The Best TV Streaming Devices for Cord Cutters

Whether you want to escape the cable company or to abandon the terrible interface that’s built into your smart TV, a reliable streaming device is a wonderful thing.

Roku, Apple, Google, and Amazon all make options that might be right for you, but figuring out which platform to go with can be a pain. To help, we’ve gathered the best 4K HDR-ready TV streaming devices together for a battle royale—all streaming boxes, sticks, and cubes. Whether you’re hoping to stream the latest episode of The Mandalorian or your favorite YouTuber, we’ve separated each of our favorites by what they do best.

Be sure to check out all our guides, especially for picking the best Roku, as well as the best TVs, best soundbars, and best smart speakers we’ve seen.

Updated September 2021: We’ve added the new Apple TV 4K and the budget Onn. streaming stick.

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  • Photograph: Roku

    Best Overall

    Roku Streaming Stick Plus

    The Streaming Stick Plus is the best Roku for most people (read our Roku guide to learn more). It has excellent Wi-Fi reception and plugs right into an HDMI port on your TV. Like other Roku products, the apps aren’t always beautifully designed, but they are here (Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, most all of them), and the main interface lets you search for shows across all of your subscriptions at once. You can even add or delete the apps you don’t need on your homepage, for a more streamlined look.

    We should note that Best Buy has a special version of the stick that comes with a headphone jack and earbuds for the remote. If you have family or roommates who complain about noise, it’s a worthwhile option.

    Alternative: The Roku Premiere ($35) is a cheaper alternative in the Roku family, but it is larger. It’s a good choice if the ports on the back of your TV or soundbar are too skinny or awkward to fit a Streaming Stick, and it also offers 4K and HDR.

    Roku connects to all major streaming services except HBO Max.

  • Photograph: Google

    For Google TV or Phone Streaming

    Chromecast With Google TV

    The newest Chromecast (8/10, WIRED recommends) is a great streaming device. It adds a remote—a much needed companion—plus built-in Google TV (formerly Android TV), so you don’t ever have to touch your phone to watch TV if you don’t want to. Google TV got an upgrade too, and its interface is nicer than Roku’s. You can browse and search across platforms, so you can find where a specific title is streaming, or look for something broader like comedies. It makes finding something to watch a faster and easier process. Plus you can search with your voice via Google Assistant, which can also control your smart home devices or answer questions.

    But it has little storage, so you run the risk of running out of room. You may have to regularly clear the cache yourself, which is annoying.

    ★ Alternative: If you really want to use a Chromecast for casting videos or pictures from your phone to your TV, you can still do that too. But if that’s the only thing you want out of it, opt for the $30, casting-only model.

    Google TV connects to all major streaming services.

  • Photograph: Amazon

    For Amazon Lovers

    Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

    Amazon really sped up and improved the Fire TV Stick 4K. The Alexa-enabled remote works well, too. However, the menus are heavily geared toward showing Amazon Prime video content and buying/renting videos from Amazon’s store. Apps for competitors like Netflix and Hulu are included but relegated to a single row of the interface. YouTube is finally available thanks to a thaw in the Google/Amazon feud, but Vudu remains absent.

    Alternative: We don’t mind the Fire TV Cube (6/10, WIRED Review), but its hands-free voice features don’t work very well. If you want it anyway, buy it when it gets down to $80-$90 on sale. There is a cheaper HD-only Fire TV Stick Lite ($30) that we haven’t tested, but it’s probably only for those who have no plans on upgrading their TV to 4K.

    Fire TV connects to all major streaming services, but not Vudu.

Source: The Best TV Streaming Devices for Cord Cutters

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