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Best Streaming Device to Replace Cable (Updated for 2021)

Say goodbye to the old-school cable service and bring home an innovative streaming device. These little wonders of technology can free you from your cable bill and help you take control of your home entertainment. Spending a bit of free time watching our favorite TV shows and movies is almost a national pastime for cord cutters today. But, with all of the content streaming choices out there, how do you know which streaming device is the best one for you and your family to replace cable?

We’ve put together a comparison of the most popular streaming devices to help you make a smart, informed decision. While it may change from time to time, right now I recommend the Amazon Fire TV Stick as my top suggestion for the best streaming device to replace cable TV. Keep reading to see why.

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Streaming devices can give you a home theater experience with excellent video quality and an abundance of entertainment apps. Also, you won’t have to deal with the clutter of wires running around your home as these devices are very plug-and-play, and they’re usually WiFi-compatible.

If you’re looking for a new streaming device to connect to your TV set, take a look through the comparisons and contrasts of the most popular models listed below. There’s a device for practically everyone’s needs, lifestyles, and budgets.

And if you need a good cord-cutter sound solution, we have recommendations for that as well.

So, let’s have a look at the most popular streaming devices to replace cable TV.

Quick View

Streaming Device4KAlexa Voice ControlPortsRemote Type
Fire TV StickHDMI, Micro USBAlexa Voice Remote
Roku ExpressHDMI, Micro SD, USBBasic IR Remote
Roku Streaming StickHDMI, Micro SD, USBLong Range Voice Remote With TV Controls
Google ChromecastXXHDMI, USBX
Apple TV 4KXHDMI, USBVoice remote with 6 buttons
Best Streaming Device to Replace Cable Overview

1. Fire TV Stick 4K

Sale
Fire TV Stick 4K streaming device with Alexa Voice Remote (includes TV controls) | Dolby Vision
  • Cinematic experience - Watch in vibrant 4K Ultra HD with support for Dolby Vision, HDR, and HDR10+.
  • Home theater audio with Dolby Atmos - Feel scenes come to life with support for immersive Dolby Atmos audio on select titles with compatible home audio systems.
  • Endless entertainment - Stream more than 1 million movies and TV episodes from Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, Peacock, and more, plus listen to millions of songs. Subscription fees may apply.
  • Live and free TV - Watch live TV, news, and sports with subscriptions to SLING TV, YouTube TV, and others. Stream for free with Pluto TV, IMDb TV, YouTube and more.
  • Alexa Voice Remote lets you use your voice to search and launch shows across apps. Plus, control power and volume on your TV and soundbar with a single remote.

Top Pick for Best Streaming Device to Replace Cable

While many of the streaming devices on this page deserve top honors, the Fire TV Stick is the one my family and I currently use at home, and it’s the one I recommend for most cord cutters out there.

It provides an even better cord cutting experience when paired with an Amazon Prime subscription; however, it works great even without one.

If you’re interested in trying out Amazon Prime to see if it’s right for you and your family, check out their free 30 day trial.

Design

The Amazon Fire TV stick is easily connected through your TV’s HDMI port. If you find that it’s too wide to fit comfortably on your model of TV; however, the Fire TV Stick also ships with an extension cable that allows you to connect the device more easily. The extension cable can also help with avoiding interference by keeping it a few inches away from the HDMI port itself.

The Fire TV Stick 4K measures 99 mm x 30 mm x 14 mm and is very lightweight at about 53 grams. The new model is an upgrade from previous ones with 802.11ac WiFi, a quad-core processor, and Bluetooth 4.1.

Speed

There’s no doubt that this is a very speedy device. You can scroll through menus smoothly and quickly, and as soon as you find something to watch, you can load it with a click of a button. Previous versions were known for a less speedy experience and tended to lag a bit more than the updated version.

Alexa and Voice Search

Finding and streaming your favorite shows is simple when you combine the voice search feature with the Fire TV Stick. In addition to manually scanning the interface’s menus, you can simply press down the mic button and speak into the remote to search for your favorite shows. Alexa is right there to assist.

Fun tip: Definitely explore the lighter side of Alexa with the loads of fun Easter Eggs and other functionality available. For instance, whispering into your remote to Alexa will elicit a whispered response, which for some odd reason never fails to amuse. Also, she’ll tell you jokes if you ask just right.

Apps and Software

The Fire TV Stick uses Android software that is heavily modified. The interface’s menu icons are displayed in rows and columns that are arranged in categories like Recently Watched, Suggested, and Free. You’ll also see the icons of the individual channels and apps that you have installed.

Note: Amazon does change the Fire TV Stick’s interface now and then. So, while the categories generally stay the same, the location of the icons might be different with each update.

The Fire TV Stick uses the Amazon app store for channels and applications, which some feel is a limitation compared to the Google Play store. It does have access to major services like Hulu, HBO Max, Netflix, Sling TV, Spotify, YouTube, and much more. However, it leaves out other apps like Google Play Music and Google Play Movies.

