If you’re cutting the cord with a live TV streaming service such as YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, or Sling TV, choosing the right streaming device to use with it is more important than you might think.
Some devices, for instance, allow you to launch live channels by voice, or provide shortcuts on their home screen to your favorite channels. Some also have quick-launch buttons for getting into your live TV app faster.
But here’s the tricky part: Support for these features depends not only on which streaming service you choose, but on which device you use with it. So I put together a comparison showing the best options for each. That means you’ll have to choose wisely. Below, we’ll run through all of the major live TV streaming services, and the best devices to use with each one.
Compare and contrast
Before we dive into each service individually, I’ve put together a chart with an overall view of which live TV streaming services support voice control, home screen integration, and more on each device:
Jared Newman / IDG
Note that most of the services I’m covering here are available on every major streaming platform. (The only exception is DirecTV Stream, which you can’t download on Google TV or Android TV devices.) What I’ll describe below is which device offers the best experience with each live TV streaming service.
Google’s own Chromecast with Google TV is the best all-around option for YouTube TV subscribers. The remote control has a YouTube button, which you can set to launch YouTube TV by default, and its live tab lets you browse through YouTube TV channels straight from the home screen. You can also click the Google assistant button on the remote to launch live channels by voice.
The Walmart Onn UHD streaming box is a solid option as well. While its home screen doesn’t have a Live tab for previewing YouTube TV channels, its remote has a dedicated button for launching the app, and you can use its channel up and down buttons to flip through YouTube TV channels, which is neat.
Amazon’s Fire TV devices are also a close runner-up, as they also offer voice control for YouTube TV channels and a grid guide on the home screen for previewing what’s on. And unlike with the Chromecast with Google TV, you can customize Amazon’s guide by marking channels as favorites. We’ve come a long way from 2017, when Amazon and Google refused to work together at all.
The best streaming device for Hulu’s $70-per-month live TV service is Amazon Fire TV, if only because you can easily launch live channels by voice using Alexa voice commands. While it’s disappointing that Hulu doesn’t integrate with Amazon’s live channel guide, so you can’t preview live channels from the home screen, the latest Fire TV devices do have a Hulu button on the remote for quick access.
Picking the best streaming device for Sling TV is a bit tricky, mostly because there are so many great options.
The TiVo Stream 4K, for instance, has its own channel guide that integrates with Sling, plus a dedicated “Guide” button on the remote for getting there, and you can also use Google Assistant to launch live channels by voice.
If you’re a channel flipper, Walmart’s Onn UHD streaming player is a compelling alternative, as its dedicated channel up and down buttons allow you to scroll through Sling channels. The AirTV Mini is even more tightly integrated, with dedicated Sling and guide buttons that take you straight the Sling app (though the device is now more than two years old).
But ultimately, I give the nod to Fire TV devices such as the Fire TV Stick 4K Max. While they doesn’t have the same level of integration as the options above, you can still easily launch live channels by voice or view them in Amazon’s Live tab. More importantly, I often have problems getting Sling TV voice control to work on Google TV and Android TV devices; on Fire TV devices, it’s been rock solid.
It’s not cheap, but an Apple TV box will give you the best experience with FuboTV by a wide margin. It supports launching live channels by voice with the Siri remote, and it ties into Apple’s TV app for browsing on-demand shows and live sporting events. You can even add upcoming games to your watchlist and get notified when they start, allowing you to jump straight into the action.
Even better: FuboTV offers a multi-view feature on Apple TV that lets you watch up to four channels at once or view game stats right next to the live stream. That feature isn’t available on any other streaming device.
Philo: Chromecast with Google TV
Jared Newman / IDG
Philo has done a great job offering deep integration with lots of streaming devices, but Chromecast with Google TV is the best option overall. It lets you launch live channels or on-demand programs by voice, preview live channels in the Live tab on the home screen, and even get recommendations on the home screen for movies and shows to watch. (Fire TV and Apple TV are both close seconds for their voice control and home-screen integration.)
DirecTV Stream: DirecTV Stream box
Jared Newman / IDG
If you want to come as close as possible to replicating the feel of a cable box, DirecTV Stream’s own streaming box is the best option. It launches straight into live TV when you turn it on, and its remote has dedicated buttons for the grid guide, DVR, and channel-flipping.
If you’d rather get a device doesn’t revolve around DirecTV Stream, the Apple TV is the next-best option, as it lets you launch live TV channels by voice and integrates with Apple’s TV app.
Ideally, articles like this wouldn’t be necessary, as every streaming TV service would fully integrate with each of the major streaming platforms. But never underestimate this industry’s ability to introduce complexity. The best we can do is try to make sense of it all.
Jared Newman has been helping folks make sense of technology for over a decade, writing for PCWorld, TechHive, and elsewhere. He also publishes two newsletters, Advisorator for straightforward tech advice and Cord Cutter Weekly for saving money on TV service.