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A guide to new streaming players of 2016

Roku Express

Which new streaming player is right for you?

Quite a number of new streaming players came out in 2016, from a full refresh of the Roku line with six new streaming players to a new Fire TV Stick from Amazon.

Yet, with all these new players, it can become confusing as to which player is right for you. So, here is our quick guide to the new 2016 streaming players. Please note that we are only going to look at streaming here, options like games will not be considered in this comparison. 

We will break this list up by TV type: older non-HD TVs, HD TVs without 4K, 4K TVs without HDR, 4K HDR TVs and TVs with Dolby Digital/Dolby Digital Plus Sound Systems.

Older TVs without an HDMI Port

Do you have an older TV, without an HDMI port, that you would like to connect to a Roku? You will want a Roku Express+ costing just $39.99. This is similar to the regular Roku Express, but it offers an RCA option to connect your Roku to the red, white, and yellow ports on your TV — something that the Fire TV and Apple TV do not offer. You can find the Roku Express+ only at Walmart.

Fire Stick

HD TVs without 4K

Do you own an HD TV that does not have 4K? Well, there are two players we would recommend: the Roku Express and the Roku Stick. They both offer similar performance but the 2016 Roku Stick is slightly faster and is what we would recommend if you have the extra $20.

If you are looking for a player with a voice control remote, we recommend you check out the new Fire TV Stick from Amazon for just $39.99.

The Roku Express, Fire TV Stick and Roku Stick are all great players, perfect for streaming HD content.

4K TVs without HDR

If you have a 4K TV that does not have HDR, we highly recommend the Roku Premiere. In our testing, the Premiere was just as fast as the old Roku 4 but it costs $79.99, which is less expensive than most used Roku 4s. The only drawback is the lack of an Ethernet port.

If you have the option to plug a streaming player into an Ethernet cable, we suggest the Fire TV. It will give you an excellent 4K picture with an Ethernet option for only $10 more than the Roku Premiere. 

If you want a budget streaming device, you could check out the new Android TV Mi Box sold at Walmart. We have tested the Mi Box and it is a good Android TV player but can lag when streaming 4K. It also lacks an Amazon Video app. However, it costs just $69.99 at your local Walmart.

Roku Premiere

4K HDR TV Owners

If you have a new TV with HDR we recommend the Roku Premiere+. Not only do you get all the benefits of the Roku Premiere but you’ll also get brighter, more vivid colors and a point-anywhere remote with headphone jack.

This is the box most HDR TV owners need and at $99.99 it is the least expensive streaming player with HDR of the top five manufacturers.

You could look at the more expensive Nvidia Shield if you really want an HDR player, but you will see streaming performance similar to the much cheaper Roku Premiere+.

TV Owners with Dolby Digital/Dolby Digital Plus Sound Systems

Are you really into surround sound? If so, you will want the Roku Ultra. It offers everything the Roku Premiere+ does plus the following additional features for anyone with a home theater:

  • An incredible range of colors including brighter whites and deeper blacks
  • Enhanced point-anywhere remote with headphone jack for private listening
  • MicroSD card slot for additional channel storage
  • Ethernet for wired Internet connectivity

In our testing, we found there was no significant speed difference between the Roku Premiere and the Roku Ultra. With the Roku Ultra, you are simply paying for the additional features.