Streaming Media Players

Over the last few years, the phenomenon called streaming media has exploded in popularity. The customer demand has been increasing for all those gadgets that allow people to watch streaming Internet content more easily from their own TVs. Since there are a lot of methods to stream online content directly to your TV, it’s quite difficult to choose the right one. Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages that choosing between set-top boxes, compact streaming sticks and game consoles can be extremely difficult. After a lot of research into the pros and cons of different streaming methods, we finally found 5 that will surely satisfy your needs. Take a look at the matrix below and choose the right one for you and your family.

Top 5 Streaming Media Players Comparison

1. Apple TV – 32GB 2. NVIDIA SHIELD TV 3. Roku Ultra 4. Amazon All-New Fire TV 5. Amazon Fire TV Stick
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General Information

Brand Apple NVIDIA Roku Amazon Amazon
Item model 32GB (4th Generation) Shield Ultra-4660 B01N32NCPM B00ZV9RDKK
Dimensions 3.9 x 3.9 x 1.4 in 8.8 x 6.29 x 3.9 in 4.9 x 4.9 x 0.85 in 2.6 x 2.6 x 0.6 in 3.4 x 1.2 x 0.5 in
Weight 15 oz. 0.5 lbs. 0.5 lbs. 0.2 lbs. 0.3 lbs.
Color Black Black Black Black Black
Included Accessories Siri Remote
Power cord
Documentation
Lightning to USB cable
Mic for voice search
Hands-free voice support
Handset jack for private listening
Dual vibration feedback
IR blaster for TV volume&power control
60+ hour gaming battery life
Voice remote with TV power and volume buttons
Headphone jack for private listening
Gaming buttons and lost remote finder
Headphones for private listening
Two AA batteries
Power adapter
Alexa voice remote
USB cable
Quick start guide
Product guide
Two AAA batteries
Power adapter
Alexa voice remote
USB cable
Product guide
Power adapter

Technical Specifications

Operating System Android, Apple iOS Android 7.0 (Nougat) powered by Android TV and Google Cast (Chromecast built-in) Android, Apple iOS Android, Apple iOS Android, Apple iOS
Processor A8 chip with 64-bit architecture NVIDIA Tegra X1, 256-core GPU Quad-Core Amlogic Quad-core 1.5 GHz ARM 4xCA53 MediaTek Quad-core ARM 1.3 GHz
Storage 32GB 16 GB MicroSD card slot for additional channel storage
USB port for local playback
8 GB internal 8 GB internal
RAM N/A 3 GB N/A 2 GB 1 GB
Wi-Fi Connectivity 10/100BASE-T Ethernet
802.11ac Wi‑Fi with MIMO
Bluetooth 4.0
802.11ac 2×2 MIMO 2.4 GHz
5 GHz Wi-Fi
Captive Portal support
802.11ac MIMO dual-band wireless
10/100 Base-T Ethernet
Dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi (MIMO) for faster streaming and fewer dropped connections than standard Wi-Fi Supports 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi networks Dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi supports 2×2 MIMO 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.0 Bluetooth 4.1/BLE N/A Bluetooth 4.2+LE Bluetooth 4.1
Output resolution supported 4K Ultra HD High-resolution audio playback up to 24-bit/192 kHz over HDMI and USB
High-resolution audio up-sample to 24-bit/192 kHz over USB
1080 HD up to 60fps 2160p
1080p
720p up to 60 fps
720p
1080p up to 60 fps
TV compatibility 4K HDR Most TVs with HDMI input HD TVs – Up to 1080p (1920 x 1080) with up-scaling from 720p
4K UHD TVs – Up to 2160p at 60fps (3840 × 2160) with up-scaling from 720p and 1080p
4K UHD HDR TVs – Supports HDR10 technology
TVs with HDMI capable of 2160p at 24/25/30/50/60 Hz
HDCP 2.2 and TVs with HDMI capable of 1080p or 720p at 50/60 Hz
Most TVs with HDMI input
Ports HDMI 1.43, 10/100BASE-T Ethernet, IR receiver, USB-C (service only) Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI 2.0b with HDCP 2.2 and CEC support, Two USB 3.0 (Type A) Power, HDMI 2.0a, Ethernet 10/100, microSD, USB HDMI output, micro USB for power or optional Amazon Ethernet Adapter HDMI output Micro USB for power only

