The Best TV Streaming Devices for Cord Cutters

The Best TV Streaming Devices for Cord Cutters

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Most 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 at the end of this guide).

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 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 May 2022: We’ve added TiVo’s Stream 4K device.

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  • Roku Streaming Stick 4K

    Photograph: Roku

    Best Overall

    Roku Streaming Stick 4K Plus

    The Streaming Stick Plus has held our top spot for years, and the newer 4K Plus is a fresh favorite. We think most people will like the stick—it’s one of Roku’s cheapest devices, and this updated version 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. Roku’s interface is the easiest to navigate, and all the major streaming services are there.

    The Plus version 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 ($46) is also new and a little cheaper, and its remote doesn’t have hands-free voice control, if you aren’t interested in that. You can also still buy the older Streaming Stick Plus ($44)—it’s still a good device. Roku products are frequently discounted, too.

    Roku connects to all major streaming services.

  • Photograph: Google

    For Google TV or Phone Streaming

    Chromecast With Google TV

    The newest 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.

    ★ Alternative: If you really want to use a Chromecast for casting videos or pictures from your phone to your TV, you can still do that too. But if that’s the only thing you want out of it, opt for the $30, casting-only model.

    Google TV connects to all major streaming services.

  • Photograph: Amazon

    For Amazon Lovers

    Amazon 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: We didn’t mind the older Fire TV Cube (6/10, WIRED Review) but found its hands-free voice features didn’t work very well. There’s a newer version available that we haven’t tested. 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.

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