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Best Media Streaming Devices: All Sticks, Boxes, Tuners, Smart TVs + Consoles in One Review

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What is the best video streaming box available? Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question, as it really depends on what features you are looking for.

So let’s take a look at all the most popular devices on the market, so that you can make an informed decision.

Video Streaming Device Reviews

Streaming Sticks

  • Chromecast: Google lets your TV access your PC or phone with Chromecast, an affordable HDMI adapter that turns any TV into a Smart TV. If you want an open-platform device that effortlessly integrates all your content spread on your multiple devices, then it’s Chromecast all the way.(Chromecast Review)
  • Roku Streaming Stick: Roku or Google: which one is better? At the end of the day, it really depends on what you’re looking for in a streaming device. If you’d rather have a no-hassle, ready-to-go out of box experience, then Roku is the device for you. (Roku Review)
  • Amazon Fire Stick: This powerful little stick connects to your TV’s HDMI port just like the Roku Stick and Chromecast. All you need to do is plug it in and you can enjoy Amazon Prime, Hulu, Netflix, YouTube.com, Pandora, and much more. (Amazon Fire Review)

Streaming Boxes

  • AirTV: Developed by a company called Echostar, this streaming device works in conjunction with your Sling TV account and your OTA to provide a uniquely integrated experience. Online TV merged with OTA TV is something cord cutters have been dreaming about for years. (AirTV Review)
  • Roku Streaming Players: All current Roku models allow you to instantly stream tons of entertainment on your TV. Watch over 100,000 movies and TV shows from Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and more. Even though the Roku doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of some other players, its prices and user-friendliness makes it a great buy. (Roku Review)
  • Amazon Fire TV: We think this quote best sums it up: “In reality, the Fire TV is a small, flat, matte black Trojan horse intended to sell you even more Amazon goods than you already buy. I prefer streaming that is content-neutral, or that at least allows me to find the best deal. This is not that box.” Molly Wood, The New York Times (Amazon Fire Review)
  • Apple TV: A digital media receiver that allows consumers to use an HDTV set to view photos, play music and watch video.  The bottom line: the low price makes this a very popular impulse buy for people looking to bring Netflix into the living room, but it is best suited for people that are already invested in Apple products (iPhone, iPad, Macbook).

TV Tuners

  • iView Multi-Function Digital Converter Box with Recording and Media Playback: Attach a USB 3.0 1TB HDD for $90, and you’ll have a cheap DVR setup that is basically the modern equivalent to a VCR.
  • Silicondust HDHomeRun: A digital television tuner box that connects to your network, allowing you to stream video (including an OTA signal) to all your internet-connected devices.
  • Hauppauge: A TV tuner that allows you to pause, record, and of course watch an OTA signal on your screen of choice. Available as an internal PC card, external PC stick, or Xbox One stick.

Smart TVs

Are they the future of home entertainment? Everything is getting smarter today – home security systems, phones, TVs. The new generation of TVs available today come ready to go without a cable connection, stocked with Netflix, Hulu, Vudu and other apps.

Roku TV: The Roku TV is a smart TV that brings the Roku experience to your television with no cable bill required. (Roku Review)

Set-Top Boxes That Offer Free Content

Concerning the legality of set-top TV boxes that stream content for free, that is otherwise only available through subscription pay services:

In short, it is safe to say that anyone accessing content from a pirate site is involving themselves in unlawful behavior.

A few years back a spokeswoman from the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) said:  “If a device provides access to that content without a valid subscription from the recognized provider, then anyone using that device needs to be aware that they are accessing that content unlawfully.”

“Our strong advice to the public is to steer clear of any service other than the recognized provider which appears to be offering access to these channels and programs at a discounted cost.”

Because the jury is still out on this topic, we have decided to take the high road and not promote or discuss devices that seem to profit from providing access to illegally obtained content. 

** If you don’t see the box you are looking for, please tell us about it in the comments section and we will do our best to add it. Also make sure you check out our Streaming TV Scams page, as there are a lot of Streaming Boxes hitting the market that our readers have reported issues with.

Rather go DIY and use your laptop? Check out our guide for how to connect your laptop to your TV.

