It’s time to accept the cold, hard truth. Physical media is going the way of the dodo. No one is ever going to collect DVDs or Blu-rays the way hipsters lust after 180 gram vinyl. In an age where everything is available at the touch of a button, who has time to find a movie, open its case, and pop it into a player? Not to mention the fact that you then have to wait as the disc loads, boots to some inane home screen, and then you still have to navigate to the play button.
These days, it’s all about streaming. Instantaneous gratification. Push one button and voila, entertainment is piped into your living room via a variety of popular streaming services. If you’re still rummaging through the DVD clearance bins at your local Wal-Mart for the family’s next movie night, it’s absolutely imperative that you find out which unassuming little boxes are the best streaming devices of 2016.
So, what’s the best streaming device for enjoying Netflix, Hulu, Sling TV, and other popular apps directly on your TV? Check out our full rundown of the best streaming devices of 2016 below.
With a clean, easy to use interface and compatibility with virtually every streaming app known to man (over 3,000 channels, including Sling TV), the Roku 3 is in a class above the rest, proving it to be one of the best streaming devices of 2016. Combine this with the fact that it has innovative features like a headphone jack built in to the wireless remote for private listening and voice search capability that actually works really well, you’ve got yourself the perfect media streaming package.
Other things we love about the Roku 3:
- Lightning fast interface
- Customizable UI
- The best search on the market, making it easy to find where you can watch your favorite shows and movies
If you don’t need the headphone jack, go for the Roku 2, it is virtually the same device at a fraction of the cost. The Roku 4, which supports 4K video, is also available, but its inflated price tag makes the Roku 3 the best bet for most.
The Roku 3 retails for $99.99, but you can get it for 50% off if you sign up for 3 months of Sling TV’s live streaming service that includes over 20 popular channels, like ESPN, ESPN2, AMC, TNT, and more.
With beefy components capable of delivering ultra high definition content, the Amazon Fire TV is worth a look if your Internet connection supports the blazing fast data speeds necessary to support 4K. In addition to being able to see the blocked pores of your favorite actors, the Amazon Fire TV also supports voice searching which is capable of delivering results for not only video, but for apps as well.
Similarly to the Apple TV, the Amazon Fire TV has a tendency to heavily promote Amazon’s own content over everyone else’s, which can be a bit annoying if you’re not a Prime member. The Fire TV is super speedy and responsive, and recently added a game pad peripheral that allows you to play controller-supported Android games.
Amazon Fire TV retails for $99.99, the same price point as the Roku 3. While we prefer the Roku 3, Fire TV is certainly in the conversation for best streaming device and you can’t go wrong with it.
This sexy black box has a sleek user interface and plays well with all of the other iDevices in Apple’s wheelhouse, making it the perfect choice for those who value iOS integration above all else. Apple TV now comes with a fantastic new remote that features an integrated touch pad and the ability to enlist the help of Siri when you’re trying to figure out what to binge watch on a Friday night. And of course, there’s the mirroring feature that allows you to display what’s on your iPhone or iPad directly onto your TV.
Of course, it is very Apple-centric, with a tendency to bury third party apps in favor of promoting Apple’s apps front and center. And that also means you won’t be able to get certain streaming services on Apple TV, like Sling TV for example. The other downside to the Apple TV, as we recently pointed out in our review, is its inflated price tag — $149 for the 32 GB and $199 for the 64 GB version. Unless you absolutely need your streaming device to play nice with every Apple product, it’s probably not worth the extra coin.
Google’s inexpensive hockey puck streamer is proof that big things can come in small packages. At a fraction of the cost of its competitors, the Chromecast is one of the cheapest ways to stream content from thousands of providers, as long as you don’t mind using your phone, tablet or PC as a controller.
The lack of a dedicated remote means that operation of the Chromecast is reliant on a phone, tablet or computer, and since there are no television screen menus, operation can be a bit cumbersome and tricky for those who aren’t tech savvy.
While the Chromecast is able to access content from the most popular providers including Sling TV, there is no native support for Amazon Instant Video, which is going to be a deal breaker for some. That said, at just $35, it’s certainly among the best streaming devices at its price point.
Both Sony and Microsoft have been focused on making their video game consoles an all-in-one entertainment device, with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox one respectively. In addition to being able to play next-gen games that blow Android games out of the water in terms of quality and graphics, they are also able to play Blurays and DVDs and stream content from a wide variety of providers. In many ways, the latest PlayStation and Xbox consoles can function as streaming devices of their own. The Xbox One even lets you connect your antenna directly into it with an add-on TV tuner, helping centralize your TV viewing experience through the console.
There are, however, some downsides. First, there’s app support. Neither gaming console supports as many streaming apps as any of the leading streaming players, like Roku. Then, there is their price tag, as the latest consoles cost significantly more than the average media streaming box (usually in the $300 and up range for either console). But if you’re a gamer who is looking for a one stop shop for all things entertainment, a console is your best choice.
The vast majority of Blu-ray players on the market nowadays have the ability to connect to the Internet which enables them access to some of the most popular video streaming apps including Netflix and Hulu. Their limited compatibility has some glaring omissions, and can even differ from brand to brand, but if you have a large collection of Blu-rays and DVDs, a Blu-ray player with streaming capabilities might be the one for you.
What do you think is the best streaming device? Did we leave any good ones off our list of the best streaming devices of 2016? Let us know in the comments below!