All products and services featured are independently selected by Forbes Shopping contributors and editors. When you make a purchase through links on this page, we may earn a commission. Learn more
The best media streaming devices of today are leaps and bounds ahead of their predecessors. They’re small, powerful, high resolution picture delivery machines that give you access to the best movies and TV shows available on demand. Some of them even include voice command support, and have their own onboard storage for offline viewing or recording live TV.
Whether you like to browse the latest Netflix originals or want to catch up on your favorite sporting events, the best TV and movie streamers will give you access to absolutely anything you want to watch. And they’ll do it at a fair price too. Here are the best TV streaming devices you can buy in 2021.
The latest and greatest version of Roku’s popular streaming device, the Streaming Stick+ has full support for all of the most important image and audio standards, including 4K resolution, HDR10, and Dolby Atmos, and has the same fantastic, voice-activated remote control that has been a winner for Roku for years.
It’s a lightweight, lean device that will easily tuck away behind your TV, but with support for Wi-Fi 5 wireless technology, there’s no concern of it dropping connection to your router, or from losing access to your remote control; even from across the other side of your living room.
It has access to all of the major streaming platforms, including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus, Hulu, Sling, ABC, HBO Now, and ESPN, as well as options for children, like Cosmic Kids Yoga, and Minecraft TV. Services can be locked behind pin codes for more adult-content, and if you want to watch something without disturbing anyone else, you can always use the companion mobile app to listen to the audio through some headphones.
For those with their own expansive, local network media collections too, you can integrate your Roku device with the capable Plex ecosystem, giving you easy access to everything you’ve ever owned. All at an affordable price.
As much as Amazon’s line of Fire Stick devices are popular alternatives to the likes of Roku’s Stick+ and Google’s Chromecast range, the Fire TV Cube is more of a category in and of itself. It’s more like an Alexa-equipped Echo device with TV connectivity than a TV streaming device.
It’s an Echo-like smart speaker which can play music and tell you jokes on its own, but with far more capabilities. Instead of merely receiving information from other smart devices, the Fire TV Cube can actively control them. You can use Alexa voice commands to tell your TV to do whatever you want, from turning it on, to changing channel, to adjusting the volume on your attached soundbar. It even lets you control other Alexa-compatible devices, like security cameras and LED lighting.
If you’re worried about privacy, the built-in microphone kill switch lets you turn off the passive listening function when you need to talk about something private.
Along with its high-end voice support, the Fire TV Cube’s onboard, eight-core processor makes it more than equipped to handle 4K, HDR10, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos content, across all of the popular and niche streaming services. It even includes 16GB of storage for recording your favorite shows and movies to, and has an Ethernet adapter for high-speed network access.
The only reason this doesn’t top the list as the best streaming TV device is its price. Its fantastic feature set does justify the cost, but it’s not one everyone will be willing to pay.
If you’re an Android phone user and like to cast your device to your TV, or use your phone as a remote control for watching YouTube and other streaming services, Google’s Chromecast range is an awesome solution, and the best of them is the Chromecast Ultra. It builds on the fantastic support and seamless design of the third-generation Chromecast, but adds support for 4K resolution and HDR.
That does mean that this device comes without a remote, but your Android phone gives you far more functionality than a standard infrared remote control. You’ll be able to adjust volume, enable subtitles, fast forward and rewind, and even learn more about the show or film your watching while you do it on your second screen.
You can tweak the Chromecast Ultra directly with Google’s Home app, and that allows it to integrate with other Home compatible devices like the Google Nest Mini, Nest Hub, Nest Thermostat, Phillips smart bulbs and Home smart speaker, among others.
It also supports Google Assistant, if that’s your AI of choice, which makes the Chromecast Ultra a great pick for iPhone users too — though there is an alternative you might want to consider below, instead.
If you don’t have a 4K enabled TV, then you can opt for the standard Chromecast instead and cut the price of your new TV streaming device in half, while retaining most of the same benefits. There’s no need to buy something that’s 4K compatible if your display can’t render it.
The Apple TV has gone through multiple iterations over the years and the latest, fifth generation is the best of the bunch. It’s arguably the best TV streaming devices overall, but with its focus on Apple features and devices, it’s certainly the best one for Apple fans.
Built atop Apple’s own A10X Fusion processor, this streaming device is powerful and capable, offering fantastic support for 4K and HDR content, as well as Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos visual and auditory features. Like many of its contemporaries, it offers full voice support through Apple’s Siri service, making it fantastic for those who already make use of the AI assistant through their iPhone or iPad.
