Plenty of TVs these days offer smart features, but maybe yours doesn’t or it’s not your preferred platform. If that’s the case, don’t worry, you have tons of choices. What if you’re not looking to spend much money, though?
That rules out Apple TV, as well as hardware like Amazon’s Fire TV Cube or the Roku Ultra. Still, streaming sticks like the Amazon Fire TV Stick, Roku Streaming Stick, and Google Chromecast are all great options.
Amazon Fire TV Stick
As you might imagine, Amazon’s video offerings are placed front and center on the Fire TV Stick. This is great if you frequently use Prime Video or buy or rent movies from Amazon. You’ll see your most recently watched TV shows, which is great for hopping back into a series.
Once you launch an app like Netflix, that app’s user interface takes over, and the experience becomes more like any other streaming device. You don’t need to be a heavy Prime Video user to use a Fire TV Stick, but if you are, the integration might be reason enough for you to decide on this model.
The Fire TV Stick also includes Alexa. This lets you power your viewing via any other Alexa devices in your home. You can get the standard version of the Fire TV Stick for $39.99. A 4K model is available for $10 more.
Roku Streaming Stick
Unlike Amazon or Google, Roku doesn’t have any sort of TV or movie service of its own. You can buy and rent movies on any Roku device, but this is powered by Fandango. Because of this, Roku devices feel more service-agnostic than most other streaming sticks. For the most part, this is a good thing.
While it isn’t as tightly integrated as it is on a Fire TV Stick, you can still watch Amazon Video on a Roku stick, including Prime Video. You can also watch movies and TV shows you’ve purchased via Google by installing the Google Play TV and Movies app. Then, of course, you have Netflix, Hulu, Sling TV, and all the other usual subscription video services.
The Roku Streaming Stick works with both Alexa and Google Assistant for voice control. As with the Fire TV Stick, you can get a standard Roku Streaming Stick for $39.99 or the Streaming Stick+ which features 4K for $10 more.
While the Chromecast lets you play the same content as the above two devices, it works differently. You don’t get a remote or even a standard home screen. Instead, you play everything from your mobile device and then “cast” it to your Chromecast.
This essentially turns your TV into just a display, with all the work of deciding what to watch taking place on your mobile device. If you’d rather not deal with the UI of a streaming box, this is nice, but those looking for a more traditional streaming experience may not care for it.
The standard Chromecast is available for $35, while the 4K-ready Chromecast Ultra retails for $59.
If you’re looking at these streaming options, the first question you should ask yourself is how much you rely on your phone or tablet for entertainment. If you’re already watching movies and TV shows on your mobile devices, the Chromecast is a great option.
Between the Amazon Fire TV Stick and Roku Streaming Stick, you’ll find a lot of similar options. The Fire TV Stick includes Alexa, which some may see as a plus and others might not like all that much. Either way, you won’t go wrong with any of these options.