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8 Best TV Streaming Devices For 4K, HD (2023): Roku Vs. Fire TV Vs. Apple TV Vs. Google

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Why You Need a Streaming DeviceYour Built-In TV Apps Are Awful

Best OverallRoku Streaming Stick 4K Plus

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For Google TV or Phone StreamingChromecast With Google TV

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For Amazon LoversAmazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max

Read moreMost of us stream a majority of our content, if we haven’t abandoned cable altogether. Smart TVs rarely have good interfaces, so owning a separate device will make things a whole lot easier (more on that below.).

We’ve tried them all—you can get options from Roku, Apple, Google, Amazon, and even a cheap Walmart-owned brand—so you don’t have to go through a bunch to figure out what works for you, and we’ve separated each of our favorites by what they do best.

Be sure to check out all our guides, especially for picking the best Roku, as well as the Best TVs, Best Soundbars, and Best Smart Speakers we’ve seen.

Updated April 2023: We’ve updated prices and links, and added thoughts on the HD-only Chromecast.

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Photograph: Juan Moyano/Getty Images

Why You Need a Streaming DeviceYour Built-In TV Apps Are Awful

If you just bought a smart TV, you may be wondering: Why pay extra for a streaming device?

TV makers are far better at manufacturing beautiful screens than they are at building good software. So unless that TV was a Roku TV, Google TV, or a Vizio, you should consider an external streaming device. Chances are high that your TV’s house-made apps are slow, poorly designed, and out of date—and that’s if it has the apps you want at all.

The streaming apps for Roku, Android TV, Fire TV, and Apple TV are typically the best you’ll find, and if they’re broken they get fixed very quickly. LG, Samsung, and any number of other TVs come with their own interfaces, but we advise you to ignore them.

Which TV OS Should You Choose?

Roku is our favorite streaming OS because it has just about every streaming app there is, and setup is hassle-free. Plus, if you decide to switch TVs, you can just move your Roku to another TV in your house at any time. Roku also isn’t made by one of the major tech companies. The company survives solely on how well its streaming device platform performs.Chromecast used to eschew an interface altogether (and older models still hold true to this), but the newest version has Google TV built-in. Though that’s no longer its main draw, it has the added benefit of letting you send web pages or other content directly from your smartphone (it’s easiest on an Android Phone), which is sometimes quite handy. You can also do this with Apple TV’s Airplay 2 functionality, but you need an iOS or macOS device.Google TV, formerly called Android TV, is Google’s latest streaming OS. It’s been around for years, but it just recently (in 2020) nailed the experience. With its newest Chromecast, we stopped seeing the bugs and problems that used to plague the platform, and it includes basically every streaming app out there, as well as YouTube and Spotify. The only problem is that these don’t manage storage quite as well.Amazon Fire TV is geared toward those who really enjoy Amazon’s ecosystem, and it will quickly point you to its content. It also has a great voice interface. Unfortunately, it sometimes feels like an ad for Amazon stuff more than a diverse ecosystem of apps and content. If you buy or rent a lot of movies from Amazon, and subscribe to Prime, the Fire TV is appealing. If not, go with a Roku.Apple TV has a slick interface and Apple’s usual gloss. It also has most apps, but TV boxes remain a side project for Apple. It doesn’t update its models or its interface all that often. Lately, it seems to care more about its Apple TV+ subscription service and app than its physical hardware. But if you have a house full of Apple stuff and enjoy AirPlay, you may as well complete your collection.Photograph: Roku

Best OverallRoku Streaming Stick 4K Plus

Roku’s interface is the easiest to navigate, and all the major streaming services are there. The Streaming Sticks have held our top spot for years, and the most recent version is the 4K Plus. We think most people will like the stick—it’s one of Roku’s cheapest devices, and the 4K Plus is faster and comes with a longer-range wireless receiver; it also plugs right into your TV’s HDMI port, so you won’t see it dangling.

It has a new, hands-free remote. There’s a slider on the side of the remote that, if pushed to the on position, allows you to talk to your remote from anywhere in the room. Say “Hey Roku, play Succession on HBO Max” without lifting a finger (yep, Roku now supports HBO Max!). Remote lost in the couch cushions? Just ask Roku where it is to activate a beep. You’ll have to charge the remote, which I don’t particularly love, but you do save money on replacing batteries.

★ Another Streaming Stick: The Streaming Stick 4K ($50) is a little cheaper, and its remote doesn’t have hands-free voice control, if you aren’t interested in that. Roku products are frequently discounted, too.

Roku connects to all major streaming services.

Photograph: Google

For Google TV or Phone StreamingChromecast With Google TV

This Chromecast (8/10, WIRED recommends) is a great streaming device. It adds a remote—a much-needed companion—plus built-in Google TV (formerly Android TV), so you don’t ever have to touch your phone to watch TV if you don’t want to.

Google TV got an upgrade too, and its interface is now nicer than Roku’s. You can browse and search across platforms, so you can find where a specific title is streaming or look for something broader, like just for comedies. It makes finding something to watch a faster and easier process. Plus you can search with your voice via Google Assistant, which can also control your smart home devices or answer questions.

The only downside? It has little storage, so you run the risk of running out of room. You may have to regularly clear the cache yourself, which is annoying.

★ HD Alternative: Google released an HD version for just $30. It streams in 1080p HDR and includes all the features we love about Google TV, like its excellent search. However, I find it disconnects from my Wi-Fi frequently, even when my actual TV is connected and working.

Google TV connects to all major streaming services.

Photograph: Amazon

For Amazon LoversAmazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max

The Fire Stick 4K Max gets some upgrades over the older 4K Stick, including support for Wi-Fi 6 and a picture-in-picture feature for pulling up your security camera feed while you watch TV. It’s very fast, the Alexa voice remote works well, and the Max has 2 gigabytes of memory over the 4K’s 1.5 (and 8 gigs of storage). Vudu is also now available.

Fire Sticks are obviously geared toward Amazon Prime content, so that’s what you’ll see on the homepage. Apps for other streaming services are there, though, and there is a section for recently used apps right at the top. If Amazon Prime isn’t one of your most-used streaming services, you should go with something else.

I had to plug the included USB cable into the wall, as it wasn’t able to pull enough power from my TV. That’s not uncommon, but Roku’s 4K Plus Stick above was able to work fine plugged directly into the TV’s HDMI and USB ports.

★ Alternatives: The Fire TV Stick 4K ($50) is just as capable, but for only $5 more you may as well spring for the Max. You can still buy the HD-only Fire TV Stick Lite ($30), but it’s probably only for those who have no plans to upgrade their TV to 4K. All of the Sticks are affordable, so it’s worth going with something newer.

Fire TV connects to all major streaming services.