Roku and NVIDIA made the Best Streaming Devices in 2017
What’s the best streaming device for cord cutters?
It may depend on whether your TV supports 1080p or 4K HDR. But for many, the Roku Streaming Stick+ will make a lot of sense.
The Streaming Stick Plus supports 4K HDR and has a much faster processor than the Roku models released a year ago. Even if you don’t yet own a 4K TV, the Streaming Stick+ has some nice features worth considering.
It’s the only Roku device with a WiFi antenna designed to improve its performance. The remote control now has power and volume buttons for your TV and voice search. The remote quickly pairs with your TV. So you’ll be streaming Netflix in no time.
Roku wasn’t alone in bringing new features to streaming devices. 2017 will certainly be a year remembered as one that brought 4K HDR support to more streaming devices. Hands-free voice commands will likely have a more lasting effect.
Why? Because companies like Amazon are positioning its streaming devices like Fire TV to become smart home hubs so you can control things like window shades, and light bulbs with your voice. After spending months testing a number of media players, it’s worth recapping what streaming devices stood out as the best of 2017.
Why should I buy a streaming device?
Anyone who owns a Roku or Fire TV device will have a lot more things to watch, especially from completely free platforms that offer content over the Internet. Pluto TV and Crackle are two of the best free streaming platforms out there. You could easily replace your costly cable subscription with these two apps and a TV antenna, and never pay a dime for television again.
If you want a true alternative to cable, you don’t have to go without many of the channels that you’re used to watching. With even a basic streaming device, you can live stream channels like AMC, History and ESPN. A new generation of live streaming platforms like DirecTV Now, fuboTV, and YouTube TV offer bundles of channels once exclusive to cable.
There are standalone subscriptions, too. HBO, Showtime and Starz unshackled themselves from satellite and cable-only existences months ago. If you have a bunch of movies on your PC, you can use the Plex app to watch them on TV.
No matter what kind of streaming device you choose, you’re going to quickly open yourself up to a new world of TV shows, concerts and movies. It will quickly challenge your assumption that cable TV has the best content because you’re paying a lot for it every month.
Some of this new high quality programming can’t even be found on a cable or satellite TV subscription. So it’s time to look over your other choices of the best streaming devices of 2017.
NVIDIA Shield Pro: Best Streaming Device for Live OTA TV and gaming
The NVIDIA Shield Pro was my favorite streaming device that I reviewed this year. It’s also the most expensive, but it’s a worthy investment for anyone looking for an all-in-one device.
NVIDIA released new versions of Shield TV (16GB) and Shield Pro (500GB) back in January. The much improved game controller made some headlines. Many significant improvements came months afterward. In June, software hub Plex began supporting Live TV and DVR on all Shield TV devices. By adding a TV antenna and a TV tuner like Hauppauge WinTV-dualHD, you can both stream and record over-the-air channels. NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX and many others are broadcast in uncompressed HD, which look better than the feed from your cable cord.
A Shield Pro will give you plenty of hard drive space to record a number of shows per week. Even if you bought the 16GB Shield TV, you can easily add on an external hard drive to store your DVR recordings. Plex Pass only costs $5 per month for the Live TV & DVR feature. Using Plex to stream your movie collection off a PC doesn’t cost you anything.
Gaming with NVIDIA Sheild TV
With a subscription to GE Force Now, there are a dazzling number of games to play. You’ll get Witcher 3, and others you might find on a PlayStation or Xbox console. Lego Star Wars, Indiana Jones; pretty much all the Batman games you can stand and Android games like Beach Buggy Racing and Badlands. Microsoft recently revealed that the company intends to start its own game streaming platform. NVIDIA is already there.
In September, NVIDIA rolled out a software update that added Google Assistant to the mix. Now you have hands free voice commands. And presumably, you’ll soon be able to do more than just ask for the latest comedies on Netflix or concerts on YouTube. Read my review of NVIDIA Shield Pro with Plex Live TV to learn how it all works.
Amazon Fire TV 4K HDR: best streaming device with hands free voice search
Amazon released the first Fire TV that supported 4K and HDR this fall. The real innovation comes with pairing an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot to a Fire TV so you can peruse Amazon Video, Netflix and other platforms to for things to watch.
Amazon has offered some the shows it produces in 4K HDR for some time. Now you can actually use a Fire TV to watch them instead of another streaming device.
The voice-search isn’t perfect, but the technology overall has its quirks. The new Amazon Fire TV has the ability of hands-free voice commands. It still has the slick interface from the 2nd generation Fire TV box and it’s a reliable option for Amazon Prime members and Echo users. Read how the new Amazon Fire TV compares to other 4K streaming devices.
Roku Streaming Stick 2017: best streaming device for 1080p
If you don’t want to spend the extra $20 for 4K HDR support, the new Roku Streaming Stick is faster than its much-lauded predecessor from 2016.
You’ll still get power and volume buttons for your TV. Voice search and apps to control the Roku are available for Android and iOS smartphones. Roku also now supports playback of local media on Plex and live TV and DVR options for over the air channels. Read about the best streaming sticks for more on the 2017 Roku Streaming Stick.
Amazon Fire TV with Alexa voice remote: best streaming device on a budget
For only $40, you can have all the benefits of a pricier Fire TV device that supports 1080p with the Amazon Fire TV Streaming Stick. Amazon spent part of the year upgrading its user interface to make it more open to suggestions from Netflix, Crackle, Hulu and many other “partners”.
If you want a casual gaming option, the Fire Stick offers up dozens of Android games like Badlands, Beach Buggy Racing and Grand Theft Auto Vice City. Instead of dropping $50 for a Fire TV game pad, there are a number of quality third-party game controllers that go for as little as $20. The Fire TV Stick beats the Roku Express in terms of value because of the extra gaming options that are possible.
What’s the best streaming device of 2017?
Setting up the Shield as Plex Media Server brings a lot more value to an antenna because you can record HD channels coming in from your antenna. The Plex guide for TV also exposes you to a lot more of the sports, movies and shows than a typical guide. The gaming options have been improving throughout the year, and I can stream in 4K HDR quality. Plex Pass costs only $5 per month for the Live TV & DVR features, which is a bargain compared to cable. A GeForce Now subscription ($7.99 per month) gives you access to scores of games, including kid-friendly titles like Ultimate Chicken Horse and Sonic All-Star Racing.
Roku took a huge leap forward with the Streaming Stick+ for its speed and slick options like the improved remote control and WiFi antenna. It easily reset the bar in terms of how many features you can pack into a palm-sized, portable streaming device. What do you think is the best streaming device of 2017? Tell readers in the comments below.
Founder and Editor of The Cord Cutting Report. Before launching the site in 2016, he worked for more than two decades as a staff writer or correspondent for a number of daily newspapers, including The Boston Globe. His enthusiasm for tech began with the Atari 2600. Follow @james_kimble