The 11 Best Streaming Devices for Every Home

Michelle Ricker By Michelle Ricker July 20, 2021

Summary: If you’re looking to take your home entertainment experience to the next level, you’re probably in the market for a streaming device. But with tons of options and varied price points, how do you choose? Can you mix brands? (Can you cross the streams?) We’ve chosen 11 of the top-selling devices across three price points so you can make a well-educated decision on what works best for your household and lifestyle.

More and more consumers are choosing to cut the cord from cable (46 million U.S. households are estimated to cut their TV cord by 2024), and streaming media is becoming king. But there are tons of different streaming devices to choose from — from sticks to gaming consoles to smart TVs. How do you choose? And do the other devices already in your home make a difference?

We’re breaking down the basics by entry level, mid-range, and top tier devices. But first, let’s explain the differences between a streaming device and a gaming console that also streams. And why all of them count on high-speed internet to function best.

Streaming Devices vs. Gaming Consoles

Some gaming consoles offer streaming services (think the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, or Nintendo Switch). The presentation of services may differ from other devices, but you can still watch services like Netflix or Hulu on many consoles.

However, if you’re solely looking for a streaming device, we wouldn’t necessarily recommend buying a gaming console. They’re more expensive than streaming devices (several hundred dollars) because they’re made to do something else primarily — gaming. If you’re simply looking to something to give you a great music and video experience, you’ll probably do better with a streaming device.

Graphic that states most streaming platforms recommend a speed of 5 Mbps for HD and 25 Mbps for Ultra HD or 4K

When it comes to streaming devices, you’ve got tons of options. We’ve looked at 11 of them across three different price points so you can find the one that’s best for your entertainment lifestyle.

What are the Differences Between Streaming Devices?

The basics of all the streaming devices is the same: creating an easier way to view your subscriptions and their content in one spot, and on your TV instead of your web browser. Beyond that, features do vary depending on the type. Some, like a Roku, are designed to work with just about any other smart home devices you have (including voice-activated speakers) and any streaming subscriptions. Others, like Apple TV, work best with devices from the same brand.

The other smart home devices you have (or plan to get), the number of streaming subscriptions, and your home entertainment system’s specs will all influence your decision on what streaming device is best. For example, entry-level devices typically only stream up to 1080p. So, if you have a 4K TV, you’ll want to opt for a 4K streaming device to match.

Of course, things get a little more complicated than that, so we broke down the best-selling options for you.

Compare Entry-Level Streaming Devices

If you’re not an avid streamer — maybe you subscribe to one or two platforms — you can probably get by with a basic device to start off with. They have less capability (and sometimes lower graphic resolution) but are also at a more accessible price point.

Roku Express Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite Apple TV HD Chromecast Streaming Media Player
Maximum Resolution 1080p 1080p 1080p 1080p
Platform Roku Amazon Apple Google
Unique Channels All Major Channels All Major Channels Free trial of Apple TV+ included All Major Channels
Pairing with other platforms Works with Apple, Google, and Alexa Does not work with Google Assistant Works best with Apple devices but can be used on other platforms. Requires an Apple ID account. Does not work with Amazon Alexa
Wired Option No No Yes No
Voice Control Works with other voice assistants Yes, Alexa Yes, Siri No

Compare Mid-Range Streaming Devices

If you’re looking for something more than a starter device but don’t need the top-of-the-line specs, you can level up without breaking the bank.

Roku Streaming Stick+ Amazon Fire TV Stick  TiVo Stream 4K
Maximum Resolution 4K 1080p 4K
Platform Roku Amazon Android TV
Unique Channels All Major Channels All Major Channels, option to add Fire TV All Major Channels, but does not support Apple TV
Pairing with other platforms Works with all other brands Does not work with Google Assistant Works with all other brands
Wired Option No Yes No
Voice Control No Yes, Alexa Yes, Google Assistant

Compare Top-of-the-Line Streaming Devices

If you’re seriously into streaming — or your home entertainment system — a top-of-the-line device could be the best fit. Some, like the Roku Streambar Pro, even enhance your sound system while taking streaming to the next level.

*The Apple TV 4K will be available in Fall 2021.

Roku Streambar Pro Amazon Fire TV Cube Apple TV 4K* Chromecast with Google TV
Maximum Resolution 4K 4K 4K 4K
Platform Roku Amazon Apple Android TV
Unique Channels All Major Channels All Major Channels, option to add Fire TV Free trial of Apple TV+ included All Major Channels
Pairing with other platforms Works with Apple, Google, and Alexa Does not work with Google Assistant Works best with Apple devices but can be used on other platforms. Requires an Apple ID account. Does not work with Amazon Alexa
Wired Option No Yes Yes Yes, but requires an additional accessory
Voice Control Yes Yes, Alexa Yes, Siri Yes

Why Internet Speed Matters When It Comes to Streaming

In addition to the type of streaming device you have, your internet speed also matters. Most streaming platforms recommend a speed of 5 Mbps for streaming in HD, and 25 Mbps for streaming in Ultra HD or 4K.

5 Mbps to stream might seem low — but remember, that’s one person streaming on one device, and not using an internet connection on any other devices. And that’s probably not true for most of us. If you’re prone to scrolling social media while watching TV, or typically have multiple people in the house streaming at the same time, you’ll need faster speeds. (Wondering how much speed you need? We’ve got the ultimate guide.)

An inline ad stating, "Your smart home deserves smarter internet."

Generally speaking, the more devices you have in your household, the more speed you’ll need to avoid a bottleneck. Smart home devices like doorbell cameras, speakers, and thermostats also require data and speed, and take up space on your high-speed internet plan.

How to Choose a Streaming Device

A streaming device can consolidate your favorite content into one place and offer higher resolutions than your laptop screen. With a variety of price points, features, and operating system compatibility, there’s something for everyone. While you can mix brands (like using Apple TV on an Android phone), you’ll have the most seamless experience by adding on with a brand you already invest in (like Apple TV with an iPhone) or a third party (like Roku) that works with all major providers and channels.

And, if you’re constantly streaming, it’s time to look for a high-speed internet service provider with no data caps. That means you can watch — and rewatch — as many episodes as you like without worrying about overage fees or speed throttling. No more having to think twice when faced with the question, “Are you still watching?”

Michelle Ricker

Michelle Ricker

Michelle Ricker is a Copywriter for EarthLink. She recently graduated from the University of Cincinnati with an M.A. in Communication and has more than 5 years of writing experience. She thrives on storytelling and well-placed punctuation. She currently lives and works in Atlanta.

See all posts from Michelle Ricker.

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