Upgrade your home entertainment with streaming devices that will help you play games, watch movies, and tune into your favorite television shows.
To slow the spread of the coronavirus illness COVID-19, the CDC has enacted nationwide social distancing guidelines and more and more states are imposing stay-at-home orders. People across the country are beginning to adopt an alternative way of living, a new normal. There’s no doubt that a change of pace can be difficult to embrace, but some individuals are finding ways to entertain themselves from the comfort of their homes with board games, video games, and other comforts like cooking, baking, or exercising. Thanks to the popularity of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO, you can also find your favorite movies and TV shows with the click of a button. And though some televisions include built-in apps to stream these services, other TVs (especially older ones) can lag because they aren’t equipped to keep up with the speed of streaming platforms. For a better experience, you may want to plug in a dedicated streaming device. As with most things, streaming devices come in many shapes and sizes (as well as prices). To help guide you to the best streaming device for you, we’ve compiled the best streaming devices out now and what makes each unique.
Streaming set-top boxes like the Roku, Apple TV, and others are like DVD players for the modern age: Plug them into your TV with an HDMI cable and you’ll be able to stream your favorite channels from a simple menu. Currently, you can tune into big players like Netflix, Hulu, HGTV, and Bravo — along with digitally-rented movies and a decent selection of free stuff to watch. Amazon Prime Video is also available pretty much anywhere, now that its long-running feud with Google has ended.
In my experience, streaming boxes work better than most smart TVs thanks to easy-to-use interfaces, snappier performance, and faster updates — if you have a TV that still doesn’t support Disney+, you know why this matters. A streaming box may also support features your TV doesn’t, like voice search or Dolby Atmos sound. Some even let you “subscribe” to your favorite shows so you know when a new episode is ready to stream.
A few smart TVs break this rule, however. TCL’s budget-oriented TVs all have Roku built-in as their smart platform which is generally well-maintained. If you already have Roku on your TV, you probably don’t need to spend extra money on a Roku stick. Other TVs, like Vizio’s, have Google’s Chromecast built-in, too, which can help expand their utility — even though the main smart interface isn’t particularly great. For most people, though, I recommend a standalone box over your TV’s built-in smarts.