Cheap streaming sticks like the Roku Premiere or the Chromecast with Google TV provide instant access to Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and all of your other favorite platforms. But if you own an Xbox or PlayStation, is there any reason to buy a dedicated streaming stick? Here’s what you’re missing out on if you stream everything through a game console.
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Before streaming sticks and smart TVs became popular, game consoles like the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 were the go-to solution for people who wanted to stream video on their TV. Few people saw the point in buying a $60 Roku that could only play Netflix when the Xbox and PlayStation could accommodate several apps, plus games, DVDs, CDs, and Blu-Ray discs.
Streaming sticks are way more capable (and cheaper) than they used to be, but some people prefer to stream on a game console for the same reason they did 10 years ago—the Xbox and PlayStation let you do everything all in one place. You can watch the most popular streaming services, play games, and even run cable TV through your Xbox or PlayStation without pressing the “input” button on your TV or rearranging your HDMI cables.
For some, the Xbox and PlayStation are a lot more convenient than a streaming stick. But the benefits don’t end there. the Xbox Series X/S and PS5 are about as powerful as a high-end desktop computer, so they’ll last a lot longer than a $30 Fire TV stick or a Roku box. Plus, they have built-in Ethernet ports to get the fastest speed from your home internet, a rare feature (or one requires an adapter) if you use a streaming stick.
Despite their strength and convenience, there are a few downsides to using your Xbox or PlayStation as a dedicated streaming machine. Most of these problems stem from power consumption. The Xbox and PlayStation use more energy than streaming sticks, so if you watch a lot of Netflix, you might notice it on your electric bill. Plus, all of that energy usage causes the console to get hot and turn on its internal fans, which can be annoying if you’re in a small room.
And while the Xbox and PlayStation are supposed to endure hours of non-stop use, they aren’t invincible. Endless streaming could add wear to the console and shorten the lifespan of its internal components. Streaming sticks also wear down as you use them, but replacing a $60 Roku is a lot less painful than replacing an Xbox or PlayStation.
The Xbox and PlayStation also lack some of the features that are standard for streaming sticks, like a traditional remote control (unless you buy one for $30), smarthome features, and platform-exclusive streaming apps (like The Roku Channel). Consoles users also miss out on the streaming stick user interface, which makes it easy to find shows and movies thanks to personalization features and the ability to run a search on all of your streaming services at once.
Other issues crop up if you stream from a last-gen console, as streaming services have little incentive to offer long-term support for the Xbox One and PS4. Don’t worry, your last-gen console has several years of streaming left in it, but bugs, slow loading screens, and other problems will only grow over time. It’s also worth mentioning that, because most last-gen consoles boot from an HDD, their navigation menus and app load times are slower than current-gen consoles or streaming sticks.
The Xbox and PlayStation use a lot of power and don’t have some of the cool features of streaming sticks. But still, they work with all your favorite streaming services, so why go out of your way to drop $30, $50, or even $100 on a dedicated streaming device? The answer is simple—streaming sticks come with exclusive features and services, and they’re often the first devices to gain access to new streaming platforms.
Dedicated streaming sticks take streaming to a whole new level thanks to their intuitive interface, voice controls, and personalization features that “learn” your preferences automatically. The Chromecast with Google TV is a stand-out device when it comes to smart features and personalization, with a universal watch list, content recommendations on the homescreen, a universal search that covers all your streaming services at once, and Google Assistant for smarthome controls and faster searching. (Many of these features, like voice control and universal search, are also available on Roku, Fire TV, and Android TV systems, the Chromecast with Google TV just happens to be the “smartest” option.)
Streaming sticks also feature some exclusive services, like The Roku Channel and Amazon’s Fire TV app, which contain tons of free on-demand content and live TV channels. Roku streaming sticks and the Amazon Fire TV Recast can also connect to an antenna for free over-the-air TV without the help of an additional TV tuner (a requirement for OTA TV on Xbox).
And while the Xbox and PlayStation support the most popular streaming platforms, it often takes months or years for new streaming services to arrive on the consoles. Streaming sticks, on the other hand, are typically the first devices to gain access to new services, and they often receive better bug and security support than their console counterparts.
If you own a bunch of smarthome devices or regularly use a smart assistant, then that’s just one more reason to use a dedicated streaming stick. Roku, Fire TV, Android TV, and Chromecast with Google TV devices all support Alexa or Google Assistant, enabling you to use voice commands to turn on and operate your TV, control your smarthome from the couch, search for videos or music without typing, or even watch a live feed of your smart security cameras on the big screen.
Even if you own an Xbox or PlayStation, a dedicated streaming stick could help you maximize your streaming experience, reduce wear and tear on your console, and gain access to exclusive services. But because there are so many great streaming sticks at a variety of price points, choosing one can be a daunting task.
That’s why we’re going to take a quick look at some of the best streaming sticks available today. For more in-depth info on the best streaming sticks, check out our detailed buying guide.
Roku Premiere 4K
The Roku Premiere costs less than $40 and works with all of your favorite services. Plus, it can stream 4K video and is compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant for voice commands.
Chromecast with Google TV
The new Chromecast with Google TV uses content curation and personalization to offer a smart, all-in-one streaming experience. It’s 4K capable, it can mirror your phone or laptop screen, it works with Google Assistant, and it can even play some Android games.
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K
Amazon's Fire TV Stick 4K is the ideal streaming stick for Prime Video fans and Alexa users. It's also one of the most affordable 4K streaming sticks available today, and it can even play some Android games.
Apple TV 4K
For an Apple experience (at an Apple price), you gotta buy the Apple TV 4K. It integrates beautifully with the iPhone, Mac, and iPad for AirPlay and AirDrop. It can also play Apple Arcade games, bringing iOS content to the big screen.