Best streaming gadgets for 2024: Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, and extra

There are two sorts of individuals on this world: Those who use no matter is constructed into their TV to entry all their streaming providers, and people who know there’s nearly actually one thing higher on the market.

There’s nothing inherently unsuitable with the previous group of individuals. Smart TVs include built-in working methods like Roku, Amazon Fire TV, or Google TV working the present, through which case you are well-covered. And bespoke TV working methods — like LG’s webOS, Samsung’s Tizen, and even Vizio’s Home Screen/Smartcast — have gotten higher in recent times.

But there’s nonetheless a purpose to think about an exterior streaming gadget, be it a stick or a field or a puck. (The kind issue does not actually matter all that a lot; we simply want one thing to name it.) Maybe you might have an older TV, however need extra up-to-date options and apps. Or possibly you need extra present safety, which maybe is much more essential. Or possibly you are simply sad with what’s in-built to your TV. Maybe you need all the additional bells and whistles, like Apple’s native AirPlay function or Google’s Chromecast. Then there’s the truth that each of these working methods nearly actually have a greater on-screen keyboard.

Or possibly you simply wish to have “the best” possibility. That’s subjective, after all, however we receives a commission to make powerful decisions. So here is what we expect are the most effective exterior streaming gadgets going into 2024. Some are newer than others. Some shall be changed within the months to return. All will serve you properly.

But, sure, we do have a favourite.

apple tv 4k 2022 review gen 3 10
Zeke Jones/Digital Trends

Apple TV 4K (Late 2022)

The greatest total streaming gadget

  • Lightning fast navigation
  • Gorgeous Audio and Video output
  • Feature-packed
  • Extremely Powerful
  • Intuitive, uncluttered interface
  • Several options unique to Apple customers

It’s nonetheless the best, most constant expertise you may get, with a comparatively open-ended shelf life, and the late 2022 mannequin has gotten that significantly better. And these within the Apple ecosystem could make use of a few of the additional options, it is not only for these with iPhones and iPads. In the world of $50 streaming sticks that completely can get the job executed and get it executed properly, it is maybe somewhat onerous to suggest one thing that prices three or 4 or 5 occasions as a lot. And to be clear, Apple TV 4K does not do three or 4 or 5 occasions as a lot as its opponents. In truth, you can also make the argument that it does rather less. More on that in a second. But what it does do, it tends to do higher — and with fewer complications.

What you get for that extra cash is {hardware} that ought to darn close to final without end. (Just ask anybody who’s nonetheless fortunately utilizing the original Apple TV 4K, released in 2017.)

It’s tempting to say that the third-generation mannequin is almost similar to what was launched with Gen 2 in 2021. And that is principally true, insofar as what the top consumer sees. The field itself is somewhat smaller, having gotten rid of the fan that you just in all probability by no means heard anyway. And the internals have been spruced up, too. It’s now powered by the A15 Bionic processor, which supplies loads of headroom. And there’s now help for HDR 10+, which is essential in the event you personal a Samsung TV. (Samsung does not help Dolby Vision.)

There additionally now are two fashions from which to decide on. One has 32GB of storage and solely makes use of Wi-Fi for connectivity. You do not want this model. Probably.

What it’s best to actually have a look at is the one which prices $20 extra and consists of Ethernet (of the super-fast Gigabit selection), in addition to help for Thread and Matter. Those latter bits are new requirements for smart-home connectivity, which permit gadgets to speak to one another immediately. You may not care about that now, however it’s the way forward for sensible residence tech. Between that it having double the on-board storage capability (and to be truthful, 64GB is sort of actually an excessive amount of, however no person ever regretted having an excessive amount of storage), that is the mannequin it’s best to contemplate.

And that is all adopted up by software program updates that can span years sooner or later. The fourth-generation Apple TV — the final to prime out at HD decision and which is now referred to solely as “Apple TV HD” — launched in 2015 is nonetheless supported on tvOS. So there’s loads of purpose to imagine that an Apple TV 4K bought right now ought to final not less than 5 years, insofar because the software program is worried.

Apple’s tvOS is much more easy than its present telephone and pill software program. The residence display is app icons, and that is it. No actual suggestions of reveals or films or dwell channels. No promoting. Nothing that overwhelms. That simplicity in and of itself might be price the additional cash.

Those who’re all-in with Apple’s ecosystem additionally will get the added bonus of issues like AirPlay 2 and HomePackage — in addition to ridiculously slick integration of utilizing your iPhone or iPad for the on-screen keyboard. But even in the event you’re not, you may nonetheless be capable to snag all of the apps you would presumably want in your residence viewing expertise. And they’re all executed in accordance with Apple’s developer requirements, that are decidedly greater than different platforms on this checklist.

