Which Media Streamer Should You Buy?

Which Media Streamer Should You Buy?

Ready to cut the cord yet still on the fence and can't decide which media streamer you should buy?

Best Media Streamer Roku vs Apple TV vs Android TV

We'll cut through the noise and media hype to show you exactly which media streamer makes the most sense to fit your needs and budget.


Roku Express, budget media streamer

While once a niche Netflix player, Roku has really taken off to become one of the most popular and best selling media streamers available today. Roku makes a wide range of standalone media streamers and they also now have their software embedded in many Smart TVs.

Why Get a Roku?

Roku is perfect if you want a media streamer to cut the cord and use it to replace your cable TV Boxes. There are many streaming TV services now that replicate cable TV so you don't need to pay for a separate cable TV rental for each television just to watch Live TV. This can result in some big time savings every year. While this does require a Roku attached to each TV, an entry model Roku Express costs as little as $30 and can output 1080p HD TV. You can see the current line of Roku media streamers here.

For both on-demand channels like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Video plus 5,000+ public and private channels available, Roku really can't be beat. These include a wide range of choices from Faith, Travel, Food, Kids, Family and Pets, Sports, Weather and Local News, Roku porn channels and many more...

We really like Roku and it still remains one of our favorite media streamers. The Roku interface is super simple to use so anyone will easily be able to use a Roku right away.

Installing Roku channels are easy and they can be found by either visiting the channel store found on your Roku, or their Roku website which shows the newest and notable channels and many others. You can also check out this Huge list of Private Roku Channels for adding many hidden channels which are not found in the Roku channel store.

Why You May Not Want a Roku?

If you only want to watch FREE content from less than legal sources, then a Fire TV or Android TV Box is a better choice. Although there is still a lot of great FREE content on Roku like this List of Free Roku Channels.

If you only want to install Kodi, or Android TV apps which do not work on Roku, a Fire TV, an Android TV Box or Nvidia SHIELD may be something you will want to get instead.

Android TV

Nvidia SHIELD, Vs Fire TV Vs Cheap Android Clone

An Android TV box is still the least restricted media streamer you can buy. While Roku has begun clamping down on some channels which violated their terms and were offering copyrighted content for profit. Android boxes still have many of these same channels and even some free channels and apps that show this same type of content.

The Android operating system is now owned and controlled by Google which maintains and releases updates for the Android OS. While it is the least restrictive for now, at some point, Google or Amazon may clamp down on these devices which could also make it harder to use pirated apps on this platform.

For a completely unrestricted platform a home theater PC running Kodi or Plex, is still the best there is. That way you have the most control over what you can watch and the apps or channel you want to install.

There are many different Android TV Boxes and while they all technically run the Android operating system, some are more restricted than others. We will cover each in greater detail below.

A. Fire TV/Fire TV Stick
The Fire TV devices from Amazon remain a popular choice for many that just want a simple box to watch Kodi or install Android Apps. They are among the lowest cost Android media streamers and they offer pretty decent hardware for the price.

The Fire TV Stick is dirt cheap and remains a popular choice for those who travel or what to just have a cheap media streamer for watching Kodi, or other Android Apps like content from Netflix, Amazon Video or Hulu. The Fire TV Stick, compared to the current Fire TV Model which may eventually replace it is quite a bit slower in performance. For an added performance boost you may want to get the Fire TV instead.

A Fire TV/Stick does not need to be jailbroken. Instead, apps on a Fire TV need to be sideloaded versus an Android TV box which let's you install any app from the Google Play Store, or individual apks directly.

B. Nvidia SHIELD
This is another favorite media streamer of ours. It is one of the most powerful Android TV boxes you can buy today. Performance for streaming is off the charts and while some say it's overkill, it feels just right. Picture quality and sound are a little clearer than Roku's top of the line Roku Ultra and the interface is very snappy. The only other media streamer that can touch it performance wise, is the new Apple TV 4K.

The Nvidia SHIELD use a different version of the Android OS. It uses a Leanback launcher which makes all the icons much larger so they can be easily viewed from the couch. It and the Fire TV devices are one of the very few media streamers that use this special version or Android. Android Clones use a phone version of Android OS so instead of using only a remote control, you will end up needing to get a Bluetooth mouse, or trackpad/keyboard combo to fully operate it.

