Today, cord-cutting is no longer a trend — it's the norm. People across America are making the switch to streaming services for their entertainment needs, and streaming devices are selling like hotcakes as they fight for a place on your living room shelf.
Because there's so many options out there for streaming devices and gadgets, it can be tricky to know which one will be the best fit for your viewing habits. Some come packed with enough bells and whistles to keep you glued to your screen for days. Others come with just the essentials, which can save you from paying for features you don't need.
If you're on the fence about which streaming device is right for you, we've put together a detailed guide on all the specs and features you have to choose from. Whether you're looking for a tricked-out box or a simple stick solution, these streaming gadgets are sure to make your nights and weekends far more entertaining.
What to look for in a streaming device
When shopping for a streaming gadget, there are a few factors to consider before putting your money down. Not knowing the difference between a streaming stick versus a streaming box, for example, can make a hefty difference in price and features.
To make the right choice, you'll need to arm yourself with knowledge on specs, design and features to build a picture of which product will suit your needs. No two people entertain themselves in the same way, and what works for some might not work for others. Here are a few of our suggestions of what to look for:
The price is right
For most people, pricing is one of the biggest deciding factors when buying any tech product. Interestingly, it's also one of the biggest variables for streaming devices. On one hand, you'll have something like the Fire TV Stick and Chromecast, both of which retail for under $50. On the other hand, devices like the Apple TV 4K can jump all the way up to almost $200!
The main factors accounting for price are usually features and compatibility with other devices. The Roku is mostly a stand-alone product, while the Apple TV 4K works within Apple's ecosystem and can connect with iPhones and Macs.
Essential streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Video are available on most devices, but some retain exclusive channels and platforms like Apple TV +. Make sure the device you choose has the features you need when you factor in the price. Nobody wants to be out money and be under-equipped — or worse, overspend and have stuff they don't need.
Form factors are also worth looking into when making a decision on a streaming device. Ideally, you'll want something that fits your living room set up, but not everyone leaves their streaming gadget plugged in all the time.
Streaming sticks, for example, are only as big as a USB thumb drive and can be easily transported wherever you plan on having a movie night. A larger streaming box like the Fire TV Cube integrates deeply into your setup with Alexa, and must be wired to your TV via HDMI and a power outlet.
Check the chart
For more detailed notes on specs, resolution, features and more, we've prepared a chart that puts all of the most popular streaming gadgets head-to-head for comparison. See how your prospects stack up against each other and find a system that fits your unique entertainment needs. Click or tap to see our updated streaming device chart.
Cord cutters, you could be fined by the FCC if you're doing this
In today's video ecosystem, users have a plethora of choices for streaming devices. Some users, though, truly want it all. Unlimited movies, a wider selection of titles and a slimmer price tag can be found on certain streaming devices if you know where to look. Here's the catch: most of these gadgets are bootlegs. And, thanks to a recent FCC advisory, using them for streaming might land you in hot water.