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The 5 best streaming sticks in 2024 can teach your TV some awesome new tricks

The 5 best streaming sticks in 2024 can teach your TV some awesome new tricks

If you have an older TV and want to transform it into a smart TV -- all the better to find your favorite movies and TV shows -- consider using it with one of the best streaming sticks (which are also referred to as streaming devices or streaming players). 

Even if you already have a smart TV, a streaming stick allows you to issue voice commands and more. Plus, if you've invested in a home projector that doesn't have streaming access built in, a streaming stick provides easy access to the streaming services directly through the projector.

Pro Tip: If you have a 4K TV, it's important to connect a streaming stick that also supports 4K resolution. And if you want to connect your streaming stick to the internet via Ethernet, make sure you choose one with the appropriate port. Otherwise, all of these streaming devices rely just on Wi-Fi.

What is the best streaming stick in 2024?

Our in-house team of tech experts has curated this roundup of the best streaming devices that can easily be connected to any TV. It gives your easy access to all of the popular video (and audio) streaming services, networks and channels. 

Best streaming stick overall: Roku Ultra

Roku Ultra 4K Streaming Player

Operating system: RokuTV OS | Connectivity: HDMI, Ethernet, USB, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi | Streaming resolution: 4K | Special features: Voice remote with 3.5mm headphone jack included; Fast interface; Dolby Vision, HDR10+ and Dolby Atmos support; 8GB internal storage; Free access to the Roku Channel 

Like all of the streaming devices, this one connects to your TV via HDMI. The Roku Ultra also connects to your home's internet using Wi-Fi or an Ethernet cable. The Ultra offers offers 4K resolution streaming with support for Dolby Vision and HDR10+. This provides a more vibrant and detailed picture.

For sound, the Ultra is compatible with Dolby Atmos. This means that -- if what you're watching supports it -- you'll hear either virtual surround sound or true surround sound, based on your TV's speaker configuration.

When it comes to using the RokuOS to search for content, the Roku Ultra takes advantage of a fast processor, so the interface reacts quickly. Another useful feature is that the included voice remote includes a 3.5mm headphone jack. So one person can connect wired headphones to the remote to enjoy a private listening experience.

In addition to easy access to all of the popular video and audio streaming services, networks and channels, a Roku streaming device gets you free and unlimited access to the Roku Channel, which offers an ever-expanding selection of movies, TV shows and other live and on-demand content.

Best budget streaming stick: Roku Streaming Stick 4K

Roku Streaming Stick 4K

Operating system: RokuTV OS| Connectivity: HDMI, Wi-Fi | Streaming resolution: 4K | Special features: Roku voice remote included; Dolby Vision, HDR10+, HDR10 and HLG support; Free access to the Roku Channel; Digital stereo sound

In terms of form factor, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K is smaller than the Roku Ultra. It plugs into one of your TV's HDMI ports (with no wire required). You get easy access to the RokuTV operating system to find content from any of the video services you subscribe to, as well as the free Roku Channel.

This streaming stick also comes with a voice remote. And like all of the Roku streaming devices, it can be remotely controlled via the Roku app. One feature this streaming stick lacks is Dolby Atmos support, so when it comes to sound, what you'll hear will be in stereo.

As you've probably guessed, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K supports 4K-resolution video streaming. Due to its smaller size, it's the perfect device to connect to a home projector, but it works with any television set with an HDMI port, too.

Best streaming device for Apple users: Apple TV 4K

Apple TV 4K Wi‑Fi + Ethernet 128GB 3rd Gen
Best Buy

Operating system: AppleTV OS | Connectivity: HDMI, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB | Streaming resolution: 4K | Special features: Supports AppleTV+; Voice remote with Siri support; Wirelessly stream content from an iPhone, iPad or Mac to your TV; Displays digital photos from your iCloud Photo Library; 128GB storage; Dolby Vision, HDDR10+ and Dolby Atmos support

The Apple TV 4K not only provides easy access to the Apple TV+ streaming service and all of the other video streaming services you subscribe to; it also connects to your iCloud account. This means it can display your favorite digital photos in a slideshow format.

The Apple TV also works seamlessly with other Apple services, including Apple Fitness+ and Apple Arcade. Both require a paid subscription. When you pair a handheld controller with your Apple TV device, it replaces the need for a game console when using Apple Arcade or games from the App Store.

Another useful feature the Apple TV offers is the ability to wirelessly stream content from your iPhone, iPad, MacBook or iMac directly to your TV. The device is also useful for streaming music from Apple Music or podcasts (via Apple Podcasts) using the speakers built into your TV. 

Pro Tip: The Apple TV device that connects to your TV is different from the AppleTV+ video streaming service (which requires a subscription), although both can work together. If you already have an iPhone, iPad, MacBook or iMac, Apple TV syncs content and photos with those devices via iCloud.

