Have you or your clients been thinking about cutting the (cable) cord but you’re overwhelmed by the number of streaming devices on the market?
While a TV or cable box may be able to stream directly, many find that having a separate, dedicated device results in a smoother experience. Older TVs may not support the latest apps—for example, Apple TV isn’t available on certain Sony and Samsung Smart TVs.
In this article we’ll cover the top five streaming options for TVs as of 2022:
- Fire TV – $34.99 for 4K stick to $89.99 for Fire TV Cube
- Chromecast with Google TV – $49.99
- Roku – $49.99 for 4K stick to $99.99 for Ultra
- Apple TV – starting at $179.99
- Nvidia Shield Pro – $199.99
The devices listed above will allow you to stream content from apps such as Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, YouTube, and more. Vudu is a great app for watching free TV and movies, but it’s not natively supported on Fire TV. Playing content from your mobile device on your TV is easy with any of the streaming devices, though iPhone users may prefer to use Airplay on Apple TV whereas Android users can use Chromecast and Nvidia Shield for Android TV. Screen mirroring on Roku and Fire TV simply need to be enabled in the options settings.
Resolution and Performance
Each streaming device offers a version that has 4K HDR, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos for the most immersive streaming experience possible. While the technical specs vary slightly, I’ve found the higher tier versions of devices from each manufacture are very responsive and quick to start up and load apps. The latest versions include Wi-Fi 6 compatibility, included ethernet port or have a giga-ethernet adaptor available. It’s important to have a strong connection when streaming 4K content. Nvidia Shield does have AI upscaling built in, which enhances HD video to 4K resolution.
The Roku remote has evolved over time to include voice control and private listening via a headphone jack. It can also be controlled through an included app on your phone, which can be helpful for typing things such as passwords or searches. The higher tier versions of Roku and Fire TV include volume and power control for your TV. If you find yourself losing your remote often, Nvidia Shield and Roku both have a handy feature to help you find it.
Smart Home Compatibility
If you’re a Google Home user, you can stream video footage from any of your nest cameras with a Chromecast. Chromecast, Nvidia Shield, Fire TV, and Apple TV can be used like a dashboard to control compatible smart home devices. Roku devices can be controlled via smart speakers but do not offer support to control other devices. Live streaming-compatible cameras, including the Ring doorbell, are easy with Fire TVs, the latest Fire TV Stick 4K Max, and the Fire TV Cube features picture in picture. What really sets Nvidia Shield apart is that it works as a Plex Media server allowing you to store and play content you own locally.
Google offers games through Stadia, a cloud gaming service, using the included remote or by pairing Bluetooth devices. Using Nvidia GameStream technology allows gamers to cast games from their PC to the shield to play on the big screen. It can also play content from a large library of games to play directly on the device.
Deciding which streaming device to buy usually comes down to a few factors: budget, what content you’ve already bought, and, ultimately, personal preference. If gaming is important, consider the affordable Chromecast TV or more advanced Nvidia Shield Pro. For those heavily invested in Apple products, they may prefer Apple TV’s user experience. Fire TV tends to push Prime content over others, whereas Roku is more agnostic—but both are great options. Even if you or your clients do not own a 4K TV, it’s worth buying a newer version of a streaming device since they are faster and will work with newer (and future) TVs.