October 2021

TV Boxes and Sticks: Aggregated Ranking Report

This report contains an aggregate consensus of Streaming Player rankings posted by key online experts, as of October 2021.

At a glance - October 2021 Ranking

Scroll horizontally to browse this ranking table
Rank Change Price Streaming Player
TechRadar
Digital Trends
Tom's Guide
TechHive
Reviewed
Business Insider
PCMag
IGN
WIRED
The Verge
1
- Check price
Google Chromecast
4
1
2
4
2
4
2
5
2
1
2
+1 $66
Roku Ultra 2020
-
3
5
6
1
1
5
1
5
-
3
-1 $169
Apple TV 4K
2
6
6
3
5
3
9
4
4
3
4
+1 $39
Roku Streaming Stick+
-
2
1
-
3
-
4
7
1
2
5
+1 $28
Amazon Fire TV Stick
-
-
-
-
6
5
1
2
3
4
6
+1 $150
Nvidia Shield
-
-
3
5
-
6
-
3
-
5
7
-3 $39
Roku Express 4K+
-
4
9
2
4
-
7
-
-
-
8
- $95
Amazon Fire TV Cube
6
7
7
-
7
-
3
-
-
-
9
- $25
Roku Express
5
-
-
-
9
2
-
-
-
-
10
+1 $199
Nvidia Shield TV Pro
1
5
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
11
-1 $22
Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite
3
-
-
-
-
-
8
-
-
-
12
- $23
TiVo Stream 4K
-
-
10
-
-
-
6
-
-
-

We ranked Google Chromecast #1 in October 2021 because:

  • 10 independent experts mentioned it in their “best TV Boxes and Sticks” rankings.
  • Out of those, 2 experts ranked Google Chromecast as #1.
Critic endorsements:
TechRadar

Best All-Rounder

Pros
4K HDR with Dolby Vision
Google Assistant built in
Comes with a remote

Cons
Slow to load at startup
Google TV UI is uninspired
No Google Stadia support

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Digital Trends

The best streaming device

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Tom's Guide

The Best Chromecast Streaming Device

Pros
Sensible layout
Lots of streaming services
Remote included

Cons
General Google searches poorly formatted

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TechHive

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Reviewed

Best value

Pros
Affordable
Very good remote
4K/HDR Support

Cons
No wired internet
Interface needs work

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Business Insider

The best streaming device for Google users

Pros
4K HDR with Dolby Vision and HDR10+
Google Assistant voice remote
built-in interface and casting capabilities

Cons
Minor glitches
some lag

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PCMag

Our Top Pick Under $50 / Editor's Choice

Pros
Attractive, accessible new Google TV interface
4K with HDR10 and Dolby Vision
Useful Google Assistant and Cast features
Affordable

Cons
Live TV tab only supports YouTube TV

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IGN

Best Android TV Streaming Stick

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WIRED

For Google TV or Phone Streaming

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The Verge

The Best Streaming Stick For Most People

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We ranked Roku Ultra 2020 #2 in October 2021 because:

  • 8 independent experts mentioned it in their “best TV Boxes and Sticks” rankings.
  • Out of those, 3 experts ranked Roku Ultra 2020 as #1.
Critic endorsements:
Digital Trends

The best premium streaming device

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Tom's Guide

Best Streaming Device For External Media

Pros
Great performance
Inventive remote control
Dolby Vision HDR

Cons
Expensive
Not much has changed since last year's model

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TechHive

Runner-up

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Reviewed

BEST OVERALL

Pros
Best-in-class remote
4K/HDR and Dolby Vision
Fast, with wired internet

Cons
More expensive than streaming sticks

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Business Insider

The best streaming box overall

Pros
4K HDR streaming with Dolby Vision and HDR10+
Bluetooth voice remote
lots of apps
improved Wi-Fi connection
Ethernet
USB port

Cons
A bit pricey

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PCMag

Lets You Easily Listen With Headphones

Pros
Fast performance
AirPlay and Dolby Vision support
Remote has a headphone jack for private listening

Cons
Expensive
Still doesn't have a fully functional voice assistant
Missing HBO Max and Twitch

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IGN

Best Streaming Device

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WIRED

For Live TV (and Late-Night) Streamers

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Methodology: combine opinions of key experts

Identify Experts

We identify key publishers and experts that consistently review and recommend TV Boxes and Sticks.