One of the biggest benefits is for Amazon Prime users. If you have an existing Amazon Prime subscription, you’ll have access to thousands of movie titles and TV shows at no extra charge through Amazon Prime Video.

ProsCons
AffordableContent search has some gaps
Simple voice search with AlexaNo Ethernet connection built-in
Fast performanceContent search favors Amazon Prime too often
Tons of available content and appsInterface updates are sometimes not great
Smooth playback
Easy installation
Great 4K streaming quality
Pros and cons of the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

Fire TV Stick 4K – General Review

People have generally praised the Amazon Fire TV Stick for its fantastic value for the money and labeled it as one of the best cheap streaming devices for TV. The speed is a big plus, which helps to provide a great streaming experience. 

However, customers have often complained about overheating and randomly restarting. There is also a somewhat well-known issue with the Fire TV Stick complaining that it’s running out of space when it’s actually not. We did have this happen with ours, so I can attest to this. However, it was a small issue and was easily fixed.

The Amazon Fire TV Stick is my overall pick for best streaming device to replace cable at the moment. We’re constantly trying new devices, and this may change, but I can wholeheartedly recommend this one to people looking for their first device as a cord cutter.

2. Roku Express

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Roku Express | HD Streaming Media Player with High Speed HDMI Cable and Simple Remote
  • Watch what you love: Start streaming with a massive selection of free, live, and premium TV, including Roku Originals and 200+ live TV channels for free on The Roku Channel
  • Quick and easy setup: It’s easy to get started with everything you need included in the box, including a High Speed HDMI Cable—just plug it into your TV and connect to the internet
  • Tons of power, tons of fun: Compact and power-packed, you'll stream your favorites with ease, including movies and series on HBO Max, Netflix, Disney+, and Prime Video
  • Simple remote: Incredibly easy to use, this remote features shortcut buttons to popular streaming channels
  • The free Roku mobile app: Control your Roku device with a convenient second remote, search with your voice, enjoy private listening with wireless headphones, and more on your iOS or Android device

Design

The Roku Express measures 0.7 inches high x 2.8 inches wide x 1.5 inches deep. A curved matte plastic shell covers the top with a glossy back finish in the front. There are multiple connectivity options in the back, including a USB port and an HDMI port. It also features a reset option if you need to access that functionality for any reason.

Streaming Resolution

For a very affordable price, the Roku Express allows you to stream all channels in 1080p resolution. Although Amazon Firestick offers a better remote, this is an excellent option for a great price. However, if you own a 4K TV, then Roku Express might not be the best option.

Apps and Channels

Roku can access most of the top-notch streaming apps and services. This includes big names like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play Movies & TV, Hulu, Sling, and YouTube. However, for some reason, it does not offer Twitch. 

For Music, it offers SiriusXM, and Spotify, Amazon Music, and iHeartRadio, Pandora.

If you are someone with very versatile entertainment taste, then Roku will definitely satisfy you.

ProsCons
Very affordable entry-level deviceBasic IR remote / No voice remote
Remote is easy to useHDMI cable is quite short
Great selection of apps and servicesNo 4K streaming / 1080p max resolution
Search doesn’t favor one service over anotherNot Apple Airplay compatible
Supports HD quality streamingNo Ethernet connection built-in
Pros and Cons of the Roku Express

Roku Express – General Review

The customers have praised that Roku Express is extremely easy to set up. They discussed the affordability and the versatile streaming options available. The whole Roku Express is quite popular among people.

However, there were some minor inconveniences. They discussed that the remote wasn’t very reliable. You might also need an HDCP splitter with this one because most of the channels won’t stream without it.

3. Roku Streaming Stick

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Roku Streaming Stick+ | HD/4K/HDR Streaming Device with Long-range Wireless and Roku Voice Remote with TV Controls
  • Wireless that goes the distance: Basement rec room Backyard movie night Bring ‘em on. The long-range wireless receiver gives you extended range and a stronger signal for smooth streaming even in rooms farther from your router
  • Brilliant picture quality: Experience your favorite shows with stunning detail and clarity—whether you’re streaming in HD, 4K, or HDR, you’ll enjoy picture quality that’s optimized for your TV with sharp resolution and vivid color
  • Tons of power, tons of fun: Snappy and responsive, you’ll stream your favorites with ease—from movies and series on Apple TV, Prime Video, and Netflix, to cable alternatives like Sling, enjoy the most talked-about TV across thousands of channels
  • No more juggling remotes: Power up your TV, adjust the volume, mute, and control your streaming all with one remote—use your voice to quickly search across channels, turn captions on, and more in a touch
  • Setup is a cinch: Plug it in, connect to the internet, and start streaming—it’s that simple

Design

The streaming stick measures about 3.7 x 0.8 x 0.47 inches and weighs 0.9 ounces that is very light. It is small and simple but holds immense power. It can easily fit behind your TV. This stick is an upgrade from its previous models. It can carry 4 times more range than its predecessors. This reduces the interference, bringing faster load time and minimizes buffering.

