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Find the best streaming stick for your life

The contenders

Easy Streaming

Even the most cost-conscious cord cutters don’t want to huddle around a smartphone or laptop to watch TV. We still want to see things on a big screen, at least some of the time.

While boxes like the Apple TV offer slick, stationary solutions, streaming sticks give users a more affordable way to stream or cast, plus the ability to watch on the go – setup is often less cumbersome, too. And now that these tools have been around for a few years, they’ve caught up to some of the features available on the stationary models.

The Original Portable Dongle
The original streaming stick, the Google Chromecast ($35), has been steadily upgrading. The latest version is not really a stick at all – instead, it’s shaped like a puck and hangs off your TV by a cord. It looks a bit awkward, but the cord makes the Chromecast easier to plug into a crowded HDMI port, which could prove usefule. With the latest release, Google continues their anti-remote stance, though Uncubed reviewers liked this feature because they always have their phones on the ready. Not having a remote is practical too if various people use the system, like in an office or if you live with roommates.

But the no remote might not be for you: “You start to miss traditional remotes, with all their buttons, which just sit there waiting patiently to be used,” wrote Quartz’s Zach Seward in a 10,000-word review of streaming media players. “When all you want to do is manipulate the screen, it’s frustrating to first unlock your phone and call up the Chromecast app. It’s even more frustrating if you are using the phone for something else at the time.”

The New Roku: More Speed, Less Purple
This month Roku released their latest Streaming Stick ($50), and the reviews are overwhelmingly positive. “Roku’s New $50 Streaming Stick Now Acts Like Its Expensive Siblings,” announced Wired. Speed has been common complaint with previous renditions of the streaming stick, but Roku’s latest release offers a “quad-core processor. That’s more processing power than Amazon Fire TV stick and Google Chromecast,” according to the company. Like earlier versions, this stick comes with a remote, but Roku has traded in their signature purple for an all-black model. This new version also incorporates one of the coolest features from the Roku 3 box (which is double the price) – remote voice-search and a headphone jack that enables private listening. This feature is not available on the remote, but through the Roku app.

A Remote Plus Option for the Amazon Fan
Amazon and Alexa fans will probably be the ones most excited about the new Amazon Fire Stick with Voice Remote ($49.99). “The interface is built around a curated, Amazon-centric experience that uses Amazon’s Prime Video, Prime Music, App Store, and on-demand video selection as the primary sources for whatever you want to watch or listen to,” according to PC Magazine. The mag named the Fire Stick the editors’ choice for budget media streamers. The addition of Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa means users can ask your TV questions, like ‘What’s the weather?’ or set reminders. Alexa will also play Amazon Music.

Decisions, decisions.

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