Apple TV 4K is not cheap. But it is nonetheless the most effective.

Is an replace coming quickly? This mannequin is greater than a 12 months previous going into 2024, and it would not shock us to see a brand new one within the coming 12 months. But the late-2022 mannequin will stay supported for years. If you need one now, purchase one now.

Apple TV 4K (2022) Wi-Fi + Ethernet
Apple TV 4K (Late 2022)
The greatest total streaming gadget

Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

Nvidia Shield (2019)

The next-best streaming gadget

  • Great for sport streaming
  • Good number of apps
  • Excellent AI upscaling
  • Doesn’t include a sport controller
  • No included HDMI cable

The greatest {hardware} that is not Apple, plus an important possibility for avid gamers, the Shield (additionally also known as “Shield TV”) has a historical past courting again to 2015. That historical {hardware}, working Nvidia’s Tegra X1 processor, was overpowered for the time and retains that authentic field working simply positive right now.

The most up-to-date Shield, launched in 2019, is available in two flavors. Both add Dolby Vision into the combo, along with Dolby Atmos decoding. The non-Pro mannequin is available in a cylindrical physique for some purpose. The Pro has extra RAM and doubles the onboard storage to 16GB (each fashions nonetheless enable for exterior storage) and is supposed for gaming through Nvidia’s G-Force Now system. And the Tegra X1+ processor is pretty much as good now because it was at launch. Additionally, Nvidia does an important job at guaranteeing much more longevity to its gadgets with frequent updates that convey extra options and capabilities to the field.

Is a brand new one coming in 2024? Frankly, we do not know. It’s superb that Shield continues to be out there, and much more superb that it is nonetheless pretty much as good as it’s. That’s a testomony to the {hardware}.

Nvidia Shield TV (2019)
Nvidia Shield (2019)
The next-best streaming gadget

roku streaming stick 4k review 2021 2
Phil Nickinson/Digital Trends / Digital Trends

Roku Streaming Stick 4K and 4K+

The better of the cheap streaming gadgets

  • Affordable
  • Easy to make use of
  • All the options you need
  • Roku’s promoting scheme means monitoring

Roku is the grandfather of streaming, again earlier than it actually turned a factor. It stays as simple to make use of as ever, with “Channels” taking the place of apps. They’re actually the identical factor, and one Roku gadget works precisely the identical as the following. It’s only a matter of what specs and options you get at what value.

The Streaming Stick 4K and Streaming Stick 4K+ are similar, insofar because the sticks themselves go. You get 4K UHD decision, help for Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, and improved Wi-Fi over earlier fashions. The “Plus” aspect of the equation comes with the inclusion of the Roku Voice Remote Pro, which supplies you hands-free voice management. Just say “Hey, Roku,” and the distant will hear you and execute your instructions. It does so at a $20 premium ($50 and $70, respectively), which is price it if that hands-free stuff and personal listening through a headphone jack are essential to you.

Rokus’s working system will get pretty regular updates, too, which normally brings some new options, interface updates, and entry to new content material. Here’s out explainer on how to update your Roku, simply in case.

Roku has actually began to face out up to now couple of years with its inclusion of free reveals and flicks by itself distribution supply, the aptly named The Roku Channel. The collection and flicks are all supported by promoting. There’s lots of previous content material that you will acknowledge, in addition to new authentic content material. It additionally has dipped its toes into the realm of extra customary authentic content material with its personal collection, and presumably extra is on the best way.

Advertising-based content material means extra monitoring, nonetheless, and that is simply one thing you might have to bear in mind in terms of Roku. But it is onerous to argue towards the worth proposition of the Streaming Stick 4K.

Is a brand new one coming in 2024? Given that the present mannequin was launched in September 2021, it would not shock us within the slightest to see a brand new mannequin in 2024. The solely query is when.

Roku Streaming Stick 4K+ (2021)
Roku Streaming Stick 4K and 4K+
The better of the cheap streaming gadgets

amazon fire tv 4k max 2nd gen review stick 16
Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max

Also nice, however for many who don’t desire Roku

  • Same nice Fire TV expertise
  • Double the storage
  • Improved processor
  • Faster Wi-Fi
  • Price is true
  • Doesn’t embody the most effective Alexa distant
  • Waiting on some new AI options
  • Laggy interactions

If Roku simply is not your factor otherwise you want the native Amazon and Alexa expertise, a Fire TV stick is likely to be the one for you. The authentic Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K has been an important purchase for a few years now. Making it extra “Max” simply made it that significantly better, and it has been up to date as of September 2023. The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max now has newer internals with a quicker processor, Wi-Fi 6E, and continued help for Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. It ships with the most recent Alexa Voice Remote, which does not embody hands-free voice entry, however does have correct tv controls.

