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 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).
If you’re like most people over this past year, you’ve probably been streaming more TV shows and movies than ever before. Services such as YouTube, Netflix and Disney Plus have countless hours of entertainment on tap, but your home network’s Wi-Fi connection might also be struggling with all of that streaming — especially if kids are distance learning and grown-ups are video conferencing at the same time.
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. During high-use times you might be OK running a temporary wire that you can remove later.
There’s a catch, however. While many game consoles and smart TVs have built-in Ethernet ports, 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.
The top spot on this list used to be occupied by Roku’s most expensive player, the Ultra, but the $40 Express 4K Plus has replaced it. Roku is our favorite streaming system as it has all the major streaming apps, the simplest interface and a content-agnostic platform that doesn’t push any particular media streaming provider, like Amazon Prime Video or Apple TV Plus, over another. The Express 4K Plus also streams in 4K HDR, though it lacks Dolby Vision.
Unlike the Ultra, the Express 4K Plus doesn’t have a built-in Ethernet port on its small dongle-sized body, but you can easily add-on through a $10-$15 adapter from a retailer like Amazon (we tested it with a $12 cable from a company called UGreen and it worked fine). This combo isn’t as elegant as a built-in adapter, but it would be around $50 cheaper than the $100 Ultra.
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