Best streaming devices in 2022

Plug and play bliss.

Nvidia Shield
Image: Nvidia

There’s more than one way to skin a cat, just like there’s more than one way to stream content onto your TV. Nowadays, most TVs come pre-built with streaming services built right into them. Netflix, Youtube, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video are commonly found built-in apps—right out of the TV box. Blu-ray players and video game consoles are also solid options for bringing content to the home screen. However, if the above options don’t have the specific features you’re looking for, a streaming device is the way to go.

True convenience is sticking a streaming device into an HDMI slot and instantly streaming favorite movies, shows, and applications on your TV, reducing messy cables. Many big names feature quality streaming devices, including Apple, Google, Amazon, and Roku. Each has a lot to offer, with at least some diversification between one another.

Apple TV 4K

Apple TV 4K
Image: Apple

Apple’s second-generation Apple TV isn’t cheap, but remains a quality media streamer, especially if you’re already part of the Apple ecosystem.

Back in 2017, Apple released the first generation Apple TV streaming box. Now, Apple’s new iteration features few visual changes, aside from the redesigned Siri Remote—featuring a more intuitive control wheel and overall design.

Wi-Fi 6 means speedier, more powerful wireless performance—great news if you’re streaming opposite the side of your home from where your modem is located. There’s still an ethernet jack for wired connectivity, too. The streaming device itself is identical to its predecessor, a miniature black box that makes little effort trying to stand out.

No need to re-learn software, because the tvOS is identical to the previous generation. The final result feels mostly polished, offering a speedy, smooth user experience while navigating. One key gripe is the premium price tag north of $200, far higher than any competitor. There’s also the choice between 32GB or 64GB, a $20 price jump to the latter. Users can enjoy one year of Apple TV+ with the purchase of the Apple TV 4K.

Google Chromecast

Google Chromecast
Image: Google

Google provides HD video streaming in an instant in their Google Chromecast. The Chromecast works the same as previous models, hooking directly into an available HDMI port on your TV. Then, the device acts as a receiver for streaming video from a paired smartphone, tablet, or PC through Google Home.

The best part of Google Chromecast is the Google Cast button that’s typically found on most streaming video apps, like Youtube. With the toggle of Google Cast, your smart device immediately scans for pairable devices. Once your Chromecast is married to your TV, you’ll be streaming video content from your device to your TV in no time.

One gripe about the Chromecast is Google Home, a required application to correctly set up your Chromecast. The software feels too simple for its own good, with tasks like pairing or disconnecting not always glaringly obvious to figure out. Also, lack of 4K may deter some, too. However, the Google Chromecast Ultra version supports 4K streaming, although it costs significantly more than the standard Chromecast.

For about $35.00, you’d be hard-pressed to find a streaming device as capable as the Google Chromecast.

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

Amazon Fire
Image: Amazon

4K media streaming on a budget is becoming more and more accessible. The Amazon Fire TV Stick achieves just that, supporting 4K streaming for about $50.

Once you plug the Fire TV Stick 4K into an available HDMI slot, find a power outlet, connect the stick to Wi-Fi via the on-screen instructions, and log into your Amazon account, you’re on your way. An Amazon Prime account isn’t necessary—a free account will do the trick—however, if you have Amazon Prime, you’ll immediately get access to streaming Prime Music and Prime Video upon logging in.

Amazon still rocks the same slim, rectangular design with the remote. A circular navigation pad makes filtering through endless apps with ease. No need to grab a second remote to adjust your TV’s power and volume, because the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K does just that. Albeit, changing the input is not possible with the included remote. Amazon Alexa is front and center, accessible with the press of a button. Simply press the mic button on the remote and ask a general task. For instance, “open Netflix.”

As far as capability, the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K streams in ultra high definition or 4K, including HDR media in HDR10 or Dolby Vision. The previous generation only supported HDR10, making the current generation a welcome improvement. Lack of an Ethernet adapter may deter some, although an optional adapter is available for about $15.

Nvidia Shield TV

Nvidia Shield
Image: Nvidia

Despite launching back in 2019, Nvidia’s take on the streaming device market still holds up. The Nvidia Shield TV boasts excellent streaming capability, housed in a cylindrical, stealthy-like design that looks like nothing else on the market.

The Nvidia Shield TV features AI upscaling, a technology able to take content of lower resolution than your TV’s own panel and optimize it to look better, sharper, and more detailed. Typically this type of technology is only seen on high-end smart TVs. Using AI upscaling, enhance HD video in real-time to 4K for clearer, crisper visuals.

An updated remote offers a more user-friendly experience, thanks to a clean design, slightly grooved-in navigation wheel, and individually lit-up buttons—essential while fumbling about in the dark.

Powered by the Nvidia Tegra X1+ processor, Nvidia boasts the most powerful Android TV streaming media player in the Shield. Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos surround sound are welcome sights, delivering vivid picture quality and immersive audio. Gigabit Ethernet, dual-band AC Wi-Fi (support for both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz channels), a built-in power supply, and a microSD card slot for storage expansion mean the Nvidia Shield TV is packed with useful features.

Easily activate the built-in voice control, granting Google Assistant to do exactly what you want, whether it’s viewing photos, checking the weather, or opening up either Google Play Games or GeForce NOW, each offering AAA games like Fortnite. The Nvidia Shield TV isn’t cheap, hovering at the $150 price point. That’s still cheaper than the Apple TV 4K, though.

Roku Streaming Stick 4K

Image: Roku

Watching 4K HDR content from loads of streaming apps is easy thanks to the Roku Streaming Stick 4K.

Roku’s new 4K installment improves upon the Roku Streaming Stick+, offering access to various apps and services. Also, it allows users to stream from iOS devices via Apple AirPlay—great news for Apple enthusiasts who don’t wish to pay a premium for the Apple TV 4K.

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K streams 4K HDR content in HDR10, paired with Dolby Vision support and HDR10+, welcome improvements that were only available on the more premium Roku Ultra.

The stick itself offers a subtle, sleek design that doesn’t go over the top in any way. Rounded sides are a nice addition, too. Opposite the side that plugs into any available HDMI slot is a micro USB port and reset button. In other words, the essentials. For on-the-go travel, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K is the device for the job, easily fitting into a small pocket or bag—ready to go.

TiVo Stream 4K

Image: TiVo

In an attempt to tangle with the big names—Amazon, Google, Apple—TiVo provides an affordable and capable media streamer in the TiVo Stream 4K, with a user experience TV lovers should consider.

Coming in around $40 (on sale for $30 at the time of this writing), the TiVo Stream 4K plugs into the back of your TV and provides countless apps and services at your fingertips. An HDMI cord protrudes out a few inches from the box itself, with the unit hanging down once operational. If you’re a fan of Android TV, good news, because TiVo Stream 4K uses Android TV paired with Google Assistant for ease of functionality.

With TV enthusiasts in mind, TiVo Stream 4K provides live television through Sling TV and YouTube TV, without the need for traditional cable services. With Sling TV and YouTube TV, narrowing down TV shows curated to you proves easy, without the annoyance of paying for unwanted channels. A Sling TV or YouTube TV subscription is required (and sold separately) to access live TV and DVR from these providers.

There’s a lot going on with the interface, more cluttered compared to competitors like the Google Chromecast or Apple TV. 4K resolution support, supported high dynamic range in both HDR10 and Dolby Vision means the TiVo Stream 4K contends with the big names.

For an affordable price, the TiVo Stream 4K is a solid media streamer that’s especially curated for users who subscribe to Sling TV or YouTube TV.

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