Features

Remote
Voice Support
Audio Support Up to Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 surround sound Dolby Atmos and Dolby TrueHD (pass-through)
DTS-X and DTS-HD (pass-through)
AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, MP3, WAVE, AMR, OGG Vorbis, FLAC, PCM
WMA, WMA-Pro, WMA-Lossless
DD+/DTS (pass-through)
DTS Digital Surround pass through over HDMI Dolby Atmos compatibility
Dolby Digital Plus,
Dolby Digital
Dolby Audio, 5.1 surround sound, 2ch stereo
HDMI audio pass through up to 7.1
Content formats supported 1080p Video output Xvid/ DivX/ASF/AVI/MKV/MOV/M2TS/MPEG-TS/MP4/WEB-M Video — H.264/AVC (.MKV, .MP4, .MOV), H.265/HEVC (.MKV, .MP4, .MOV), VP9 (.MKV)
Audio – AAC (.MKV, .MP4, .MOV); MP3(.MP3, .MKV); WMA (.ASF, .WMA, .MKV), FLAC (.FLAC, .MKV), PCM (.WAV, .MKV, .MP4, .MOV), AC3/EAC3 (.MKV,.MP4. .MOV, .AC3), DTS (.MKV, .MP4, .MOV), ALAC (.MKV, .MP4, .MOV, .M4A)
Image — JPG, PNG, GIF (non-animated)
Video – HDR-10. H.265, H.264
Audio – AAC-LC, AC3, eAC3 (Dolby Digital Plus), FLAC, MP3, PCM/Wave, Vorbis, Dolby Atmos (EC3_JOC)
Photo- JPEG, PNG, GIF, BMP
Video – H.264 1080p30H.265 1080p30
Audio- AAC-LC, HE-AACv1 (AAC+), HE-AACv2 (eAAC+), AC3 (Dolby Digital), eAC3 (Dolby Digital Plus), FLAC, MIDI, MP3, PCM/Wave, Vorbis, AMR-NB, AMR-WB
Photo- JPEG, PNG, GIF, BMP
Internet Applications Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, YouTube, iTunes, Skype Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, YouTube Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Amazon Video Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Amazon Video

Warranty&Support

Warranty N/A 1-year 1-year 1-year 90-day
Customer Support
Online Manual

Streaming Media Player Reviews


1.Apple TV – 32GB

After reviewing more than 15 media players, we are proud to include the Apple TV 32 GB device on our list. With it at home, you can watch the same thing over and over again. It comes with an incredible collection of TV shows, music, games, live channels and international programs. As compared to other media players, this model provides high quality video Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 surround sound with 1080p HD. It comes equipped with an A8 chip processor with 64-bit architecture and a memory storage of 32 GB. Thanks to this, any app installed runs much better. What we really like about this device is the picture and sound quality of the streams. NBC, ABC, ESPN, CNN and Fox are only a few of the LIVE TV channels available. As far as features are concerned, this media player comes with a solid remote control that works seamlessly. In comparison to other similar products, this product does not promise what it cannot deliver. Overall, this is a model that will surely satisfy all your needs.

PROS
CONS
  • Very easy to use
  • From cartoons, music and movies, it has content for all age groups
  • A8 chip with 64-bit architecture processor
  • Great customer service
  • High price
VERDICT

The Apple TV Media Player is more than just a player. It has a nice black color and a stylish design. More than that, it is equipped with multiple updates and content of the highest quality. As compared to the NVIDIA SHIELD player, it is much easier to use. You just have to scroll through channels and navigate drop-down menus in order to make the program selection easy. Like any other streaming player, it comes along with a few drawbacks. The initial cost of this device is high compared to other media players available for purchase.