The Play Store on the SHIELD is limited to only apps that are optimized to work with the Leanback version of Android. You can still install any other app from the full Google Play Store through a web browser. These apps need to be then launched through a sideloader app like Sideload launcher

C. Android TV Box Clones
For the most open Android boxes, buying a clone box will let you install any app from anywhere. They are the least restrictive of any Android box. Since they do not have a large company backing them like Amazon or Nvidia, they will not have the support for software updates or aftermarket support should you need to send it back for repair.

Lower cost Android TV Boxes are made and sold from China and they typically have no update path. When a new version of Android is released, they expect you to buy a new box. Support when something goes wrong is often non existent as well.

When we used these boxes, we would typically need to upgrade it every year. Since we bought our SHIELD two years ago, we have not felt the need to upgrade yet. Even though Nvidia released a newer SHIELD TV, they still continue to provide the same updates for their older model released two years ago.

Minix and SkyStream are two exceptions although their media streamers do cost a little more. Since they offer updates quite regularly and offer a higher level of support than many of the other cheaper Android TV clones the extra cost may be worth it.

Why You May Not Want an Android Box?

Android does take a little longer to learn how to use. That's because this is like learning a new operating system. Where other media streamers like Roku and Apple TV have the operating system locked away behind a fancy graphical user interface, Android is not quite yet as polished. The exception being the Nvidia SHIELD and Fire TVs that are a lot more so than the Android TV clones.

Android boxes still occasionally require that you need to muck around in the operating system to do certain things like clear cache, delete apps and other things you would typically do with a computer rather than a media streamer. Although, they do have some good apps that makes this much easy.

Apple TV

Which Media Streamer Should You Buy?

Apple TV has improved a lot lately as a media streamer. They now offer thousands of apps and games from their App Store. Their newer model can now play 4K content and their CPU is every bit as fast as the Nvidia SHIELD.

The Apple TV User interface is still one of the best and like Roku it is very easy to use. While the Apple TV may not have the same apps available as an Android TV box, it offer IPTV apps, Plex and there is even a way to sideload Kodi on it. Apple also has one thing going for it which it does really well you can use Apple Airplay to cast from your iPhone tablet or computer and easily watch content from websites. This gives you access to much of the same content that is on Roku, including Porn, and these Internet TV Streaming sites or Internet Radio channels.

The Apple TV also works with pretty much every live TV streaming platform like Sling TV, PS Vue, DirecTV NOW, Hulu Live, and YouTube TV to watch Local TV channels.

Why You May Not Want a Apple TV?

Apple TVs are not cheap. They are one of the more expensive media streamers and cost just as much as a Nvidia SHIELD. Unlike Android, they are the most closed device you can buy but they do offer some work-arounds which we listed here.

If you are a diehard Apple fan, or you want to get one for FREE they are not a bad media streamer to mess around with. Otherwise, you would probably be happier with one of the other alternatives.



This is our least favorite media streamer because it does not come with a remote control. You need to use your phone or tablet at the same time you want to watch TV. Shows are started on your phone or tablet then cast to your TV through the Chromecast app. Many newer smart TVs already come with a casting feature so a Chromecast may not even needed if your TV already has it. The SHIELD and Roku and Apple TV also all have the ability to cast content from Android or iOS mobile devices.

Yet, Google's Chromecast still continues to be a big seller. You won't find these listed on Amazon because Amazon and Google are feuding. This is one reason you will no longer find the extremely popular YouTube app on Amazon Fire TV/Stick media streamers either.

You can still watch YouTube though their app on Roku, Apple TV, Nvidia Shield or any number of Android TV clones.

Which Media Streamer Should You Get?

Now that we showed you an overview of each media streamer's pros and cons. In our opinion, when it comes to media streamers, the more the merrier. Just like you need more than one pair of shoes for different occasions, owning several media streamers gives you access to so much more content than if you owned only one.

Your TV has multiple HDMI ports, just plug them in and switch between them using the input or video button on your remote control. Then you will have access to tons of great video content with no shortage of great shows and movies to watch.

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