Streaming device vs Smart TV – which is better to buy?


Which offers you more option – Streaming device vs Smart TV? They are designed for all your favorite content. Powered by 4K HDR Processor, super-bright 4K HDR pictures come to life with vivid color and realistic contrast. With enhanced Motionflow technology, Google TV, and HDMI 2.1 for next-gen gaming, all available in a wide range of sizes, your favorite content just found a new home. Get details in Streaming device vs Smart TV comparison.

We independently review everything we recommend. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Lean how we earn commission

Price – Streaming device vs Smart TV

How much does a streaming device cost? $29 for a Roku Express, $35 for Google Chromecast, $199 for Apple TV. And what about a capable Smart TV? At least $450+. I am looking at Amazon prices here, but prices at your local store will vary, probably be higher.

So as you can tell, streaming devices are a lot cheaper than a whole Smart TV. And that’s why they are extremely popular. A cheap ordinary TV coupled with a streaming device will give you Smart TV features at a good bargain.

the Roku Streaming Stick+, which costs just $50, delivers thousands of channels and apps. Those include nearly every major service, as well as hundreds of more obscure channels, ranging from Kung-Fu Theater to Victory Westerns. In fact, Roku offers more options than any other set-top box or any smart TV on the market. So if you don’t need to buy a new TV but do want smart-TV services, a separate, inexpensive streaming-media player is the prudent choice.

In addition, set top-boxes, such as the Roku Ultra, offer 4K content.

Amazon’s $90 Fire TV doubles as a basic gaming console and offers 4K content, plus some Alexa skills. The Fire TV Stick is even more affordable.

Google’s $35 Chromecast and $69 Chromecast Ultra let you stream content from your computer’s web browser, but they don’t include a separate remote.

Feature comparison – Streaming device vs Smart TV

Apple environment

If you live in an Apple household and want your iTunes collection on the big screen, you’ll need an Apple TV, which is the only device that can deliver that iTunes connection. No smart TVs have apps for iTunes. The latest, 32GB iteration of Apple TV is $149 and includes Siri support for finding programs. However, it does not offer 4K Ultra HD support and has a limited number of streaming services.


Streaming devices are very small and light they could fit in your pockets or bag. You can carry one of them with you while travelling or visiting a friend and still stream online content. Most of them are powered by a TV via the USB port although you have the option of using your wall socket via compatible adapter. You cannot carry TV with you while camping or friend party.

Speedy interface – Streaming device vs Smart TV

It’s hard to compare all TVs against all media streamers. The better streamers, like the Roku 3 and Apple TV, are fast and easy to use. Everything is laid out well, and you can get to what you want quickly and simply. Even the Fire TV, despite its other issues, is easy to navigate and fast to use.

Some TVs have decent menus for their streaming content… but most don’t. Worse, they’re often slow and clunky to use.


Furthermore, streaming devices offer extra uses like gaming. The Chromecast Ultra (and soon the latest Chromecast with Google TV) work with the Google Stadia video game platform, streaming console-quality games to your TV.

The Apple TV also has a decent selection of games to play on the big screen, but these are closer to iOS in terms of quality and scale, not fully-fledged consoles or gaming PCs.

Local channel

Smart TV services and features don’t affect a TV’s ability to get local stations. If you have cable or satellite service, you will continue to receive the same stations. If you don’t have either of those services, you’ll still need some sort of internet connection (DSL or cable) for the smart services

More option

Most streaming devices work at 4K Ultra HD with HDR. Some have support for Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, while cheaper options do not. Some, like the Roku Streambox, also double as a soundbar to give your TV a sound upgrade as well as a new content streaming system. All Smart TVs are compatible to handle HDR.


A new trend in smart TVs is vastly improved built-in sound systems. LG and Sony are making particular advances in this area, offering Dolby Atmos sound on several models and hoping that the smart TV will also do duty as the home stereo system to stream music and online radio stations.

How do they work – Streaming device vs Smart TV

To be clear, streaming boxes and dongles work in exactly the same way. They plug into an HDMI port of your television, draw power from a wall outlet (or sometimes the TV’s own USB port), and connect to your Wi-Fi network to stream content; they only differ in their physical appearance.

A smart TV uses your home network to provide streaming video and services on your TV, and smart TVs use wired Ethernet and built-in Wi-Fi to stay connected. Most current TVs support 802.11ac Wi-Fi, but watch for older models, which may still use the older 802.11n standard.  Some of the latest models will also support the new Wi-Fi 6 standard (see our article about Wi-Fi 6: What it is and why it’s better), but it’s still pretty rare. 

How are Roku TVs different from smart TVs?

The main difference between Roku TV vs. smart TV is that Roku TVs use technology from streaming media player manufacturer Roku. Roku provides its streaming technology and user-friendly OS to TV manufacturers like Element, Hisense, Hitachi, Magnavox, JVC, RCA, Sharp, and TCL. 

This enables cord-cutters to get internet-connected TV sets at a lower price point while still getting a high-quality product with a simple to use interface. Roku-powered smart TVs use the same OS platform as its streaming media players, which enables users to download the same streaming apps and channels. 

Building the Roku functionality directly into a TV means that there’s no longer a requirement to plug a Roku device into the TV to stream movies and TV shows. Roku TV users simply turn on their TV set, connect it to their Wi-Fi network, and quickly launch content through apps and channels for their favorite streaming services. 

Most new Roku TVs enable users to watch content in up to 4K, which is the highest video quality currently available for streaming, and some enable Dolby Vision high dynamic range (HDR). 

What are the similarities – Streaming device vs Smart TV?


Generally, picture quality shouldn’t be an issue. If your TV’s internal scaler isn’t great, however, it’s possible the scaler inside a media streamer is better. This could mean Netflix et al will be sharper than when streamed internally from your TV. This is because, for the foreseeable future, most streaming content will be 720p. There are some 1080p and even 4K exceptions, but they’re still fairly rare.

What has to happen is the TV or streaming box must upconvert the 720p to your TV’s 1080p (or 4K). How well this is done determines how detailed the image can look.

Smart Home

These new features also let you control smart home devices like connected lights and thermostats, view feeds from your Nest camera or Ring doorbell, or control your robot vacuum. As voice assistants continue to evolve, you can expect to see the same improvements come to current smart TVs via software and firmware updates.

The smart TV has become a central hub in our connected homes, providing compatibility and control for a household full of connected devices, ranging from smart doorbells to smart thermostats. With many TVs offering smart home controlled dashboards, you can control a huge variety of devices from the comfort of your couch.

Content search

 Voice search now lets you find content from live TV as well as streaming services, and adds search for everything from weather and stock prices to looking up the latest celebrity gossip. The voice integration lets you access other services from your couch, letting you order a pizza or summon an Uber in comfort. 

Editor’s recommendations

Lead Content Editor
Lead Content Editor

I enjoy creating stuff and giving back to my community. My days are spent producing content for brands who need an internet presence and for things that I adore. I bring with me six years of experience generating content and obtaining leads from untapped markets. I concentrate on the qualities and advantages of the goods that add value for my audience. After reading my reviews, anyone who want to purchase a product from me are given my honest and open recommendation. I integrate my reviews with those of actual people to make the content authentic and accurate. Please take a moment to contact me if you see any deviations; I always value and appreciate hearing from my readers.

Articles: 1393