With HBO Max on the horizon, and Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, Prime Video, and other streaming services releasing new content every month, there’s no better time to buy a full-featured streaming media player. It’s hard to say which is the best media player these days, since they all do pretty much the same thing, but each platform comes with unique features and its own UI to choose from. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are traditionally the best times to upgrade your existing streaming setup, or to gift one, and most of the models are on sale over the next few days. Amazon and Roku devices are usually discounted for the holiday season, and they are sometimes bundled with other goodies at an incredibly low rate.
Amazon was one of the early adopters to streaming, and they have become one of the premier manufactures of streaming players at every price point. You have the Fire TV Stick, the Fire TV Stick 4K, the Fire TV Cube, and the Fire TV Recast system. All of them, except for the Fire TV Recast, do the pretty much the same thing, but some have better hardware than others. If you’re familiar with Alexa, you can use the AI to control any of these devices by configuring them in your Alexa app. The AI can control playback and search for titles.
Why it’s the Best Media Player: The Fire TV line is one of the easiest to navigate, and its integration with Alexa makes searching for movies, TV, and apps easier than ever. The Fire TV offers everything from Disney+ to Netflix, and it the Fire TV Cube even has Alexa built in to save you money.
Fire TV Stick: This is Amazon’s entry model, and it’s on sale for the holidays for just $19 on Amazon. You simply plug the Fire TV stick into an empty HDMI port on your TV and connect to your home Wi-Fi. In only a few moments, you’ll be able to download Hulu, Netflix, Disney+, NBC, ABC, and other apps, and stream the night away.
Fire TV Stick 4K: As the name says, this is the Fire TV Stick that supports 4K. If you have a 4K TV at home, then you might as well enjoy your content in the correct resolution. The 4K version is also on sale this week, and it’s down to $24 on Amazon for a limited time.
Fire TV Cube: This model is the fastest and most robust version that Amazon offers. At $89 on Amazon for the holidays, it’s 25% off for a limited time. The Fire TV also comes with Alexa built into it, so if you have an Echo already set up in your TV watching space, you can move that to another room. The Fire TV Cube also supports 4k, as well as Dolby Vision, HDR and HDR10+, if your TV can handle it.
Fire TV Recast: This model is a little different, and it allows you to record over-the-air TV with a Fire TV or Echo Show device. It’s basically a DVR for over-the-air TV (perfect if you cut the cord), but there are no monthly fees to use the service. The Fire TV Recast can record 2 shows at once, and stores up to 75 hours of HD programming. The new Fire TV Recast is $100 off for a limited time, going for $129 on Amazon for the holidays.
Roku is another popular option, and you can download the same apps like Netflix and Hulu, and Roku also has a 4K model. Roku updates its model lineup each year, and in 2019, the two big items are the Roku Ultra and the Roku Express. Roku has a great UI, and a ton of extra features, but Roku has its own AI to handle search and playback, and it’s not as robust as Alexa and Siri.
Why it’s the Best Media Player: Roku’s remote is a top pick, offering customizable quick-keys on the Ultra model and 3.5mm headphone jack for private listening. Roku also offers one of the least expensive HD streamers on the market.
Roku Express: Just like the Fire TV Stick, you can plug the Roku Express into an empty HDMI slot on your TV. Once you’ve connected to your Wi-Fi, you can stream content. The Roku Express HD is going for for $18 on Amazon, which is 40% off the MSRP.
Roku Ultra: The Roku Ultra is also on sale for $49 on Amazon, or 50% off for a limited time. This model offers 4K and HDR playback if your TV supports it. One of Roku’s most popular functions is the remote, which allows you to plug in headphones for private listening. The remote is already paired to your device, and the JBL headphones are even included in the boxc. The Roku Ultra has a quad-core processor to handle your 4K streaming, which also makes the UI snappier than previous models. This model supports dual-band wireless and wired Ethernet, so you can plug the Roku Ultra directly into your modem for the best streaming performance. The new model also offers USB and micro SD ports, so you can load up saved files and pictures.
Apple’s latest streaming player is the Apple TV 4K. While it does pretty much the same thing as the other streaming players on this list, there are benefits if you also use iPhones or iPads in your home. The Apple TV 4K supports multiple users, so you can have custom layouts and controls for different members in your house. The Apple TV 4K is also tied to your Apple ID, and once you log-in, you’ll find all of your pictures and videos that are saved to iCloud. You can then easily play them instantly through your Apple TV. You can also use the Apple TV app on your device to turn your phone or tablet into a controller. So far, there’s no announcement of a Black Friday sale for the Apple TV 4K, and you can choose between the 32GB option for $179, or the 64BG for $199 on the Apple Store.
Why it’s the Best Media Player: The Apple 4K TV is one of the most powerful options on the market, and Apple’s updated UI is tough to beat. Apple also integrated Siri to help you search for content and play media, and while it’s not perfect, it’s starting to rival Alexa. Apple really shines when you connect your Apple ID, assuming you use other Apple devices, allowing you to seamless gather all you media without having to configure anything.
Apple TV 4K: The name should tell you that it does support 4K streaming, but it also supports HDR and Dolby Atmos sound. You’ll get Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, and all the other apps that you love, but you can use Siri to control playback and search.
If you’re looking for a smart speaker this year to stream holiday music or to add Alexa or Google Assistant to your home, you can read our Smart Speaker Buying Guide for sales and promotions. If you need help choosing an Amazon Echo device, you can read our Echo Buying Guide.
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