Best streaming device for Google enthusiasts: Google Chromecast with Google TV (4K)

Google Chromecast with Google TV (4K)

Operating system: GoogleTV OS | Connectivity: HDMI, Wi-Fi | Streaming resolution: 4K | Special features: 32GB storage; Supports Google Assistant via voice remote; Chromecast support for Android and Windows devices

Just as Apple TV caters mainly to Apple users, the Google Chromecast with Google TV streaming device caters to Android mobile device and Chromebook users. 

In addition to offering seamless integration with YouTube, YouTube TV (with a subscription) and all of the popular video streaming services you subscribe to, this devices allows users to wirelessly stream content from their mobile device or computer.

Using the Google TV interface, it's easy to find the shows and movies you want, without having to jump between streaming apps. So you don't need to keep track of which service offers your favorite shows or movies. The Google TV device will find the shows or movies you want and then play them on your TV.

You also get access to Google Assistant, so you can find what to watch and start your favorite shows or movies using voice commands, as well as control compatible smart home gear and have Google Assistant answer your questions. The device comes with a simple handheld remote that provides one button access to YouTube and Netflix.

Best streaming stick that supports Amazon Alexa: Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max

Operating system: FireTV OS | Connectivity: HDMI, Wi-Fi 6E | Streaming resolution: 4K | Special features: Dolby Vision, HDR 10+ and Dolby Atmos support; Offers Amazon's Ambient Experience for displaying images and art; 16GB storage; Amazon Alexa support using voice remote

The Fire TV Stick 4K is one of several streaming devices offered by Amazon. This one supports 4K resolution streaming and easily connects to a TV via an HDMI port. The FireTV OS offers an easy-to-navigate interface and supports the Amazon Alexa digital voice assistant. With a subscription, it integrates nicely with Amazon Prime Video and Amazon Prime Music, but also supports most other streaming services.

Two standout features: It supports Wi-Fi 6E for a fast wireless connection with your home internet, and you get Dolby Vision and HDR10+ support. So you'll experience an enhanced picture with bright and vivid colors. Also built into this streaming device are customizable widgets that allow you to display specific information on your TV screen, like your calendar, to-do lists or the weather forecast.

When you're not watching TV shows or movies, the Fire TV Ambient Experience feature provides access to more than 2,000 pieces of museum-quality art and photography that you can showcase on your TV as a screensaver in a slideshow format.

And like all of the popular streaming sticks, this one comes with a voice remote. It has four pre-programmed buttons that allow you to launch Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and two other video streaming services by pressing just one button. If you're a gamer, by connecting a wireless handheld controller to the Fire TV 4K stick, you can play cloud-based games via Amazon's paid Luna service.

How to choose a streaming stick for your TV or projector

In addition to price, when choosing which streaming stick is best for you, here are five key things to consider:

  • Operating system: Each streaming stick brand (Roku, Amazon, Google and Apple) runs its own operating system. Select a streaming stick with an operating system you're already familiar with. If you're an iPhone, iPad or Mac user, we recommend the Apple TV device. For Android mobile device and Chromebook users, a Google Chromecast streaming device offers seamless integration. And if you've already installed smart gear that supports Amazon Alexa, one of the Amazon Fire TV sticks will work well for you. Meanwhile, Roku streaming devices work with any smartphone, tablet or computer. They also offersaccess to free live and on-demand programming via the Roku Channel.
  • Connectivity: All of the streaming devices connect to any TV make or model via its HDMI port. All also offer Wi-Fi connectivity for accessing the internet, and the various streaming services. If you plan to connect the streaming device to your home's internet via an ethernet cable, make sure the device you choose has an ethernet port built in. 
  • Storage: Several higher-end streaming devices have internal storage for apps associated with video and music streaming services, as well as for storing other content, like games and photos. The more internal storage, the better.
  • Dimensions: There are two form factors that a streaming device can use. The traditional streaming stick design is small, skinny and looks like a portable thumb drive. It connects to your TV via HDMI and to your home's internet via Wi-Fi. No wires or cables are needed. A streaming player or streaming device looks like a small box that also connects to your TV via an HDMI connection. However, many of these also have a built in ethernet port for connecting to your home's internet.
  • Features: All of the streaming devices included in this roundup allow you to access any of the popular streaming services. Some streaming devices come with a voice remote. Another common feature is the ability to wirelessly stream content from your smartphone, tablet or computer to your TV. However, not all streaming devices support all operating systems. Once you determine what extra features are offered by a streaming device, make sure each is compatible with the equipment you already use. One feature offered by many (but not all) of the streaming sticks is that as their screensaver, they can display an animated slideshow featuring your favorite digital photos and short video clips that are stored in the cloud.

If you're shopping for any type of TV, we recommend checking out our coverage of the six best TVs for 2024six best 65-inch TVs of 2024, the the 7 best 75-inch (and larger) TVs of 2024, and the five best TVs for video gamers. We've also compiled a curated collection of the five best home projectors for 2024 and the six best TV soundbars for 2024. Remember, all of our latest tech coverage, which is continuously updated, is here to help you.

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