Here’s the thing about streaming devices. They don’t change much. They do what they’re supposed to do – stream video, and maybe some other stuff – but the underlying technology doesn’t change much. And that’s because the way we deliver video hasn’t really changed either. The differences are therefore more at the edges. That doesn’t mean we haven’t seen improvements, though. And while our list of the best streaming devices hasn’t changed overall, there are definitely a few differences to note this year.
Want to see the rest? Check out our full list of the most innovative tech products of 2022!
Winner: Apple TV 4K (2022)
From the outside, the new Apple TV 4K looks almost identical to the 2021 model. It’s a bit smaller, thanks to the removal of the active fan (yes, previous iterations had a fan, which you probably never heard of) , but inside that unassuming exterior you’ll find a handful of small but important upgrades.
Most notably, this year’s model comes with an A15 Bionic processor. In other words, Apple TV used to be overpowered, and it still is overpowered, in that you would need to do things like watch videos. Maybe it’s just because it’s easier (and more profitable for Apple) to use this processor compared to something a bit older and not as good. Maybe it’s necessary to the inclusion of the Thread and Matter standards, which should allow Apple TV to serve as a better smart home hub (these standards are adopted by all major players, including Amazon and Google).
Or maybe it’s something else entirely. Maybe one day we’ll see Apple TV take game streaming seriously. Or not.
Another small improvement? The remote now charges via USB-C instead of Apple’s own Lightning cable. That’s good because Apple’s proprietary standards need to go, especially for something you’ll probably only have to charge a few times a year. (Now iPhones and AirPods, Apple!)
And it’s also a great workout partner with Apple Fitness+.
And you still won’t find any ads on the home screen. (Don’t make us regret saying that, Apple!)
Finalist: Amazon Fire TV Cube
Another solid example of incremental improvement is Amazon’s Fire TV Cube. It’s still a cube. It’s still a streaming device, married to an Amazon Echo speaker. It still has all the apps and does all the Alexa stuff like it used to. New, however, is the fabric exterior – to better match the Echo range, which also sports the same scheme. But the biggest changes come from the addition of an HDMI input port and the inclusion of Wi-Fi 6E.
The former lets you connect other devices via HDMI, like a cable box, satellite box, or game console. And once it’s directly connected to the Fire TV Cube, it’ll be able to control that secondary device more easily. As for cable and satellite boxes, Fire TV will be able to integrate live guides into its own user interface (if the hardware is supported), and you’ll be able to control everything without ever having the Fire TV input lift on your TV. .
That means it’s not really just for streamers anymore, and it makes for an easier experience.
Upgrading to Wi-Fi 6E is probably a bit selfish on Amazon’s part. The company now owns router maker Eero, which has an excellent line of consumer routers that, by the way, now support Wi-Fi 6E. So that makes sense. But it’s also ideal for anyone who has the latest wireless standard built into their router, let alone the manufacturer. Faster is better, especially since Wi-Fi 6E will give you faster speeds than the built-in 10/100 Ethernet port.
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