Best 4K Streaming Devices

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Best 4K Streaming Devices

Get the best streaming experience with a dedicated 4K player.

The best streaming devices allow you to sit back and enjoy the high-def content you love to binge. But is it worth buying a standalone device if you own a smart TV? It certainly can be if your TV’s smart platform is out of date or just a pain to navigate.

A streaming device can imbue your TV with apps and features your television may lack on its own. And if you have a smart home, some streaming devices can serve as a hub and integrate with your entire setup.

Whether you still somehow own a dumb TV or your smart TV isn’t making the grade, a streaming device is a quick and simple way to upgrade without plunking down a lot of cash for a brand new television.

With all sorts of dongles, sticks, and set-top boxes to choose from these days, you may not know where to even start — so we’ve done most of the heavy lifting for you and compiled a list of the five best streaming devices we’ve tried in 2022.


How we evaluated the best streaming devices

Each of the streaming devices on this list has been tested by us using a 43-inch Samsung The Frame TV. (You can take a look at our review for the 65-inch version for an idea of its performance.) The Frame has a built-in streaming platform, Smart TV Powered by TIZEN.

While it’s not a terrible OS by any means, for an enhanced user experience we definitely recommend you pick up any standalone streaming device from this list.


What are the best streaming devices in 2022?

With so many streaming devices available today, finding the best one for your budget and viewing preferences can be overwhelming. Thus, we’ve pared the selection down to five models that we believe are worth your attention (and possibly your hard-earned cash). In compiling our list of top contenders, we took into account ease of setup, general performance, picture quality, special features, and cost.

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K+ is the best streaming device for most people in 2022. It’s simple to set up and use — not to mention, it supports Dolby Vision, HDR10/10+ and HLG so you’ll be able to enjoy 4K content at its finest.

Roku’s voice assistant is very good, but if you prefer to ask Alexa, Siri, or Google to help you, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K works with all of them, too. Comfortably seated in a mid-level price range, it’s the greatest value Roku offers right now. 

If you have room to splurge, then we’d suggest the Apple TV 4K if you’re all-in on iOS/Apple or the NVIDIA Shield TV if you’re keen on gaming and Android TV. Meanwhile, the blazing-fast Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max is the online retail giant’s best contribution to the streaming device market yet, while the Chromecast With Google TV balances affordability with high-quality 4K content. 


1
Best Streaming Device For Most People

Roku Streaming Stick 4K+

Specs: 

  • Form Factor: Streaming stick
  • HDR: Dolby Vision, HDR10/10+, HLG
  • OS: Roku OS
  • Ports: HDMI, USB 
  • MSRP: $69.99

TL;DR: The best value out of Roku’s ever-growing lineup of streaming devices will suit shoppers wanting to experience 4K HDR content with the convenience of hands-free operation while not caring about being tethered to any one of the three major smart ecosystems out there.

Brief Review: 

For most people, the Roku Streaming 4K+ is the best streaming device — especially for those who consider themselves platform agnostic. However, if you’re an Apple/Amazon/Google devotee you’ll still find plenty of value here since this Roku streaming device plays nice with those platforms’ respective voice assistants. (It’s also compatible with Apple HomeKit.)

Setup was quick and largely uneventful thanks to a recent Roku OS update that enables users to enter their credentials by speaking into the Roku Voice Remote Pro — the only Roku streaming device to include its top-tier voice remote, otherwise valued at $30. Upon setup, we were able to access and login to our favorite streaming services with no trouble at all. 

Roku Streaming 4K+ supports Dolby Vision, HDR10/10+ and HLG. The UHD content on our Samsung The Frame TV (via HDR10+) was crisp and fluid, particularly when we streamed via Netflix and Prime Video. In addition to the myriad streaming services it supports, there’s also the Roku Channel, which boasts hundreds of free (ad-supported) movies and shows, including original content like Reno 911: Defunded and the revival of MTV’s Punk’d

Despite its latest refresh, Roku OS lags in performance relative to its competitors. This was evident when we used any of the remote’s shortcut buttons to call up Hulu or Apple TV+. While Roku’s voice assistant was generally responsive, it did not allow us to access our shows and movies any faster than pressing a button. Still, our overall UI experience is favorable as Roku OS is quite easy to search and navigate otherwise.

Pros + Cons

  • Setup is relatively fast and easy
  • Compatible with Apple AirPlay 2
  • Supports Dolby Vision and HDR10
  • Works with other voice assistants

  • Roku OS not as zippy as others
  • Voice control could be more responsive
  • Still missing Twitch

2
Best Streaming Device for Apple Users and Home Theaters

Apple TV 4K

Specs:

  • Form Factor: Set-top box
  • HDR: Dolby Vision, HDR10
  • OS: tvOS
  • Ports: HDMI, Ethernet
  • MSRP: $179 (32GB), $199 (64GB)

TL;DR: The Apple TV 4K is a sound choice for deeply-invested Apple enthusiasts, from iOS devices to Apple HomeKit-compatible products. Non-iOS users should beware that the Apple TV 4K’s charm will be lost on them.

