We run down the top 5 best set top box options that answer the age-old question, “What’s the best way to watch Netflix on my TV?” These set top boxes are all solid options for Netflix junkies and TV fans who are looking to “cut the cord” with their cable company.
1. Apple TV
In the video above from the team at Netflix, you can see a walkthrough that will help you understand how to watch Netflix on TV using the Apple TV setup.
The Apple TV offers one of the better Netflix interfaces available on a set top box. TV shows are organized cleanly by season, unlike some other set top box interfaces that simply list episodes in order without season breaks.
The Apple TV is also great for Netflix fans because of the robust browsing options it offers. You can easily view top actors or the director who made a certain movie, allowing you to quickly determine what other films or TV shows the person was involved with. Some users also feel that the Apple TV interface for Netflix offers superior recommendation options compared to other interfaces on different set top boxes.
In addition to its great Netflix interface, the Apple TV is appealing because of its AirPlay streaming capabilities, built-in rental options for new releases, and wide array of channels. You can read a review of the Apple TV here.
Buy it here.
- Plays nice with iOS devices, appealing to those who are invested in the Apple ecosystem
- Gorgeous interface
- Rarely crashes, compared to some other set top boxes on the market
- AirPlay makes iOS device mirroring painless and fast
- Fast and easy to get started
- Interface pushes iTunes content
- Jailbreaking may be required to unlock coolest features
- Lacks support for some popular channels, including Plex and Amazon Instant Video (though Airplay provides workarounds for “missing” channels)
- Remote can sometimes accidentally activate nearby Apple devices or computers
- Apple movie rentals are very expensive
2. Roku Streaming Stick
In the CNET video above, you can see a comparison of the Roku Stick against Chromecast.
If your TV is wall mounted, the question of how to watch Netflix on TV has a lot to do with aesthetics. A wall mounted TV looks tacky with a bunch of cords coming out of the back of it, which is what makes the slim Roku Streaming Stick so appealing.
The Roku Stick plugs right into your TV’s HDMI port, and takes very little time to set up. Another added bonus: this device costs less than both the Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV.
Netflix on Roku is a nice experience, with larger icons that on the Apple TV. Additionally, the Roku interface is slightly better for Netflix binge watching, as you don’t have to jump between seasons to get to the next episode.
Buy it here.
- Motion-based controller requires no direct line of sight
- Over 1,000 apps/channels to choose from
- Control with your phone, tablet, or remote
- Dual-band wireless N connection
- Also great for viewing your personal photos and videos
- Won’t work with standard TVs, unlike older Roku models
- Somewhat “finicky” compared to other Roku offerings
- Does require MHL
- Local network sharing can be difficult to set up
- Tiny size makes it easier to accidentally lose
3. Amazon Fire TV
Learn more about the Netflix interface on the Amazon Fire TV by watching the video above.
Amazon’s Fire TV has a whole host of cool features, but the most exciting to most people is the voice search: no more tiresome input with a limited remote. Additionally, the ASAP algorithm system intelligently “guesses” what you will watch next, and pre-loads that content to reduce buffering time. You can read some reviews of the Fire TV here.
The Netflix experience on the Fire TV can be frustrating for some. In the New York Times review of this streaming set top box, writer Molly Wood noted:
“For movie, TV and game content…the Fire TV does not search across platforms at all — or display other viewing options in its search results or show summaries. If a show is available to stream free via Netflix, you would never know it.
For example, when I searched for ‘House of Cards,’ all I saw were options to rent episodes for $2.99. Even though I had downloaded and signed into Netflix on the Fire TV, there was no mention of Netflix availability on the show summary, even under the tantalizingly named “More ways to watch” menu.
The same happened with the documentary movie ‘The Summit.’ It is a $4.99 rental on Amazon, but when I searched for it on Netflix, I found that I could stream it free with my subscription.”
Buy it here.
- Offers extensive parental controls
- Intelligent search features
- Will soon have a game library that outclasses any other streaming set top box (though not quite as impressive as a “real” gaming console)
- Cool voice search functionality
- Streaming video is fast and beautiful
- Search results could be improved
- Games library is not fully stocked yet
- Good device, but not enough features to convert people from other set top boxes they already own
- Voice search doesn’t always pull up correct request
- Controller for enjoying video games will set you back an additional $40
Check out the video above to see how simple it is to set up a Chromecast dongle and start streaming content from Netflix.
Chromecast costs just $35, it is the cheapest streaming media device on this list. That low price makes it appealing to bargain hunters, as well as those Netflix subscribers who are paying extra to get physical discs on top of their streaming service. If you want to have a reliable way to watch Netflix on TV while traveling or staying with relatives who don’t own a set top box, Chromecast is a smart investment.
Reviewers have had generally positive things to say about the Netflix experience on Chromecast. Know Your Mobile wrote:
“Video playback supports up to 1080p quality, although this depends on the source material and the speed of your broadband: older YouTube videos at 240p will look pretty ropey and soft, while new Netflix material like Orange Is The New Black is gloriously sharp and clean.”
Buy it here.
- Cheaper than set top boxes and Roku’s streaming stick
- Portable and travel-friendly
- Control your TV from any phone, tablet, or computer
- Comes with HDMI extender cable
- Set up takes mere minutes
- Does not support a number of desirable channels: ESPN, Showtime Anywhere, Bloomberg TV, and Amazon Instant Video, most notably
- Some users will miss interacting with a physical remote, since raised buttons on a remote make it easier to feel what you’re doing
- Some users have experienced issues with screen mirroring
- For slightly more money, you can get a Roku stick with more channels and (what some people would argue is a) better interface
- Some users have reported issues with audio lag
5. PlayStation 4
The video above compares the Netflix apps on the PS4 and the Xbox One.
While the PS4 isn’t exactly a set-top box, it is a wonderful option for cord cutters and Netflix addicts. It’s far more expensive than your average set top box or HDMI TV dongle, but that extra money scores you a great next-gen gaming console with an impressive library of quality games. The PS4 hosts a large collection of entertainment apps, in addition to Netflix.
If you’re huge into gaming and Netflix binge sessions, this console is the best way to experience Netflix on your TV. Business Insider notes one great features that will appeal to Netflix fans: the DualShock 4 controllers supports typing shortcuts, making it easier to search for movies or TV shows.
Buy it here.
- Slightly cheaper than buying an Xbox One with a Kinect
- Large library of new games, plus the ability to play old games
- Starting Summer 2014, PlayStation Now will launch a streaming game service
- Top-rated controller that has gotten great reactions from gamers and critics
- Tons of other entertainment apps besides Netflix
- People who live in areas with limited Internet service may not be able to get the most out of their console
- Has some playback and streaming limitations
- Unlike Xbox One’s Netflix app, the PS4 version of the app can’t be snapped to the side
- Cheaper than the Xbox One, but more expensive than sticks or set top boxes
- Some gamers prefer the content that’s exclusive to the Xbox One
If you’re looking for a more detailed breakdown of which boxes support other streaming apps besides Netflix, Wikipedia offers a guide for which set top boxes have Hulu, Crackle, Redbox Instant, Vevo, Vimeo, VUDU, YouTube, and more.
In the video above from Gigaom, you can get some tips on how to optimize your Netflix streaming experience.