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A graphic that shows the Chromecast with Google TV and its remote, the Amazon Fire TV Cube, and Amazon’s Fire TV Stick 4K Max on a purple background.

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The best TV streaming devices

Get the best viewing experience from your big screen

Graphic: Will Joel/Polygon | Source images: Google; Amazon

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Cameron Faulkner (he/him) is Polygon’s commerce editor. He began writing about tech and gaming in 2013, and migrated from The Verge in 2023.

Many phones, tablets, and computers can run the most popular TV and movie streaming apps, including Apple TV Plus, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Hulu, Max, and many more. The thing is, without a dedicated 4K TV streaming device connected to the biggest screen in your home, your viewing experience may not be as good as it could be.

If you take your couch time and entertainment seriously, buying a TV streaming stick or box is a smart idea. Our picks below are the newest, fastest, and most feature-packed models on the market, and they let you do more than just watch TV. Some let you control your smart home accessories, like light bulbs or smart speakers, and some are surprisingly great for gaming.

Our team is always on top of curating the best TV shows and movies to watch, and now, this guide should help you find the gadget that’s best to view it all on. But first, if you’re new to this kind of technology, here’s a rundown of the main ways in which the options below differ from each other.


The best TV streaming sticks and boxes

Apple TV 4K

The latest Apple TV 4K is, as they say with each new one released, the best one yet. In addition to some performance improvements over the previous generation (which was already pretty speedy), Apple’s new streaming box offers more for less.

The Apple TV 4K sitting on a wooden entertainment center. The Siri Remote is on top of it. Image: Chris Welch/The Verge

Apple doubled the base storage from 32 GB to 64 GB in the new $129 Apple TV 4K model, and — crucial for Samsung TV owners — its support for 4K HDR video playback finally includes HDR 10 Plus, on top of Dolby Vision and HDR 10 support. In terms of audio, it supports Dolby Atmos in content that supports it, although you’ll need a sound system compatible with that format.

The Apple TV 4K includes a three-month free trial to Apple TV Plus with purchase. If you want more storage and a few new features, the $149 128 GB model adds an ethernet port, plus support for Thread, which turns the Apple TV 4K into a Thread hub for some smart home accessories.

The Apple TV 4K is, unsurprisingly, a good fit for people who own one or many Apple devices. It’s currently the only streamer that can play Apple Arcade games (the PS5’s DualSense and Xbox wireless controller are both compatible), and it offers integration with HomeKit, Apple’s smart home protocol that lets Siri control other HomeKit-compatible devices connected to the same Wi-Fi. However, you’ll need to supply your own HDMI cable, as one isn’t included in the box.

  • How can I access my shows and movies purchased through Google? To access content purchased through Google TV or Google Play Movies, download YouTube on your Apple TV 4K, then sign into the app with the account that contains your purchases. They’ll be waiting in the “Library” section of the app.
  • How do I access my TV shows and movies purchased through Amazon? They’ll be waiting for you in the Prime Video app, once you log in on the Apple TV 4K.
A top-down view of the Amazon Fire TV Cube, showing its microphones, plus four buttons for adjusting volume, and turning off the microphones. Image: Chris Welch/The Verge

Amazon Fire TV Cube

Amazon’s highest-end streaming device, the Fire TV Cube, is a fast and capable option that shares some — but not all — of the same features as the Apple TV 4K. It can stream 4K TV shows and movies on all of the streaming services, with support for Dolby Vision HDR, HDR 10, HDR 10 Plus, and Dolby Atmos sound.

While the Apple TV 4K offers more internal storage for games and other downloads, that’s clearly not the focus for Amazon, as it has just 16 GB of storage. However, the Fire TV Cube is a slightly cheaper option that offers more ports, including an HDMI output, an HDMI input, an ethernet port, USB-A for accessories, like a webcam, and a slot for an IR extender. Plus, it can connect to newer and faster Wi-Fi 6E wireless routers. Note: The IR extender and HDMI cable are things you’ll have to purchase on the side.

In addition to being your TV streaming device, Amazon also intends that you’ll use it on the side like one of its Alexa-enabled Echo speakers. There’s literally a speaker inside of the streaming device. Both the included remote and the Fire TV Cube contain microphones, so they can pick up when you use the Alexa wake word to ask a question, play a song, or show footage from your Ring doorbell on the big screen.

As for gaming, this streaming device is compatible with Amazon Luna and its controller. The game streaming service has a growing collection of titles that can be played on demand on your TV.

  • How can I access my shows and movies purchased through Google? To access content purchased through Google TV or Google Play Movies, download YouTube on your Fire TV Cube, then sign into the app with the account that contains your purchases. They’ll be waiting in the “Library” section of the app.
  • How do I access my TV shows and movies purchased through Apple? They’ll be waiting for you in the Apple TV Plus app, once you log in with your associated account.
The Google Chromecast with Google TV in white, sitting on top of a soundbar. Image: Chris Welch/The Verge

Chromecast with Google TV (4K)

Google’s newest Chromecast offers a lot of functionality at an affordable price. This HDMI stick costs $49, and notably, it’s the first model that ships with a dedicated voice-enabled remote (previous versions relied on your phone to serve as a stand-in remote). Through its Google TV interface, you can access all of the streaming services available, and you can watch them in 4K HDR, with support for Dolby Vision, HDR 10, and HDR 10 Plus. It can also supply Dolby Atmos content if you have a compatible sound setup.

Just like previous Chromecast models, this one allows you to cast content from multiple apps, as well as through the Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge browsers, making it simple to push video and audio from one screen to another, regardless of whether you use Windows, Mac, Android, or iOS. In terms of smart home capabilities, it can play music alongside your Google Home speakers and smart displays, and you can pull up Nest camera footage on your screen if you have a Nest home security camera or doorbell.

