With companies requiring employees to, school getting canceled for children nationwide and numerous , the pandemic means people are spending more time at home. And that means you and your family could find yourselves and movies than ever. Maybe it’s time for a new device to help.
We’ve reviewed every major media streamer available, brands such as Roku, Amazon, Chromecast, and Apple TV, as well as numerous smart TVs and tablets like the iPad — perfect for watching TV around the house when the TVs themselves are all occupied.
So if your current media streaming device is getting long in the tooth, or you need an extra one to keep the kids occupied while school is out, here are our favorites.
Roku makes our favorite streaming system, with the most streaming apps, the simplest interface, the best search and a content-agnostic platform that doesn’t push any one media streaming provider, like Amazon Prime Video or iTunes, over another. The Plus is one of the cheapest streaming TV options with 4K HDR, and even if your current TV doesn’t support that format, your next one probably will. Its practical features, like a remote control that can control your TV’s volume and power, seal the deal.
The perfect foil to the Roku Streaming Stick Plus, the Apple TV costs over $100 more but is the better choice for people who can appreciate its advantages. Those include compatibility with Dolby Vision HDR, flexible upconversion, superior voice control features, a better remote and a smoother, slicker user interface. The Apple TV 4K is so good for media streaming, it even makes sense if you’re not an “Apple person.”
Apple’s entry-level iPad offers long-lasting battery life and a bigger screen for enjoying TV and movie apps, whether streamed or downloaded. Older processor aside, this is a perfectly good iPad, and it’s already on sale. But for an even better deal, consider Apple’s 2018 9.7-inch iPad, which has nearly identical hardware specs (aside from screen size that’s an inch smaller) — you can often snag the 128GB version of the device for $300, which is a great deal, especially if you like to pack it with downloads.
The Fire HD 10 Kids Edition is the kid-friendly version of the Amazon Fire HD 10, with the largest display in the lineup of Amazon tablets. Just like its 7- and 8-inch siblings, the tablet features a ton of parental control options and a rubberized bumper case to protect the device against drops. This 10-inch tablet also includes a two-year “no questions asked” replacement warranty and a one-year subscription to FreeTime Unlimited, a content library that gives kids access to plenty of age-appropriate videos, books, games and apps.
As we mentioned, Roku makes our favorite media streamers for live TV streaming apps like Netflix, and it’s even better as a platform baked into a TV. This TCL 4-Series is one of the most affordable Roku TVs on the market, available in a range of sizes and with image quality that’s perfectly fine for most people, especially at this price.
Sizes: 43-, 50-, 55-, 65-, 75-inch. (The price shown below is for the 43-inch size.)
With Alexa, Amazon has done more than any other company to integrate voice commands into the ways we consume media. The Fire TV Stick 4K bakes Alexa right into the remote, and you can use voice control to search for Gremlins or turn on your Christmas tree. Or both at the same time. Throw in a massive selection of content with an easy-to-use menu and the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K represents excellent value for money when it comes to streaming media.
For the price of a Blu-ray Disc, you can get a whole media streamer, which comes with plenty of free content. The Express delivers all of the goodness of Roku’s platform, and it includes a remote, an HDMI cable and a little sticker to keep it in place.
The Chromecast is one of the cheapest ways to get video to stream on your TV, but unlike the other streamers listed here it doesn’t come with a remote. Instead it works in combination with a phone or Google Assistant for voice control and voice search. The latter method is great for calling up shows on Netflix or Disney Plus.
Soundbars with onboard streaming may be a relatively recent development, but Roku’s Smart Soundbar came fully formed out of the gate. With excellent sound, the Roku interface users know and love and an affordable price, this a great option for a media streamer in a bedroom or holiday house.
At $100, this the most expensive Roku, but if you must “have it all” then the Roku Ultra has a lot to offer. While in terms of image quality and operating system it’s indistinguishable from the Streaming Stick Plus, the Ultra is especially handy for the forgetful among us. The Ultra offers both a remote finder and two extra customizable shortcut buttons for your favorite services.