In this update, we’ve added Chromecast with Google TV, which although it launched globally in 2020, was recently launched in India. The new Chromecast runs on the much-improved Google TV UI on Android TV and supports Ultra-HD HDR streaming along with a bunch of other useful features like HDMI CEC and Google Assistant.
Many people can be happy watching regular TV programming using a set-top box, and indeed the quality of content on most TV channels is much better today than it was a few years ago. Movies, sports, music and news are all there, but the biggest problem with this way of accessing content remains the fixed time slot. You have to tune in at the right time or settle for whatever is playing when you tune in.
However, many are now opting for a more convenient way to watch video content – streaming. The easiest way to access video content is through an app on your smartphone, which can use mobile data or Wi-Fi to access the desired content. But the biggest issue with this is the screen – it’s too small and doesn’t offer a great viewing experience.
That’s where streaming devices come in. These little gadgets only need power and a Wi-Fi connection to fetch online content from free and premium streaming services, allowing you to access a huge catalog of quality video content that includes TV shows and movies, while enjoying the experience. viewing on your big screen TV.
Why should you buy a streaming device?
The best reason to buy a streaming device is to enjoy the wide variety of content currently offered by streaming services on the big screen. While many really great TV shows and movies can be seen on cable or traditional DTH, some of the best new TV shows are being released by streaming services that double as production companies, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
Also, many popular shows like House of the Dragon can be seen first on streaming services in India even before they are shown on major TV channels. Apart from these, there are also several other popular shows and movies available to watch on demand on streaming services, so you can choose what you want to watch at your convenience.
You can even pause content when you need a break, or watch an entire series at once instead of waiting for an episode every week. The idea of streaming suits anyone with a busy and unpredictable lifestyle.
Streaming devices just need a good internet connection at home and the right TV to get the most out of whatever device you buy. If you have a 4K HDR TV, it would make sense to opt for a device that supports 4K streaming. It’s also worth choosing your device based on the streaming services you plan to access; make sure the services you use most often have proper apps on the streaming device you choose. You can also choose a media streaming device if your smart TV software is outdated or buggy.
Best Streaming Device: Amazon Fire TV Cube (2nd Gen)
Amazon’s most powerful streaming device yet, the Fire TV Cube (2nd gen) is unique for one big reason – hands-free Alexa voice assistance. Combining the capabilities of a Fire TV streaming device and an Echo smart speaker, the Amazon Fire TV Cube (2nd Gen) lets you stream in 4K HDR while also controlling the experience and connected device using just your voice.
The Fire TV Cube (2nd generation) supports Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos formats for high dynamic range and sound encoding, respectively, and runs the updated Fire TV user interface. The streaming device supports all major apps including Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+ Hotstar, YouTube and Apple TV. While Amazon’s own Prime Video tends to be prominent in the user interface, it’s easy and convenient to access content from a number of other services too, with excellent apps available for the interface.
Priced at Rs. 12,999, the Amazon Fire TV Cube (2nd Gen) is quite expensive and costs considerably more than Rs. 5,999 Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K. The latter has basically the same features when it comes to core functionality, also supporting 4K streaming as well as Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. You can also consider Fire TV Stick 4K Max which is slightly more powerful than Fire TV Stick 4K in terms of processing power and also benefits from better connectivity with support for Wi-Fi 6 routers.
However, the Fire TV Cube is considerably more powerful hardware-wise, and Amazon’s Alexa hands-free voice assistance makes it worth it for power users. The hands-free functionality works well and can be used for a variety of purposes including controlling the TV or home entertainment setup.
While you can hook it up to virtually any television and enjoy the benefits, the Amazon Fire TV Cube (2nd generation) is best used with a high-end home entertainment setup that includes a soundbar or AV receiver and multi-loud system. -speakers. You can use the device not only to add handsfree capabilities to your existing home entertainment setup, but also as a streaming source device capable of sending the best possible signal to your system.
