With Netflix, Apple TV+, Disney+, we really are in a golden age of streaming. And to make the most of it, you need a great streaming device to access them all.
But which one is right for you? We can help you out. Here are the best 4K streaming devices available today.
If you’re tied into the Apple ecosystem, then the Apple TV 4K is probably the best TV streaming device for you. It’s rammed with features; there’s 4K HDR video and Dolby Atmos sound, multi-user support, and you get a Siri-enabled remote for voice controls. The box works with all major services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu.
Apple even throws in a full year of Apple TV+ for free. On top of that, you can play games through the Apple Arcade service using your Xbox One S or PlayStation Dual Shock 4 controllers. As for downsides, it’s pricey, of course, and YouTube support is limited—it can’t do either 4K or HDR.
Apple doesn’t have a monopoly on premium streaming gear. The Shield TV Pro is ridiculously powerful. In fact, the Shield TV Pro may even be the best streaming device available today. It offers everything you’d expect, plus a whole lot of unique features on top. Most interesting is that the box uses machine learning to upscale 720p and 1080p videos to 4K, and reviews suggest it’s really good at it.
The Shield TV Pro runs Android TV so you can add apps like the Kodi streaming player, and it’s compatible with both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. If that’s not enough, you also get access to Nvidia’s GeForce game streaming service. While the box only has 16GB of storage, you can use a USB flash drive or hard drive to add as much extra storage as you need.
Don’t want the gaming options? The slightly cheaper Shield TV, with its unusual cylindrical design, might be a better choice.
The Amazon Fire TV Cube is a 4K streaming box and an Amazon Echo smart speaker with Alexa into a single glossy box. It provides high quality video streaming, with support for the latest formats like Dolby Vision and HDR10+.
You can even use the box to control your TV or soundbar, plus countless other compatible smart home devices. It offers all the main streaming TV services, including Apple TV+. You can watch local videos, too, by connecting your own USB flash drive.
If you want the benefits of Android TV but don’t have the budget for an Nvidia Shield TV, the Xiaomi Mi Box S is the device for you. It supports the full range of streaming services, works with Google Assistant, has a Chromecast built-in, and is certified for Netflix UHD. You can also install your own choice of apps and games.
While it shares its looks with the Apple TV, the lower price does mean lower specs, with some compromises. Some users suggest it can be a little laggy, especially when playing 4K content. Maybe it’s a better choice if you’re happy to stick to 1080p content instead.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K is one of the cheapest 4K UHD streaming devices, and is may be the best 4K streaming device for most people. It’s a tiny stick but packs lots of power. There’s 4K HDR support, along with Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos. The Fire Stick 4K also has improved Wi-Fi performance over previous editions.
You get access to the full range of streaming services, including Prime Video, Netflix, YouTube, and Apple TV+, plus many more add-on channels, and rentals via Amazon. The impressive package is completed with Alexa integration, the ability to control your smart home devices, and support for many Android apps and basic games.
As good as the Fire TV Stick 4K is, it does heavily prioritize Amazon’s content and services. For a platform-agnostic alternative, you want the Roku Streaming Stick Plus. This Roku unit makes a strong claim to be the best 4K streaming device available right now. It comes with a voice remote and long-range Wi-Fi, which Roku says results in four times the coverage you’d normally expect.
For content, you get 4K HDR support, as well as 4K upscaling for 720p and 1080p videos. All the main channels and services—both free and paid—are here. Among the interesting extras is the Roku mobile app. It includes a clever private listening mode that lets you use headphones to listen to shows through your phone. You can set the volume to your preferred level without disturbing anyone else in your house.
Unlike the other devices here, Google’s Chromecast Ultra needs a smartphone to set up and control. It works with any Chromecast-enabled app. This includes options like Netflix and Hulu, all the way to video player apps like VLC, so you can cast the movies stored on your phone. The Chromecast Ultra is a dongle that hangs from the back of your television.
This design works well for TVs that have cramped HDMI ports. It’s also a great choice if you have slow Wi-Fi. There’s an ethernet port in the power adapter that lets you use a fast, stable wired connection instead. The Chromecast Ultra works with the Google Stadia games streaming platform. If gaming is your thing, it’s a no-brainer.
A cheaper alternative to the Streaming Stick Plus, the Roku Premiere Plus is a basic player with 4K HDR support and Roku’s trademark simple interface that makes it so easy to just plug in and use. The Premiere Plus is a very small dongle that hangs loose like a Chromecast, but also comes with a couple of pieces of velcro-lined tape that you can use to stick it to the side of your TV.
It has a basic voice remote and supports all the major streaming services, just like the other Roku products. Unlike the more high-end Roku streamers, it doesn’t offer the neat 4K upscaling option. You also don’t get the enhanced Wi-Fi performance. But if you’re on a tight budget, these compromises shouldn’t be deal-breakers.
The Best 4K Streaming Device for Your Home
There’s a lot of competition for the best 4K streaming device for 2019 and beyond. Deciding which one is right for you will depend mostly on your budget and whether you’re tied into a particular ecosystem by companies like Apple or Amazon.
Once you’ve made your choice, you can further upgrade your 4K viewing experience by picking up one of the best budget soundbars.