The Ultimate Streaming Device Guide For Cord Cutters


With a wide variety of content streaming services to choose from, there’s a lot of great content available online. In this post, we’ll look at some of the options for devices used to watch that content at home and on the go.

Roku

Roku has five streaming devices available, ranging in price from $29.99 to $99.99. Each will let you stream digital content on your TV, but there are a few features that set them apart.

Roku Express is the most basic option, with the lowest price tag of $29.99. The device comes with an HDMI cable to connect to your TV with easy setup instructions. The low cost means this player doesn’t come with many extras, but works well for those looking for a basic device.

Available only at WalMart, the Roku Express+ costs $39.99. The Express+ is identical to the Express, with one exception. It comes with both HDMI and composite ports, so it can be used with older TVs that don’t have an HDMI option.

The Roku Streaming Stick is priced at $49.99 and makes streaming content more convenient. The stick can be put directly into the HDMI port in your TV to instantly bring your streaming content to your screen. Use the portable device at home or take it with you to use at a friend’s house, on vacation, and while traveling.

One step up is the Roku Streaming Stick+ at $69.99. Offering the same features as the Streaming Stick, this device is great for using at home or while traveling. The difference is the wireless range. You’ll get a stronger signal strength and 4 times the range with this Streaming Stick+.

Finally, the Roku Ultra comes in at $99.99 for faster loading, better picture, and some extra features. The Ultra is recommended for those who frequently watch content in HD, 4K, and HDR. The device has an ethernet port for connecting directly to the internet and offering faster speeds. A USB port allows you to connect an external hard drive to view media you’ve saved. Even the remote gets an upgrade, with a headphone jack and an option for night listening mode which controls the volume so you won’t wake up the rest of the house while watching.

Each device can be used with the Roku app. The app can allow you to use your phone as a remote, let you use your voice to search your Roku content, cast to your TV, and listen with headphones.

Amazon Fire TV

Amazon’s streaming devices are incredibly popular with Amazon customers. While there is an emphasis on Amazon content and products with these two devices, the Fire TV options are worth looking into for any cord cutter.

The Fire TV Stick costs $39.99 and works well as a portable content streaming device. The Fire TV Stick can be plugged into your TV’s HDMI port for quick and easy set up. Take it with you while traveling to bring your digital content wherever you have a TV to plug into. The device comes with an Alexa Voice Remote so you can control the device with your voice by giving Alexa commands.

The Fire TV costs a bit more at $69.99, but offers more memory, faster speeds, and better image quality thanks to its ability to connect with an ethernet cable. This is the better option for those who want to watch in HD and 4K. Like the Fire TV Stick, the Fire TV comes with an Alexa enabled remote, allowing for voice controls.

Both options can be purchased from the Amazon website. Pair them with your Amazon Echo for a more seamless voice controlled system. Note that buying an Amazon Fire TV does not give you access to Amazon’s digital content. You’ll still need to sign up for a monthly or annual Amazon Prime Video subscription for that.

Google Chromecast

Google’s Chromecast does things a little differently than other streaming devices. Rather than displaying content with on screen interface and selecting content with a remote, the Chromecast works by casting content from another device to your screen. Google has two Chromecast devices to choose from.

The Chromecast costs $35. The simple device connects to your TVs HDMI port and quickly connects your devices to your TV. Use it with your phone, tablet, and computer. Both Mac and Windows are supported. The device also lets you cast your own media, making it easy to show off your favorite photos. With the mirror function, you can mirror your device’s screen on your TV as well.

The Chromecast Ultra is available for $69. This version works just like the original Chromecast, but allows for 4K and HDR viewing. An ethernet adapter can connect your device directly, allowing for a better connection and faster speeds.

Unsure of casting versus using an on screen interface? When you cast to your TV from your computer, phone, or tablet, you can continue to use the device without interrupting what you’re watching. If you already have apps on your devices to watch streaming content, you won’t need to go through the login process again, so it’s quick and easy to start watching after hooking up the Chromecast.

Both the Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra can easily be paired with Google Home devices. When paired, you’ll be able to control your Chromecast with voice commands.

Apple TV

Apple has three streaming devices available, ranging in price from $149 to $199. Those with other Apple devices in the home will appreciate the compatibility, but Apple TV can be used by anyone.

The current version of Apple TV costs $149 for 32GB. True to Apple style, the interface is clean and simple. Choose your favorite apps and watch content in HD. The device comes with a Siri remote and the option to use your iPhone as a remote. Just like using Siri on your phone, you can use the Siri button to switch channels, find content, and play your favorite shows and movies.

