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The best wired TV streamer to save your home Wi-Fi bandwidth

The best wired TV streamer to save your home Wi-Fi bandwidth


If you’re like most people this year you’ve probably been streaming more TV shows and movies than ever before. Services such as YouTubeNetflix and Disney Plus have countless hours of entertainment on tap, but your Wi-Fi connection on your home network might also be struggling with all of that streaming — especially if kids are distance learning and grownups are video conferencing all at the same time.

If your home network is having issues you could try disconnecting your streaming device from Wi-Fi. Using Ethernet instead, via a Cat 5 network cable, frees up your wireless network for other devices such as laptops and tablets. Ethernet is also more stable and usually faster than Wi-Fi and doesn’t have issues with walls, interference or distance (well, not in a house anyway).

Read more: The best Wi-Fi extender for almost everybody  

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The Roku Ultra has an Ethernet port built-in.


David Katzmaier/CNET

The bad news is that you’ll need to run wires from your router to your TV for streaming, but if you’re stuck at home it makes a good weekend project, and Ethernet cable is cheap. I ran a cable from the router in my basement to my TV entertainment center upstairs and it was easy, and now all of my main streaming devices are wired, instead of using Wi-Fi. During high-use times you might even be OK running a temporary wire that you plan to remove later.

There’s a catch, however. While many game consoles and smart TVs have Ethernet ports built in, most of the best media streamers are Wi-Fi-only, although some work with a cheap adapter. Here’s a list of the best wired streaming devices that either have built-in Ethernet ports or work with Ethernet adapters. Note that all of the products below also work via Wi-Fi.

Read more: How to improve TV streaming quality on Netflix, Amazon Prime and more

Sarah Tew/CNET

The most expensive Roku with built-in Ethernet is our top choice. Roku is our favorite streaming system, with the most streaming apps, the simplest interface, the best search and a content-agnostic platform that doesn’t push any one media streaming provider, like Amazon Prime Video or iTunes, over another. In addition to an Ethernet port the Ultra has all the extras, including 4K HDR streaming with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, a remote finder and two extra customizable shortcut buttons for your favorite services.

Roku doesn’t make an Ethernet adapter like Fire TV and Chromecast (see below), however, so there’s no easy way to connect a Wi-Fi-only Roku like the Streaming Stick Plus (which is a better value than the Ultra) or Express via Ethernet.

Read our Roku Ultra (2020) review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Google makes a cheap adapter that lets you connect a wired Ethernet cable to its Chromecast streamers, including the excellent new Chromecast with Google TV. The combo costs a total of $70 — $50 for the Chromecast and $20 for Google’s adapter. We like Roku’s system better than Google TV but it’s very close, and in some ways, particularly Google Assistant voice support, this combo is a better choice than the Roku Ultra.

Note that the price below does not include the adapter.

Read our Chromecast with Google TV review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Although the Apple TV 4K costs basically twice as much as the options above, it’s the better choice for people who can appreciate its advantages. Those include compatibility with Dolby Vision HDR, flexible upconversion, superior voice control features, a better remote and a smoother, slicker user interface. The Apple TV 4K is so good for media streaming, it even makes sense if you’re not an “Apple person.”

Read our Apple TV 4K review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

For a total of $45 — $30 for the Stick Lite itself and $15 for Amazon’s official Ethernet adapter — you’ve got a complete wired streaming system for less than half the price of a Roku Ultra. The adapter is a simple little box that connects to the Stick’s USB/power port on one end and to Ethernet (and power) on the other. We don’t like the Fire TV system as much as Roku’s but it does have its charms, starting with Alexa built into the voice remote. 

Note that the price below does not include the adapter.

Read our Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Your Xbox or PlayStation has an Ethernet connection and plenty of streaming video apps, but the Shield is more versatile and includes a real remote so you don’t have to navigate Netflix with your game controller. In addition to streaming in 4K and HDR with access to thousands of Android TV apps, it offers a robust library of games — from GeForce Now cloud gaming, PC streaming including Steam Link to numerous native console-level and Android games — built-in Google Assistant complete with smart home control, NAS access, Plex server capabilityHDHomeRun integration and much more.

Read our Nvidia Shield TV review.

Roku

Available only at Walmart, this is technically the cheapest current device with Roku’s streaming system and an Ethernet port. The savings compared to the actual, non-LT Ultra isn’t much, however, and it lacks that device’s slick extras like Dolby Vision, programmable keys, fast app launching and the remote finder.

Sarah Tew/CNET

As we mentioned, Roku makes our favorite media streamers for live TV streaming apps like Netflix, and it’s even better as a platform baked into a TV. This TCL 4-Series is one of the most affordable Roku TVs on the market, available in a range of sizes and with image quality that’s perfectly fine for most people, especially at this price. And like all 4K-capable Roku TVs in North America, it has an Ethernet port.

Sizes: 43-, 50-, 55-, 65-, 75-inch. (The price shown below is for the 43-inch size.)

See more of CNET’s favorite TVs here.

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