The Chromecast offers no extra ports; it plugs into your TV’s HDMI port, and it gets power through a USB-C port. However, it supports some game controllers via Bluetooth, and you can use one with games. The Google Play Store offers Nvidia GeForce Now, Steam Link, and other gaming apps, so you can stream games over the internet. This model has 8 GB of onboard storage.

In terms of downsides, navigating the operating system can be a little sluggish at times. However, video playback is seamless. If you need more bandwidth for your streams, Google sells an ethernet-equipped power adapter for this particular Chromecast.

  • How can I access my shows and movies purchased through Amazon? To access content purchased through Amazon Prime, download Prime Video on your Chromecast.
  • How do I access my TV shows and movies purchased through Apple? They’ll be waiting for you in the Apple TV Plus app, once you log in with your associated account.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max and its voice remote sitting on top of a couch cushion. Image: Chris Welch/The Verge

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max

Amazon’s Fire TV Stick 4K Max offers many of the same features as the company’s pricier Fire TV Cube, including its interface, but at a much lower cost. This $54.99 HDMI stick is even a step above the latest Chromecast in a few ways that may or may not matter to you. It’s faster, and it supports Wi-Fi 6 routers, which are ramping up in popularity and availability (the Eero 6 and the Google Nest Wi-Fi Pro are just a couple of examples).

Those differences aside, it supports the same HDR standards, including Dolby Vision, HDR 10 Plus, and HDR 10. It can output Dolby Atmos audio, too. Like the Chromecast, it includes a voice-enabled remote with IR support, and it also has just 8 GB of storage. It also includes an HDMI extender to make it easier to plug into your TV’s HDMI port, in case your TV is wall-mounted or it’s just tough to get behind it.

  • How can I access my shows and movies purchased through Google? To access content purchased through Google TV or Google Play Movies, download YouTube on your Fire TV Stick 4K Max, then sign into the app with the account that contains your purchases. They’ll be waiting in the “Library” section of the app.
  • How do I access my TV shows and movies purchased through Apple? They’ll be waiting for you in the Apple TV Plus app, once you log in with your associated account.
The Roku Streaming Stick 4K next to the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max for scale.
The Roku Streaming Stick 4K (top) next to the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max for scale.
Image: Chris Welch/The Verge

Roku Streaming Stick 4K

Roku’s high-end TV streaming stick offers value in places that its competitors can’t match. At $49.99, it’s a great deal if you want a capable HDMI stick that’s compatible with all of the major streaming apps, and has broad 4K HDR support so that every HDR-ready TV will shine. And if you want to cast content from your Apple or Android phone or tablet, this Roku model supports AirPlay, Google Cast, and screen mirroring via Windows.

Roku’s streaming devices offer more customization than what you’ll get from other companies. There’s a lot of free content to stream on demand (the quality of which varies wildly), and you can install one of many screensavers, including the ever-popular Roku City screensaver. And, if you download the Roku mobile app on your phone or tablet, pairing a wireless or wired set of headphones to it can let you listen to your TV audio privately.

  • How can I access my shows and movies purchased through Google? To access content purchased through Google TV or Google Play Movies, download YouTube on your Roku device, then sign into the app with the account that contains your purchases. They’ll be waiting in the “Library” section of the app.
  • How do I access my TV shows and movies purchased through Apple? They’ll be waiting for you in the Apple TV Plus app, once you log in with your associated account.
  • How can I access my shows and movies purchased through Amazon? To access content purchased through Amazon Prime, download Prime Video on your Roku device.
Focusing on one end of the Nvidia Shield TV streaming device that has the HDMI port, microSD card, and remote finding button.
This end of the tube-shaped Shield TV features an HDMI port, a microSD card slot, and a remote-finding button.
Image: Chris Welch/The Verge

Nvidia Shield TV

Nvidia’s lineup of Shield set-top boxes have remained popular options over the years, even though the company rarely releases updated models. That’s partially because they each feature Nvidia’s somewhat powerful Tegra X1 Plus chip, support storage expansion, and continue to receive software updates long after their 2019 launch.

Nvidia currently has two models on the market, varying in price, size, and capabilities. The tube-shaped Shield TV doesn’t stick out with its ability to play 4K HDR content with Dolby Vision and HDR 10 support (no HDR 10 Plus). However, it’s impressive that this small device has an ethernet port, a microSD card slot, and built-in AI chops to upscale HD content to 4K. It also includes a voice-enabled remote.

It runs on Google’s Android TV (similar to the newer Google TV interface), so you have access to the full catalog of Play Store apps, letting you pick from the most popular streaming apps, as well as access to Steam Link and Nvidia’s GeForce Now game streaming service. The Shield TV is compatible with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, letting you incorporate it into your smart home if you want.

The pricier Shield TV Pro for $199.99 has the same processor, but it benefits from more RAM for a slightly faster experience (3 GB versus 2 GB in the tube-shaped Shield TV). It also has 16 GB of storage by default, but you can plug a flash drive or a portable hard drive into one of its three USB-A ports to add more storage. Otherwise, there aren’t many other reasons to pay more for a bigger TV streaming device.

  • How can I access my shows and movies purchased through Amazon? To access content purchased through Amazon Prime, download Prime Video on your Nvidia product.
  • How do I access my TV shows and movies purchased through Apple? They’ll be waiting for you in the Apple TV Plus app, once you log in with your associated account.

Update (Jan. 18): Checked pricing and links for accuracy.