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Home News These are the best Chromecast alternatives for streaming media in 2020

These are the best Chromecast alternatives for streaming media in 2020

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Google Chromecast remains one of the simplest solutions for wirelessly streaming between devices anywhere there’s a reliable Wi-FI signal. It works for streaming entertainment at home, making a conference room presentation at work, or as quick way to share videos in the classroom. However, if you’re solely relying on a Chromecast for wireless streaming in 2020, now may be the perfect time to upgrade. We recommend the new and improved NVIDIA Shield TV (2019), which delivers the best Android TV experience along with the wireless functionality and compact design of a Chromecast.

Best Overall: NVIDIA Shield TV (2019)

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NVIDIA has been owning the Android TV streaming box segment for years with the same NVIDIA Shield TV hardware. In 2019, it finally gave us a new look with an upgraded processor that delivers all the features required to keep pace with newer competition in the streaming space.

The new Shield TV is a tube-shaped device that’s designed to hide behind your TV — just like a Chromecast does — while delivering the best that Android TV has to offer. That means you get the best of Google’s apps and services developed specifically for TV from the Google Play Store, along with NVIDIA’s own services aimed at gamers.

There’s support for both 4K and HDR content, and both Dolby Vision and Atmos where available. The new Tegra X1+ chipset is designed for gaming and also powers NVIDIA’s impressive AI-enhanced upscaling effect, which takes 1080p video and bumps up the details to make it look closer to 4K. When it kicks in, it’s a noticeable upgrade.

But some compromises had to be made to scale down the size of the Shield TV, most notable in the internal storage department. With only 8GB of internal storage, you’re going to want to make use of that microSD slot if you plan to sideload your own media or download games from the Play Store. We’ve rounded up the best options for the Shield TV from a modest 32GB card up to a whopping 512GB.

The Shield TV also offers great support for Bluetooth accessories and includes an updated remote with intelligent backlighting and remappable buttons. You can connect wireless headphones or speakers, a keyboard for entering log-in credentials and searching for things to watch, or a gaming controller. It’s really the ultimate piece of tech for living room entertainment. Oh, and on top of all those reasons why it’s the best alternative to Chromecast, it also functions perfectly well as a Chromecast target itself.

Pros:

  • Tube design is compact and easy to set up
  • Best support for Google apps and services
  • Expandable storage via microSD
  • Support for 4K and HDR
  • NVIDIA’s impressive AI-upscaling

Cons:

  • No HDMI cable included
  • Only 8GB of internal storage

Best Overall

NVIDIA Shield TV (2019)

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  • $150 from Amazon

NVIDIA lets you stream just about everything

The NVIDIA Shield TV is a powerful and sleek solution that offers an all-in-one entertainment console for your living room.

Best for Alexa Fans: Fire TV Stick 4K

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If you side with Amazon Alexa in the on-going battle of AI assistants, you’re better off going with a Fire TV product for your home entertainment. The Fire TV Stick 4K not only offers a great value, but it’s also virtually future-proof with support for 4K, UHD, HDR 10+, and Dolby Vision.

Just like a Chromecast, the Fire TV Stick 4K is a compact dongle that plugs into an HDMI port on the back of the TV and is hidden out of sight while in use. You also get a remote control that includes a microphone that lets you search for and control your favorite media via Alexa, although beyond that it’s pretty basic. It’s thin, all-black, and lacks a remote finder feature or backlighting, which is bad news if you have a habit of losing remotes between couch cushions.

I’m not a huge fan of the Fire TV interface, which forces you to side-scroll through lists of apps or shows rather than presenting things in a grid view. Amazon also litters the screen with ads for its own Prime Video offerings. Amazon, however, does offer solid support for all the popular streaming services and also lets you control and access smart home products, so you can call up your Ring doorbell camera on screen to see who’s at the door before getting up.

Fire TV is great if you’re already relying on Alexa as your voice-controlled AI assistant of choice, but the lack of support for Google Play services is a big drawback for me.

Pros:

  • Great value for top-end specs
  • Built-in support with Alexa and connected products
  • Compact design
  • Often discounted by Amazon

Cons:

  • Remote features are basic
  • Interface isn’t as smooth as competition
  • No support for Google Play services

Best for Alexa Fans

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

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  • $50 from Amazon

A future-proof option to stick with!

The Fire TV Stick 4K is the perfect Chromecast alternative for anyone who’s already baked into the Alexa ecosystem.

