Your TV is likely smart by now, either by its own merit or because you’ve attached a streaming device to it. Both TVs and streaming devices are advancing their capabilities every few months or so — if you haven’t seen what’s on the market in a while, chances are there’s something new that could better fit your needs (or wants). TVs integrated with brains smart enough to stream your favorite shows and keep your place in the middle of a nail-biting thriller are rampant. But you also have plenty of options if you want to keep your TV and give it all the smarts in the world for less than $100. Let's get into it.
Toshiba 43-inch 4K Ultra HD Smart LED Fire TV Edition, $230 on Amazon: With Amazon's Fire TV built-in, you can control your favorite streaming accounts from one place (yes, including Netflix). And you're getting a 4K Ultra HD picture, which is a nice quality perk of a TV under $300. Your remote will have Alexa built-in, too, so you're essentially getting a mobile Amazon Echo that you can move around your space.
Vizio P-Series Quantum 65-Inch Class 4K HDR Smart TV, $1,098 on Amazon: On the higher-end of the TV world is Vizio, which gives you more bang for your buck than the competition. While you're looking at spending more than a thousand here, it's a far cry from what similar, top brands charge for similar, top features. From the Quantum color tech Vizio engineered for this TV to the built-in Google Assistant and integrated Smart Cast 3.0 capabilities, this is the type of investment that lasts for decades (if you want it to).
Smart Streaming Devices
If your TV is... not smart, you don’t have to replace it with a smart TV (though I highly recommend doing so). You can outfit it with a streaming device that will, well, teach it a few things. Below are your best options, each able to stream in 4K Ultra HD. Most notably, a streaming device easily attaches to your TV and connects it to the Internet so you can seamlessly use your phone to choose the shows, movies, podcasts, music, or any other media you want to consume. It’s easier to give this tip than to remember doing it, but I always try to travel with my Chromecast so I can bring home-style watching with me to any hotel room by easily snapping it into the back of the hotel room’s TV.
Fire TV Stick 4K with Alexa Voice Remote, $50 on Amazon: This device plugs into the back of your TV and essentially turns it into a Fire TV Edition like the Toshiba above. On top of 4K Ultra HD, the Fire TV Stick is also equipped to give you Dolby Vision and HDR10+, both capabilities matching high-definition shows and movies.
Google Chromecast Ultra, $69 at Target: This versatile streaming device will turn any TV into a Google Assistant TV and can handle 4K Ultra HD, as well as HDR. It also works with any phone or tablet for direct streaming and is designed to operate and deliver faster than its earlier iterations. Importantly, it's able to stream Amazon Prime Video content, just like the Fire TV Stick is able to stream Netflix.
Apple TV 4K 32GB, $169 at Walmart: By far the most invest-iest of the bunch, the Apple TV's value is all in the experience of using it. From some of the smoothest scrolling to intuitive remote design and sleek looking apps, this investment will boost the non-watching, looking-for-shows part of your entertainment. An arguably, that can take up a sizable chunk of your evening.
Roku Premiere HD/4K/HDR Streaming Media Player, $39 on Amazon: Unlike the other three players in this list, Roku has put a lot of focus into streaming devices and little else. For some, that sort of specialization is alluring. The neutral approach also means that Roku is more open to streaming channels and services that are looking for a home. Most importantly, it's the most affordable choice here and doesn't sacrifice that 4k HD quality streaming.
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