Best media streaming devices 2021: Reviews and buying advice

Best media streaming devices 2021: Reviews and buying advice

It’s an excellent time to buy a media streaming device, whether you’ve just cut the cable cord or you’re looking to supplement your TV package with an online video service like Netflix, Hulu, or a newcomer like Apple TV+ or Disney+. Compared to the typical smart TV, standalone streamers such as the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K and the all-new Nvidia Shield TV tend to have bigger app selections, faster performance, and more features. And with so much competition between device makers, the hardware is becoming faster, more capable, and more affordable.

We constantly test all the latest devices, including Roku players, Fire TV devices, Android TV devices, Apple TV, and Chromecast. We review each new generation of hardware and constantly revisit the software and app selection so we can help you determine which platform is right for you. Here are our picks for the best streaming boxes and sticks, along with all of our most current product reviews. Our recommendations will change over time as new products come to market.  

Updated April 19, 2021 to provide a link to our Roku Voice Remote Pro review. This $30 accessory for Roku media streamers and Roku TVs adds a ton of features, although we wish it went just wee bit further with its support for voice commands. It’s an especially good value if you own a lesser Roku device or an older Roku TV that doesn’t have the best quality remote.

Best 4K HDR streaming device

Amazon got pretty much everything right with its latest streaming stick. The Amazon Fire TV 4K of course supports 4K streaming, but it also delivers all the HDR formats you could want (including HDR10+ and Dolby Vision), it supports Dolby Atmos soundtracks for truly immersive audio, and it includes hardware-accelerated MPEG-2 video decoding for cord cutters who want to stream live TV over their home networks. 

You’ll find Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant onboard, too, and the new remote can control your TV’s power and volume—including a mute function. It’s not absolutely perfect—YouTube TV subscribers will be disappointed to hear they’ve been ignored—but it is the best deal in media streaming hardware you can buy today.


Roku’s best streamer now supports both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. You can stream music to it via Bluetooth, and it has a faster processor. The company hasn’t taken away any of the Ultra’s best features, including its remote control with a built-in headphone jack for private listening, programmable launch buttons, and voice control. We’re not quite as enthusiastic about Roku’s decision to stick with its approach to surfacing apps, versus surfacing content. Maybe next year? 

Best voice-controlled media streamer 

Voice control is the future of the smart home, and Amazon comes closest to delivering it in the living room with its second-generation Amazon Fire TV Cube. Could it be even better? For sure, and our review points how the areas where it still falls short. But nothing else comes close—yet. 

Other options to consider

Apple TV 4K is very expensive, but it’s an obvious choice for folks who’ve devoted themselves to the Apple ecosystem—including the new Apple TV+ streaming service (you can read our review of Apple TV+ here). It’s the only streaming box that supports iTunes videos, Apple Music, and AirPlay streaming—not to mention Dolby Vision HDR—and it serves as a HomeKit hub for remote control of your smart home.

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