Best from Apple: Apple TV 4K

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Apple is known for making top quality tech products that are suitable for practically anyone and this philosophy extends to the Apple TV 4K. You don’t need to be baked into the Apple ecosystem to get good use out of this streaming box — although it obviously helps.

To start, Apple’s tvOS is super easy to navigate and supports all of the most popular streaming services with output that supports 4K HDR and Dolby Vision. Apple has also begun offering its own media streaming service, Apple TV+, and an Apple TV is the easiest way to enjoy all of Apple’s original content in the comfort of your living room.

The Apple TV 4K comes in 32GB or 64GB variants with no options for expandable storage. Most folks will do just fine with the smaller storage capacity — as a streaming box, the Apple TV won’t be downloading a lot of video content directly onto the box itself — but this might be a bigger factor to consider if your household intends to download and play titles from Apple Arcade.

Pros:

  • Best support for Apple apps and services
  • Perfect for mirroring content from Apple devices
  • Looks great in 4K with support for Dolby Vision
  • tvOS is optimized to be easy to use

Cons:

  • No expandable storage
  • Doesn’t ship with an HDMI cable

Best from Apple

Apple TV 4K

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  • $179 from Amazon

Apple’s top 4K stream box.

This is the best streaming box made by Apple. For most, 32GB of storage will be plenty, especially if you’re going to be primarily streaming your content.

Best Roku Streaming Stick: Roku Streaming Stick+

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Roku is one of the leading brands in streaming devices, and it offers products of all sizes from the full-featured streaming boxes like the Roku Ultra down to the pint-sized Roku Express. For the purposes of finding the best Roku alternative to Chromecast, we’ll stick with the Streaming Stick+.

This streaming dongle hides away behind the TV while offering support for 4K and HDR content. Sadly, Dolby Vision is not supported, but you do get Dolby Atmos support for certain apps. The Roku remote is nice and comfortable to hold and lets you search and control media using voice commands. It’s not quite as full-featured as the Roku Ultra remote, which includes a headphone jack for private viewing, but you can achieve the same effect using the Roku app on your smartphone.

One of Roku’s greatest strengths is the interface and platform itself, which is easy to navigate and offers great support for all the major (and minor) digital media streaming services. There’s a ton of free content available through the Roku Channel store, that literally includes over 10,000 different listings so you’re sure to find endless entertainment for your family.

Pros:

  • Affordable option for streaming in 4K and HDR
  • Compact design with handy remote
  • Roku Channels are brimming with free content
  • User interface is easy to navigate

Cons:

  • No support for Dolby Vision
  • Remote lacks headphone jack

Best Roku Streaming Stick

Roku Streaming Stick+

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  • $44 from Amazon

You can’t be the value of a Roku

The Roku Streaming Stick+ is one of the most affordable ways to stream 4K content in your home.

Best for Business: Airtame

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The Airtame wireless HDMI display adapter is aimed at the enterprise and educational crowd and is also far and away the most expensive product on our list — so much so that I can’t recommended it for home entertainment. However, if you need to mirror screens or need cloud-based device management, this is the product for you.

Having said that, it is definitely a great alternative to Chromecast if your goal is to wirelessly mirror the screen of practically any device you own. For businesses or educators who might struggle with using a Chromecast in the conference room or classroom, the Airtame just might be the perfect solution.

It’s really impressive how many devices are supported by Airtame. You’re able to wireless mirror the screen from a Mac, Windows, Chromebook, or Linux computer along with support for Android and iOS devices. In that way, the Airtame is a really compelling product — if you can afford it, that is.

Pros:

  • Works with practically any computer or mobile OS
  • Better security features than most
  • Easy to set up and use for presenting to groups

Cons:

  • Only supports HD 1080p video
  • Stupid expensive
  • Not really designed for entertainment

Best for business

Airtame

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  • $500 from Amazon

Great for streaming in professional settings

Ditch the Chromecast in the classroom or conference room and get something more professional and secure.

Bottom line

Every streaming box or dongle tries to claims itself as the be-all end-all for home entertainment, but the NVIDIA Shield TV (2019) comes closest to living up to that hype. If you’re looking for an alternative to Chromecast, the NVIDIA Shield TV is just as easy to set up and use while being better suited as the hub for all your home entertainment needs.

Not only is it a full-featured 4K streamer in an impossibly sleek and compact package, but it also moonlights as a surprisingly capable gaming console. The Shield lets you experience the best that Android TV has to offer while still retaining the convenience of using Chromecast.