What it does not change is similar nice expertise you may get with Amazon Fire TV OS. While the house display should still be a bit busy for some, that is only a testomony to how a lot nice content material is offered within the Amazon ecosystem. Start with Amazon Prime Video, after all, which has all the flicks and collection you would presumably need, in addition to greater than its share of nice authentic content material.

And that is all earlier than you get to all of the third-party streaming apps, video games, and different choices out there on Amazon Fire TV. The Amazon Fire TV Stick stays a wonderful alternative and one which’s powerful to beat.

The 2023 mannequin of the Fire TV Stick 4K Max Max is also the primary stick with have Amazon’s Ambient Experience (beforehand restricted to its Omni collection of televisions). You get a variety of actually good screensavers, or you should utilize your personal photographs as backgrounds for if you’re not truly watching TV. Plus, it has widgets of various levels of usefulness.

Any actual complaints now we have right here are typically in efficiency. This continues to be a low-cost gadget, and laggy graphics and cargo occasions often remind us of that truth.

Is a brand new one coming in 2024? This model was launched within the fall of 2023 and is unlikely to be up to date anytime quickly. But Amazon could properly replace the Fire TV Cube, which has completely different options and is dearer.

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max (2023)
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max
Also nice, however for many who don’t desire Roku

The device overlay for the Onn 4K Pro Streaming Device.
Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

Onn 4K Pro Streaming Device

Meet the brand new Chromecast wWith Google TV

  • Stock Google TV expertise
  • Faster than Chromecast
  • Better distant management
  • Hands-free voice management
  • Can’t disguise it behind a TV

The Onn 4K Pro Streaming Device is from Walmart’s in-house electronics model, and it means you possibly can cease ready for Google to launch a successor to its 2020 Chromecast With Google TV. You get the identical inventory (if a bit busy) Google TV expertise, with out the lag that saddled the underpowered Chromecast.

The distant management additionally is best than Chromecast’s, with a devoted customized button that may launch an app or select one other gadget enter. Plus there’s the built-in remote-finder perform and microphones built-in into the gadget physique for true hands-free voice instructions.

And it ticks all of the essential specs packing containers, like Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos.

In different phrases, it is quicker than Chromecast, and does greater than Chromecast — all for a similar value.

Onn 4K Pro
Onn 4K Pro Streaming Device
Meet the brand new Chromecast wWith Google TV

Frequently Asked Questions

How will we take a look at?

We test our streaming players over a interval of days or even weeks, replicating precisely the way you’d use them in real-life situations. That consists of testing them for pace, comfort, intuitiveness, and quite a lot of options. Accessibility to all kinds of apps can also be essential — in spite of everything, most TVs and Blu-ray gamers already are arrange for primary streaming — so a delegated streamer ought to provide one thing extra.

But past that — we watch TV, too. We use these gadgets day after day, 12 months after 12 months. We dwell with them, simply as you may dwell with them.

A streamer may need the most effective {hardware} on this planet, however this gained’t matter in the event you can solely watch content material from one streaming service. To meet our customary, a streaming media participant ideally helps all or a lot of the main content material suppliers, in addition to all kinds of newer options like 4K Ultra HD and HDR. Finally, we have a look at how a lot high quality and what number of options you get on a dollar-by-dollar scale to make sure every of our prime streamers isn’t solely an important expertise but additionally an important worth.

What are the variations between streaming platforms?

Roku: Roku’s interface is constant throughout each mannequin, whether or not you’re speaking the top-of-the-line Roku Ultra or the entry-level Roku Express. There is also a sure look to Roku apps (which the platform calls “Channels”), and also you gained’t discover interface variations throughout completely different apps as a lot as you may on different platforms.

As we’ve talked about earlier than, you’ll discover almost each streaming service or channel you care about represented right here, and in contrast to sure different platforms, you gained’t discover any gaps, with the notable exception of iTunes, which is barely out there on Apple streamers.

Amazon: Like Roku, Amazon gives a single expertise throughout a bevy of gadgets. It’s bought 4 Streaming Sticks at numerous costs, the Fire TV Cube, which gives the identical options plus hands-free voice management, various Fire TV televisions with the working system built-in, and third-party soundbars that even have Fire TV OS built-in.

Apple TV: As you may count on, Apple TV gadgets are designed to supply a seamless expertise, particularly when paired with different Apple merchandise. In addition to providing an enormous variety of streaming apps, the Apple TV platform additionally helps Apple Arcade, Apple TV+, and Apple Fitness+, and may even act because the grasp management for HomeKit devices. HomePackage-compatible safety cameras, for example, could be streamed to the Apple TV with only a few clicks.