Capture Rankings

For each publisher we find a currently recommended "top 10" list of TV Boxes and Sticks, it must be updated in the last 9 months.

Aggregate Rankings

We put all those lists together and aggregate them. The more frequently a product is recommended, the higher it is in our ranking

Experts chosen for October 2021 ranking

We ranked Apple TV 4K #3 in October 2021 because:

  • 10 independent experts mentioned it in their “best TV Boxes and Sticks” rankings.
Critic endorsements:
TechRadar

Best iOS Streaming Device

Pros
High-frame-rate HDR support
Redesigned Siri remote

Cons
Expensive
Doesn’t work with Android

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Digital Trends

The best streaming device for Apple lovers

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Tom's Guide

Best Streaming Device for Apple Device Owners

Pros
New, improved remote
High frame rate HDR streaming
Multi-user support

Cons
Expensive
Not noticeably better than first-gen

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TechHive

Best high-end media streamer

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Reviewed

Editor's Choice

Pros
Great remote
Has Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos
Works great with Apple gear

Cons
Stale design
Pricier than competition

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Business Insider

The best high-end streaming box

Pros
Well-designed interface
4K and HDR
can serve as a HomeKit hub, new model has HDMI 2.1

Cons
Expensive compared to the competition

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PCMag

Best for HomeKit Control

Pros
Improved remote
Plenty of useful features including AirPlay, HomeKit, and Siri
Dolby Vision support
Comes with a free year of Apple TV+

Cons
Expensive
Interface and remote tend to funnel you into the Apple TV app

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IGN

Best 4K Streaming Box for Apple Households

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WIRED

For Apple Purists

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The Verge

The Best Streaming Device Overall Experience (FOR A STEEP PRICE)

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We ranked Roku Streaming Stick+ #4 in October 2021 because:

  • 7 independent experts mentioned it in their “best TV Boxes and Sticks” rankings.
  • Out of those, 2 experts ranked Roku Streaming Stick+ as #1.
Critic endorsements:
Digital Trends

The best streaming stick

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Tom's Guide

Best Streaming Device Overall

Pros
Inexpensive
Full 4K HDR capabilities
Huge app selection

Cons
Remote lacks an audio jack
Search could be deeper

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Reviewed

Pros
Streams HDR and 4K content
Remote includes voice-control

Cons
Only works over WiFi

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PCMag

Longer Wireless Range Than the Express 4K+

Pros
Affordable.
Snappy performance.
Powerful Wi-Fi.
Supports 4K video with HDR10.
Lots of content available in the Roku Channel Store.

Cons
No Dolby Vision HDR support.
Voice search is much more limited than on other media streamers.

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IGN

Best Streaming Stick

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WIRED

Best Overall

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The Verge

The Best Streaming Device For People Who Want To Keep It Simple

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We ranked Amazon Fire TV Stick #5 in October 2021 because:

  • 6 independent experts mentioned it in their “best TV Boxes and Sticks” rankings.
  • Out of those, 1 expert ranked Amazon Fire TV Stick as #1.
Critic endorsements:
Reviewed

Pros
Supports all major streaming services
Excellent remote

Cons
Favors Amazon content

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Business Insider

The best streaming stick with Alexa

Pros
4K streaming
Alexa voice control
affordable
compact
support for HDR10
HDR10+
Dolby Vision

Cons
Missing a few apps like Google Play and Peacock

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PCMag

Amazon's Most Affordable 4K Streamer / Editor's Choice

Pros
Affordable
Supports 4K with HDR10 and Dolby Vision
Amazon Alexa
Quick Wi-Fi streaming and menu navigation

Cons
No Google Play apps
Ethernet adapter not included

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IGN

Best Budget Streaming Device

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WIRED

For Amazon Lovers

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The Verge

The Best Streaming Stick If You're In Amazons Ecosystem

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We ranked Nvidia Shield #6 in October 2021 because:

  • 5 independent experts mentioned it in their “best TV Boxes and Sticks” rankings.
Critic endorsements:
Tom's Guide

Best Premium Streaming Device

Pros
Excellent game-streaming
Quick rendering of UHD content
Lots of great apps

Cons
AI upscaling doesn't add that much
Somewhat expensive

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TechHive

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Business Insider

The best streaming player for gamers

Pros
4K support
Dolby Vision capabilities
support for a separate gaming controller
Android TV operating system
powerful processor