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47 replies on “Best Media Streaming Devices: All Sticks, Boxes, Tuners, Smart TVs + Consoles in One Review

Hello from a fellow cable cutter. I’ve been cable free for over 6 years now. I’ve been using OTA/Netfiix/Hulu/Amazon. To stream HTPC/DVR, Rokus in the bedrooms, and the RCA Streamers (great little bang for your buck, got mine for ~$22 on groupon) for the kids bedrooms.

I wanted to Say a blurb about the RCA boxes. While they only do Netfix/YouTube/Hulu/Pandora/(maybe one more I’m forgetting), they do it in 1080 (kids’ TVs are only 720anyhow) They were great for the price, and easy to use menu for the kids.

Also, I think for the more advanced techy, you should do some write ups on the HTPC. With the ITX motherboards, you can get a very small case and great for using with downloaded movies/plex. I still have the honken huge receiver sized full atx case, but I also double it up as a server for storage space as well.

Hi Nick =- thanks so much for reaching out. I admit i do need to look into RCA more.. and as for HTPC this is also something I really need to speak about. Thanks for the great ideas. I should have something about Plex on the site in the next month or so. But in the mean time – what can you tell us about ITX motherboards?

Catherine Heinsohn-Hamrick No problem. That is what we are here for. Please help spread the word by sharing our content on your favorite social platforms. And as always, please come back and ask for help as questions come up, or just to give us a status update. Our readers love to hear from other people in similar situations as themselves.

HotDog.com thank you for responding! the Comcast is the best we have had and the kids r always watching Netflix on the PS3 downstairs with very few problems if any, so I would imagine the speed is good. I am upgrading for a twice as fast speed with Comcast. Thank you again for having such a great place to come for answers.

Maurice Andrews Not that I am aware of. But i think with all the press that Aereo generated, i expect new companies to come out of the wood work – over the next few years – looking to take advantage of the huge demand for such a service. One thing I reccommend is reading comments by Joshua Peck on this article: https://hotdog.com/tv-channels He uses a service called USATVNOW combined with PlayOn scripts – and is reporting great success.

Hi Catherine Heinsohn-Hamrick – thanks for reaching out. Roku is just a streaming box that gives you access to streaming services. Some streaming services have commercials and some do not. For example: Netflix = No Commercials, Hulu = Commercials. Secondly, Roku will work with any internet connection you have. The only thing you want to confirm, is that you have a fast enough internet speed to support video play back online. Hope this helps! please check back in soon.

hey Dave – loved reading this article and the comments- I have Comcast intranet and DISH, and am contemplating a ROKU cause I am fine with seeing everything later – i usually record and watch later on purpose to zip thru the commercials – with ROKU are there commercials in the programs you watch or are the shows and movies commercial free? also I actually just do not know if comcast is broadband or satellite – will ROKU work with either/or?

Hi Renee – thanks for the kind words. I really appreciate that.
As for Roku – yes I have a great post you need to read: https://hotdog.com/what-is-roku/

After that i think the first thing you should do is find out if an Antenna will work for you. Using an Antenna you can access major network channels in HD for free. Read this posts in the Over-the-Air Broadcasting section to learn more: https://hotdog.com/tv/antennas-dvrs/

Then check back in with me and let me know what questions you have.

Just stumbled across your site…best site I've seen on the subject.

I am looking at either completely ridding myself of cable or at least having just a basic service. Living in an apartment, my solutions seem to be somewhat limited and I'm just beginning to research options.

I had been looking at the Amazon Fire instead of Roku or similar devices. Have you any information on it? I already have an Amazon Prime account and stream movies on my Kindle, so was wondering about their device and service. Thanks for any help you can render. PS: You're site is bookmarked on my laptop…will be coming back often!!! 🙂

Wow what an offer. thanks Steven. Folks – you would be wise to take Steven up on his offer. He is a true pioneer for the cord cutting movement and really knows his stuff.

