From Roku to Fire TV, these inexpensive streaming sticks and streaming boxes turn dumb TVs into smart TVs.
Streaming media boxes have become incredibly popular with those looking to upgrade older TVs -- they can make a dumb TV smart (so long as that older TV has an HDMI port available). They’re also popular with those looking for an easier-to-use alternative to the wonky user interfaces that come pre-installed on many new televisions.
And, of course, streaming boxes are popular with those looking to cut the cable cord. While subscriptions to Hulu, Disney+, Paramount+ and more will cost you a small monthly fee, there are a lot of free streaming options available as well. Roku devices offer access to The Roku Channel with a surprising amount of quality TV shows and movies ready to stream, and most every streamer supports Pluto TV, an app with hundreds of channels (including local news).
With so many streaming devices and brands available, choosing the right one can be tricky. That’s why we’ve put together this list of the most popular streaming sticks and streaming boxes you can get right now -- some of which are currently on sale.
(Note: ET Online and Pluto TV are both subsidiaries of ViacomCBS.)
Roku Streaming Stick+
Roku makes some of the best streaming devices available for two reasons: They have an easy-to-use user interface, and they support hundreds of live TV channels and feature tens of thousands of apps. This inexpensive 4K-ready option measures 3.7 inches and hides behind your TV, plugging directly into an available HDMI port.
Roku Express 4K+
A nice upgrade from the Roku Streaming Stick+, the Roku Express 4K+ streaming box features 4K and HDR streaming, a faster wireless connection and a voice remote. The only catch: Unlike the easy-to-hide streaming stick models, the Roku Express 4K+ will add to your set top box clutter.
Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite
Despite its price, the budget-friendly Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite doesn’t skimp on features. It includes an Alexa voice remote, and unlike other streaming box options, it can be used to view the feed from your Ring security cameras and more.
Apple TV 4K
If you’re loyal to the Apple iPhone, this might be the streaming device for you. The Apple TV 4K has powerful hardware (for quick-loading apps), a Siri voice remote, 32GB of storage, support for Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 surround sound and more. The catch? It’s the most expensive streaming option out there.
The Roku Ultra streaming box is the most feature-rich of the Roku bunch: It supports 4K streaming, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, and comes with a remote with a headphone jack for private, late-night listening. It has long-range Wi-Fi plus a wired connection, if you want the smoothest streaming experience possible.
The Google Chromecast is not as user-friendly as some of the other options on this list, especially if you’re an Apple loyalist. And it doesn't come with its own remote. But it does interface well with Google Home and Android phones, making it an inexpensive way to cast Netflix, Disney+ and more onto your TV.
Talk about a serious, all-in-one upgrade to your home theater setup: The Roku Streambar is a four-speaker soundbar with a Roku 4K streaming device built in. You can even add on a Roku Wireless Subwoofer or Roku Wireless Speakers for a full surround-sound experience. It comes with a voice remote.