If you don’t have a 4K or HDR TV, you might prefer the Amazon Fire TV Stick (3rd Gen). It’s considerably more affordable than the 4K version at Rs. 3,999 and was released in late 2020 with new hardware and now features the new Fire TV UI. While the device obviously doesn’t support Ultra-HD streaming like the 4K version, that should work as long as you use it with a full-HD television.
If you’re looking to save a little more money, the Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite costs Rs. 2,999 and offers most of the features of the Fire TV Stick (3rd generation), including full-HD streaming and access to all apps and services available through the Fire TV UI. In addition, the Fire TV Stick lineup now also supports Miracast screen mirroring.
Best for Apple Users: Apple TV 4K (2nd generation)
If you’re an Apple fan and heavily invested in Apple’s software services, the Apple TV 4K (2nd Gen) is probably on your wish list. Priced at Rs. 18,900 onwards in India, this streaming device runs on the company’s tvOS platform and features a new and improved remote for easier navigation and voice controls via Apple’s Siri voice assistant. Under the hood is the Apple A12 Bionic processor, which while a little dated, has enough power for Apple TV 4K streaming and gaming capabilities.
What makes this streaming device special is that it’s not only really good at its core features, but also a pretty cool casual gaming device thanks to the Apple Arcade subscription service. For its main video streaming functionality, you get access to Apple TV+, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ Hotstar and several other popular services.
The Apple TV 4K is particularly special if you’re already using the Apple ecosystem – hardware and software considerations. AirPlay support means Apple TV 4K will work well to mirror your iPhone, iPad or Mac screen to your TV, and Ultra-HD with Dolby Vision HDR support lets you get the best out of streaming content.
Perhaps the only thing holding this device back from being our top pick is the price. At Rs. 18,900 in India for the 32GB version, the Apple TV 4K (2nd Gen) is much more expensive than most streaming devices available today, offering features that aren’t significantly better. However, if you have the budget, it offers an excellent using and streaming experience.
Also Consider: Chromecast with Google TV
Chromecast with Google TV is Google’s first standalone streaming device and runs on its own operating system and software, unlike previous Chromecast devices. The device runs on Android TV with Google TV UI on top and supports streaming in Ultra-HD resolution and high dynamic range content up to Dolby Vision format. That makes it capable of handling most mainstream resolutions, and Android TV’s support for over 7,000 apps is an added bonus.
Though a bit pricey at Rs. 6,399, the Chromecast with Google TV’s convenient form factor and excellent remote control make it a capable, convenient and easy-to-use device. Google Assistant support also helps, but the main selling point here is the excellent Google TV user interface, which provides excellent content recommendations across key apps and services. It’s definitely worth considering, especially if you’re already used to Google Assistant and Android TV.
How We Choose the Best Streaming Device
We ourselves have used these products extensively and have made our recommendations based on our experiences with the products and what we believe is best in terms of value for money and functionality. We’ve also used and reviewed several competing products in this segment and added them to our recommendations, along with our long-term experiences with smart TVs and media streaming devices.
Alternatives to these streaming devices
Several other streaming devices are now available in India, with many of the more affordable options essentially only allowing screen mirroring from smartphones or computers. If you can shop outside of India, options like the Roku range and Nvidia Shield TV are also worth considering.
An affordable alternative to Chromecast with Google TV is the Realme 4K Smart Google TV Stick which costs Rs. 3,999 in India. It usefully executes the Google TV UI, but falls a little short in not having support for Dolby Vision HDR. You can also consider options from Xiaomi such as Rs. 3,999 Mi Box 4K.
It might also be worth using a games console to stream movies and TV shows if you already have one. Modern consoles like the Sony PlayStation 5 and Microsoft Xbox Series X support 4K HDR streaming and have dedicated apps for the popular services.
You could also buy a smart TV with a good operating system like Android TV or webOS and you wouldn’t need a separate streaming device. Ultimately, using an HDMI cable to connect your laptop or computer to your TV is the most affordable and arguably the easiest way to add smarts to a big screen. You can simply stream content through dedicated apps or a web browser and comfortably watch it on the big screen.