Best streaming devices: access your favorite shows and apps whenever you want

Our pick of the best streaming devices from Google, Amazon, Roku and more

Chromecast with Google TV being used in living room with TV mounted to white wall
(Image credit: Google)

The way we watch television has changed so much in recent years that those still relying on older technology are in danger of becoming lost in a sea of devices and gadgets that promise to deliver the very best the streaming age has to offer.

The best streaming devices are an easy way to boost your viewing experience without spending a lot of money, but there's still a confusing amount of choice out there. This guide aims to help you decide which service to choose, whether you're thinking of 'upcycling' an older set or just want to change how you navigate and keep track of your media.

Keep reading to see which streaming devices we chose, and if you're also looking for a second TV for your bedroom, kitchen, or elsewhere, take a look at our guide to the best 40 inch TVs.

The best streaming devices: tried and tested by us

Why you can trust Livingetc Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Chromecast with Google TV

(Image credit: Google)
Best Google streaming device

Specifications

System: Android TV
Max resolution: 4K
Smart assistant built-in?: Google Assistant
Profiles?: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Works with Nest products
+
Dolby Atmos support
+
Voice search via remote

Reasons to avoid

-
Won't work with Alexa or Siri

Chromecast has been around for a long time, but until recently, it was a way to cast content from another device to your TV. Now, the Chromecast with Google TV adds the Android TV platform to older TVs, bringing with it all the content and recommendation data from the search engine's archives. This results in a more helpful home screen than most.

The device also has all of the same benefits as Chromecast, and the remote has voice search. You don't even have to have an existing Google Nest smart speaker to use the voice assistant, as the dongle has one built-in. 

Livingetc rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars | read our full review of the Chromecast with Google TV

Sky Stream

(Image credit: Sky)
Best Sky streaming solution

Specifications

System: Sky
Max resolution: 4K
Smart assistant built-in?: No

Reasons to buy

+
Voice search via remote
+
Dolby Atmos and Ultra HDR support with £6/month extra
+
Live television
+
Buildable (and shrinkable) bundle of channels and services

Reasons to avoid

-
Get expensive with various subscriptions added on
-
Won't work with Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri

The British broadcasting giant has now entered the streaming game outside of its NOW TV platform with the release of the Sky Stream device. The Stream builds on the success of its Sky Glass TV but makes everything slightly more accessible. It's still incredibly expensive, but when you compare it to something like Apple TV (below), still reasonable for the amount of content you get.

The Sky Stream comes with strings attached, as you have to subscribe to Sky Entertainment and Netflix on a monthly rolling or 18-month basis. From there, you can add more services like Sky Sports, Sky Cinema, Sky Kids, and more while still having access to all of the major streaming apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney+.

Livingetc rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars | read our full review of the Sky Stream

The best streaming devices: more top picks

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

(Image credit: Amazon)

3. Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

Best Amazon streaming device

Specifications

System: Fire OS
Max resolution: 4K
Smart assistant built-in?: Alexa

Reasons to buy

+
Voice search via remote
+
Dolby Atmos support
+
Live TV with SLING TV, YouTube TV

Reasons to avoid

-
Won't work with Google Assistant or Siri

In the same way that Alexa has made its mark in the smart assistant world, the Fire TV Stick is what many people first think of when considering whether they need a streaming dongle. Luckily, the device comes with Alexa built-in, meaning you can use it to control other compatible smart home tech around the home.

The Fire OS experience is easy to use and intuitive and, like Google, benefits from being able to use the information that Amazon already has about you to create a tailored experience. There's also support for Dolby Atmos audio, live TV via certain apps, and voice search with the remote.

Roku Streaming Stick 4K

(Image credit: Roku)

4. Roku Streaming Stick 4K

Best Roku streaming device

Specifications

System: Roku
Max resolution: 4K
Smart assistant built-in?: No

Reasons to buy

+
Works with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit
+
Voice search via remote

Reasons to avoid

-
No Dolby Atmos support

We're big fans of the Roku platform because of its simplicity. While that slight lack of bells and whistles in its interface might not be for everyone, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K earns its place on this list due to its overall compatibility with smart home systems like Google, Alexa, and HomeKit.