With Apple TV 4K, you’ll have the option of paying $179 for 32GB or $199 for 64GB. Again, the major difference between the devices is the ability to play content in 4K for a crisper image. The Apple TV 4K also comes with the Siri remote to give voice commands with a push of a button.

Apple TV is great for those with a large iTunes library. Existing content connects quickly and Apple makes it easy to buy or rent content through iTunes to stream with the Apple TV.

With both Apple TV and Apple TV 4K, you can use AirPlay to cast content to your TV screen. Use an iPhone, iPad, or your Apple computer to find content and click on the AirPlay button to bring it to your TV screen.

XBox One

XBox One is more than a gaming console. The devices can also be used to stream digital content. Starting at $279, the company has two standard options, as well as plenty of options for those who are interested in specific games.

The XBox One S Starter Bundle is the basic package for $279. The bundle includes the console and a wireless controller that will act as your remote when streaming content. The One S can stream in 4K, giving a sharp and clear image. At 500GB, there is plenty of room to store recorded content through apps like Plex.

Currently, the XBox One X is available for pre-order at $499.99. The new console will offer some great upgrades for gamers, but will also improve the viewing experience for cord cutters. Images will be cleaner, content will load faster, and 1TB of storage will allow for even more content.

The XBox consoles are clearly geared toward gamers and designed with gaming in mind. However, both the One and One X are comparable to other streaming devices and are a great option for those who want to both play XBox games and watch TV after cutting the cord.

PlayStation 4

Like the XBox One, the PlayStation 4 is clearly made for gamers, but offers another option for cord cutters. Starting at $299.99, the PlayStation 4 is great for those who want to easily switch between their favorite games and favorite TV shows on demand.

The PS4 retails for $299.99 and includes 1TB of storage. You’ll have the option of buying the console alone or choosing from a variety of bundles that include special edition designs and favorite PlayStation games.

The PS4 Pro costs $399.99 and also has 1TB of storage. Upgrading to the PS4 Pro will allow you to watch 4K content, along with having a faster and more powerful system. Like the PS4, the Pro edition can be purchased in bundles, special edition designs and favorite PlayStation games.

Again, the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro are designed to be gaming consoles, but work well for streaming content as well.

Mobile Apps

Of course, streaming devices aren’t the only way to get access to your online content. With mobile apps, you can watch your favorite shows and movies on your phone or tablet. Mobile apps make it easy to stream content at home or on the go, especially now that many streaming services are offering the option to download content to watch later, even without an internet connection.

DIRECTV Now is currently beta testing a DVR and app for its users. With the app, you’ll be able to watch live TV from your mobile device or TV, making it more convenient to catch your favorite shows in real time. Those with Chromecast or AirPlay will be able to cast their content to their screen. With the DVR, you’ll also have the option of recording shows to watch later.

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  • androidscales

    You forgot to mention few million users that are using android tv example shield tv or mui Android tv, Sony tv, Panasonic tv, Visio tv etc to name a few

  • David Batten

    I just love how CCN always forgets that ANDROID TV exist. Since it happens with almost every article, it seems as though it is on purpose!

    So I ask, what does Cord Cutters News have against Android TV?
    Again…. What does Cord Cutters News have against Android TV?

    • Vegas Steve

      Well, Google has pretty much forgotten about Android TV too.

      • David Batten

        I agree Goggle does not promote Android TV as well as I would like, but Google has not forgotten it. I get frequent updates to my NVidia Shield TV’s. Android Oreo coming very soon as well.
        Xiaomi does not update the Mi Box like NVidia does for the Shield. I cant speak about the other Android TV devices and smart TV’s as I don’t own them.

        • Vegas Steve

          Yeah, I guess what I meant was Google makes a half hearted effort. He’s probably focusing on the majority of users and Android TV is at the bottom.

    • Fred Koot

      They did do a Shield article a few days ago and had numerous ones on the Air tv.

      • David Batten

        But any article that discusses the all the media devices, etc. They never include Android TV.

        I guess that’s cause the NVidia Shield TV would make the rest of the devices look like a child’s toy when it comes to performance and function.

  • Do any of these devices even play locally stored content in anything other than h264 mp4 files? Like, say, mkv or webm videos?

    Nvidia Shield TV plays everything.

    • Fred Koot

      Fire tv, if you sideload Kodi or use Vlc player.

      • I suppose I should have added Dolby Atmos and dts audio too. Will Kodi on fitetv transcode the audio for Dolby Digital receivers?

        • Fred Koot

          I believe it will just pass it through, Don’t know about Atmos, but it can do DD and Dts.

  • Fred Koot

    Also Roku or Chromecast don’t support Mpeg 2 software decoding so you can’t watch content off a network tuner.