Apps and Channels

One of the beloved features of Roku is the extensive amount of Channels and Apps. It offers almost all of them except for Apple. The music choices also range from Spotify to Amazon music.

Roku is known for its extensive channel list that offers something for everyone. There are hundreds of channels that provide entertainment for every age, region, or category.

However, that’s about it. You can not expect the smart features that entail Apple TV and Firestick. The remote does not have a smart assistant, either.

Streaming

Streaming with Roku is super fast and easy. Generally, streaming sticks require an Ethernet connection for streaming on 4K. This prevents any buffering. Roku does not offer any ethernet options; however, it promises a better WiFi connection. It fulfills that promise with a stellar streaming experience.

ProsCons
4K streaming qualityNo Dolby Atmos
Very simple interfaceShort HDMI cable
Voice remoteNo Ethernet connection built-in
Improved wireless connectivity
Affordable
Extensive selection of content and apps
Pros and Cons of the Roku Streaming Stick

General Review

People love Roku Streaming sticks because of its diverse options, affordability, and smart design. However, they find some failings like it does not turn off. It can be a problem for people who have a limited Internet package.

The remote also comes with some pre-programmed buttons that are of no use. Users love the simple design and super-fast streaming as a whole, which makes it a great purchase.

4. Google Chromecast 3rd Gen

Design

The Chromecast is in a smart disc shape often associated with Chrome. There are two available colors, including Matte black and plain white. The design is very similar to the 2nd Gen Chromecast. It has a black cable that will plug into the HDMI. The disc also has an indicator light, so you know when it’s on. It weighs only 1.41 ounces.

Set-Up

Setting Chromecast is really easy. You just have to plug it in into the HDMI port and install the Google Home app. The app will manage everything as soon as you enter your WiFi and account information.

Chromecast 3rd Gen is mostly similar to 2nd Gen; however, there is no remote in this. It solely operates using your phone or Tablet.

Apps

Google Chromecast offers you a lot of options for entertainment. You can obtain Crunchyroll, Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, Sling Tv, etc. For music, you also have a wide variety of choices, including Pandora, Soundcloud, Spotify, Deezer, etc. There are also other options like YouTube, Google Movies, Google Music, etc. Most of the channels are compatible with Chromecast. 

Along with that, you can also load anything available on the web. The device is very flexible; however, users may face difficulty with no remote.

ProsCons
Affordable optionNo 4K streaming / 1080p max resolution
Many supported streaming optionsNo on-screen interface or remote
Very portable
Can mirror mobile device screens to TV
Pros and Cons of the Chromecast

General Review

Chromecast is praised for being modern, stylish, and innovative. It also comes with a 6 ft long power cable, which is a plus. People like it that the quality is excellent even when you cast anything from the phone. 

However, a major problem here is that people who have limited internet connection can’t cast anything from the phone without the internet. Otherwise, it is an excellent purchase.

5. Apple TV 4K

Design

Apple TV 4K’s design is in the true Apple fashion. Minimalist and premium. Delivered in a small box with a matte shell giving it a sleek and stylish look, it’s tiny and weighs only 15 ounces. It measures 1.4 x 3.9 x 3.9 inches. It also has a LED indicator with ethernet and HDMI ports. The remote is also super sleek with a voice search and five buttons.

Overall, it’s really small and can be kept anywhere.

Apps

The Apple TV 4K has a mainly Apple-centric library. You can stream 4K movies on iTunes. Other than that, you have access to Hulu, Netflix, Sling TV, Crunchyroll, and other streaming apps, as usual. However, Google and Amazon apps are visibly missing, as is Spotify.

In short, this is great for an iOS user; everything they need is here.

Powerful

Apple TV is mighty. You won’t just stream in 4K, you’ll experience better light than normal videos. It comes with Dolby Vision as well as HDR10. For people who use Apple products, they can easily stream 4K videos from iTunes.

ProsCons
Great 4K streaming contentMore expensive than other devices
Strong WiFi performanceSmall streaming apps selection
Siri with Voice RemoteNo digital audio or USB ports
Easy integration with iOS and macOS
Intuitive Interface
Pros and Cons of the Apple TV 4K

General Review

Apple is a premium product, hence the price. It might cost a few more bucks compared to the other options, but it’s worth it. 

People really like the fast and easy setup. However, they seem to complain about lag initially, after which it works fine. The 4K streaming is otherwise said to be super smooth with no buffering. This is the best streaming TV for those already using iOS.

Another problem customers have faced is the lack of Google Play apps except for YouTube and a small range of other apps.

Best Streaming Device to Replace Cable – Wrap Up

We’ve listed all the best and most popular streaming devices for your TV viewing. As you can see, they vary in price, performance, and the content that they offer.

Hopefully, after going through the info above it’ll be a little easier for you to choose the right device for yourself that gives you the best value for your money.

Last update on 2021-11-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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