We’ve put together a list of what we think are the best Netflix streaming devices on the market today for 2016. Using a home theater PC or media streamer can easily turn your regular TV into a multi-media powerhouse. These devices will put the best Smart TVs on the market to shame!
Many of the devices listed below run operating systems based of Android (very similar to what you’ll find on mobile phones) while others run a completely proprietary OS built specifically for the device. Keep this in mind when selecting your device as it can impact the type of apps you can install on your streaming device.
You’ll also notice we commonly mention Kodi – also known historically as XBMC. Kodi is a media center program which provides an excellent user interface specifically designed for used on home theater PCs. It has a huge user base and plenty of add-ons to increase the channels, streaming services and file types supported by your device. While not necessary for all home theater PCs, we recommend you research Kodi to see if it’s for you and whether it’s a feature you require.
Amazon Fire TV
These Amazon streaming devices represent great value for money providing most of the features users need from a streaming device. The only somewhat of a downside is the Amazon operating system. While great, its fairly rigid and makes installing additional media center software packages such as Kodi a little more difficult, although still possible via something called sideloading. However, given the great features of the Amazon OS, do you really need Kodi on these devices? The newer model Fire TV supports streaming 4K video while the old version and Fire Stick support 1080p (Full HD) but otherwise offer most of the same features at a lower price point.
Roku have been making fantastic, high quality streaming devices for years now. Each iteration are becoming more refined and offering the features streaming users are demanding with the latest Roku 4 offering 4K UHD support. These devices run a customized Linux OS which Roku maintain which supports a huge number of streaming services. However, installing Kodi in the Roku OS is not possible. Check out the Roku 4 on Amazon.
The Apple TV is one of the more expensive devices in this list and is as you would expect, a very polished and refined product. In our opinion, the AppleTV fits best in a household where Apple products and services are heavily used such as iTunes for purchasing movies or using AirPlay from iOS deivces. It does however have it’s drawbacks. One of which is no support (at this stage) for 4K UHD and again a very rigid OS making 3rd party add-ons much more difficult.
The Chromecast is a great, inexpensive streaming device that fulfills a slightly different purpose than other devices listed here but we’ve included it for completeness anyway. The Chromecast allows you to connect with your computer, tablet or mobile phone and stream media content from those devices to your TV at up to 1080p (Full HD, no 4K UHD yet). For example, you could stream a video from Youtube or Netflix running on your PC and “cast” it to the Chromecast plugged into your TV. Since you must have your PC or mobile device casting to the TV the Chromecast method can seem a little cumbersome. However, this device can be used to cast a whole range of media such as videos, pictures, web browser tabs or even entire desktop from your computer.
Nvidia Shield TV
One of the more expensive streaming devices in our roundup is the Nvidia Shield TV. It runs Android TV which provides a great range of apps which can be installed (including Kodi and Plex) and is capable of streaming 4K video. One of the features that sets the Nvidia Shield TV out from the others is the ability to stream your PC games to your TV over your home network, if you have an Nvidia Geforce GTX graphics card which support GameStream. Yes, this means that your PC provides all the processing power to run demanding games such as Battlefield 4, FIFA 16, Project CARS or just about any other game, streams the video over your local network to your TV via the Nvidia Sheild and allows you to play using the included Nvidia Shield controller or a keyboard and mouse. There’s also a service Nvidia offer called Geforce Now which is similar to GameStream but instead of streaming the game from your PC the Nvidia Shield TV streams it from Nvidia’s “cloud-based supercomputers”. Surprisingly, Geforce Now also allows you to stream some pretty demanding titles like Witcher 3, Arkham City and Dirt 3. Get the Nvidia Shield TV from Amazon.
Razer Forge TV
The Razer Forge TV is an Android 5.1 based streaming device. It features a quad-core CPU, 2GB of RAM, wireless AC and gigabit Ethernet. It fit’s somewhere between a regular streaming device such as the Roku and the Nvidia Shield. It offers streaming from some services however major providers are not support. It does however enable you to play many of the slightly more demanding Android games and with it’s beefy hardware some users are also able to stream their PC games to the device using some 3rd party software . While it’s not as dedicated to this idea as the Nvidia Shield, it does come in at a more affordable price tag allowing a good compromise between features and price.
Matricom G-Box Q2
The Matricom G-Box Q2 is perhaps the best pure Android streaming box available. It’s based off Android Lolipop, comes without the restrictions that some players (such as the Razer Forge TV) enforce and boasts high end hardware capable of 4K UHD playback. This device is perfect for those who want the freedom to customize their device, Install Kodi, Install web browsers, file explorers or just about any other Android app. The only drawback however is that it can take a little effort to get setup the way you like it so might not be the best choice for those less technically minded. View more specs and prices on Amazon.
This Android 5.1 based streaming device is one of the monsters of the group in terms of hardware and features. It’s very similar to the Matricom G-Box Q2 in that it supports customization, unrestricted access to Android apps and 4K UHD playback. It comes in at a slightly higher price tag than the Matricom but boasts an octo-core CPU, pre-install Kodi and many other power-user features ready to use out of the box. Check the features and current prices on Amazon.
As you can see, there are quite a few excellent options for high quality home theater PC streaming boxes available today. Unfortunately, there’s no single best device as your choice will depend on the features you require. Need a “parent friendly”, easy to use, plug and play style device? Go for the Amazon Fire TV, Roku 4 or Apple TV. Want and all in one device to use for home theater and streaming PC games? The Nvidia shield is your best bet. Want to get your nerd on and customize the hell out of your device? The Matricom G-Box Q2 or Idroidnation i-Box is for you.
Did we miss any? If you think there’s a device we’ve missed that deserves to be on this list let us know below.