What is a streaming device? 

A streaming media device connects your TV or home theater to the internet, allowing you to stream content (video, music, movies and sports) through a streaming TV service provider or app.

smart TV is a essentially a television with streaming apps built in. In many cases, you won’t need a separate remote or added device, since it’s all contained within the smart TV.  

And, as long as your TV has an HDMI port, you won’t need to buy a whole new television. These handy devices typically come pre-loaded with dozens of the most popular streaming “channels” (essentially apps), and you can add more when you want to. When you turn them on, they are fully configured, making these devices a convenient option. 

Finally, many Blu-ray players and newer video game consoles also act as streaming devices, with a few limitations. If you already own one of these, it’s worth considering as it may save you buying an additional piece of equipment.

The best streaming device for you is the one that fits your needs—which is to say, you probably don’t need to overpay for features that your TV doesn’t support, or worse yet, buy a device that fails to prop up some of the best features of your existing TV. There are dozens of sticks, dongles, and boxes that will deliver premium streaming directly to your screen with a decent wifi connection, and many offer the ability to quickly update an older TV whose built-in “smart” capabilities are no longer cutting it. And even if you’re looking for a premium box to support some of the top-end features, such as 4K HDR, there’s plenty to consider before pulling the trigger on a set-top box, so here are the best streaming TV boxes you can buy right now.

How do streaming devices work? 

Streaming devices generally work the same way, though the size and shape may vary. Most of them are simple to set up — you connect the device to your television with an HDMI cable (or, in the case of a “stick” device, directly into the HDMI port). Then you connect it to your home WiFi service (or your modem/router). The content you subscribed to will now stream through your television set. 

A “casting” device (like Google Chromecast and others) works a little bit differently. With these, you play your desired media on another device such as a laptop or tablet. The device then transmits the media over your WiFi connection and displays it on your TV, allowing you to enjoy it on a larger screen.

Most streaming devices also allow you to browse a huge range of additional channels that you can add to access different content. Some channels require their own paid subscription, while others are free. You will also find a mix of both live streaming services and on-demand services available on your device. Even better, streaming devices aren’t just for video – most also allow you to listen to music through streaming services, view your online photos and more.

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