy protections, including a microphone off button and electronically disconnects the mics.
Unlike others like Roku, you can’t customize the home screen, and there are many ads.
While all the voice commands and limited need for remotes are handy, Alexa is restricted somehow. For example, she can’t get you onto a specific account on Netflix – you would need your remote for that.
As with the other higher-end streaming devices, you’ll need premium HDMI cables for the best experience.
What makes it best? It integrates perfectly in a Smart home. Now your home theatre can be just right.
So now the question is, which one do I buy? While you really can’t go wrong with any of these streaming devices, there’s something unique about each one that might make it the best choice for you.
Think about your everyday streaming habits, and jump in and give one of these Streaming Sticks a try.