Chromecast, Fire TV Stick, or Roku: What’s the best streaming stick for ~$50?

In 2021, as we all continue to spend more time in front of screens than anyone anticipated, most of us have a short list of requirements for a modern streaming stick. We just want a device that’s compatible with our favorite content and all the other devices in our living rooms.

One of the earlier entrants into this space, Google’s Chromecast streaming device underwent a significant transformation this generation with the addition of a remote control and a proper user interface. Previously, Chromecast relied entirely on streaming content from a separate device (phone, computer, tablet) to play content on your TV. But with the new features, Google’s latest Chromecast with Google TV finally competes with other popular, sub-$50 4K streaming sticks like the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K and Roku Streaming Stick+. It might even be an attractive alternative to the $179 Apple TV 4K.

So the 2020 Chromecast seems like it could be the perfect low-cost yet highly compatible cross between a streaming stick (to watch content from your phone) and a remote-controlled set-top box (to control apps like Netflix, Prime Video, and HBO Max via remote).The only way to know for sure, however, was to put in a little more screen time. Recently, we placed the latest Chromecast up against Amazon’s Fire TV Stick 4K and Roku’s Streaming Stick+ in some Orbital HQ testing to see which $50 streaming stick gives you the most value for your money—and which delivers the fewest headaches when you just want to kick back and watch something, maybe even something in 4K.

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