From left: Roku; Apple; Amazon
If you're looking to stream Netflix, Amazon, Hulu or other services for the first time, want to upgrade to the latest tech, or want to give a loved one the gift of streaming, here are the most popular hardware options to choose from.
Chromecast Ultra The idea of “casting” can scare nontechies. It shouldn’t: Simply plug the tiny Chromecast into your TV and, after an easy setup via a smartphone or tablet, you’ll be able to use those devices to stream Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc. to your television.
If you own a Google Home, voice command allows you to instruct the Chromecast to play YouTube videos (more apps like Netflix will be compatible soon).
Apple TV You ask Siri the weather. Why not also instruct her to “Show me TV shows with James Marsden”? The Siri-enabled Apple TV (available in 32GB and 64GB) will search iTunes and Netflix for a list you can then narrow down by saying, “Just the Westerns” or “Just the new ones.”
One issue: Apple TV doesn’t have an Amazon app, so the only way to watch Amazon Prime shows is to stream them to the device via another Apple product.
Amazon Fire Stick, Fire TV Like shoes and bags, your player should match your TV. The Fire TV runs 4K Ultra HD video, so it pairs well with new souped-up sets. While little bro the Stick doesn’t, it’s low in price and super small (more counter space!).
Both have remotes that run Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa. Want to rewind to see that Grey’s Anatomy kiss again? Say, “Rewind 30 seconds.” Want to skip the Walking Dead in which Glenn dies? Say, “Next episode.”
Fire Stick: $40; Fire TV: $90
Roku Stick, Roku Ultra Think of the easiest thing to do. Using a Roku is easier. The pared-down home screens make getting to Netflix, Hulu and other platforms brainless. The search function is “agnostic” and won’t prioritize one streaming service’s content over another’s—so you’ll never accidentally buy a movie you can watch through one of your monthly subscriptions.
The Roku Stick is the only portable device with a quad-core processor (i.e., it works as smoothly as the bigger boxes). The Ultra plays 4K video, has a voice-controlled remote and a “lost remote finder” feature.
Roku Stick: $50; Roku Ultra: $130