Unlike many of the best streaming devices produced by big brands like Amazon and Google, Roku users have the benefit of cross-compatibility. However, none of these smart assistants are built-in. You also get 4K resolution and voice search with the Roku remote, though Dolby Atmos audio isn't supported (Roku offers DTS Digital Surround instead).

Apple TV 4K 64GB (2nd Gen)

(Image credit: Apple)

5. Apple TV 4K 64GB (2nd Gen)

Best Apple TV streaming device

Specifications

System: Apple iOS
Max resolution: 4K
Smart assistant built-in: No

Reasons to buy

+
Dolby Atmos support
+
Works with Siri voice assistant

Reasons to avoid

-
Very expensive
-
No voice search via remote
-
Won't work with Alexa or Google Assistant

One for those who are really serious about their TV watching and who are already entrenched in the Apple ecosystem. The Apple TV 4K might be the most expensive example on this list, but Apple fans know that they're getting a high-quality bit of tech. Still, it's a hefty premium, which is why the device isn't higher on our list.

The Apple TV device is a puck rather than a dongle or stick, and with it you get Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, access to services such as Apple Arcade and Apple Fitness+ (though these require an additional subscription), and voice search via the Siri-enabled remote.

Roku Streambar

(Image credit: Roku)

6. Roku Streambar

Best multi-purpose streaming device

Specifications

System: Roku
Max resolution: 4K
Smart assistant built-in?: No

Reasons to buy

+
Soundbar and streaming stick all-in-one
+
Works with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit
+
Voice search via remote

Reasons to avoid

-
More expensive than a standalone streaming stick
-
No Dolby Atmos support

The Roku Streambar is a fantastic option for those who want both a soundbar and a streaming device but don't know which to invest in first. The bar has all of the benefits of the Roku platform built-in but then also adds Dolby Audio-boosted sound with four interior speakers. You can also buy rear speakers separately if you want a more surround sound experience.

The soundbar is compact and won't wake up too much room in front of your TV, and features like boosted volume and auto speech clarity mean it can be customized to fit your tastes and needs. If you want to learn more about TV speakers, you can head on over to our guide to the best soundbars.

TiVo Stream 4K

(Image credit: TiVo)

7. TiVo Stream 4K

Most affordable streaming device

Specifications

System: Android TV
Max resolution: 4K
Smart assistant built-in?: Google Assistant

Reasons to buy

+
Good price
+
Voice search via remote
+
Live TV with SLING TV

Reasons to avoid

-
Won't work with Alexa or Siri

Just because the TV landscape has changed unrecognizably over the last decade, that doesn't mean we can count the old players out. Like Sky for the UK, TiVo has moved with the times and released its own streaming media player. It relies heavily on Google technology but is actually a little cheaper than other devices.

The platform is Android TV, so Google users will find it familiar to navigate, and Chromecast is built-in. The TiVo Stream 4K also offers Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos support, and you can use the remote for voice searches via built-in Google Assistant. Our use for the humble DVR may have diminished, but don't count TiVo out just yet.

How to choose the best streaming device for your home

Chromecast with Google TV being tested in writer's home

(Image credit: Future)

What streaming device has the best picture quality?

All streaming devices on this list offer a maximum of 4K resolution, which is the top end of what most content is available to watch in. While 8K TVs are becoming slightly more common for those who want to future-proof their entertainment systems, 4K is still very much the norm and available across Google, Amazon, Apple, Roku and more.

Is it better to get a smart TV or a streaming device?

Whether a smart TV is a better investment than a streaming device depends on your and your family's preferences. Suppose you have an older TV that doesn't offer streaming options on its own. In that case, it can be both economical and less wasteful to upgrade your existing set with an inexpensive streaming stick, dongle, or other device. 

However, smart TVs are a way to get everything in one, and if you're already thinking about upgrading your TV, it might be better to go all the way. Just make sure that you do your research, which we can hopefully help with in our guide to the best TV brands.

What is the best streaming device?

The best streaming device (in our opinion) is the Chromecast with Google TV, which brings together the convenience of casting media from your device with a smooth user interface, good recommendations, and support for all the major streaming apps.

However, if you're an Alexa user, you would be best off choosing the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K or the Roku Streaming Stick 4K, which also works with Siri for Apple users.