2.NVIDIA SHIELD TV

There is a lot to appreciate about this new models. But out of everything, the most impressive changes are the ones that happened to its operating system, Android TV. When you picture a streaming player, you might think about a slim square plastic box. This model is not as you might think. It comes with an interesting stylish design that features a mix of crisscrossing lines. This version has 16GB of storage and comes with Android 7.0 (Nougat) powered by Android TV and Google Cast (Chromecast built-in). Furthermore, it is equipped with a remote control and Shield Controlled gamepad. This is absolutely necessary for hands-free voice control with Google Assistant. Although its hardware is 2 years old, this Android device is still one of the most powerful media players available for sale. Thaks to its 4K HDR powerhouse you will be able to watch Google Play movies and TV in 4K and Amazon and Netflix in 4K HDR.

PROS
CONS
  • Streaming game options work very well
  • Hands-free Google Assistant support
  • Content rich
  • Slimmer, lighter design
  • Relatively expensive
VERDICT

If you are looking for a powerful Android TV, the NVIDIA SHIELD TV is exactly what you need. It comes with a streaming micro-console with plenty of gaming tricks and Google Assistant with support for hands-free voice commands. The most important change of this player is the microphone on the controller. Additionally, there is an HDMI port, two USB 3.0 ports, a connector for the included power adapter and an Ethernet port. All other new features are designed to make this player much better than the previous version.

3. Roku Ultra

As mentioned above, the market is overflowing with a broad array of different types and brands of streaming media players. There are so many, that finding one that is the best is almost impossible unless you know what to look for. However, if you want digital audio, USB connectivity, 4K resolution, HDR support and more than 3500 streaming channels, than the Roku Ultra media players is exactly what you need. The operating system of this device has not changed very much in the last years, but it still is very powerful and extremely fast player. Like many other media players, it comes with a voice search which can be controlled either by the remote control of the mobile apps. It may sound strange, but we really like this remote control because it is not just a basic remote. It includes an audio jack for private listening and a microphone for voice search.

PROS
CONS
  • It can access more movies and TV shows in 4K and HDR than many other rival devices
  • It provides the user with many apps
  • Unparalleled channel selection
  • Small, quiet design
  • Its content in 4K and HDR is still uncommon
VERDICT
Buyers looking for a quality and an efficient player should consider the Roku Ultra media player. It is equipped with a quad-core processor, full 4K output and is capable of supporting both Dolby and HDR audio. In a similar price tag, you can consider the NVIDIA SHIELD TV which has a lot of interesting options for gamers, especially for those who have professional gaming PCs. Keep in mind that it is more expensive than the Roku Ultra and it may not worth the money, especially since the Roku Ultra provides the same benefits.

4. Amazon All-New Fire TV

The Amazon All-New Fire TV is one of those video streaming players designed to support 4K and HDR video technologies. As compared to its predecessor which was able to support 4K video at 30 fps, this new model can support HDR10 and Dolby Atmos at 60 fps. More than that, it comes with the latest Alexa voice control remote that you will not find at the other competitors. The most noticeable aspect of this device is its design. It is not just a simple, plastic box that can be placed near your TV. It is more than that. It is a stylish square box with a glossy finish that will surely fit any décor in your home. It is powered via a micro-USB slot and controlled with a remote that hasn’t really changed too much. The Amazon All-New Fire TV is a 4K Ultra HD player. It is also worth mentioning that it has full access to the UHD content from both Netflix and Amazon Prime. All in all, it has a few good features, so it is an option worth taking into consideration.

PROS
CONS
  • Alexa voice control remote
  • Good 4K and HDR library
  • Seamless operation
  • Easy to use
  • No Dolby Vision
  • No access to Atmos content
VERDICT
After reviewing more than 10 media players, we can truly confirm that this is an option worth taking into consideration. It is efficient and impressive. It comes with a good 1.5GHz quad-core processor, 8GB of internal storage and 2 GB of RAM. Although it is limited to 1080 p streaming, it still is much powerful than Fire TV Stick. However, with this media player, you can watch more than 500.000 TV movies from Netflix, YouTube, HBO, Prime Video and more.

