The Best Media Streamers

Table of Contents

With an abundance of streaming services we have at our fingertips to enjoy whenever we want, it makes sense that we want to be able to watch them on more than just a smartphone or computer — but what do you do if your TV isn’t considered “Smart”? Or what if you have one Smart TV and want that capability on an older TV in the basement or a bedroom? Easy.

A media streamer is the solution you are looking for.

These nifty little gadgets come in two major designs: a dongle or a box — but don’t worry about what that means for now, it will make sense once you get into the meat of this list, and if you still have questions, we’ll go into more detail afterwards. Media streamers are perfect because you can add as many channels as you have streaming services, we’re talking Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video, Crave, and many more. With some brands, you even get access to exclusive free channels with hundreds of hours of content to peruse.

As well, we have options selected for you that offer the opportunity to listen to music streaming services like Spotify, or check out your social media feeds right on your TV. Check it out below!

1. Editor's Pick: Roku Premiere

1. Editor's Pick: Roku Premiere
  • Compatible with Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant
  • Airplay allows you to cast from your device to your TV screen
  • Download the Roku app to use your smartphone as a remote
  • The remote is quite basic and comes preloaded with popular channels that might not be available in Canada

Key Specs

Connection: HDMI 2.1a
Product Dimensions: 8.38 x 3.56 x 1.78 cm; 36.29g

If you aren’t familiar with Roku TV, let us introduce you: Roku TV is one of the fastest-growing media streaming platforms because of its incredible affordability and interface — it's totally perfectly user-friendly. The Roku Premiere offers full 4K HDR streaming from all of your favourite services like Netflix, Disney+, Crave, Youtube, plus hundreds of other free channels only available on Roku. With the Roku app, you can even watch all your favourite movies and TV shows in Private Listening mode using headphones via your smartphone.

2. Runner Up: Fire TV Stick 4K

2. Runner Up: Fire TV Stick 4K
  • Alexa is built right into your remote — can’t find what you’re looking for, ask her!
  • Additionally, the Alexa Remote can control all your other Smart Home devices
  • Easy three-step setup
  • Some buyers report the remote that comes with the Fire TV Stick 4K isn’t built to last

Key Specs

Connection: HDMI, Bluetooth 5.0
Product Dimensions: 9.9 x 3 x 1.4 cm; 53.6g

The fiercest competitor to the Roku Premiere is the Fire TV Stick 4K from Amazon. It gives you great content in 4K and has cool features such as HDR10+, Dolby Vision, HLG — all of which will give you that movie-theatre feel when watching and listening. Offering powerful streaming media stick and overall streaming experience, you can control your compatible TV, sound bar, and receiver with new power, volume, and mute buttons, all using the Fire TV stick. All you have do is press its voice command button and ask it to find, launch, and control your favourite movies and TV shows.

3. Also Consider: NVIDIA SHIELD

3. Also Consider: NVIDIA SHIELD
  • Built-in Chromecast means you can throw anything from your phone or computer up onto your TV via the NVIDIA SHIELD
  • Built-in Google Assistant helps you navigate with you voice
  • You can control the SHIELD with a Google Home or Amazon Echo
  • Some buyers report issues connecting wirelessly — unclear if this is due to software or hardware problems

Key Specs

Connection HDMI 2.0., USB 3.0 x2, Wireless (Chromecast)
Product Dimensions 2.59 x 15.9 x 9.8 cm; 952.54g

Stepping away from the dongle variety of media streamers, we’ll look at the super cool-looking NVIDIA SHIELD — you won’t be wanting to hide this one out of view! The SHIELD supports all the best 4K content plus offers 4K upscaling — things below 4K will be made to look as close to as possible. While you can watch all your favourite streaming services like Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video, etc., you can use a controller with it to play video games available to download.

4. Best Mini: Sidiwen T95

4. Best Mini: Sidiwen T95
  • Airplay compatible
  • Optimized for 6K UHD content
  • Faster processing and computing than other android media streamers
  • Cannot access certain streaming apps

Key Specs

Connection: Wi-Fi, Ethernet, Bluetooth 5.0, USB, HDMI 2.0
Product Dimensions: 10 x 10 x 1.7 cm

The Sidiwen T95 is a great little media streamer that, like others on this list, offers a large selection of streaming service apps. It's also Airplay compatible so you can play your smartphone or computer games on your TV. Its updated HD 2.0 chip provides you with a more clear and colourful 6K resolution and is also compatible with both Android and Apple phones so you can send your photos and videos right to your TV.

