We can probably all agree by now that media streaming is the present, and the future, of home viewing. Considering the versatility of a media streaming device, it makes perfect sense to include one in your home theater, particularly if you’re looking to cut down on devices.
So here are my top picks for media streaming devices for a home theater.
Roku Ultra HD/4K/HDR
The Roku Ultra (check prices on Amazon) is easily one of the best media streaming devices on the market. It comes bundled with all the streaming services you’d expect, like Netflix, Prime, and NowTV, and streams in brilliant 4K or HDR resolutions. This makes it a firm contender for a home theater because it can output at the same quality as even the best TVs.
What I liked about the Roku Ultra
Roku has been around in the streaming market for a little while now, and has produced several excellent models, so what makes this one deserving of being “ultra”? Well simply put, it comes with a range of extra features that push it above and beyond what you expect from a media streaming player.
The first thing worth noting isn’t an extra feature, but is the most important thing. The Roku Ultra offers over 1,000 channels, including all the top streaming services and free-to-use apps like YouTube. If anything, it’s almost too much choice, but at least it means you should have access to pretty much anything you want to watch.
One of my favorite features about the Roku Ultra is its remote. Obviously it comes with all the standard remote features, but it’s also voice activated, which is a big help. Although this does mean you’ll never be able to hide the remote again!
An important point, particularly for home theaters, is of course the device’s connectivity. As I mentioned, it streams in 4K and HDR, so it’s got all the relevant connections for those. It can either stream with dual-band Wi-Fi or Ethernet, so either way it’ll keep up with those 4K movies you plan on watching.
Similarly, it has a 3.5mm headphone jack for private viewing, and a microSD slot for downloaded media. This makes it a hard-hitting and versatile media streaming device that’s a strong contender for top place.
What I didn’t like about the Roku Ultra
There’s not really much negative to say about the Roku Ultra. If I was being really picky, which I’ll have to be, it’s that the device is on the higher end of the price spectrum.
In fact, Roku produce a range of cheaper streaming devices, so is the Ultra worth the extra cash? Well yes, actually. More importantly, those who are looking for such a versatile device will be willing to spend the extra cash.
Apple TV 4th Generation
It’s no surprise that Apple have made such a name for themselves in the media streaming world. After all, they were pioneering interconnectivity between their devices long ago, and this is something Apple TV is still great for.
What I liked about Apple TV
One of the best things about any Apple device is that reviewing it is almost unnecessary. Apple products are so popular that they sell themselves. That said, Apple TV comes in either HD or 4K versions, so you’ll find one that’ll match your needs. Expect to pay more for the 4K version, of course.
Apple TV has access to thousands of channels and streaming services, and generally has no issues with lag or streaming quality. In fact, out of the devices I tested, Apple TV regularly came out on top for streaming speed.
My favorite feature about Apple TV, however, is how streamlined Airplay is. Being able to connect your iPhone, iPad, or Mac to your TV in seconds is one of the most helpful features, and is probably the main reason I’d recommend it to those who favor Apple products.
This is obviously a helpful feature for a home theater, and means you can have even fewer devices cluttering your space. I’ve regularly streamed media from my computer to my Apple TV, and it just makes things so easy.
Of course, the Apple TV box comes with a remote that has Siri voice search. As usual this is a seamless and almost faultless service, but again, Apple has been doing this kind of thing for a long time. Overall, this is another solid addition from Apple, but we all know they know what they’re doing.
What I didn’t like about Apple TV
My main criticisms for Apple TV are the same you can point at any Apple product: I generally consider the price to be too high for what you actually get, particularly when you look at the Roku Ultra and all that offers.
Similarly, its biggest positive is also its biggest negative: its exclusivity. Apple TV only really comes alive if you have other Apple devices, but that’s generally who’s going to be looking at this product anyway. Considering the Apple TV doesn’t have options for external media (SD cards), having a Mac would be useful.
NVIDIA Shield TV
The NVIDIA Shield (check prices on Amazon) is probably Android’s best offering in the world of media streaming devices, offering 4K connectivity and all the necessary hardware to give you crystal clear viewing.
What I liked about the NVIDIA Shield
What sets this device apart from the others is its ability to stream games from your Steam library. If you’re a gamer, this is a massive thing, particularly if you don’t own a console. What’s more, it comes with a gaming controller, so you can enjoy PC quality in the comfort of your home theater!
On top of that it’s got all the top streaming services and channels, and is the only Android streaming device that offers the proper version of Amazon Prime. While this might not make a massive difference to most, it’s still useful to know.
The NVIDIA is really easy to use thanks to its streamlined user interface. I found it really easy to navigate and find all my favorite apps within seconds. Similarly, streaming is a breeze and I didn’t experience any issues, even streaming 4K media.
Because it’s an Android device, it’s got all the helpful Google features you could need, including Google Assistant and the ability to stream media from your phone or Android tablet. If Apple TV is for iPhones, the NVIDIA is for Android phones.
Considering there are a wealth of other Android streaming devices on the market, this one is definitely aimed specifically at gamers. That said, don’t let this put you off opting for another model if you’ve got your eye on it because it’s still a great media streaming player.
What I didn’t like about the NVIDIA Shield
Similarly to Apple TV, my main problem with the NVIDIA Shield is its price tag. However, you’re paying the extra money for the ability to stream games to your TV, so if that’s something you’re interested in, then you’ll definitely invest the extra money.
Another small issue is the lack of internal storage, which is only 16 GB. Considering the capability of current smartphones (up to 256 GB), it seems strange that such a current media device, particularly one aimed at gamers, would have such minimal internal storage.
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K
Amazon Fire has been another strong contender in the streaming world for a long time, and the best features are both its interconnectivity and its ease of use. Its plug in and go setup makes it the best choice for those not wanting to invest time into installation.
What I liked about the Fire TV Stick
The Fire TV Stick is optimized for 4K media and HDR, which puts it up there with the rest on this list, but it has the advantage of basically being a dongle. All you need to do is plug it into the back of your TV and you’ve got instant smart TV features!
It obviously has the most optimized version of Amazon Prime, but still comes with all the normal streaming services, and the ability to watch live TV. It also has access to all live channel’s on demand services, so you’ll never miss your favorite show again.
The best feature of the Fire TV Stick, particularly compared to the other devices on this list, is its price. It’s the cheapest model, but still gives you access to all the services you need. This makes it the best choice for those on a budget, and for those new to the world of streaming.
It also comes loaded with voice activated features, which are of course controlled by Alexa. This also means it can be integrated with the rest of your Alexa devices, allowing you to dim the lights or turn the volume up without having to leave the comfort of your chair!
As expected, this offer from Amazon is another strong contender, and does everything you need from an entry-level streaming device. Those who favor Amazon products would do well to choose this device because it’ll fit in seamlessly.
What I didn’t like about the Fire TV Stick
My biggest problem with the Fire TV Stick is its overall lack of features. It’s also lacking many of the channels offered by the other streaming devices. However, considering its entry-level appeal, this is a small downside.