Airplay support also makes it easier than ever to display your favorite photos and videos from your iPhone and iPad on your big screen TV. Once connected to the Apple TV, you can even use your iPhone as the remote — although the bundled, traditional remote is very capable in its own right.
Able to connect to your other smart home gadgets, the Apple TV 4K can be your conduit to the rest of your internet of things devices. Lock your door and windows, change the lighting, and control the room’s temperature, all from your connected TV streaming device.
Although one of the most expensive devices on this list, the Apple TV 4K gives you access to a range of exclusive content on Apple TV and Apple Arcade, as well as more widely available TV shows and movies on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and other streaming services.
Amazon has a number of Fire Sticks available, from the capable Lite version to the super powerful Cube featured above. The right one for you depends on your needs, but the best all round Amazon streaming stick is the Fire TV Stick 4K.
The Fire TV Stick 4K features support for 1080p and 4K resolution content, as well as Dolby Vision, HDR10 and HDR10+. It supports all of the most popular streaming services, including Netflix, Amazon Prime video, STARZ, Hulu, Showtime, CBS All Access, YouTube and more.
It enjoys Wi-Fi 5 connectivity for fast streaming at higher resolutions and detail levels, and can take control of your TV, sound bar, receiver, and more, to give you unified control through a single remote.
The only downside is the 4K Fire TV Stick is so popular that some retailers are only selling it as part of bundles. Often those bundles include extras that bump up the price, and the Fire TV Stick 4K might be a couple of generations old. Make sure to double check before buying that you’re getting the latest version.
Roku’s range of great TV streaming devices caters to both the high and the entry-level of the market, all within a few tens of dollars of one another. While 4K viewers can spend $50 to get all the latest and greatest features, those with more modest TVs or more modest budgets, can enjoy most of the same features for just $25. That’s even cheaper than the budget-friendly Google Chromecast.
It has full support for 1080p resolution, enabling access to HD content on any connected, compatible TV, across all the streaming services that the Roku platform enables. That includes Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus, Hulu, and many more. There’s also support for the Plex local network streaming platform, giving you access to all your locally stored media on the same device.
Roku’s beloved infrared remote is included with the Express as standard, and though it doesn’t have the voice control or volume adjustments of the Stick+ version, it still gives you quick-access shortcuts to your favorite streaming services, an options button, and a simple replay button.
Another bundled extra which saves you a couple more dollars is the HDMI cable. It’s short, but capable, and the double sided tape that comes with it makes it possible to mount your Roku express where it’s within easy reach of the TV and the remote can easily see its onboard IR sensor.
It’s not the fastest or the most feature filled, but the Roku Express is a capable little TV streaming device that gives you all of the basic functions you need to watch great content on your HD TV.
The most powerful of the streaming devices on this list, the Nvidia Shield TV Pro is designed to be more than just a great TV streaming device. It’s a powerful game streaming device too. It’s built atop the high-performance Nvidia Tegra X1 processor — similar to the model found inside Nintendo’s Switch console — alongside 3GB of RAM and an Nvidia GPU for extra rendering power.
All that processing grunt gives the Shield TV Pro the ability to play games via the Google Play Store, or to stream games remotely from your own local network gaming PC (if equipped with a compatible Nvidia GTX or RTX graphics card). You can even make use of Nvidia’s GeForce Now game streaming service to play some of the world’s most popular AAA and independent games — no gaming PC required.
You’ll still need a compatible game controller or mouse and keyboard, but the Shield TV Pro fully supports popular gamepads like the Xbox One and PS4 gamepads, as well as third-party alternatives like the SteelSeries Stratus range, and Nvidia’s own Shield Controller.
Outside of gaming, the Shield TV Pro has full support for 4K, HDR movies and TV shows, as well as access to Nvidia’s powerful AI upscaling feature. It can make standard 720p and 1080p HD content look much closer to 4K than traditional AI sharpening features.
Storage is 16GB as standard, although the twin USB-A 3.0 ports gives you the option of infinitely expandable storage through external drives. It also offers a Gigabit Ethernet port for high-speed network access, as well as an HDMI 2.0 output for the high-speed data transmission required by 4K HDR content.
The Shield TV Pro supports both Alexa and Google Assistant, letting you link up with a wider array of smart home devices, and the remote is both infrared and Bluetooth enabled, for great connectivity at a distance. Buttons are backlit too, making them easily usable in the dark.