Excellent Linda. Have you had a chance to read our Roku focused article? If not please see the following post: https://hotdog.com/what-is-roku/
After you have had a chance to read through this article, please let me know what questions you have. Thanks for contacting us. I really hope we can help you make the switch.

cable tv is way too high ,am thinking of roku, but need to know what i will be able to watch and do i need a monthly movie streaming program /

If there is anyone here who is from Canada that would like to know how to get American content on their streaming devices in Canada feel free to send me a message and I will help you on a one-on-one basis…

If there is anyone here who is from Canada that would like to know how to get American content on their streaming devices in Canada feel free to send me a message and I will help you on a one-on-one basis…

Hey Mackenzie – Thanks for reaching out. Check out Aereo! Not yet available in most areas but this could be the ticket if you are lucky enough to live in a supported region. Here is a post on Aereo you can use to learn more about their service offering: https://hotdog.com/what-is-aereo/

Is there anyway to get local channels without an antenna? I have tried 4 different ones and nothing has worked!

Sorry but i am still lost. We cannot afford cable or DTV so we have been using an antenna. It is the worst as every-time you change channels you have to mess with the rabbit-ears to get a solid picture and even then it often splitsup , degrades and you constantly have to re-scan the channels. Still i refuse to pay the highway robbery prices demanded by Cox,Centurylink or any of the other major TV providers available in our area. We live in Phoenix, AZ /North or Central Corridor depending on your take on our address.
I like to watch major tv network programming CBS/ NBC/ABC/ FOX etc. my wife loves movies. I figure Hulu Netflix is my best bet but i am still lost as to what to buy to access this simple content since my tv is nice enough and supports HD but isn’t internet ready… although i have more ports on the back than the startrek enterprise. including a usb port.I can’t figure out whether or not i need a playstation3 or the leaf antenna. any suggestions are welcome.

Broadband you are absolutely correct. Mohu makes the best antennas on the market and if you link to their site using any of my Mohu links you automatically get 10% off your purchase!

Hey John – thanks for reaching out. First of all, YES get a leaf or one of the many other MOHU antennas. (you get 10% off by using our links by the way) As for streaming content to your TV you have several options: laptop with HDMI out, gaming system (ps3), or a set top box like Roku. As for which one will work best for you, that really depends on your budget and viewing preferences. If you like to play video games, then get a ps3. If you like simplicity and easy navigation, the Roku is great. If you are looking to stream downloaded movies in addition to services like Hulu, and Netflix, a Laptop works really well. Please take some time to read through our site – as we aim to answer these exact questions in detail. And if you need any more help deciding please dont hesitate to post more questions.

Yes, we are considering making the PS4 a gift for my son for Christmas. He can’t wait!

Great Idea! Please check back in and tell us how he likes it, and how you like it for Video Streaming.

I recently got a 3D Blu-ray player and actually found that I like watching Netflix from the PS3 streaming device much better.

I have cable internet, cable TV, a Smart TV, and a Roku 2. I got the Roku hoping I could get my cable channels (remember I have cable internet) on the Roku, but so far have found no way to do so. I must have History Channel live, not past recorded shows. (Obsessed with “Vikings.” LOL) I get old stuff from SyFy on Roku, some live shopping channels, and Amazon Instant Videos with my Prime account. But it appears that unless it’s shopping, it’s not live on Roku. Can I get the History Channel streamed LIVE through Roku or my Smart TV or a combination of both? If so, cable can be downgraded and I’ll save $50 a month. If not, then Roku is only a way for me to watch B movies and past episodes of TV shows, and I’ll be very sad that I let my friend talk me into spending the $80 on it.

Unfortunately I dont know of a way to watch the History Channel Live. What you can do, if there are only a few shows you MUST watch, is buy the episodes online. But as I am sure you know, you need to be careful because shows on Amazon or Itunes are not cheap and you can very easily burn your saving by buying too much content. If you find a resolution please let us know!

I’m trying to kill the cable bill while retaining a DVD player, access to movies, etc. but still get the family friendly content available on Nick Jr. Disney, etc. Do any of these devices allow me to also browse the web? How do I watch tv programs that are on-line? It seems as though these media players do not access those channels and some of them would be worth accessing over the “big screen” or am I missing something? Which device allows me to do this? Or do I need to set up a network and access the internet that way?

