There are so many streaming services nowadays, and while they might make for one of the easiest ways to view our favorite content, the hassle of finding which one of the services has the latest episodes of what we’re trying to watch can almost outweigh the convenience. Switching between them all is enough of a fuss, and that hassle is compounded when you run into a situation like watching the first two seasons of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure in English on Netflix only to find that you then have to turn to Hulu for Season 3 in the original Japanese and then need to tack on an extra subscription to catch Season 4 only to ultimately find out that all four seasons are available on Crunchyroll. A quality streaming device can help sort these situations out for you while also ensuring you’re getting a top-notch streaming experience.
The best streaming devices ensure you’re delivering high-quality image and audio signals to your TV and speakers, so you can actually make the most out of your 4K TV and home theater. They can also streamline finding the content you want to watch, and get it playing quickly. We’ve put many of these streaming devices through rigorous testing, and narrowed down the field to only the best. So, if you’re looking to get a quality device, you need look no further than what you see here. If you’re browsing in the UK, click here to find out where you can go to find the best. And, you can give the rest of your setup an upgrade too with these deals on certified refurbished home entertainment devices from eBay.
TL;DR – These are the Best Streaming Device:
1. Roku Ultra
Best Streaming Device
If you want the best streaming device sitting under your TV, you’re going to want the Roku Ultra. This box comes in at a fair price that really sends its value through the roof. The Roku Ultra is ready for your high-end 4K TV as its HDMI 2.0 port supports 4K UHD video output with HDR at up to 60fps, giving you superb video quality. You’ll get support for HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision HDR formats as well, which should help ensure a match for the technologies supported by your TV.
The Roku Ultra also supports some high-quality audio formats, including DTS Digital Surround and Dolby Atmos. And, if you want, you can pair it with a speaker setup wirelessly over Bluetooth. One of the best parts of the Roku Ultra is the remote. It provides easy navigation of the Roku interface, and it can support voice commands to make pulling up your favorite content a breeze. The remote also has a 3.5mm headphone jack, letting you plug in your headphones to watch your TV without having the audio disturb others in your household.
2. Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K
Best Budget Streaming Device
The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K is just about the cheapest way to start streaming 4K content for just $50. It’s a simple stick-shaped device you plug into one of your 4K TV’s available HDMI ports then connect USB power and that’s it. This simple streaming stick grants you access to Netflix, YouTube, Prime Video, Disney+, Apple TV, HBO, and more.
As with any of Amazon’s devices, you can ask Alexa to find the TV shows and movies or control playback without having to pick up your remote. Alternatively, you could use the Alexa-integration to ask questions or control your smart home. Unfortunately, the Fire TV Stick doesn’t have much of an App Store or any access to the Google Play Store, so Amazon dictates what apps you can install on this device. If you don’t mind have a little less freedom over what apps you can use, this is the best streaming device for users on a budget.
3. Nvidia Shield TV
Best 4K Streaming Device
Nvidia’s Shield TV is expensive for a streaming box, but it’s easily the best 4K streaming device on the market. It’s one of, if not the only, streaming device to have a built-in upscaling technology. Using a process Nvidia calls “AI-enhanced upscaling,” the Shield TV can turn anything you watch into a 4K video. That includes everything from blockbuster movies to Twitch streams and YouTube Videos. It supports a ton of different streaming services and has full access to the Google Play Store since it’s running on the Android TV platform. Plus, it even doubles as a Chromecast so you can stream to your TV from your phone or tablet.
You can also game on it two different ways; if you have an Nvidia graphics card you can also stream games from your gaming PC to your 4K TV at 60fps. Alternatively, you can stream games directly from Nvidia’s servers using GeForce Now, which currently gives you the power of a Turing-based desktop over the air.
4. Apple TV 4K
Best 4K Streaming Box for Apple Households
If you’ve got an iPhone, an iPad, a Mac, and Apple HomeKit gadgets populating your home, you’re going to want to have the new Apple TV 4K under your television. This latest model comes with some serious upgrades over its predecessors thanks to the inclusion of an Apple A12 Bionic chip, which boosts the performance considerably.
With the new Apple TV 4K, you’ll be able to watch 4K UHD footage at 60fps with HDR support, including Dolby Vision. That’s big news for anyone with the iPhone 12, as that’s exactly the spec its cameras are capable of recording, so you’ll have the perfect platform for viewing your captured footage. Using the smarts of the Apple TV 4K and the advanced sensors in the Face ID-enabled iPhones, the Apple TV 4K can also automatically calibrate its output video to tune the color, contrast, and brightness for better viewing on your TV. The Apple TV 4K also comes with a new and improved remote for easier navigation of your favorite streaming apps, and you can always pair the streaming box with a Bluetooth controller to play games on Apple Arcade and the like.
