10 Best Streaming Devices Consumer Reports 2019 – Top Rated

Binge-watching TV shows have become an all-American pastime. Streaming devices are ideal for marathon watchers, as well as for cord-cutters, cord-shavers (those cutting back on their pay-TV service), and even the new crop of cord-nevers. Using devices such as Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, or Roku, along with subscription or pay-per-view services such as Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix, you can watch newly released and classic films, seasons of past and current TV shows, and shows and networks you used to have to subscribe to cable to get. You can even use these streaming devices to access photo apps and social media sites on your TV.

You may actually already own a streaming device. Many televisions these days are smart TVs, with the ability to access a variety of streaming services directly from the set. Many Blu-ray players, as well as the major video game consoles, have this feature. But for many of us, a dedicated streaming media device is a simple, relatively inexpensive way to make any TV a smart one.

Top 10 Streaming Devices

Bestseller No. 1
Roku Express | Easy High Definition (HD) Streaming Media Player
7571 Reviews
Roku Express | Easy High Definition (HD) Streaming Media Player
  • Simple setup with an included High Speed HDMI Cable
  • Easy-to-use remote, intuitive navigation
Bestseller No. 2
Fire TV Stick 4K with Alexa Voice Remote, streaming media player
18879 Reviews
Fire TV Stick 4K with Alexa Voice Remote, streaming media player
  • The most powerful 4K streaming media stick with a Wi-Fi antenna design optimized for 4K Ultra HD streaming.
  • Launch and control content with the Alexa Voice Remote. Watch favorites from Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu,...
Bestseller No. 3
Roku Premiere | HD/4K/HDR Streaming Media Player with Simple Remote and Premium HDMI Cable
1289 Reviews
Roku Premiere | HD/4K/HDR Streaming Media Player with Simple Remote and Premium HDMI Cable
  • Incredible picture - simple way to start streaming in HD/4K/HDR
  • Easy-to-use remote, intuitive navigation and includes Premium High Speed HDMI Cable
Bestseller No. 4
Roku Streaming Stick+ | HD/4K/HDR Streaming Device with Long-range Wireless and Voice Remote with...
3248 Reviews
Roku Streaming Stick+ | HD/4K/HDR Streaming Device with Long-range Wireless and Voice Remote with...
  • Powerful and portable streaming stick with an included advanced wireless receiver that gives you 4x the...
  • Picture quality that's optimized for your TV with crisp details and rich color in HD/4K/HDR
Bestseller No. 5
Roku Ultra | HD/4K/HDR Streaming Media Player. Now includes Premium JBL Headphones. (2018)
1421 Reviews
Roku Ultra | HD/4K/HDR Streaming Media Player. Now includes Premium JBL Headphones. (2018)
  • Our most powerful and feature-packed media player that streams HD/4K/HDR
  • Ultimate connectivity with dual-band wireless and ethernet port; Power input: 12V - 1.5A power adapter
Bestseller No. 6
Roku Streaming Stick | Portable, Power-Packed Streaming Device with Voice Remote with Buttons for...
3636 Reviews
Roku Streaming Stick | Portable, Power-Packed Streaming Device with Voice Remote with Buttons for...
  • Powerful and portable streaming stick
  • Voice remote with buttons for TV power and volume; Compatible with voice-enabled devices featuring
Bestseller No. 7
Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote, streaming media player
6367 Reviews
Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote, streaming media player
  • Our best-selling Fire TV Stick, now with Alexa Voice Remote (2nd Gen). Use the dedicated power, volume, and...
  • Launch and control content with the Alexa Voice Remote. Watch favorites from Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu,...
Bestseller No. 8
Roku Express | 5X more powerful HD Streaming (2017) (Renewed)
717 Reviews
Roku Express | 5X more powerful HD Streaming (2017) (Renewed)
  • New 2017 Model!
  • Easy HD streaming, incredible price.
Bestseller No. 9
Roku Ultra HD/4K/HDR Streaming Media Player - Voice Remote, Remote Finder, Ethernet, MicroSD, USB,...
32 Reviews
Roku Ultra HD/4K/HDR Streaming Media Player - Voice Remote, Remote Finder, Ethernet, MicroSD, USB,...
  • 500,000 movies and TV episodes, with voice search across 1,000 top channels. Plus, catch hit movies, popular...
  • Voice remote with buttons for TV power and volume. Plus, lost remote finder and a headphone jack for private...
Bestseller No. 10
Roku 3900SE Se- Fast High-Definition Streaming. Easy On The Wallet
42 Reviews
Roku 3900SE Se- Fast High-Definition Streaming. Easy On The Wallet
  • Simple setup with included HDMI cable
  • Choose from 500, 000 Plus movies & TV episodes