It’s not your only option, however, and you might be swayed towards Amazon or Apple’s offerings if you’re locked into a different tech ecosystem. For most Android users, the Shield TV will be your best bet.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

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Marc Lagace s the Apps and Games Editor at Android Central. He’s been a gamer for most of his life and actually took a university course on Video Game Theory — which he aced! You can reach out to him on Twitter @spacelagace.

Latest

Anker PowerExpand Elite 13-in-1 docking station review

Thunderbolt 3 has been a great protocol for the modern tech nerd. It utilizes USB-C cables to extend your PC capabilities to myriad peripherals, including monitors, network adapters, and even external graphics cards. Anker has a new entry in this space with the PowerExpand Elite 13-in-1 docking station.The company was nice enough to allow us three weeks with the PowerExpand Elite. We came away with several impressions. Most of them are for the positive and a few question marks. Let’s dive into the full review to expand on the expandability of the Anker PowerExpand Elite.DesignThis docking station is a tank. You will immediately notice the heft and solid metal construction of the casing. The PowerExpand isn’t large though. It’s around the size of a small novel making it easy to set up on your desk space.The dock can also be oriented both vertical and horizontal. Again, depending on your office, this adds additional flexibility on where to place the PowerExpand Elite.What’s in the Box?The included materials with things like docking station is always a mixed bag. Thankfully, Anker has included the essentials to get you started. Upon opening the box you will find the PowerExpand Elite 13, a two-part 180-watt power adapter, and a two-foot Thunderbolt 3 cable.The included accessories made setup a seamless experience. Take the PowerExpand Elite out the box. Plug in the power brick. Press the power button. Yes, there’s a dedicated power button which is nice. Now, you’re ready to put that Thunderbolt 3 cable to use with your laptop.All the PortsAs the name implies, the PowerExpand Elite has 13 available options of input and output. You have an array of slots on both the front and the rear of the PowerExpand Elite to accomplish this.The front houses the power button, micro and standard SD slots, a 3.5mm headphone jack, dual 10Gbps USB-C ports, and a 5Gbps USB-A port. This gives users quick access to most general input of data peripherals like USB pen drives, digital photo SD cards, and even your headphones without having to reach for the back of the dock.Now, around the back of the PowerExpand Elite is where all the heavy lifting is going to be done. The rear ports include two Thunderbolt 3 40Gbps ports (one for your laptop input and one for your output of choice), three USB-A ports, HDMI, and Gigabit Ethernet adapter.General UseUsing the PowerExpand Elite 13-in-1 is about as simple as it gets. Plug in your laptop, or Thunderbolt 3 PC, in one port and as many peripherals as the Elite can handle in the other 12. All the appropriate expansions worked as advertised in my usage.There was one caveat worth a mention. When using external monitors, you should make sure that your device is a certified Thunderbolt device. This gives you full capabilities to daisy-chaining up to three external monitors via the 40Gbps Thunderbolt out port.If using a USB-C device without Thunderbolt, you can only use display out with the HDMI port. All other expansion will work as intended, but you can’t use the other USB-C/Thunderbolt to push the external monitors. This is due to Thunderbolt 3 is backward compatible to USB-C standards, but the standard USB-C output doesn’t have the throughput to push the extra displays. Many laptop are USB-C only and do not support the Thunderbolt output.I’d suggest only using this dock with true, certified Thunderbolt laptops with this limitation. While you can get peripherals to work with no issue, the hindered monitor situation is worth noting. If not sure of your USB-C device, please check out the below picture. The Thunderbolt logo with the lightning bolt is your go-to indicator that you have a Thunderbolt certified port.Lastly, I’d loved to have seen at least one DisplayPort out option. Many other docks have both an HDMI and DisplayPort ports to offer both HD out monitor standards. This makes it more out-of-the-box compatible with numerous displays on the market.Final ThoughtsThe Anker PowerExpand Elite 13-in-1 is a phenomenal Thunderbolt 3 dock. It’s compact design and large expansion list make it a desirable option for any home office. The other setback for some might be the cost of $299, but this amount of peripheral diversity can’t be cheap.You can purchase the PowerExpand Elite on Anker’s website directly or on Amazon. At the time of this writing, Amazon has it $50 off. If you’re in the market for a versatile Thunderbolt dock, then this one from Anker needs to be on your list of options.

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