We tested the 6 best streaming devices for smart and dumb TVs

We tested the 6 best streaming devices for smart and dumb TVs

Your smart TV probably comes with a bunch of streaming services built in, but it may not have every app you need. Some older model TVs lack support for new streaming apps like Apple TV. That’s where the best streaming devices come in. These plug-in sticks and set-top boxes are stacked with apps, from the biggest heavy hitters to the more minor streaming services.

Plus, unless you’ve got a Roku TV, you may well find that your television’s built-in streaming apps are slow to load, sluggish to respond, and a pain to navigate. Streaming devices offer much faster and finely tuned interfaces that make finding shows and picking films less of a chore. They may also offer better support for voice control and additional smart features.

There are a few things to consider when comparing streaming devices, but we’ll put you at ease with one helpful tip: every streaming device on this list includes all the major apps: Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Spotify, and whatever else you’re probably thinking of. Differences between their interface design, size, smart home integration, and remotes are much more important.

To help you find the best streaming device for your TV, we compared the top products from Roku, Apple, Google, and Amazon for this hands-on review.

Do you need a streaming device with a smart TV?

Not at all. In fact, the opposite. If you have a smart TV, you may already have access to all the streaming apps you’re interested in, whether that be Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV or whatever else. A streaming device, however, can add any services you’re missing. And if you have a really old TV, then these devices might be necessary to access streaming apps.

Which streaming devices support Dolby Atmos?

Several of the best streaming devices support Dolby Atmos. The souped-up surround sound format has quickly become a staple feature of audiophile home cinemas and Hi-Fi systems for its immersive, three-dimensional soundscapes.

The Roku Ultra, Apple TV 4K, Amazon Fire TV Cube, Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max, and Google Chromecast all support Dolby Atmos. The only streaming device featured on this list that doesn’t support it is the Roku Express 4K.

However, you’ll also need a TV or sound system that can support the format. Not any old speaker you haul out of the back of the cupboard will do, though many of the best speakers and best soundbars will.

What streaming device is best for an older TV?

There’s no specific rule of thumb. Choose one that comes with the apps you want, supports any extra features you’re interested in, such as Dolby Atmos, and nicely pairs with your other smart devices — if all your other gadgets are made by Apple, for instance, sticking within that ecosystem would probably make sense.

What streaming devices have voice control?

We’ve got good news: every streaming stick and device on this list supports voice commands. However, if you’re looking for the best TV streaming device for voice control, then Amazon’s Fire TV voice control system is the standout. It can be used to navigate playback, control smart devices around your home, turn to live channels, search for movies and TV shows, and do all the usual Alexa things like check the weather or make a to-do list.

Apple TV uses Siri and Chromecast uses Google Assistant to much the same effect, too. But Roku’s voice command system isn’t as robust. Although you can search for shows and movies, it can’t connect to smart home gadgets, and we’ve found that the Roku Voice Remote isn’t as accurate at picking up on our voice commands.

With these frequently asked questions out of the way, let’s turn to the best streaming device for TV lovers. From Roku vs. Fire Stick to the latest offering from Apple TV, you’ll find options for every TV and budget below.


Callum Bains

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