Google Chromecast and remote plugged into TV

Smart TVs are great for families, because anyone and everyone can watch movies through online media services; listen to music, play online games or access apps—all from the comfort of your living room. You can find apps for social media sites, travel, shopping, budgeting, fitness and much more. The most cost-effective way to bring a smart TV to your home is to convert your current TV. If you’re thinking of cutting the cord, or you have a newer flat screen model in the house, you should be able to turn it into a smart TV using streaming sticks (smart TV sticks). If you don’t know which device to choose, our guide can help.

Looking for a TV that could do it all? Check out the best smart TVs of 2022.

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1What's a smart TV stick?

Chromecast being plugged in TV

A smart TV stick, or streaming device is a small rectangular or cube box that lets you stream movies, TV shows, music or photos straight to your TV, usually through the HDMI port on the back. Think of it as a small computer that’s dedicated to streaming content through your TV[1]. It also lets you install Android apps and allows you to play games, while connected through the internet or ethernet cable.

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Did You Know
If you already have a gaming console like the Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, or a laptop at home, you can use them to stream content through your TV. Just simply connect the device and you’re good to go! One thing to keep in mind about laptops: Power consumption can be on the high side, and some noise may be picked up and amplified by your TV.

2Which streaming stick brand is best?

Google Chromecast, Roku and Apple TV

If you plan to surf the Web on your smart TV, choose a streaming device that has an Internet browser. There are different brands out there that have specific features and apps, but these three brands are the most popular.

Google Chromecast

Pros Cons
With the affordable Google Chromecast and Google TV, you can stream a lot of popular content like Apple TV+, Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video and more. Chromecasts don’t have ethernet ports to plug a cable. You’ll need to purchase an ethernet adapter separately if you want to use one.
Chromecast supports Dolby Atmos sound, so it feels like you’re immersed in the latest movie or TV show scene. The Google Chromecast 3rd generation doesn’t stream in 4K so if you’re looking for 4K display (3840 x 2160 pixels or 4096 x 2160 pixels) quality[2], you may want to consider a different streaming device if display is important to you.
It can mirror smartphone screens and display Chrome tabs on your TV. If you don’t have a Google account, it’s preferred you create one for easy set up.

Shop Google Chromecasts

Roku

Pros Cons
You have access to tons of content like Netflix, Spotify, Crave, Prime Video, Disney+, CNN and more. There’s something to watch for everyone in the family! If your TV doesn’t have HDMI ports, the best choice of streaming stick would be the Roku Express Plus.
With the affordable price, you get more bang for your buck with the video quality and number of content available. If you have slow internet or Wi-Fi at home, some content may lag.
iPhone users can share content from their phone and other Apple devices through AirPlay on Roku.
You can search for channels or change the volume through voice control assist like Google Assistant.

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Apple TV

Pros Cons
With Apple TV, you can stream in Ultra HD (UHD) and 4K, so you get the best picture quality and detail. It only streams content from Apple products, so if you have an Android or Windows device, you probably won’t get much out of it.
If you’re into gaming, Apple TV includes its own gaming platform called Apple Arcade, where you have access to a wide range of HD quality games. It’s more expensive than other competitor streaming devices.
You can mirror social media apps from your iPhone or tablet to your TV, which is useful if you want to see non-streaming content, like showing a photo or video to friends and family.

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3Streaming vs. TV boxes

There are a lot more similarities between streaming boxes and sticks, but here are the main features that differentiate them.

Streaming stick: These types usually only have an HDMI port that connects the stick to the end of your TV. They are also more portable so you’re able to take it with you while you travel on vacation with the family, or business trips. Aside from Google Chromecast (with the exception of Google TV), streaming sticks come with a small remote to navigate channels and apps.

Streaming TV boxes: These are slightly bigger in dimensions and weight than streaming sticks.[3] They also have extra ports for an SD card and other AUX audio out. These also come with small remotes, but these boxes are best if your TV is on a stand so you have a place to keep it.

4Do streaming devices have monthly fees?

Streaming devices don’t have monthly fees. However, certain streaming services like Netflix, Disney+, Crave and Apple TV+ have monthly fee subscriptions to access their content. These fees also vary depending on service. Some, offer additional fees to access the number of devices streamed, new releases of content or the picture quality of movies and TV shows.

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Money-saving Tip
If you’re not paying for cable, most streaming devices let you view certain channels and livestreams. For example, the Livestream TV Roku channel is available for free on all Roku streaming devices. You won’t have to worry about missing newscasts, sports games or award shows.

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