We’re all streaming these days. Worldwide, we spent more than 480 billion hours streaming content in 2020 alone. And in 2022, digital streaming overtook cable for the first time in total media consumption. So if you’re looking to watch top streaming services like Netflix, Disney+, Sling TV, and fuboTV in your living room, you may be wondering what device is best for streaming your favorite content.
There are a lot of different devices out there, and it can be hard to choose the best device for streaming. So we’re here to cut through the complications, give you a recommendation for our top pick, and discuss a few runners-up that may also be a good choice for streaming your favorite shows and movies. Read on, and let’s get into the details.
Our pick: The Roku Streaming Stick 4K
The Roku Streaming Stick 4K has been chosen as one of the best streaming devices by Wirecutter, Engadget, and Wired, just to name a few. And here at Flixed, we’d have to concur. When it comes to overall value, features for the money, and usability, it’s hard to top the Roku Streaming Stick 4K.
Why is the Roku Streaming Stick 4K the best streaming device?
First, the price. Coming in at just $50, the Roku Streaming Stick is a fantastic value. And despite its low price point, its performance doesn’t suffer. It offers smooth navigation and plenty of storage space, with 4GB of storage space for all of your favorite TV streaming apps.
The new onboard ARM Cortex A55 chip provides plenty of horsepower when it comes to graphical fidelity, too. The Roku Streaming Stick 4K supports smooth 60 FPS/4K playback, so you can make the most of your 4K display. Of course, it scales down to 1080p too – so it’s a good choice even if you don’t have a 4K TV.
Compared to its predecessor, the Roku Streaming Stick Plus, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K also now supports Dolby Vision HDR. If your TV (and your streaming content) support it, this means you’ll get a much more vivid picture. It still doesn't have Dolby Atmos, though, which is a bit disappointing. However, if you use a sound bar or your TV’s built-in speakers to watch your shows (like most people), you probably won’t miss Dolby Atmos support very much.
Roku Streaming Stick 4K features
Wondering what the Roku Stick 4K has to offer? Here’s a deeper breakdown of its top features:
- Full 4K/HDR support with Dolby Vision – You’ll get amazing clarity, brightness, and picture quality with supported content. However, you should note that not all streaming apps and services offer 4K, HDR, or Dolby Vision – your mileage may vary depending on what you like to watch.
- Listen to audio through your phone with the Roku app – Connecting to the Roku app allows you to pipe audio from your TV to your phone, which is great if you want to watch shows quietly late at night, or for any other reason.
- Included remote – You get a remote that includes TV power and volume controls, making it easy to control the Roku and your TV.
- Simple user interface – It’s easy to access all of your favorite apps and start streaming in seconds, and shortcuts to apps like Netflix on the Roku remote make it even easier.
- 26,000+ Roku channels – You’ve got tons of Roku channels to choose from in their Channel Store, and 4GB of storage means you won’t run out of storage space for apps anytime soon.
- HDMI input, USB power – The Roku Streaming Stick 4K plugs into any HDMI port, and can be powered by your TV’s USB port or any USB power brick. Its small size makes it easy to transport, so it’s great for traveling.
Apple TV 4K is the best for Apple fans
If you’re a big Apple fan, you may want to consider skipping the Roku Streaming Stick 4K and opting for the Apple TV 4K. The next-gen Apple TV 4K was just released in October of 2022. It costs a pretty penny, but it has unbeatable Apple integrations, as well as a powerful A15 Bionic chip and support for HDR10+ and Dolby Vision.
Reasons to choose the Apple TV 4K
Simply put, the Apple TV 4K is one of the best choices if you’re heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem. It’s got 4K and HDR support, and it works amazingly well with macOS and other iOS devices, as well as Apple’s subscription services like Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Fitness, and Apple Arcade.
Speaking of Apple Arcade, the Apple TV 4K is also a gaming powerhouse – the new A15 Bionic chip means that, if you like to play mobile games on a big screen, the Apple TV 4K is a great choice for you. Grab a controller and sync it via Bluetooth, and you can game directly on your streaming device.
The Apple TV 4K also is available in both a WiFi only version (64gb storage) and a WiFi + Ethernet version (128GB storage), so you can choose the device that’s right for your home networking setup – and you’re not likely to run out of storage space any time soon.
Reasons to skip the Apple TV 4K
In a word? Price. The cheapest Apple TV 4K is $129, which means that it’s nearly three times the price of the Roku Streaming Stick 4K, our top pick for the best device for streaming. If you’re not an Apple fanboy, you may find that this is a pretty hard hit for your wallet to take.
This is particularly true if you don’t subscribe to other Apple services like Apple TV+ and Apple Music. If you’re not heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem, there’s really no reason to pick the Apple TV 4K over some other (cheaper) streaming device.
Amazon Fire Stick 4K Max is best for Amazon Prime users
If you’ve got Amazon Prime, the Amazon Fire Stick 4K Max is definitely a worthy competitor to the Roku Streaming Stick 4K. It has similar specs, but has deeper Amazon and Amazon Prime Video integration, which may make this streaming device a little more attractive to some cord-cutters.
Reasons to choose the Amazon Fire Stick 4K Max
If you watch a lot of Amazon Prime Video, the Amazon Fire Stick 4K Max has the best native app integration for Amazon’s streaming service. Prime Video is slickly integrated throughout the device – though, of course, you can also watch other top streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ with this device.
