Three best streaming devices
Not too long ago, only younger generations seemed to recognize the wisdom of abandoning paid TV services. But the DVR has allowed viewing habits of all generations to change, and à la carte TV is quickly becoming the norm. However, to enjoy that freedom you still need an internet connection and a streaming device.
Knowing which is the best streaming device to get for your viewing habits seems unfathomable to individuals who are hesitant to make the switch. But it's not that hard of a concept to grasp once you have a good analogy. Then finding the right device for you becomes a matter of preference, something you can be in control of rather than intimidated by. This guide can help you through the process.
What is streaming?
When you subscribe to a television provider, it's like buying a ticket to a theme park. It doesn't matter if you want to experience every extreme thrill ride in the park or you just want to try out the merry-go-round, you pay for it all. A streaming service, on the other hand, is like going to a carnival, you only purchase tickets for the rides you take. Alternatively, you can still purchase a wristband, but the difference is you aren't forced to.
Considerations when choosing streaming devices
Stick or box
There are two types of streaming devices available for your TV: a stick or a box.
A stick is smaller, it plugs directly into an HDMI input on your TV, and it costs anywhere from $25 to $60.
A box is larger and it functions more like your cable box (that you used to have). It has memory to save programs and a port for an Ethernet line (in case your WiFi is a little sluggish). These devices have other features, such as chat capabilities, and are better designed for gaming. The prices start at around $70 and can go to almost $200.
With a few exceptions, most streaming devices give you access to the main content providers such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. If it's vital to you to have access to Google Movies, for instance, make sure the device you're considering is compatible.
Navigation and remotes
If you have a stick and you want easy navigation, the best way to go is with voice commands. Without Alexa or Siri, you'll be spending a lot of time browsing through menu after menu, popping in and out of different apps, looking for the specific content you want. Note that some content might be available in one app for free but on another, you might have to pay for it. Higher-end models, like the box devices, tend to have better remotes. Some of the devices even allow you to use your smartphone for navigation, which is only handy if it functions globally.
Q. Once I purchase a streaming device, does that mean I can watch anything for free?
A. No. Think of it like listening to music. Your iPhone plays music files that you already own, but if you want to listen to new music, you still have to purchase it or subscribe to a streaming service.
Q. Does that mean nothing is free?
A. No. There is an abundance of free apps offering an expansive selection of free content. These apps might not include the most current content, but there's a lot of it. Some current content is available for free, but you'll have to endure commercial breaks that you can't fast-forward through.
Streaming devices we recommend
Best of the best: Amazon Fire Stick
Our take: A cost-effective option that offers a wide selection of apps.
What we like: Amazon's Fire Stick is relatively easy to set up and start using. The unit incorporates Alexa to make searching for specific movies, shows, and games as easy as making a request. Although there are some limitations, there is more content available via this device than you could watch in a lifetime.
What we dislike: Due to the streamlined controls, it can be a little confusing and time-consuming to browse content and navigate to specific areas without using Alexa.
Best bang for your buck: Roku Streaming Stick
Our take: An affordably priced way to watch all the content you desire.
What we like: Besides providing access to seemingly limitless content (depending on your subscriptions), Roku has incorporated voice-activated technology that allows the unit to control your TV. The device's portability makes it ideal for business trips and vacations.
What we dislike: There are rare concerns about the device becoming uncomfortably warm.
Choice 3: Apple Apple TV (4K)
Our take: This is the best choice if Apple is the dominant tech in your household.
What we like: This device allows you to take advantage of 4K HDR to offer the highest resolution streaming (although, currently, you might have trouble finding content that streams in 4K). You have access to anything in the Apple TV store and can perform tasks utilizing Siri. Additionally, this device allows your iPhone to function as your remote.
What we dislike: Like most Apple gear, Apple TV resides at the higher end of the price range. It isn't the best choice if budget is a concern.
Allen Foster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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