When it comes to buying the best streaming devices on the market, people often wonder whether it is even necessary to buy them. After all, most televisions these days are shipped with smart features.
However, the issue is that even though most TVs are considered “smart” these days, they still lack some feature or the other for a smooth experience, especially since certain streaming apps are only compatible with external streaming boxes.
With a ton of them on the market, choosing one becomes a difficult task. For this reason, we tested some top streaming devices, narrowed it down to the three best ones, and reviewed them in detail for you.
We tried out several streaming devices from the budget-friendly to the high-end ones. The three we ended up with are some of the best ones in their price range and have fantastic features. Let us take a close look at each of them.
Roku Express comes with a streaming stick along with a remote control. The stick, which is powered through the micro USB port, measures 0.7 by 3.4 by 1.4 inches, which takes very little space even when you travel with it. The remote control is only slightly bigger and allows for easy and quick operations.
This device also comes with a two-foot-long HDMI cable along with double-sided adhesive tape if you want to stick any of the device’s content on the TV or any surface to keep it out of sight. Furthermore, it features an 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi antenna.
In all honesty, we would call the Roku Express’ performance just satisfactory. We would prefer a faster loading time and quicker connections, but for the price you pay for this device, the performance is adequate enough.
The device will typically take about 30 seconds to start up and about a minute to load all the content. We consider this an above-average performance. Expect delays if your Wi-Fi connection is slow.
It is also important to note that the Roku Express can only handle streaming up to 1080p. So, if your Netflix or Prime shows comes in Ultra HD, you may have to consider either Roku’s Premiere line of media players or another device altogether.
When it comes to content, you will find the top players like Amazon Prime, HBO, Netflix, Hulu, Movies, and Google Play TV. Nevertheless, there are still thousands of other channels, which you may have never heard of. You are likely to find all your favorite shows and movies. Even for highly specific content, you will likely find it on Roku’s storefront.
Amazon Fire Stick is one of the most popular streaming devices in the world. Design wise, it is simple and easy to use. It measures at 3.4 by 1.2 by 0.5 inches and weighs just about an ounce.
It comes with a remote control with quick access buttons and navigation. It also has a microphone, which will easily allow you to find, launch, and even control the content by speaking into it.
The Fire Stick comes with an HDMI cable and a micro USB port to power it. Internally, the device has upgraded quite a bit from its previous version.
The Wi-Fi antenna has been upgraded to 802.11ac standard to reduce buffering, and it now features a quad-core CPU. The sound technology has also been upgraded to a 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, and the Bluetooth connectivity to version 4.1.
The Fire Stick is undoubtedly a speedy device. It loads content almost instantly (depending on Wi-Fi speed), you can scroll through menus quickly, and even boots quite fast.
The UI is straightforward with recently accessed shows on the top and new content right below. The downside, though, is that it is not compatible with 4K video content; 1080p is the highest.
What we truly loved is the Alexa Voice Remote. If you have tried Amazon’s Echo Smart speakers, then you are well aware of how accurate this voice recognition software is. However, this function is limited to searching show titles only, unlike the one in the speakers.
The Fire Stick contains thousands of apps, channels, and Alexa skills. You can access content from Hulu, Netflix, Showtime, NBC, YouTube, and much more. Additionally, with a subscription from DIRECTV or SlingTV, you can access live TV and sports channels like ESPN, Fox, AMC, and the likes.
The NVIDIA Shield is an interesting mix of unique slants, crisscross lines, and stark angles, unlike the previous two devices. The device is five inches wide with a durable plastic build. The box has a Gigabit Ethernet port, two USB 3.0 ports, and HDMI 2.0.
While it does feature an 802.11ac Wi-Fi antenna, you’re most likely to get consistent GeForce Now gaming and 4K video streaming through the ethernet cable from the router directly to the box. The device comes with a remote control to easily control the media player and also a controller for gaming. The controller boasts 60 hours battery life.
Streaming with the NVIDIA Shield is far more consistent, especially if you have a wired connection. The 4K works brilliantly without any buffering.
In fact, even the audio is sensational as it supports a pass-through of 5.1 and 7.1 audio Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos, DTS-X and DTS Core Audio Streams.
Moreover, the GeForce Now service offers a far smoother gaming experience and rarely disconnects. This makes it the perfect blend for video streaming and gaming.
At present, this device supports Netflix, Vudu, Google Play Movies, Amazon, and TV in 4K UHD. All these look phenomenal when streaming through the Shield. Furthermore, this also supports 360-degree video on YouTube. Additionally, you can also find hundreds of other apps with countless content in them for viewing at any time you like.
These three are the best streaming devices on the market in their respective categories. Each of them is different in their own ways, but are guaranteed to leave you with a phenomenal experience.
That being said, if we have to choose one among them, it would be the Amazon Fire Stick. Compared to the Roku Express, the Fire Stick is a better streaming device with more features. Furthermore, it is Amazon’s own product, so you are certain it will live up to the same high standard.
The NVIDIA Sheild is a brilliant product too. However, it is meant for gamers only. So, if the aim is only to stream TV shows and movies, then it will definitely not deliver the most value for money.