The 5 best streaming devices of 2024

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Most of the best TVs have streaming apps and software built-in. Still, dedicated streaming devices remain incredibly popular. That’s in-part because they can be faster, more responsive and easier to use than the software on your TV, according to our experts.

To learn more about the best streaming device, we spoke with electronics experts about the strengths and weaknesses of each of the big streaming brands: think Roku, Amazon, Apple and Google. Most of the NBC Select team use streaming devices — we leveraged our personal experience with each brand to select the best options on the market.

SKIP AHEAD Staff-favorite streaming devices in 2024 | Do I need a streaming device?

How we picked our favorite streaming devices

We spoke with electronics and retail experts to better understand how streaming devices are different from what’s built into your TV. Combining their advice with our personal experience we selected streaming devices by keeping the following in mind:

  • Resolution: We recommend selecting a new streaming device that can support 4K resolution. All new streaming products support 4K, and while you can still buy older models made for HD TVs, the 4K versions aren’t much pricier.
  • Ease of use: It shouldn’t be a headache to dive into your favorite dinner show. We prioritized streaming devices that have an easy setup and simple user interface. That means you should not have a hard time finding Netflix or struggle downloading apps like Disney+.
  • Extra features: Some streaming devices have additional features like ethernet ports, headphone jacks or Wi-Fi 6E support, meaning a faster connection when paired with the latest Wi-Fi routers. We considered and listed additional features at the bottom of each of our recommendations.
  • Price: Most streaming devices cost between $20 and $150. We included a range of price options, but most of our favorites cost around $50.

Staff-favorite streaming devices in 2024

Our favorite streaming devices come from the biggest brands on the market: Apple, Amazon, Google and Roku.

Best overall: Roku

I find Roku to be the easiest streaming platform to use. I have set up Roku devices for friends and family, and it has never taken me more than 10 minutes to start watching shows. Roku is also compatible with  Apple, Amazon and Google smart homes devices — most competitors are only compatible with one.

Roku Streaming Stick 4K

Multiple NBC Select staffers love this Roku streaming stick. NBC Select editorial operations manager Shari Uyehara uses this Roku stick to watch her favorite TV shows on apps like Netflix, Hulu, Peacock, Max, Apple TV+ and more. She also streams content from Youtube and Apple Music. She loves that it is small and portable — you can easily plug it into a different TV if needed. The remote can be a little finicky though, buttons can sometimes take a few presses to register after a few years of wear and tear.

Resolution: Up to 4K | Supports: HDR10+, Dolby Vision | Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6 | Remote features: Voice controls | Smart home compatibility: Roku, Apple Home, Amazon Alexa, Google Home

Roku Ultra

This is Roku’s premium streaming device, with a few extra features compared to the traditional streaming stick. It can be physically plugged into your Wi-Fi router with an ethernet cable, ensuring the fastest speed possible. The remote is improved too — it’s rechargeable and has a headphone jack if you want to watch your shows without disturbing others.

Resolution: Up to 4K | Supports: HDR10+, Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos | Connectivity: Ethernet, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi 6 | Remote features: Voice controls, headphone jack, rechargeable | Smart home compatibility: Roku, Apple Home, Amazon Alexa, Google Home

Best splurge: Apple TV

Apple TV streaming devices are some of the most premium on the market. The rechargeable remote is one of the best, made with a sleek aluminum case and solid buttons that stand the test of time, in our experience. We like that you can also control it by swiping on the directional touchpad instead of clicking. Apple TV devices also support and sync to Apple apps like Music, Photos, Facetime, Fitness+, Apple Arcade and more.

Apple TV 4K (128GB)

While Apple does make the slightly cheaper Apple TV 4K (64GB), we recommend this 128GB model instead. It has double the storage space for apps, photos and games, plus ethernet support for fast, wired connectivity. It also acts as a smart hub, with Thread networking inside (learn more in our guide to smart home hubs). New users get three months of Apple TV+, the brand’s content streaming service, included with purchase (a $30 value).

Resolution: Up to 4K | Supports: HDR10+, Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos | Connectivity: Ethernet, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi 6 | Remote features: Voice controls, rechargeable | Smart home compatibility: Apple Home, Thread

For Amazon households: Amazon Fire TV

If your smart doorbell, plugs, and speakers are all powered by Amazon Alexa, consider an Amazon Fire TV device. When synced with a compatible device, you’ll be able to control it through the TV, according to the brand. The streaming sticks are also frequently on sale and heavily discounted during events like Prime Day and Black Friday.

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max

NBC Select associate updates editor Zoe Malin uses Amazon Fire sticks because they are small, stay hidden behind her TV and sync with her other Amazon Alexa-powered devices. She used Apple TV previously, but prefers Amazon streaming devices for Alexa voice controls and Amazon account notifications on things like upcoming orders.

We recommend this 4K max version, as it is faster and smoother to use than the regular TV Stick 4K, according to the brand. You can also usually get it on sale for under $50. If you only plan to use this stick with an HD (1080p) TV, consider Amazon’s Fire TV Stick HD.

Resolution: 4K | Supports: HDR10+, Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos | Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6E | Remote features: Voice controls | Smart home compatibility: Amazon Alexa 

For sharing content: Google Chromecast

Google Chromecast was one of the first streaming devices on the market that let you easily share what was on your phone, tablet or laptop onto your TV. That’s still one of its greatest strengths today. Like other Google devices, it syncs to the Google Home app and uses Google voice assistant.

Google Chromecast with Google TV (4K)

NBC Select video producer Josh Rios has been using Google Chromecast since it debuted in 2013.  Nowadays, he uses it to stream shows from apps like Max, YouTube and Paramount+. Still, his favorite feature is casting, which allows him to project content from his phone or laptop onto the TV. While there are occasional casting hiccups like video or audio delays, the overall experience is easy and simple.

If you mostly want to cast content onto an older, HD TV, consider the lower-priced Google Chromecast with Google TV (HD).

Resolution: Up to 4K | Supports: HDR10+, Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos | Connectivity: Wi-Fi 5 | Remote features: Voice controls | Smart home compatibility: Google Home

Do I need a streaming device?

Most modern TVs come with a smart operating system that has apps like Netflix, Peacock, Max, Apple TV+ and Paramount+ available. But streaming sticks are generally faster than these built-in operating systems, says Carl Prouty, a product specialist in consumer electronics sales at Abt, a national retailer based in Glenview, Illinois. (Since Abt sells streaming devices, we only spoke with Prouty about technical shopping guidance, and did not ask for specific product recommendations.) When you press a button on a streaming remote, there is little to no lag in the response on the screen. Many TV operating systems, by comparison, struggle with this lag, says Prouty.

Streaming devices also have features that many TVs do not. Roku Ultra and Apple TV 4K, for example, can use an ethernet cable to get faster and more stable speeds. Depending on where your home Wi-Fi router is, this can be the best way to connect, says Mark Steinberg, the senior technologist at B&H Photo & Video. (Since B&H sells streaming devices, we only spoke with Steinberg about general shopping guidance, and did not ask for specific product recommendations.)

Meet our experts

At NBC Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

  • Carl Prouty is a product specialist with over 20 years of experience in consumer electronics sales at Abt
  • Mark Steinberg is the senior technologist at B&H Photo & Video. He has decades of experience in electronics sales.

Why trust NBC Select?

Harry Rabinowitz is a reporter at NBC Select who covers technology, with recent stories on tablets, cameras, and keyboards. For this piece, he spoke with electronics experts to better understand the technical differences between the most popular streaming devices. He also leveraged his experience and the experience of the NBC Select team using streaming devices over the years.

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