5. Amazon Fire TV Stick

If you are looking to purchase an affordable media player, the Amazon Fire TV Stick is a great option. It is by far an excellent choice at a reasonable price. As compared to its previous version, it is much faster and the 802.11 ac Wi-Fi ensures more stable streaming. However, it has the same 1 GB RAM as its predecessor and 8 GB of onboard storage for games and apps. The voice commands work extremely well for this version. It is very easy to use. You just have to press a button on the remote, hold it and speak. Generally speaking, this product does not do anything special, but it still is a good product which makes a great job. All its features, including the Alexa voice commands are a great way to operate it and the extra speed from its new processor and improved Wi-Fi makes all this process a breeze.

PROS
CONS
  • Easy to operate
  • Alexa well-integrated
  • Speedy interface
  • Well priced
  • Faster and more stable
  • No 4K
  • Content search has blind spots
VERDICT

The Amazon Fire TV Stick is another product whose incredible features place it in the 5th position. It is a great version that comes with Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa, thousands of channels and apps, including HBO, Amazon, YouTub, NBC and more others. It comes with a lot of advantages but there are also a few downsides. For example, it comes with a 90-days warranty. As compared to other models in our comparison chart, this product has the shortest lifespan. Overall, it is a good product that you must take into consideration.

6. Amazon Fire TV Cube

It should come as no surprise that we choose the Amazon fire TV Cube as one of the best media players out there. The truth is that it comes with a full list of impressive features so it is quite difficult to find something better than that. First of all, it is important to know that it is a hands-free media player with Alexa voice command feature. This means that even if you are not in the same room with the device, you can ask Alexa to turn on the TV and it will recognize all your commands. Since it comes with 8 microphones, beamforming technology and it features far-field voice recognition, it is understandable why it can hear you from any directions. The main advantage of using this media player is that allows you to watch hundreds of TV shows with impressive vibrant colors and detailed contrast in 4K Ultra HD and HDR. Kepp in mind that it comes equipped with a quad-core processor of 1,5 GHz and a memory of 16GB. You will also receive a 1-year warranty and service included.

PROS
CONS
  • Hands-free media player with Alexa
  • It delivers an all-in-one entertainment experience
  • 1.3 GHz Quad-core processor
  • Great customer service
VERDICT
The Amazon Fire TV Cube is a hands-free media player with Alexa and 4K Ultra HD It allows you to enjoy thousands of movies and TV shows from various channels and websites. With far-field voice recognition, it hears you and responds to your voice commands from any direction. Overall, it is an option worth taking into consideration.

7. Roku Express

With an advanced technology and a lot of innovative features, the Roku Express is ideal for new users. It is very easy to use and comes at a very affordable price. It is capable of streaming everything, including new movies, programs and other TV shows. It comes with a remote control that will provide easy navigation plus shortcut buttons to popular streaming controls. What you really need to know about this media player is the fact that it is 5X more powerful than its above competitors. As mentioned above, it is very easy to install. You just need to plug it into your TV, connect it to the internet and start streaming. It includes a high-speed HDMI cable, but it doesn’t have a microphone for voice search like Roku Ultra model.

PROS
CONS
  • Easy setup
  • Great price
  • Free mobile app for iOS and Android
VERDICT
The Roku Express is one of the most powerful media players on the market. Although it lacks certain features, such as microphones or Alexa voice control, it still is one of tha most popular options out there.

What’s Behind Our Ratings


Have you ever watched a movie on Netflix or a music video on your TV, laptop or smartphone? If so, you have probably used a streaming media service. Streaming media is about the video, audio and video games. All these can be connected to your TV, laptop or smartphone via the Internet. As outlined above, when it comes to home entertainment, there are many options available to the open market. But with all those options also comes a great deal of confusion. Therefore, in order to make the difference between them, you need to understand several things.

  • Voice control

    Most streaming media remote controls are equipped with voice control technology. It works like a microphone. You can speak of it and control what you watch. You just have to tell it what you want to watch. Just say what is on your mind and the remote will find exactly what you need. The main advantages of using a media player with remote control are that you can say goodbye that annoying time and the frustration of typing the name of your favorite movie. Now, this interesting features does the work for you.