5. Best Hands-Free: Fire TV Cube

5. Best Hands-Free: Fire TV Cube
  • Support for 4K Ultra HD, HDR, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision
  • Compatible with brands such as Sony, Samsung, LG, and Vizio
  • Largest storage among the Fire TV products at 16 GB
  • Some buyers report the colour handling isn’t great — oversaturation with HDR content

Key Specs

Connection HDMI
Product Dimensions 8.61 x 8.61 x 7.69 cm; 465g

Another great item is the Fire TV Cube. Unlike the Fire TV Stick 4K, this media streamer doesn’t need a remote at all; you’re able to use Alexa to navigate your streaming services, even from across the room. Being a bigger piece of technology than a stick, this streamer is much faster with far superior computing and processing. You can even check some social media platforms like Facebook or Reddit using your Fire TV Cube.

6. Best Splurge Buy: 2021 Apple TV 4K

6. Best Splurge Buy: 2021 Apple TV 4K
  • Enjoy private listening with up to two sets of Apple AirPods
  • Control Smart home accessories from box
  • Large storage
  • Expensive

Key Specs

Connection: HDMI, Ethernet, Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi
Product Dimensions: 98 x 98 x 35 mm

If you’re brand loyal to Apple, this Apple TV box will give you access to all of your favourite streaming services and more in one easy to use device. Although it may cost you a pretty penny, thanks to its 4K HDR and Dolby Atmos, you and your family can enjoy not only crisp, clear visuals, but powerful and immersive sound as well! The included remote controller is equipped with Siri to allow for quick and easy voice commands, while Airplay lets you share videos, photos and more from all of your Apple Products.

7. Sleeper Pick: Mi TV Box S

7. Sleeper Pick: Mi TV Box S
  • Chromecast built-in
  • Features Dolby Audio and DTS Video
  • Some streaming services not included

Key Specs

Connection: AV, HDMI, USB
Product Dimensions: ‎ 17.2 x 10.2 x 5.2 cm

Although not as popular as the Fire Stick or Roku, this media streaming device is a great option for Android or Google Home users. Powered by Android 9.0, you can access thousands of your favourite apps to stream 4K content for the whole family. With Chromecast, SmartCast and Google Assistant built-in, you can control your home devices as well as get real time answers with a simple voice command given to the included remote control.

8. Best Value Box: MINIX NEO T5

8. Best Value Box: MINIX NEO T5
  • Compatible with wide range of video services
  • Easy to connect
  • Built-in chrome-cast
  • Low quality remote

Key Specs

Connection: HDMI, Ethernet, SPDIF, DC, AV, Bluetooth
Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 12.6 x 2.2 cm

Last but not least — the MINIX NEO T5. This device is similar to the Mi TV Box S in that it supports a wide range of apps and displays videos and pictures in 4K HDR, as well as is supported by Dolby Audio and DTS. What makes this box different however, is its extra connectivity (HDMI, ethernet, SPDIF) and its compatibility with a number of devices like Mac, Windows and Chrome.

What to Look for in a 4K Media Streamer

Most media streamers that you’ll find on the market today have full support for 4K UHD HDR content — which is what you want! As of right now, this is the best quality that content is being released in, on streaming services like Netflix. Even if you don’t know anything about 4K UHD HDR, or don’t watch any content that uses HDR let’s say, you’ll still want a streamer that can handle it because oftentimes they’re also capable of upscaling.

What Is “Upscaling”?

If you’re watching something in HD (1080p), 4K has four times as many pixels, meaning it’s four times clearer than HD. Upscaling takes that HD content and will “improve” it as much as possible so that your eye won’t notice the stark difference in quality between whatever it is you’re watching. (When you see HD and 4K side by side, you’ll be shocked.)

Of course, if your TV is only capable of displaying 1080p, this won’t make a difference as the media streamer won’t be able to make pixels where pixels don’t exist! If you have an HD TV, you can find options that are optimized for 1080p instead, or, make the leap and invest in a 4K Smart TV and skip the media streamer altogether.

Dongle or Box?

Dongles

The best part about these is that they’re discreet, they’re teeny tiny and can fit in your pocket, and you can move them around various TVs around the house. Let’s say you wanna watch Netflix in the kitchen but want to take a bath later and watch that new series on Prime Video (granted you have a TV in your kitchen and bathroom), you can so easily pop it out of one and plug it into the other and that’s it. You’re good to go.

The downside is that they’re not just like a memory stick you plug in, they will still require a powersource whether that means from a wall outlet or from a USB port in the TV itself. As well, because they’re technologically quite simple, they’re not able to compute or process very much very fast.

Boxes.

The downside of boxes are that they do take up more room on a TV stand, and if you already have a few things in your entertainment system setup, it’s one more thing to find a spot for. Plus, it can’t easily go in a cabinet because the remote still needs to be able to be within eyesight.

The bright side is that they’re much faster and more reliable to stream because of their computing and processing capabilities that are unmatched in dongles.

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