Cons
Expensive
most buyers don't need the extra power

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IGN

Best 4K Streaming Device

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The Verge

Best Streaming Device For Home Theater Enthusiasts And Gamers

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We ranked Roku Express 4K+ #7 in October 2021 because:

  • 5 independent experts mentioned it in their “best TV Boxes and Sticks” rankings.
Critic endorsements:
Digital Trends

The best budget streaming device

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Tom's Guide

The Best Streaming Device Under $40

Pros
Excellent 4K HDR performance
Decent navigation
Improved remote

Cons
Awkward design
No Dolby Vision or Atmos

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TechHive

Runner-up

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Reviewed

Pros
Simple interface
Excellent smart home support
AirPlay 2

Cons
No Dolby Vision
No headphones jack on remote

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PCMag

Roku's Most Affordable 4K Streamer

Pros
4K streaming with HDR10, HDR10+, and HLG
Easy, uncomplicated interface
Supports Apple AirPlay 2

Cons
Voice search feels underdeveloped
No Dolby Vision support

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We ranked Amazon Fire TV Cube #8 in October 2021 because:

  • 5 independent experts mentioned it in their “best TV Boxes and Sticks” rankings.
Critic endorsements:
TechRadar

Best Alexa Streaming Device

Pros
Voice Control
Built-in Alexa

Cons
Panders to Amazon Prime
No HDMI cable in the box

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Digital Trends

The best streaming device for those who want to ditch their remotes

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Tom's Guide

Best Voice Control in A Streaming Device

Pros
Speedier performance
Alexa's cable box controls are great
Great 4K HDR picture quality

Cons
Home screen can't be edited, packs ads
Awkward Ethernet adapter

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Reviewed

Pros
Able to control all your smart devices

Cons
Unreliable voice control
Expensive

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PCMag

Hands-Free Alexa Voice Control / Editor's Choice

Pros
Hands-free Alexa voice support
Infrared blaster can control your home theater by voice
Fast performance
Supports all major HDR formats

Cons
Expensive compared with smaller 4K media streamers

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We ranked Roku Express #9 in October 2021 because:

  • 3 independent experts mentioned it in their “best TV Boxes and Sticks” rankings.
Critic endorsements:
TechRadar

Best HD Streaming Device

Pros
Roku TV interface
Great app support
Super cheap

Cons
Basic IR remote
Can’t stream 4K HDR content
Super short HDMI cable

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Reviewed

Pros
Access to Roku's full platform

Cons
Remote lacks voice-control, power/volume buttons
Video maxes at 1080p
Requires HDMI

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Business Insider

The best budget streaming box

Pros
Cheap
compact design
easy-to-use
built-in OS

Cons
Doesn't support 4K or HDR
no voice remote
no Ethernet

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We ranked Nvidia Shield TV Pro #10 in October 2021 because:

  • 2 independent experts mentioned it in their “best TV Boxes and Sticks” rankings.
  • Out of those, 1 expert ranked Nvidia Shield TV Pro as #1.
Critic endorsements:
TechRadar

Best 4K Streaming Device

Pros
AI Upscaling
Google Assistant built in

Cons
No Apple TV app
No USB ports for extra storage

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Digital Trends

The best streaming device for gamers

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We ranked Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite #11 in October 2021 because:

  • 2 independent experts mentioned it in their “best TV Boxes and Sticks” rankings.
Critic endorsements:
TechRadar

Best Budget Streaming Device

Pros
60fps and HDR
Good value

Cons
Only HD streaming
Persistent ads
No volume controls

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PCMag

The Most Affordable Fire TV Stick

Pros
Inexpensive
Plenty of apps and services
Amazon Alexa control with voice remote

Cons
Remote doesn't have TV controls
Interface is sometimes sluggish

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We ranked TiVo Stream 4K #12 in October 2021 because:

  • 2 independent experts mentioned it in their “best TV Boxes and Sticks” rankings.
Critic endorsements:
Tom's Guide

A compelling UHD streamer with Android TV apps

Pros
Speedy 4K streaming
Supports most if not all services and apps
Remote offers easy access to live TV

Cons
Constrained live TV offering
Poor recommendations

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PCMag

Ideal for Sling TV Users

Pros
Affordable
Android TV and Google Assistant functionality
Live TV support through Locast and Sling
Supports HDR10 and Dolby Vision

Cons
TiVo Stream and stock Android TV interfaces aren't quite as sleek as competitors
Remote is a little clunky

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