Brief Review:

For those who are fully immersed in the iOS ecosystem, the Apple TV 4K is the best streaming media player. When paired with an iPhone or iPad the Apple TV 4K feels like a natural extension of those devices — which bodes well if you’d prefer your mobile device as a remote control. Plus, it supports Apple HomeKit and can serve as a hub for compatible smart home devices. 

Setting up the Apple TV 4K is quick and smooth…provided you have an iPhone or iPad. The process is more time-consuming and cumbersome if you’re a non-iOS user, although we had no issues when using our MacBook Air during setup. For as much as you pay for this device, however, there’s no HDMI cable provided so make sure you have a spare on hand if you want to watch content straight away.   

Once we had everything up and running, we poked around the intuitive tvOS and took some time to play with the customizable elements of the home screen. Apple TV 4K supports Dolby Vision and HDR, and the picture looked quite sharp on our 43-inch Samsung The Frame. Unsurprisingly, we found that content from Apple TV+ looked the richest, especially during the fast-paced soccer matches featured on Ted Lasso.

The revamped Siri Remote looks absolutely gorgeous, but in our experience, it’s more flashy than functional. Whether we were sorting through our iTunes library or attempting to play Crossy Road Castle on Apple Arcade, we just could not get the circular swipe pad to consistently bend to our will. Fortunately, you do have the workaround of setting up an iPhone or iPad as a remote — and barring that, your TV remote can also be used to control the Apple TV 4K.   

Pros + Cons

  • Works almost immediately out of the box
  • 2 storage options for media downloads
  • Fits into the iOS and HomeKit ecosystems nicely
  • Also serves as a HomeKit smart home hub

  • Less pleasant experience for non-iOS users
  • No HDMI cable is included with the purchase
  • Siri remote is sleek but impractical

Read More: Apple TV 4K Review

3
Best Amazon Streaming Device

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max

Specs:

  • Form Factor: Streaming stick
  • HDR: Dolby Vision, HDR10/10+
  • OS: Fire TV
  • Ports: HDMI, USB
  • MSRP: $54.99

TL;DR: The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max is the online giant’s best streaming device yet, with blazing fast performance plus a serviceable Amazon Alexa voice remote — all at a cost that won’t leave your wallet hurting.

Brief Review:

For Prime users seeking a new Amazon streaming device for 4K content, we recommend the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max. This upgrade from the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K features a faster 1.8GHz processor for much smoother scrolling through your streaming library. And unlike its predecessor, the Fire TV Stick 4K Max is future-proof with the addition of Wi-Fi 6 support. Meanwhile, it’ll play nice with other Alexa-enabled devices as a smart home hub.

Coming from a second-generation Fire TV Stick — hey, it still works well on our small bedroom TV! — we can attest to how zippy the 4K Max is. That’s in spite of the plethora of ads that plagued the screen, an apparent constant across Fire TV devices. However, we were quite impressed with how responsive Amazon Alexa was in following our commands, from raising the volume to selecting a new Prime Video Original for us to watch.

The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max supports Dolby Vision plus HDR10/10+. Amazon Prime Video content looked crystal clear courtesy of HDR10+ on our Samsung The Frame TV, but we were pleased with how our Netflix and Hulu shows looked, as well. If we had a soundbar (or Amazon Echo Studio) on hand, we’d be taking in some robust Dolby Atmos audio, too.

As fluid as the Fire TV Stick 4K Max is, the setup process was anything but that for us. We suggest you carve out a good 25 minutes while you painstakingly type in your Amazon username and password, then wait as the 4K Max installs one software update after another. But rest assured, your patience will be rewarded as you’ll ultimately be privy to the sleekest experience you’ll ever have with any Amazon streaming device.

Pros + Cons

  • Easily transfers data from previous Fire devices
  • Alexa hands-free control is swift and responsive
  • Extensive library of media and streaming services
  • Also works as an Alexa smart home hub

  • Took a long time to get it running
  • Can’t use Alexa voice control during setup
  • Fire TV is inundated with ads

4
Best Premium Android TV Streaming Device

NVIDIA Shield TV

Specs: 

  • Form Factor: Cylinder
  • HDR: Dolby Vision, HDR10
  • OS: Android TV
  • Ports: HDMI, Ethernet, microSD card slot
  • MSRP: $149.99


TL;DR:
Geared toward gamers, the NVIDIA Shield TV dazzles with AI-powered 4K upscaling and access to the extensive GeForce NOW gaming library. It’s worth the splurge for cutting-edge streaming quality and the overall punchy performance of Android TV.