5. Chromecast with Google TV
Best Android TV Streaming Stick
Chromecasts have long been a great way to add a bit of smarts to your TV by letting you simply use all your favorite smartphone apps to choose what you want to watch and then have the Chromecast deliver that choice to your TV. Now, with the Chromecast with Google TV (yeah, the name is a bit of a mouthful), Google’s option for smartening up your TV has just gotten a whole lot better.
The new dongle stills plug straight into the back of your TV with an HDMI connection, where it can deliver 4K/60Hz video signal with HDR. Just like older Chromecasts, you can still use your phone to cast media to it, but now it has its own Android TV-like interface built-in. You can install your favorite streaming apps directly onto the Chromecast with Google TV, and then get smart recommendations for what to watch from Google. It’s also easy to see where certain things are streaming, so you don’t accidentally select an option only to find you’re not subscribed to the service. The Chromecast with Google TV also has Bluetooth, so you can pair it with a Bluetooth speaker. A serious bonus of this kit is the included controller, which can be set up to control the Chromecast, your TV, and sound systems. It also features Google Assistant for voice control of not only the Chromecast but also smart home devices. Just get ready to power this device with its own adapter, as it requires more juice than the USB port on the back of your TV is likely to offer.
6. Pendoo T95
Best Android TV Box
It’s easy to find a cheap Android TV box running on some outdated version of Android, but pendoo’s T95 box offers up Android 10, so you’ll be up to date on the operating system and the features that come with it. This Android TV box is also fully kitted out with a quad-core, 64-bit processor and 4GB of RAM to handle a wide variety of apps from the Google Play store, which is another thing many cheap boxes lack access to.
You’ll connect the pendoo T95 to your TV over an HDMI 2.0 connection, which supports up to 4K/60 fps or even 6K at 30fps and even HDR10+. You can easily access online content with this box’s Wi-Fi or Ethernet connections, or you can load up your own content from a microSD card or USB drive. It may require a bit more tinkering to get everything working the way you want it, but it comes in at a lower price than many of its competitors on this list.
7. Roku Streaming Stick+
Best Streaming Stick
A streaming stick may sound like it can’t possibly be as capable as a full box, and while that may be generally true, you probably won’t feel like you’re missing out with the Roku Streaming Stick+. This compact streaming stick can deliver a full 4K UHD picture at 60fps, and it even delivers on HDR10 for impressive visuals that will let you take advantage of your TV’s display. On the audio front, you’re also getting support for DTS Digital Surround and Dolby Atmos, plus you can use Roku’s private viewing mode by plugging headphones into the remote control.
That might already seem like plenty for $50, but it gets even better when you consider that the Roku Streaming Stick+ comes with a voice remote. So, you can avoid the frustrating experience of trying to type on a TV when you want to search for shows, movings, and streaming channels. You also can use your phone to control your Roku as well as Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa.
Where to Get the Best Streaming Box in the UK
What’s Next for 4K Streaming Boxes
It’s finally happened! Apple has a new Apple TV 4K inbound. This new model comes with one massive upgrade on the inside in the form of the A12 Bionic chip. This will give the Apple TV 4K a large performance boost. And, in order to put that extra brawn to use, the new Apple TV 4K is supporting 4K HDR at higher frame rates, bumping it up to 60 fps. This also provides the perfect outlet for the 4K60 Dolby Vision footage users may have shot on their iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max.
Apple also aims to make it easier for customers to optimize the picture they get from their TV. Using the Apply TV 4K and an iPhone’s cameras, the system can register the color and contrast displayed by the TV and then adjust the video signal sent to the TV – that’s color calibration like magic.
The last big upgrade is in the remote. Apple has replaced the touchpad of the previous remote with a clickable wheel – think original iPod – that should be much easier to use while also offering touchpad-like controls for those who liked them. It also moves the Siri button to the side of the remote.
The new Apple TV 4K goes on sale in the second half of May and will be open for pre-order on April 30. The pricing scheme is unchanged, with the 32GB model at $179 and the 64GB model at $199.
Kevin Lee is IGN’s SEO Updates Editor. Follow him on Twitter @baggingspam
Mark Knapp is a regular contributor to IGN and an irregular Tweeter on Twitter @Techn0Mark
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