The world changes fast — including the world of home entertainment — and sometimes it takes a minute to catch up. So if you're still paying for cable or live TV because you assume it's the only way you can access certain TV shows, we need to have a little chat. The days of needing cable and Blu-rays are gone. Now, all the good stuff is available via streaming platforms, and you don’t need a TV box or even a new TV for that.
All you need is a streaming device of some kind — like a Roku or an Amazon Fire Stick. Connect it to your TV, and you can immediately watch movies, series, comedy specials, almost anything through a streaming service. Not sure which is the best streaming device to buy? Below, we detail a few of the best — and we share all the info to help you choose the top pick for your smart home theater.
The Roku Express 4K+ packs a ton of perks and functionality at a great price. It’s one of the cheapest streaming boxes with 4K HDR capabilities, and it supports the Apple ecosystem and Airplay format too.
“I am so incredibly impressed!!!" exclaimed the writer of one happy five-star review. "I have an old, large Samsung TV in my bedroom my dad got for free. I’ve had this TV with an older Roku for years. It began not working right and began really laggy. I went out and bought a new smaller Vizio TV, and it performed terribly, and I returned it in a day. I decided to try this Roku on my old Samsung TV. All I have to say is: OMG. This made my TV perform like new and saved me a ton of money. If you are in a similar situation as me or looking for a great alternative, don’t hesitate, try this Roku. It’s incredible for the money, the picture and quality are like brand-new, and it performs very fast. I am 21, and I don’t write reviews often, but I had to for this one.”
It also has a longer-range wireless receiver, so it’ll work in rooms that are farther away from your router. We also like the hands-free voice remote control, which lets you use voice controls with the Roku. No worries if you lose the TV remote in the couch cushions, either. You can voice search for it by asking the Roku where it is, and it’ll start beeping away.
One five-star review said: "I went from using my old Samsung smart DVD player with a very limited app selection to this Roku Streaming Stick 4K+, with literally any app I could ever want. I love I can just add apps using my TV, computer, or phone. The stick is out of sight, plugged into the HDMI port behind my TV. I didn't realize until I had it delivered that it has to be plugged in for its own power, however, I am able to power it using the USB port, which is also behind my TV. The remote is also very impressive. It is simple and easy to use but also very capable. The price is very reasonable, especially compared to other streaming devices."
We absolutely love the Google Assistant voice search on Google Chromecast; you can look up movies and shows by searching the actors' names, for example. We also like that this Google TV device integrates with Google Photos — you can add your favorite pics to a revolving slideshow! If you like YouTube or YouTube TV, this is the streamer for you.
"This was easy to set up and install!" said a five-star review. "I had a TV that didn't even have a remote control that worked, and this replaced my old Fire Stick, and now I can turn on the TV, watch all my streaming apps and a cast from my phone, both Android and Apple, to the TV with ease! Power mute volume etc. ... All work with one device and one remote! If you don't have a smart TV with casting capabilities ... buy this! You won't regret it."
It supports Dolby Vision and has a neat picture-in-picture feature for viewing your security camera feed. Of course, the Amazon Fire TV Stick works with the Amazon Alexa voice remote operating system and search features. This is the best streaming device to get if you’re a big Amazon Prime fan.
"The new Fire Stick is a major improvement compared to the older versions," said one five-star review. "Easy to install, easy to move your content from your old Fire Stick. The price is great. I advise doing a trade-in of the older version; once the trade-in is complete, the price isn’t bad at all. Highly recommend upgrading all older versions of Fire Stick for the new and improved version. Wi-Fi 6 is a great enhancement, no buffering issues thus far! 4K HDR looks amazing on my brand-new 65” LG! Completely happy with this new Fire TV Stick. Remote has major changes! Easily access Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and of course Amazon Prime Video. Voice recognition is great — Alexa finds it for you."
You can also ask Siri, “What did they just say?” while watching a movie, and it will replay the scene with subtitles. Apple TV is also a media streaming device for gamers via Apple Arcade, or if you want native support for Apple’s Fitness+ workout program.
"My experience with a regular Apple TV has been a bit life-changing," said one enthusiastic shopper, who calls it a fantastic Apple product. "Smart TV apps are essentially universally lousy and don’t guarantee 4K quality (at least with LG), so I was instantly gratified the moment I got this 4K Apple TV set up. My TV is finally living up to its 4K potential! Setup was amazingly easy, as it is generally across all of the Apple product line. The new all-metal remote design is thicker and heavier than the older gen and feels good in the hand. Button ergonomics have been improved as well. Great value, great product."
If you have Amazon Prime, you’ll get free shipping, of course. Not yet a member? No problem. You can sign up for your free 30-day trial here. (And by the way, those without Prime still get free shipping on orders of $25 or more.)
The reviews quoted above reflect the most recent versions at the time of publication.