Brief Review: 

The NVIDIA Shield TV will appeal to Android TV aficionados who want something more substantial than a Chromecast dongle. It feels more like a mini gaming console than a straight-up media streaming device, albeit with a noticeably smaller footprint than its pricier counterpart, the Shield TV PRO. It’s outfitted with a NVIDIA Tegra X1+ processor, 8GB of internal storage, and support for the GeForce NOW cloud gaming platform.  

But how well does it stream shows and movies? The NVIDIA TV Shield boasts AI-powered 4K upscaling through Dolby Vision or HDR10. Working in tandem with our Samsung The Frame TV, we were quite satisfied with the fluidity and crispness of our content. We were even able to catch up on some of our favorite UHD Apple TV+ shows, which until recently was not a possibility on this NVIDIA streaming device.

Setting up the NVIDIA Shield TV was near flawless with our Android phone, although we imagine the process won’t be terribly inconvenient if you have an iOS device. We did notice our Shield TV disconnect from our TV during a software update, but it was brief. Adding and accessing our favorite streaming services took no time at all, but Android TV OS itself was prone to a few minor hiccups when it came to swapping apps.

Packaged with the NVIDIA Shield TV is a voice-activated smart remote that has a triangular shape — a welcome change from the typical pebble-like clickers we otherwise get with such products. Granted, we would have liked for it to be a practical enough design for gaming so we could delve into GeForce NOW's vast library, but given the target demographic for the Shield TV we trust that any devout gamer will have at least one control pad to spare anyway. 

Pros + Cons

  • Features AI-powered 4K upscaling
  • Works with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa
  • Compatible with GeForce NOW cloud gaming 
  • Has an Ethernet port plus a microSD card slot
  • Doesn’t come with a gaming-friendly remote
  • Lacks support for Apple HomeKit and Siri
  • No HDMI cable is included

 

5
Best Budget Android TV Streaming Device

Chromecast With Google TV

Specs:

  • Form Factor: Dongle
  • HDR: Dolby Vision, HDR10/10+
  • OS: Android TV
  • Ports: HDMI, USB
  • MSRP: $49.99


TL;DR:
Chromecast With Google TV is a respectable upgrade from its previous iteration, featuring Dolby Vision/HDR10 support, a dedicated Google TV interface, and a voice-enabled remote control — all at one of the lowest prices out there for a 4K HDR streaming device.  

Review:

On the flip side of the premium NVIDIA Shield is the smaller and more affordable Chromecast With Google TV — which, unlike its predecessor, now comes with a voice remote. For those who like the Android TV experience, the Chromecast With Google TV is the best streaming player you can buy if you’re on a tighter budget. It syncs perfectly with other Google products, including its Nest smart home devices..

If you have a mobile device with the Google Home app, setup will be a breeze. Everything can be done right on your phone or tablet. The number of apps you elect to install at setup will determine how long or short the process will be, but rest assured that you won’t have to block out a half-hour of your day to accomplish this. It comes with a USB power adapter, which can either be plugged into a wall or television (if it’s capable of powering the Chromecast at all). 

Google TV OS runs on top of a version of Android TV. This Google-flavored UI is rather easy on the eyes, although it was prone to some occasional lag when we went from one app to another. However, Google Assistant hands-free control is a joy to use as it’s quick to respond to various commands and queries.

For the meager price you’d pay, the streaming quality is solid. Chromecast with Google TV supports Dolby Vision and HDR10/10+ — the latter of which we got to experience on our Samsung The Frame TV. Browse Google TV for hundreds of thousands of shows and movies, but if you can't find what you’re looking for natively (and don’t mind a slight loss in quality), you can cast content from your computer or phone to the Chromecast.

Pros + Cons

  • Can set everything up on a mobile device
  • Excellent integration with other Google products
  • Google Assistant's hands-free control is on point
  • Among the most affordable 4K HDR streamers out there

  • The setup might take some time if you have a lot of apps
  • Google TV has occasional hiccups
  • Not powered by all TVs

 

Best Streaming Devices: FAQs

Do I need a streaming device if I have a smart TV?

If your smart TV platform supports the apps you like and provides a positive viewing experience, then a streaming device isn’t necessary. On the flip side, a smart TV with an outdated OS or a generally miserable UX can be easily upgraded by adding a streaming stick or set top box. Also, many streaming devices integrate with other smart home tech, which is a plus for anyone who wants to curate a vast, uniform smart ecosystem.

Which streaming device has the most free channels?

Roku has the most free channels out of any major streaming platform. The Roku Channel Store has over 3,000 channels, majority of which can be installed at no cost. There’s also a wide variety of ad-supported shows and movies plus access to live television.

Which streaming devices broadcast live TV?

All of the streaming devices on this list are capable of streaming live television. Each of them is compatible with Hulu Live TV, YouTube TV, and other live TV platforms. Roku and Amazon also include access to their own hub of live broadcasts with their respective devices.

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