This year more than ever, a new streaming player – or if you’re feeling generous, a whole new TV – makes the perfect gift.
If you’re looking for a an amazing holiday gift idea for 2020, when people are spending than ever, a would truly deliver. But a new , which is a lot less expensive, would also pack quite the punch.
CNET’s TV and streamer reviews hone in on high-value products – after all, not even a TV lover wants to shell out a ton of cash just to stream Stranger Things. That’s the goal of this list too, which we hope will be a big help even if you’re facingas you head into the holiday shopping season. Starting at $30 (or less during holiday sales), you can give the TV fan on your list a thoughtful gift to remember, and something to watch on Netflix or Amazon Prime for years to come.
When it comes to covering the basics Amazon’s Fire TV Lite delivers. Amazon’s interface isn’t as strong as Roku’s and it doesn’t do 4K, but it has solid Alexa integration and is one of the rare platforms that supports nearly all major streaming apps, including Apple TV Plus (not available on Android TV or Google TV) and HBO Max (not available on Roku). The one exception is Peacock, which isn’t available yet on Fire TV. For streaming on a budget, however, there is not much more you can ask for.
Take everything we just said about the Express and add must-have features like 4K HDR streaming, a voice remote control that can control your TV’s volume and power, plus compatibility with Apple’s AirPlay system and you get our favorite streamer for the money. Other $50 options like the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K and Chromecast with Google TV are solid too, but Roku’s simplicity wins the holidays.
For those looking for an alternative to Roku, Google’s new Chromecast with Google TV has emerged as an excellent option. Priced at $50, the dongle includes an actual remote and app interface, support for 4K HDR with Dolby Vision and Atmos, and strong integration with other Google services including Assistant, YouTube TV and Google Photos. Read our Chromecast with Google TV review.
The 2020 version of the Roku Ultra added Dolby Vision support and improved performance while keeping the price at $100. That’s $80 cheaper than our previous pick, the Apple TV 4K. Throw in an Ethernet port, AirPlay 2 support, an excellent interface and a fantastic remote-finder feature and the Ultra is our new pick for the best high-end streamer.
Now we’re getting into super-generous gift-giving territory, but if you can swing it, your recipient will be a happy camper. The 6-Series is a seriously excellent TV thanks to mini-LED tech and well-implemented full-array local dimming that helps it run circles around just about any other TV at this price. It’s also a solid choice for gamers with a new THX mode that combines low input lag and high contrast. As if that’s not enough, there’s that excellent Roku TV operating system again.
Sizes: 55-, 65-, 75-inch. (The price shown below is for the 65-inch size.)
If you don’t want to be quite so generous as giving TCL 6-Series above, this is the runner-up for best TV for the money. The TCL has a better picture and better smart HDTV system so it’s a superior TV overall, but it’s also a couple hundred dollars more expensive, and it doesn’t come in a budget-friendly 50-inch size like this Vizio.
Sizes: 50-, 55-, 65-inch. (The price shown below is for the 65-inch size.)
What’s that you say? You just want to give somebody the best TV, money no object? Here you go. In my side-by-side tests, the 2020 LG CX is the best TV I’ve ever reviewed, barely beating the 2019 B9. New for this year it’s available in a 48-inch size too, perfect for fitting under the tree, and its high-end gaming features go perfectly with an Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5 or, let’s face it, both.
Sizes: 48-, 55-, 65-, 77-inch. (The price shown below is for the 65-inch size.)
The TCL 4-Series can’t beat any of the TVs above on image quality — its 4K resolution and HDR compatibility don’t do anything to help the picture — but it’s perfectly fine for most viewers, especially at this price. Despite its extreme affordability the 4-Series still includes the equivalent of a Roku Streaming Stick Plus built-in, with a single, super-simple remote to control streaming and the TV itself.
Sizes: 43-, 50-, 55-, 65-, 75-inch. (The price shown below is for the 43-inch size.)
Get CNET’s comprehensive coverage of home entertainment tech delivered to your inbox.
Be respectful, keep it civil and stay on topic. We delete comments that violate our policy, which we encourage you to read. Discussion threads can be closed at any time at our discretion.