Streaming media players, which connect your television set to the internet, are sure to be popular gifts this holiday season. The four best ones—Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, and Roku 4—have each received major updates that make them excellent additions to any living room. You can’t go wrong with any of them.
I recently reviewed those four devices in painstaking detail, and if you are trying to pick the best one for your needs, you should go read that. This piece includes observations from the earlier review but focuses on the best deals for streaming media players on Black Friday, Nov. 27. We’ll keep updating it as new information is available.
Here’s the bottom line: If you’ve been thinking about getting a new streaming media player, Black Friday will be a good time to do it. The Fire TV will be $74.99 (from Amazon), and the Apple TV will be $112.49 (from Target).
Even before accounting for price, the Fire TV is the best option for people who just want to watch TV shows and movies using subscription video services. It has the most intuitive interface for that purpose, streams exceptionally well, and is generally the most reliable at performing basic tasks like search. For people who subscribe to Amazon Prime, it’s by far the best option, though you can also use Netflix, Hulu, and most any other service you might want.
The Fire TV usually starts at $99.99, but on Black Friday, Amazon is discounting the box to $74.99. That’s half the usual starting price of its chief rival, the Apple TV (which itself will be on sale; see below). It’s a very attractive price for a top-of-the-line device and certainly the best option for under a hundred bucks. Note that Amazon will also be selling the less-powerful Fire TV Stick for $24.99, cheaper than the similar Chromecast in the stocking-stuffer range.
The newest version of the Apple TV is a total overhaul of the device, leaping ahead of its competitors after years of neglect. It’s my favorite device overall because, in addition to reliably streaming TV shows and movies, the Apple TV is expanding the possibilities of what television can be: casual gaming, interactive video, big-screen comics, and who knows what else. People who already use other Apple devices are also likely to prefer it over other options.
But it’s also the most expensive, starting at $149 for the version with 32 GB of storage space, which is sufficient for most people. If you’ve been on the fence about the device and its price, then keep an eye on Target, which is reportedly offering a 25% discount on all versions of the Apple TV on Black Friday. (That includes the older Apple TV, which isn’t worth the cheaper price. Seriously, stay away from it.) At $112.49, the new Apple TV is a good value.
The newest and best Roku device is the Roku 4. It’s the fastest, most powerful, and streams at 4K resolution, if your video and TV set support it. Though I don’t love the Roku 4, there are some good reasons, detailed here, why others might. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the Roku 4 will be on sale on Black Friday. Instead, Roku is offering discounts on older devices, like the Roku 3 ($79.99), Roku Streaming Stick ($39.99), and Roku SE ($25).
Those are attractive price points, and it’s worth noting that all of the devices will run the latest version of Roku’s operating system, which includes some nice new features. But there are better alternatives at each price.
Buy it here: Roku
For people looking to save money or take their streaming media player on the road with them, Google’s Chromecast is the best choice. It usually retails for $35, but on Black Friday, you’ll be able to get two for $50. That deal makes it a good option for people with more than one television or those looking for nice stocking stuffers.
Note that the Roku Streaming Stick and Fire TV Stick will also be on sale for Black Friday. They are similarly sized and priced. I prefer the Chromecast, but Roku and Amazon’s sticks have the advantage of working well with hotel WiFi.