Hey Brian – First thing you need to do is check out all the free cable channels you can get with a simple internet connection: https://hotdog.com/tv-channels/ Nick & PBS Kids being two on the list. As for connecting your TV to the internet you have a bunch of options. But at a high level it boils down to three. You either go and buy an in expensive Laptop with HDMI out (which you can get for a few hundred dollars if you look hard), you buy a video streaming devices such as a PS3, Xbox, or any other device that is supported by Playon: https://hotdog.com/what-is-playon/ , or you get a smart TV. But assuming you are not looking to buy a new TV, we will skip that option. If you go the laptop route, you simply hook your TV to your laptop using an HDMI cable and use your TV as a large monitor. If you go the media streaming device route than signing up for Playon will give you access to all the free TV channels on the Web.

Finally there are two other steps you should take: Sign up for Hulu and Netflix, and start looking into either an Indoor or Outdoor Antenna from Mohu.

SKY HDTV Outdoor Antenna: https://hotdog.com/sky-hdtv-outdoor-antenna-from-mohu/

Leaf Ultimate Indoor Antenna: https://hotdog.com/get-amped-with-the-mohu-leaf-ultimate/

This will give you access to Live events on major network stations like NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX etc… Hope this helps!

Ok, so I already have 1 Roku setup in our bedroom. I want to cut cable, we have netflix, all we want is to watch movies, some TV shows and I have to have my NFL. So I’m thinking of buying an antenna for local channels(NFL), and buying another Roku for the living room. I’m a little confused on the TiVo, would it be overkill? I’m trying to get as close to cable as I can, I want to be able to record shows too, what do you recommend, what about a menu, is that what TiVo offers?

i would like to get something that can stream tv shows all day that i can program. I have a mother that can’t figure out how to work the online catalog and w. her arthritis, can’t press buttons too well. What app do you recommend? Roku seems cool, but i don’t read anything that says I can create a queue that plays automatically.

Type your reply…Well i think Roku is a great option – but it does not automatically
stream shows. But it is very easy to use, as all you need to do is use
the right and left buttons to select a program and then hit enter. If
your looking for constant streaming maybe an antenna would work? you
could then just leave the TV on CBS or something and let it go…
Sorry i could not be much help, but please let me know what you decide

Xbox 360 does already offer Hulu Plus. It also offers ESPN3 as well. Not to mention both of them can have playback controls controlled by Kinect. Fall updated bring Xbox Live TV and full Kinect voice control can control including searching for content across services.

Hey Keith – Xbox is amazing. What do you think of these new promises from Microsoft to become the number one video streaming consul on the market?

I have been trying to understand this technology to no avail. Please explain the “connect to the internet” piece. Do I need a wireless router ? How do I get to the Roku site, via a PC ? For a wired connection, how does Roku device connect to my eithernet 100MB router, directly of via a PC ?

You can use a wireless router but use a wired connection for more consistent speed. Wireless connection speeds can vary based on the device, transfer speed and interference. In short – you will get the highest video and audio quality through a hard wired connection.

Roku is not a site it is a device that access sites like Netflix Instant Streaming. Check out “What is Roku” to learn more: https://hotdog.com/what-is-roku/ and if you still have questions let me know.

Great article as usual! Couple of follow up tidbits from a fellow “cable cutter”:
1) Hulu Plus is available on the TiVo Premiere now and I’ve been using it non-stop for a month now. Lots of great programming available. I highly recommend it.
2) PS3 – out of all the game systems that stream, the picture quality of the PS3 is by far the best
3) Boxee – I’ve been using it for 6 months or so and recent downloads have been choking it. I’ve almost phased it out of my entertainment center entirely.

I am a little confused. I have a cable box and a DVD/VHS player. If I buy a blue ray to be able to stream Netflix, what happens with the cable box/ my DVD/VHS regarding being able to play and record as watch/in advance. Thanks kindly.

If your goal is to rid yourself of an expensive cable tv bill, then I suggest you ditch the cable box DVD player and VHS player, and buy a blu-ray player that allows you to stream Netflix and Hulu. (My preferred device is the PS3 because you get all this + the option to play video games if you like.) By doing this you gain access to instant video streaming via Netflix and Hulu, and you no longer need to record live TV because everything you watch is on demand and is accessible 24/7.

If your looking to find a way to record live tv using an antenna then check out the post: Dumping DirectTV for Tivo.

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