If you’re shopping for a streamer this holiday season, then you have plenty of options. But, which is the best service, offers the biggest lineup, and is most-affordable?

The holiday season means fighting crowds, shopping online, buying gifts that no one is entirely sure about, followed by a period of frantic returns. Streamers are a great for college students, young adults just starting out, and even those just looking for an alternative to traditional cable options. We’ve evaluated the four big names in streaming devices, and here is a point-by-point comparison that will help you find the right one for a gift this holiday season.

Amazon Fire TV

This is a service that Amazon is definitely serious about growing. The interface, setup process, and execution of finding content – is amongst the simplest of all streaming TV choices. It’s small but has an impressive lineup of content. Over 200,000 movies and access to virtually every channel one could desire watching, like Netflix, Showtime, and many more. The device streams Amazon content especially quickly. Tests have shown that it Amazon Fire TV is 3x faster than the competitors, but that is typically restricted to Amazon content – since Amazon themselves cannot guarantee the speed of content being streamed from other places. 1080p quality and a 30-day prime trial is a definite value, but it is on the expensive end as it costs $99 even with holiday sales.

Roku TV

This is one of the oldest players in the game, and one streaming service that really understands how to win the entire market. Whether it’s their massive channel lineup of more than 1,800 channels, or their compatibility with old television sets, it’s hard to go wrong with the Roku LT this holiday season for the streamer on your holiday shopping list. $29.99 gets you the device, a remote, and a 60-day free trial of Rdio Unlimited.

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The great thing about this choice as well is that Roku offers an app that can be downloaded on your smartphone or tablet that really helps improve an already impressive user interface. Searching is simple, use is easy, and it works well with your smartphone or tablet – what’s there not to love?

Apple TV

Like anything Apple has done, they’ve done it well. Typically, they won’t get involved with something that they can’t really make work with their system. If you’re used to using Apple products or you’re used to the Apple ecosystem, then this is the best option for you if you’re nervous about understanding it – and making it work well. It’s a small device, which is a big plus for those who are fans of Apple, and the content is well spread out. While the content lineup isn’t the best, it certainly is not the worst. It works across Apple devices, which includes bringing AirPlay into the equation which is an added bonus – but costs $89, which makes it one of the most expensive options available.

Chromecast

Chromecast integrates a lot of different systems really well and does so in a very simple, and straightforward manner. You can “cast” your favorite apps, entertainment, and streaming videos right from your smartphone or tablet to your television whether you’re using an iOS smartphone or an Android tablet. They all work universally in that sense.

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Access to a ton of channels, and apps, like HBO Go, Netflix, Hulu Plus, Watch ABC, Watch ESPN, and many more make Chromecast an incredible value. And with it interacting incredibly well between your devices, and on your TV – it makes the cost even more appetizing. Just $25 right now, which makes it one of the most affordable choices for the holiday streamer on your shopping list.

29 COMMENTS

    • That’s the problem with a “best” review, it depends on what you are looking for in a device. Take me for an example, I do not have a hdmi port on my tv being limited to component. So for me the best is Roku box as it is the only box that supports component.

      • Here’s a few new Tablets released this month worth reviewing — all offering premium features and great prices…

        The new 7.85″ Pipo P8 Android model ($229) – offers a premium build quality that compares to the Nexus 9 at nearly half the price and offers a 2048×1536 screen display, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and an 8-hour 5300 mAh battery

        Plus new for December is the X90 HD – Windows 8.1 tablet ($269) – which is the only 8.9″ Windows tablet on the market to offer a Super AMOLED 2560X1600 display; plus comes bundled with a case and Bluetooth keyboard.

        Also newly released is the ultra-size Ramos i12 ($269) – a 12-inch tablet that includes an option for a case and keyboard to make a great tablet-laptop combo.

        For iPad owners – there’s a new premium quality iPad case with Bluetooth keyboard for $20

        The Ramos and Pipo tablet series along with other new products are available through the site — TabletMaxx

    • Yea…I was just gonna ask that myself…article implies they will tell you which is best. ..then just describes each one…sales guy at Best Buy could do that…

  1. Fire TV Stick should have been mentioned. You can pick it up a some brick and mortar stores for $24.95 right now. I bought mine as Amazon Prime member for the special offer of $19.95. It’s about 95% of the content that the box offers but is a simple HMDI plug in. Set up could not be any easier.

  2. “Tests have shown that it Amazon Fire TV is 3x faster than the competitors, but that is typically restricted to Amazon content – since Amazon themselves cannot guarantee the speed of content being streamed from other places.” That makes almost no sense. Amazon has found some new Internet that is 3 times faster than everyone else has, but only they can use it?

    “It’s a small device, which is a big plus for those who are fans of Apple…”, uhm, alright (or maybe why?). Except it’s not that small and what does that matter when you are talking about video streaming? This isn’t something you need to carry in your pocket. If you do need to carry it in your pocket then clearly Google wins there, yet you don’t mention how very much smaller Chromecast is than Apple TV?

    “While the content lineup isn’t the best, it certainly is not the worst.” Well maybe you could tell us which one is the ‘worst’ instead of just giving Apple a pass without any explanation?

    • In regard to your statement about amazon speed. The speed is not just about Internet throughput, it’s about the number, location and size of its servers. For example if they have 1 data center in California people on the east coast will experience a slower experience. The 3x faster speaks to the ratio and location of its resources to the user base. Amazon is one of the largest cloud providers in the USA and you can even get AWS Cloud services from them for FREE for the first year.

  3. Now there’s a non-review for ya… Too bad readers won’t look here first… ” Keep moving folks… Nothing to see here.”

  4. I can only comment on Apple TV, &Google Chrome. I have yet to get Apple Tv to stream a complete Netflix movie without technical interruptions, doe whatever reason unbeknownst ro me when Apple breaks away from its technical proprproprietary sphere of ind influence trouble just presents itself. Chrome works fine I have only used it to stream album photos, possible downfall its a bandwidth hug.

  5. I have a Chromecast and picked up the Amazon Fire Stick at Best Buy this past week for $25.

    I like Chromecast, but my only issue with it is you need another device to use it. I knew this going in, so not a big deal.

    The AFS is extremely fast and very easy to setup (although my parents had a hard time connecting to their wireless – the next day, it suddenly worked). The interface is very clean and I haven’t had any streaming issues. I am a Prime member, so you need to take that into account ($99 a year in addition to the cost of the device).

  6. The Amazon Fire TV can be used to install almost any Android app. To expand your programming options you can install Kodi(formerly XBMC) and have access to almost anything. Technically you can do this with Chromecast, but the Chromecast hardware is significantly less powerful than Fire TV. None of the other devices come close to the speed of the Fire TV.

  7. Apple TV: can’t run XBMC, Amazon Fire TV: runs XBMC, but it is hidden in a 3rd level menu and has issues with some 1080p mkvs. I prefer using a computer with HDMI output and an IR remote instead.

  8. I’ve had a roku since July 2012 and have been very happy. Don’t have cable, haven’t had that for more than 5 years as I only wanted certain programing. With my roku I can get what I want…and what I enjoy.

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