These are the best media streamers to cut the cord!
Pictured From Left to Right: Nvidia SHIELD, Roku Ultra, Apple TV 4K, Fire TV Streaming Stick 4K
These are Our Top choices When Buying a New Media Streamer
Disclaimer: We are not affiliated with any of the companies in this review. No devices were provided to us free of charge for the purpose of this review.
Using a media streamers listed here offers a much better cord cutting experience than many so called “Smart TVs.”
We really like using separate media streamers which have their own software and features built in. And they are so much nicer than many Smart TV’s own proprietary software. Roku and Amazon are two exceptions since they both also sell TV models with their own operating system built in. And they do offer a user experience very much like their regular media streamer models.
Because they are easy to upgrade, many experienced cord cutters would still rather choose a stand alone media streamer or streaming stick. If you hardly ever upgrade your hardware. An all in one Roku TV or Television with Android OS may be just the ticket.
Streaming Stick Vs Stand Alone Models
When choosing a media streamer, a choice needs to be made between a Streaming Stick or an external table top model.
Pros of Streaming Sticks
- Their Small footprint makes Streaming stick easier to hide behind the TV and also take along when traveling.
- Because they plug directly into an HDMI port, there is less clutter with wires attached to the TV and power outlet showing.
- Often streaming Sticks also cost less than their larger table top media streamer cousins.
Cons of Streaming Sticks
- Streaming Sticks come in a much smaller package. And this makes them a little more prone to overheating than larger cased table models.
- Since only have WiFi remotes, Universal IR remotes won’t work with them. Also they can’t use an Ethernet hard wire which is better than WiFi for Streaming.
- Because they are behind the TV, weak WiFi signals can cause some problems compared to table top models which can be placed more out in the open.
When it comes to Streaming Stick Media streamers the two best choices are either the Amazon 4K Fire TV Stick or the Roku 4K Streaming Stick+
Both are good choices and either one of these would be the only streaming Stick to buy for several reasons.
They are both 4K. And even if you don’t yet have a 4K television, or don’t plan on buying one any time soon. We still recommend these models because they operate so much faster and smoother than the non 4K streaming stick models.
Both these models can be had for $50 or less sometimes and they offer a great media streaming experience with many popular streaming TV apps.
The biggest reason we like the Roku Ultra better than the Roku Streaming Stick+ is because it offers an Ethernet port. An Ethernet wire from a Router that attaches directly to a media streamer offers better performance overall than WiFi. And it streams media with the least amount of buffering. The Roku Ultra also has an IR port which works with 3rd party universal remotes. Like the low cost remote from Inteset which has backlit keys and also works with many other media streamers like the Nvidia SHIELD.
The Fire TV Cube also comes with an Ethernet Port but it can’t match the performance fo the new 4K Fire TV Stick.
Fire TV Cube Vs Roku Ultra Best Mid-Range Streamer
The next step up the media streamer ladder are both the Fire TV Cube and Roku Ultra media streamers. Between these two models we are leaning more towards the Roku Ultra for several reasons.
- If you plan on subscribing to one or more streaming TV channels or apps. Roku has a better search function that will direct you to those channels you may already pay for. Or to other channels that offer the same content for free. The Fire TV Cube favors its Prime Video Service more. And it typically sends you to Prime Video when the same show may be available elsewhere for free.
- Where Roku has pretty much any other media streamer beat is it’s super easy to use. Someone once said in the Roku Rocks Facebook Group (Which is not affiliate or endorsed by Roku.) That Roku media streamers are for Grandparents. This is actually a compliment because the software is so intuitive, simple to use, and navigate anyone from 2 to 90 can quickly learn how to use it.
- There are a huge list of channels available on Roku. You can find some the more popular channels on this list. Amazon’s Fire TV Cube also has many popular channels. Although some channels can be side loaded that contain content that is not always legal. In this regard Roku does a better job of being a good corporate citizen. And they have done a much better job of stamping out piracy on their platform than Amazon has with their media streamers.
- Hardware wise, both the Fire TV Cube and Roku Ultra are very similar. They both work fine with some of the biggest popular streaming channels in the industry. Amazon’s stand alone Fire TV Cube does not offer the same level of performance and faster hardware than their newer 4K Fire TV Stick does which currently is Amazon’s fastest model.
- Adult Channels. When it comes to adult channels Roku rules. They offer some really great X Rated TV channels which can only be added as private channels.
Roku Best Media Streamer Overall
For most cord cutters Roku is the best choice instead of Fire TV. The easy to use Roku software is second to none. And they simply work really well.
Fire TVs also have their place. And if you love the Android operating system, the new 4K Fire TV Stick would be our choice over the Fire TV Cube. Spend a little more and step up the highly recommended Nvidia SHIELD. And it will blow away the Fire TV Cube or 4K Streaming Stick in performance. Not only is it a performance monster, it just plain looks cool.
High End Media Streamers Apple TV 4K Vs Nvidia SHIELD
While there are plenty of other cheaper Android TV boxes out there, except for the Mi Box, Fire TV, and Nvidia SHIELD. These cheaper clones don’t have the Android TV OS which makes it easy to use from the couch using only a remote control. Other Android media streamers use the Android Phone OS which is much more clunky without a touch screen. And this requires either using a keyboard/touch pad or a mouse than just a remote control.
Cheaper Android boxes rarely get new Android OS updates the way the Nvidia SHIELD has. This means either living with outdated Android software, or buying a new box every 6 months.
Nvidia SHIELD Vs Apple TV
We really like the Nvidia SHIELD, more than any Android box we’ve tried. And even though it was released several years ago, Nvidia has done an outstanding job of keeping SHIELD updated and current.
The SHIELD’s performance is still off the charts compared to any Android or Roku media streamer. The only thing that can touch it performance wise is the new Apple TV 4K.
Choosing between a SHIELD or New Apple TV 4K may come down to which operating system you like better. Android TV or Apple TV OS. It may be a tough decision because both these media streamers will set you back $150+ dollars. It may become an even harder decision once Apple releases its own Streaming TV service, which is due out now any day. Apple TV or iPhone owners will be able to watch original content from Apple’s new Streaming service for Free!
Fire TV and Android Can Use a Browser
Compared to Apple TV and Roku, Android OS will take more time to learn. It’s more powerful and is the only media streamer which also includes a Web Browser. It’s almost like learning another computer operating system and can perform more functions than just a media streamer. Apple TV also has some quirky gestures that will need to be learned.
The Apple TV OS is very simple to use, although not as easy as Roku. The SHIELD like the Fire TV takes a bit of a learning curve but is also a very open system. And any Android apps can be sideloaded. Although apps that are not Android TV OS ready, can be more difficult to launch and they require special software. The Apple TV while not as open does offer several good IPTV apps which can be installed directly from the Apple store.
When you’re ready to step up to the next level of performance and price range, neither one of these media streamers will disappoint.
You simply can’t go wrong buying any media streamer on this page. And no matter which one you start off, with they all offer plenty of options for watching some great cable Free TV. If you’re a new cord cutter, at some point you will most likely want to expand your options. It’s not all that uncommon for cord cutters to switch between several media streamers and end up owning more than one.Don’t Miss These Best Roku Channels That Rock!