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The 5 Best Streaming Devices of 2021

Even when you’ve got a wonderful streaming service to watch or even one of the many available free services, the next move is to find a high-quality streaming device to enjoy your favorite movies on Netflix or elsewhere.

Five Best TV Streaming Devices

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Of almost all of the options, the Amazon Fire TV Cube seals the deal. Not only is it a fully competent media streamer with compatibility for any big audio and video format, but it also is a tremendous smart home and home theater platform, giving you voice control of almost any connected gadget you have.

We believe the Amazon Fire TV Cube would be a great streaming device for most users, but if you’re still not sure, we included additional suggestions that can match any budget.

Amazon TV Cube

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Why would you buy this? The Cube isn’t just an outstanding streaming device—it can better monitor your whole entertainment center than your remotes can.

It took a lot to knock a Roku system out of our leading position, but the Fire TV Cube grabbed the streaming device kingdom’s crown. That could be surprising, particularly since the system was originally reported to have stand-alone Alexa support as little more than the first Fire TV box—no external Echo speaker required. But in fact, it’s packed with incredible tech and features that will let you monitor just about anything in your entertainment unit with limited remote use.

Although Alexa needs unique voice control, the A.I. Learn to identify your input style. Amazon has decided to constantly upgrade Alexa’s voice recognition features and refine the assistant to fit consumer needs, meaning the voice can be identified when more people use it.

Its nature as a home theater control center might be the Cube’s biggest selling point, but it’s also just an incredible streamer. It is capable of 4K and HDR playback has built-in Dolby Atmos support and comes with an Ethernet adapter for the most secure data link possible—something that is missing in other Fire TV products.

Roku Streaming Stick+

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The Roku Streaming Stick+ provides 4K and HDR plus other exclusive features that you won’t find in many other priced devices. Who’s that for? Anyone wanting to stream 4K and HDR via a convenient app.

The Streaming Stick+ provides some of the best feature-to-price ratios among streaming devices. You can enjoy 4K HDR video and Dolby Atmos Audio through this tiny gadget that appears like a memory stick and completely blends behind your TV.

One of our favorite Roku Streaming Stick+ things is a feature provided by all Roku devices: an impressive user interface. Roku OS uses an app-agnostic style, making it easier to find the right place to watch whatever you want with almost every other smartphone on the market. Despite missing Dolby Vision support for new devices like the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, we still recommend Roku’s voice search and user-friendly interface. For us, it’s the top streaming stick on the market.

Nvidia Shield TV Pro (2019)

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Why do you buy this? It blends 4K, Dolby Vision HDR, and Dolby Atmos with professional gaming features. With 4K, HDR, Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos and amazing gaming options, Shield TV Pro is a great gaming streamer.

Who’s that for? All who enjoy their streaming with good gameplay.

Most of the devices on this list concentrate on streaming content, but despite the “TV” in its name, the Nvidia Shield TV Pro takes a different approach. The computer has 4K resolution and HDR streaming features based on the Android TV platform, but the Shield TV Pro is built with gamers in mind.

Nvidia’s GeForce NOW service—currently available as a free trial but anticipated to command about $10 a month at some point—allows users to download games to their Shield TV with up to 4K resolution, but output depends on internet speed. On the audio side, Nvidia Shield TV Pro supports surround sound 5.1 and 7.1 and also Dolby Atmos object-based surround sound. High-resolution audio is also provided, natively supporting some formats and passthrough supporting others. If you’re a Plex user, the Shield’s Plex client is one of the few that supports Dolby TrueHD with Atmos and is efficient enough to play 4K HDR videos without server-based transcoding.

Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite

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Why do you buy this? If you’re not using 4K, it’s something else, at a rock-bottom price. With HDR, Dolby Atmos, and a remote for voice commands, this streaming stick is an insane deal.

Who’s that for? Anyone willing to forego 4K resolution for a full-fledged streamer only in $30.

When Roku released its $30 Express, our best budget pick seemed like a no-brainer. But change is constant, and when Amazon unveiled the Fire TV Stick Lite, we realized the match was met by Roku Express.

The Fire TV Stick Lite offers HDR support (HDR 10, HDR10+, HLG), Dolby Atmos passthrough (ideal if you have a TV, soundbar, or A/V receiver that enables it and remote control with Alexa voice commands.

It provides 1080p full HD video that still looks fantastic (particularly in HDR), and like other streaming sticks, you can conceal everything behind your TV—no visible cables.

If you’re good at these few restrictions, Fire TV Stick Lite is now one of the best qualities in the tech world.

Roku Ultra (2021)

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It’s a strong, well-rounded set-top streaming box with Roku’s superior interface and app support. Roku Ultra is a versatile 4K streaming box without costing a fortune.

Who’s that for? Those that like Streaming Stick+ functionality, and want more speed and media preferences.

Roku Ultra’s previous version was already our choice for the best premium streamer, and the latest 2021 version validates the honor.

Much like Fire TV Cube, the Ultra sports an Ethernet adapter to help increase link speeds, but you might never need it—Roku gave the new 802.11ac MIMO dual-band Wi-Fi. And it has a USB port to display the content of any compatible device.

The product also includes a “lost remote” button activating a tone from the remote (although we all know it’s under the couch). The control has both a private listening headphone jack and dedicated power/volume controls, depending on the model.

New in 2021 is the capability to use the Ultra as a Bluetooth module for any audio from a mobile device.

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