  • Dual-Band WiFi

    Media players with dual-band Wi-Fi are much more efficient than those with a single band. They improve performance by relegating video streaming to the higher frequency band. Most devices support the 802.11ac standard which is the most fastest Wi-Fi standard. It is not as fast as the Ethernet, but is still much faster than the 802.11n Wi-Fi. Also, it is very important to understand that the 802.11ac can deliver faster signals only if the wireless router can support it.

  • 4K video

    The latest models of streaming media players are able to support at least 1080p with 4K content. Most devices are able to stream 4K, but if you are thinking about purchasing a top-of-the-line television, a 4K Ultra HD resolution will be exactly what you need. The 4K Ultra HD is the highest resolution available. A 4K Ultra HD screen has about 8 million pixels. It is four times higher than a standard 1080p HD TV. However, if you want to stream 4K content, you will need at least 15 to 25Mbps.

  • Dolby Vision

    Dolby Vision is an advanced form of HDR. It is one of the two most popular variant of HDR. While some people prefer the HDR10 format, others use Dolby Vision which comes with a plethora of advantages and benefits. The main advantage of using Dolby Vision is that it can gauge your HDR TV’s capabilities helping you enjoy an excellent HDR experience.

  • HDR

    High Dynamic Range offers excellent contrast and much more colors than standard dynamic range. As compared to the 4K Ultra HD resolution, it is considered by professionals a notable visual improvement. One of the most popular variants of HDR is the HDR10. This format is an open standard backed by various companies, including Samsung, Sony, LG and others.

Types of Players

There are currently 5 models in our ratings, but the market is flooded with many other brands, including Amazon, Apple, Roku and Google (Chromecast). Also, there are a few companies, including the Roku which come with a plethora of interesting models. All their models are equipped with features and specifications that will surely meet your requirements. However, if you are looking to purchase a streaming media player, you can choose between stick-style players and set-top boxes. The stick-style players can be plugged directly into the TV’s HDMI input.

  • Stick-Style Players

    If you need a streaming media player, keep in mind that the stick-style players include Amazon Fire TV Stick, Google Chromecast, Vudu Spark and Roku Stick. They have the dimensions of a USB flash drive and all can be plugged into the TV’s HDMI port. Also, they are more affordable than the set-top boxes.

  • Set-Top Boxes

    If you want to buy a set-top box streaming player, there are a few models from Roku, Google Nexus, Mohu Channels, Amazon and Apple to choose from. These streaming players are much faster than stick-style players. Plus, they are more responsive and have more connections, including USB ports. More than that, they are very easy to install. They connect to your TV via an HDMI cable. Their price range from $50 to $200.

Other Things to Consider


  • Remote Control

    Since a remote control is a connection between you and your streaming device it is very important to choose one that has all the features you need. Streaming players usually come with remotes that looks similar to standard TV’s remotes. They have a lot of buttons for navigation and the most modern models can even include a full QWERTY keyboard. Also, the remotes used for streaming players come with voice control. This type of remote comes in handy for everyone. On the other hand, there are also some streaming devices that cannot be controlled by a remote. For example, the Chromecast devices do not work with a remote. To control them, you can use a smartphone or a tablet.

  • Internet Speed

    Of course, one of the most important factor to consider when making this type of purchase is your Internet speed. The quality of your content will be extremely affected by your Internet Speed. That’s why it is so important to check the Internet speed before purchasing a streaming player. However, in order to help you find something useful, we recommend you to use a wireless-N router or to have at least 10Mbps download speed if you want to use a single device. If you intend to use more than one device than a 20Mbps is what you need.

  • Connectivity

    As you might think, every streaming player is equipped with a built-in Wi-Fi. However, there are also some devices that have an Ethernet jack for wired connections to a router. They all can be connected to your TV via HDMI connections, but not all have analog-video connections. The analog connections can be used with older TVs without HDMI input. If your media player has a label with DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) this means that it allows you to access movies, videos and other content from other devices on the same network.

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