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.

We have five picked out for you from some of the most in demand brands so that whichever you choose, you can transform any TV into a great Smart TV.

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 the fastest growing Media Streaming and Smart TV brand because of its incredible affordability and interface that is 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. Also giving you fantastic 4K streaming content (HDR10+, Dolby Vision, HLG, you name it, you’ll see it) and when connected to a compatible audio system, you can hear it all through Dolby Atmos. You’re not just limited to visual content though, with the Fire TV Stick 4K you can also get Amazon Music and Spotify — imagine your favourite music coming through your home’s 5.1 surround sound system…

3. Sleeper Pick: NVIDIA SHIELD

3. Sleeper Pick: 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; 952.54 Grams

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 Streamer: Sidiwen Q+

4. Best Mini Streamer: Sidiwen Q+
  • Airplay compatible
  • Optimized for 6K UHD content
  • Faster processing and computing than other android media streamers
  • The wireless keyboard can be overly sensitive at times and non-responsive other times, buyers report

Key Specs

Connection HDMI 2.0, USB 3.0
Product Dimensions 11.38 x 11.38 x 1.98 cm; 560g

The Sidiwen Q+ Is a great little media streamer that, like others on this list, offers a large selection of streaming service apps as well as is Airplay compatible so you can play your smartphone or computer games on your TV. This model also comes with a standard remote as well as a mini wireless keyboard so that you don’t have to spend extra time trying to type the title of that movie, simply type it out as easy as can be.

5. Also Consider: Fire TV Cube

5. Also Consider: 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

The final item on our list 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.

4K Streaming and What This Means For You

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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Media streamers are such an easy way to get all your favourite streaming services wherever you need them without having to spend the big bucks to upgrade to Smart TVs. Whether you’re looking for the simplicity and portability of a dongle or a little moore oomph with a box, any of the five we’ve suggested will help you get that entertainment you need, where you need it.

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