It has 4K, HDR10 and Dolby Vision support, and Dolby Atmos audio. The Roku Streaming Stick 4K lacks Dolby Atmos, so if you’ve got a strong 5.1 or 7.1 home theater setup, the Amazon Fire Stick 4K Max may be a better option.
Another killer feature is the inclusion of WiFi 6, a new WiFi standard that offers even faster streaming and lower latency. The only other streaming device on this list that supports WiFi 6 is the Apple TV 4K, which clocks in at about double the price. If you have WiFi 6-capable networking equipment, you can expect very low latency and fast streaming speeds.
Reasons to skip the Amazon Fire Stick 4K Max
This device is a bit more expensive than our top pick, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K. It also has very similar features, so if you’re torn between the two and you’re on a tight budget, you’re probably better off with the Roku.
Similarly to Apple TV, it also doesn’t make much sense to go with this streaming device unless you’re an Amazon Prime user. Like all other Fire devices, the Amazon Fire Stick 4K Max pushes Amazon Prime Video and other Prime features onto users very strongly – that’s great if you have a subscription and can take advantage of them, but it’s annoying if you’re not a subscriber.
Chromecast with Google TV 4K is best for screen casting
The Chromecast with Google TV 4K is another great option if you’re thinking about buying one of the best devices for streaming. This affordable dongle turns your TV into a fully-featured Google TV Smart TV, and also boasts Chromecast screen casting capability.
Reasons to choose the Chromecast with Google TV 4K
First, Chromecast allows for easy casting of your screen from any laptop, desktop, or mobile device. You can cast specific content from an app or web browser page, or mirror your screen. Chromecast is much simpler and easier to use than competing screencasting technology like Apple AirPlay.
As far as tech specs go, the Chromecast with Google TV 4K is quite similar to the Roku Streaming Stick 4K, with 4K/60 FPS support, HDR, and Dolby Vision. And since it’s a Google TV device, you’ll also get full access to the Android app library, which allows you to download tons of games and apps that are not available on iOS, the Amazon Fire Store, or the Roku Channel Store.
It can also connect with Google Home speakers and tons of other Google and Android devices. If you’re into the Google and Android ecosystem, the Chromecast with Google TV 4K is a great option.
Reasons to skip the Chromecast with Google TV 4K
If you don’t need Chromecast capabilities, you’re not an Android/Google user, or you don’t care about the apps available on the Google Play Store, you may be better off with a competing streaming device like the Roku Streaming Stick 4K.
The Google TV 4K’s strange “dongle” design is also a bit odd. Unlike Amazon Fire and Roku streaming sticks, it’s not a stick – it has a small HDMI cord, and the rest of the unit hangs off of this cord. Unless you put something underneath this (very short) cord, the full weight of the dongle could stress your HDMI port over time, which could damage it eventually.
There haven’t been any reports of this, but it’s definitely strange to stick with this design when so many competitors are going for a rigid “stick” design that’s more portable and seems more durable.
PlayStation 5 Or Xbox One X is best for gamers
Whether you’ve already got one of these next-gen consoles or you’re looking for another reason (or excuse) to upgrade, the PlayStation 5 and Xbox One X are both excellent devices for streaming.
Reasons to choose the PlayStation 5 or Xbox One X
First, they play games! If you’re a gamer, you may already have (or want) one of these consoles for gaming purposes. But both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox One X also have support for most major streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+.
As another bonus, both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox One X can play standard Blu-Rays and 4K Blu-Rays. If you have not yet ditched physical media, this means your gaming console can do double duty as a Blu-Ray player and a streaming device, too.
Reasons to skip the PlayStation 5 or Xbox One X
If you’re not a gamer, there’s no reason to fork over the cash for a gaming console just to use it as a streaming device. The Roku Streaming Stick 4K is just as good (if not better) at streaming for about 1/10th of the price. Buying a PlayStation 5 or Xbox One X only makes sense if you’re going to use it for both streaming entertainment and video games.
Also, depending on your console, there are some streaming services that may not support your device. The biggest streaming services all support PlayStation and Xbox consoles, but fuboTV and Sling TV, for example, do not yet support the PlayStation 5.
Our takeaway – The Roku Streaming Stick 4K is the best device for streaming
Overall, we’re awarding the Roku Streaming Stick 4K as our pick as the best streaming device. It offers the best combination of features, value, and usability for most cord-cutters, so it takes home the prize.
However, as outlined above, the other devices on our list merit honorable mentions if you’re looking for specific things like Apple/Amazon/Google integrations, gaming support, and other such features. Check out our top picks, shop today, and see which one is right for you.
Eric Liston • Author
Eric Liston is a content writer based in Columbus, Ohio. Since 2015, he’s been writing about technology, cord-cutting, and helping everyday people save money. He also has expertise writing about medicine, dentistry, insurance, and a variety of other industries. No matter what he’s writing, his focus is always on simplifying complex concepts and making them approachable for everyone. When he’s not slamming away on his keyboard at his home office, you’ll find Eric reading sci-fi novels, improving his disc golf game (he just hit his first 400-foot drive) and playing video games on his gaming PC.
Davan Hamilton • Editor
Davan Hamilton is an editor and writer based in Jacksonville, FL. Holding a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, her writing spans a wide range, from essays on film criticism and analysis to surreal poetry. Now, she works for Flixed as an editor, continuing to ignore the list of passion projects she’s accumulated. When she’s not glued to her computer, you can find her building endless amounts of Lego sets, binge-reading manga, or playing with (fighting) her cat.