Is Your Broadband Fast Enough?

Your internet connection will help determine picture quality because Netflix and other services adjust the signal you get based on the speed of your internet connection. So if Tom Cruise’s grin seems less than sparkly or that rom-com won’t play without buffering, buffering, buffering . . . you may need a more robust broadband connection. Also, if you’re connecting to your network via WiFi, make sure your wireless router is up to snuff.

You’ll Need a Speed of at Least 5 Mbps
This is the absolute minimum to support a high-def stream, and that’s adequate only if you are streaming to one device at a time. Most homes will need 10 Mbps or more, and the FCC recently updated its definition of broadband to 25 Mbps. Note: Regardless of how fast your connection is, the picture quality may initially be poor but then improve after a minute or so as the service adjusts to the connection speed. Also, if you’re connecting via WiFi, your router also needs to support a decent speed.

4K Video Is Now Here
All the services can deliver high-definition picture quality, but most—including Amazon, FandangoNow, Netflix, and Vudu—now offers a growing amount of 4K content for those who have higher-resolution 4K UHD TVs. Most of these services also now support 4K videos with high dynamic range (HDR). These screens have about 8 million pixels, which is around four times as many as a regular 1080p TV. But you’ll need a relatively fast connection, at least 15 to 25 Mbps, to stream 4K content.

Features That Matter

4K HDR capability
All the major streaming player brands now offer at least one model that supports 4K videos with HDR. Although most 4K TVs are now smart TVs with built-in access to streaming services, you may still want to use a 4K player with HDR capability because it can access 4K services you don’t get on your TV, or it offers better performance or special features.

Simple Setup
WiFi Protected Setup (WPS) means you don’t have to manually enter a password. You simply press one button on the router and another on the device and, voilá, you’re securely connected.

The Right Connections
All streaming media devices have built-in WiFi, and some have an Ethernet jack for a wired connection to a modem or router. All can hook up to TVs via HDMI connections, but only a few have analog-video connections for use with older TVs that lack an HDMI input. Some include a USB port for playing your own media, such as music and photos, through the device. A DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) label means the device can access content—such as movies, videos, and photos—from other devices on the same network.

Organized Apps
As more channels become available on these devices, the ability to reorder (or delete) apps and customize your home screen is a plus. It helps you avoid scrolling through seldom used options.

Universal Search
We prefer devices that can search across multiple services to find shows, without favoring one service over another.

Dual-Band WiFi
A streaming device with dual-band WiFi can help performance by relegating video streaming to the higher 5-GHz frequency band, sidestepping possible interference with other devices in the home, such as cordless phones and microwaves, that operate on the 2.4-GHz frequency. Some newer models now support the 802.11ac standard, which has the potential to deliver stronger, faster signals, but only if your wireless router also supports it.

Well-Designed Remotes
Some models come with remotes with embedded microphones, so you can search using voice terms, which is easier than typing using an onscreen keyboard. Dedicated buttons for the most used services allows for easy access. Backlit buttons come in handy on family movie night.

Picking the Right Streaming Service

New online streaming services offer unprecedented viewing options. There are basically two ways to go: all-you-can-eat subscription services that offer unlimited streaming for a monthly subscription, typically around $8 to $12 per month; and pay-per-view services, where you rent or buy individual movies or shows on an à la carte basis. There are now also several cable-replacement services—such as DirecTV Now, Hulu With Live TV, Sling TV, Sony PlayStation Vue, and YouTube TV—that offer a cablelike package of programming that can cost anywhere from $20 to $70 per month.

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