The Apple TV app (sure, there’s an app that goes by the identical identify because the gadget) is definitely a curated and customized interface for shopping content material out of your favourite streaming providers in addition to being the official residence of Apple TV+. Other options embody watch lists, watch subsequent, and devoted tabs for sports activities and dwell TV.

Apple would favor that customers purchase and lease content material through iTunes, so that you gained’t presently discover an app for Google Play Movies and TV. There’s a workaround: Make certain you are signed into the YouTube app, and your purchases ought to present up. Failing that, Google Play gives a mobile app that permits content material to be streamed to an Apple TV through AirPlay— however solely from an iOS gadget.

Android TV (Nvidia Shield, Chromecast with Google TV): Android TV is somewhat completely different from the opposite choices right here in that producers can put their very own spin on the interface, just like telephone producers with Android.

You’ll discover that many apps exhibit loads of individuality on Shield TV and Chromecast with Google TV, which contrasts with the visible in-app consistency with Roku apps. Generally talking, Android TV gadgets embody the Google Assistant for voice instructions and sensible residence management, and so they have Chromecast built-in, too.

Google has been slowly migrating Android TV over to the Google TV interface, which debuted on the Chromecast with Google TV. This interface de-emphasizes particular person apps in favor of a curated and customized content material advice structure that’s arguably far more useful when looking for one thing to look at.

Chromecast: Until the debut of the most recent model of Chromecast with Google TV, Chromecast ran fully on the magical energy of casting — i.e., beaming content material from one gadget wirelessly to your TV. Everything in regards to the Chromecast was managed through your casting gadget — together with app search, content material playback, and even non-public listening modes — whether or not that is an Android or iOS smartphone or pill, a Windows PC, or a Mac.

But the brand new Chromecast with Google TV adjustments that script, bringing in a useful distant management and on-screen interface. Essentially, this new $50 dongle is the most effective of each worlds.

Words and phrases it is advisable know
  • 4K ultra HD: While now not the best decision out there (that title goes to 8K), 4K UHD is the best decision with vital help from content material creators and distributors. At round 4 occasions that of 1080p HD (3840 x 2160), it is the usual for all however the costliest new TVs.

  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi: Superseded by Wi-Fi 6, 802.11ac continues to be lots quick — quick sufficient even for streaming 4K HDR content material — however it’s not as dependable (or as quick) as Ethernet.

  • Android TV: An app-centric sensible TV platform powered by Google’s Android software program and out there throughout sensible TVs, set-top packing containers, and extra.

  • Google TV: A curated and customized sensible TV interface that runs on prime of the Android TV software program. We count on that Google will finally make the Google TV expertise the default for all Android TV gadgets.

  • Casting: A time period popularized by Google for making content material discovered on a cell gadget or PC seem on a TV or wi-fi speaker.

  • High dynamic range (HDR): Short for top dynamic vary, HDR gives higher distinction, higher brightness, and extra colours than customary dynamic vary (SDR). It’s thought-about by many to be a extra notable visible enchancment than the leap from 1080p Full HD to 4K Ultra HD decision. Not all media streamers help it, and of people who do, not every flavor of HDR is essentially supported.

  • HDR10: The most generally adopted HDR format. If you purchase an HDR TV, it might help different codecs too, however it’s going to at all times have HDR10.

  • Dolby Vision: A dynamic HDR format (versus the static HDR10), Dolby Vision has a number of benefits, similar to the flexibility to gauge your HDR TV’s capabilities and tailor the HDR expertise. Not all TVs or media streamers help it, nonetheless, so you’ll want to verify the specs before you purchase.

  • HDR10+: A license and royalty-free dynamic HDR format that competes with Dolby Vision. It initially confirmed up on Samsung TVs (which don’t provide Dolby Vision), nonetheless, it’s now gaining traction amongst different TV makers like TCL and Vizio. So far, solely a handful of streaming video providers, like Amazon Prime Video, help HDR10+.

  • Dolby Atmos: A expertise that permits sound designers to specify the positioning of audio in an immersive, 3D soundstage. Sounds could be positioned wherever round a room, bringing you deep contained in the motion on-screen. Dolby Atmos sound methods can embody multi-thousand-dollar setups with put in ceiling audio system, however may also be had in a $200 soundbar that creates a digital Atmos expertise from as few as two channels. Support for this sound format varies from gadget to gadget, and never all streaming providers provide Dolby Atmos content material. Those that do, do not provide it on all of their TV reveals and flicks.

  • Single sign-on (SSO): A function that permits customers to make use of a single login to mechanically sign up to all linked apps, supplied they help the function. This is supported by every of the gadgets we have picked right here, however it requires an account by means of a paid TV supplier.

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