Best video streaming devices of 2020

Media streaming devices have exploded in recent years. There are more providers, services and ways to watch than ever before. Sales of connected TV devices, which includes digital streaming systems, grew by 11% with 17.1 million units in Q2 2019, taking the total number in US homes to 322 million, according to data from Strategy Analytics.

All these choices make selecting the right option an increasingly difficult choice. You’ll want to ensure the video streaming device you pick lets you access your favorite shows, movies or games quickly and easily.

The top five best streaming devices

Our methodology and research

We assessed the media streaming devices on the market and whittled it down to five that offer a range of providers, services and a mixture of types of devices.

Devices researched: 20

Criteria used: Price, style of device, picture quality, type of voice search capability and whether the device has a web browser.

Best streaming devices compared

Amazon Fire TV CubeApple TV 4KGoogle Chromecast UltraNvidia Shield TV ProRoku Streaming Stick+
Starting price$119.99$179$69$199.99$49.99
Device styleSet-top boxSet-top boxStickSet-top boxStick
Picture quality4K Ultra HD and HDR 104K and HDR 104K Ultra HD and HDR 104K HDR4K HDR
Voice search capabilityAmazon AlexaSiriNoneGoogle AssistantNone
Web browserYesNoYesNoNo
Storage available16 GB32 GB or 64 GBN/A16 GBN/A

Discover your perfect streaming device

Match your specific needs to the capabilities of the various devices available to decide which way to go. Whether you’re looking for the best streaming device to replace cable or a powerful entertainment system with gaming options, there’s a device out there for everyone.

Best streaming and entertainment device: Amazon Fire TV Cube

Standout features

In addition to being a top-of-the-range streaming device packed with industry-leading playback quality, the Amazon Fire TV Cube doubles up as a compact, highly powerful entertainment system. It even bypasses the need for a remote control. Its Alexa voice command system enables users to ask the device to play their favorite show, switch between connected devices and more. 

Potential drawbacks

The price tag may deter anyone who’s simply looking for a quick and easy plug-in device. 

Streaming service compatibility

Amazon Prime Video, CBS All Access, Netflix, SHOWTIME, STARZ, YouTube TV

Best streaming device for Apple and 4K TV owners: Apple TV 4K

Standout features

The Apple TV 4K is a great premium option for anyone locked into Apple’s products and a 4K TV owner. If that’s you, then you’ll be guaranteed high-quality video streaming and picture quality and voice control access via Siri. Apple also provides one year of free Apple TV+ when you purchase the device or any other new Apple device for that matter.

Potential drawbacks

This is an expensive option, especially when you consider it has a limited choice of streaming apps available, some of which don’t support 4K streaming.

Streaming service compatibility

App Store, HBO GO, HBO NOW, Hulu, iTunes Movies, iTunes TV Shows, Netflix, YouTube TV

Best casting streaming device: Google Chromecast Ultra

Standout features

The Chromecast Ultra’s unique selling point is its usability. Plug it into your TV, and it transforms the mobile device it’s connected to into a remote control, enabling you to cast your favorite shows and movies directly onto your TV. Or, as Google refers to it, mirroring any device or website on your TV. The device automatically optimizes content, ensuring the user always gets the best possible video quality.

Potential drawbacks

This is solely a device for streaming content onto your TV. There’s no voice control or storage of shows or movies.

Streaming service compatibility

Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, fuboTV, Netflix, Spotify and YouTube TV

Best all-in-one gaming and streaming device: Nvidia Shield TV Pro

Standout features

The Nvidia Shield TV Pro is essentially your all-in-one streaming device, games console, media server and smart home hub. That’s why the price is a little higher than any of its rivals on this list. Nvidia’s latest offering includes AI-generated upscaling, which hugely improves the detail and quality of HD content. It also has a built-in Chromecast for all your streaming needs. You can access Nvidia’s GeForce Now service to stream games through its remote servers, ensuring an affordable alternative to a dedicated gaming console.

Potential drawbacks

The price tag suggests this is not an option for someone who simply wants a device to watch Netflix or YouTube. Also, if you plan on using the device for gaming, you might be disappointed— it no longer includes a games controller, so you’ll need to source one from elsewhere. PS4 and XBox controllers are compatible.

Streaming service compatibility

Amazon Music, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, NVIDIA Games, NVIDIA Share, PLEX Media Server, Vudu and YouTube

Best streaming stick: Roku Streaming Stick+

Standout features

High-quality video playback and sound provision are combined with an intuitive user interface and a huge range of 4K HDR apps in the Roku Streaming Stick+. The tiny streaming stick packs a punch with powerful technology that could put up a fight against most existing home entertainment systems. 

Potential drawbacks

There’s no voice assistant but there is limited voice control available. You’ll be stuck with old-fashioned point and push technology for the most part. Furthermore, you can’t control it remotely like some of its rival offerings.

Streaming service compatibility

Amazon Prime Video, fuboTV, Google Play Store, Hulu, NBC News, Netflix, Philo, Sling TV, Stadium, YouTube TV

The takeaway

The streaming device market is rapidly expanding in choice and sophistication, with devices becoming increasingly smart and powerful. Selecting the best streaming option can come down to personal preference, but it’s important to compare and contrast the channels, type of content available, special features and user experiences that providers offer.

Rob Latham

Contributing Writer

Rob Latham is a writer focused on technology, music, entertainment and sports. He is particularly passionate about the role that technology plays in improving peoples’ lives and helping businesses to work more effectively. He’s written marketing content for global B2B technology brands and start-ups, founded his own music blog and is a regular contributor to soccer publications. His professional background is in content marketing, public relations and journalism, and he has a Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism.