FEATURE

Holiday Gift Guide: Best Entertainment Hardware 2019

From Netflix to Disney+ We have you covered!

CGM StaffDec 13, 2019

Streaming media has become more important than cable or satellite in recent years. With so many major movies and TV series now being produced exclusively for streaming services, it is more important than ever to ensure you have a device that can not only offer all the services you love, but do it so that it also maximizes what your TV is capable of.

To this end, CGMagazine has compiled a list of the best devices to stream entertainment. From TVs to streaming boxes, if it can watch Netflix or Disney+ we have reviewed it and decided to include it on this list—or not. As always, CGMagazine only endorses products that we have tested, so there are pieces of gear that while amazing, have not made it into our office for review.

Nvidia Shield TV (2019)

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Nvidia Shield TV (2019)

This year, Nvidia has expanded the Shield TV lineup, offering two different variants on its platform. They have the more expensive, more in-line with past Shield TV Nvidia Shield TV Pro costing $199.99 and the all-new $149.99 Nvidia Shield TV (the one we are testing for this review). Both models offer Dolby Vision, in addition to the HDR10 and Dolby Atmos audio that were seen on previous Shield TV iterations. They also now offer a new, redesigned remote, and AI upscaling that boasts the ability to bring 1080p video to near 4K quality.

Both new Shield TV models include Nvidia's new Tegra X1+, that boasts speeds “up to 25 per cent faster” than older models. The Shield has always sat as one of the most powerful boxes you could buy to stream, and this just ups the ante on that front. This power can be seen throughout the interface. Everything from YouTube to Amazon Prime loads up quickly and are buttery smooth to use. Even the Google Assistant can be called up instantly, providing a unique way to navigate Android TV.

As the streaming wars heat up, there will only be more demand for set-top boxes that can deliver that content, and with the features on offer, and the price point, the 2019 Nvidia Shield TV is easily one of the best options for people that demand the best. It is powerful, comes with a slick, clean interface, and has some features more boxes should offer. While not the cheapest option on the market, anyone looking to do more with their streaming box should look no further than the Nvidia Shield TV.

You can buy the Nvidia Shield from Amazon $199.99 CAD.

AMAZON FIRE TV CUBE (2019)

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AMAZON FIRE TV CUBE (2019) - CGMagazine

The Fire TV Cube sits as a unique product in the Fire TV range. It fills the role of three products for your living room: it is a powerful set-top streaming box, a stand-alone smart speaker when the TV is not on, and a universal remote.

The Cube for 2019 is positioned as the flagship of the Fire TV range, now with Dolby Vision HDR and more power overall. Amazon has improved the device, making it the ideal choice for anyone looking to jump into the Alexa ecosystem.

With this year’s Fire TV Cube featuring more robust HDR, including both HDR10+ and Dolby Vision, it is objectively a more exciting option for streaming. With more TVs supporting it and more streaming platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime pushing HDR as a feature, it is something that is not only expected but required should you want to experience the content as intended.

The Fire TV Cube feels like the flagship device the range needed. It is powerful, packed with features, and offers it all in a unique—although slightly dystopian—design. I am happy with the strides Amazon has made with the lineup, and the interface and Alexa integration are improving each year. The biggest issues I have with the device rest at the feet of IR and the internal speaker, and these are minor at best.

If you are looking to jump into the Echo ecosystem and need a new streaming set-top-box, look no further than the Fire TV Cube. For everyone else who already has Alexa in their living room, the Fire TV Stick 4K should tackle most of your needs and be a tad less obtrusive.

You can purchase the Fire TV Cube 2019 from Amazon for $149.99.

Hisense Roku 4K R6 TV

Holiday Gift Guide: Best Entertainment Hardware 2019
Hisense Roku 4K R6 TV - Photo by CGMagazine

If you are in the market for a new TV, and want to ensure it has all the streaming features built-in, the Hisense Roku TV range of products has you covered. The latest Hisense Roku 4K R6 takes all the features you hope to see from today’s TVs such as 4K, HDR, HDMI inputs, smart remote, and a smart TV interface that is easy to use and puts it into one package. It is no secret that we at CGM are fans of what Roku has to offer. We find it easy to use, and even better to just set up and watch. So we were very pleased to see Hisense implement it, and do so on a TV that looks and works fantastic.

The 2019 R6 feels like a great offering for anyone after the latest and greatest but are also on a budget. It implements the Roku interface in a way that feels snappy and works well. The TV was set up within minutes of unpacking it, and due to the fact it can import settings from your Roku account, we had everything required to stream fully online just a short while after the initial setup.

Picture quality was good and manages to bring sharp blacks and rich colours to all media played. Netflix HDR and Xbox One X games all look sharp, clear, and true to life. Even the HDR 10 and Dolby Vision media looks good and really pops on the Hisense Roku 4K R6.

Navigation feels smooth and responsive, thanks to the Roku interface. While it is not as fluid as some TVs, it manages to feel unobtrusive and allows you to get to the media you want to watch, be it on a streaming service or by an external device with ease.

It should be noted, that as with all large thin TVs the audio, while it works, is nothing to write home about. It lacks impact and can feel shallow or tinny depending on the show or media you are watching. I would suggest you look into soundbars or even full audio setups to get the most from your media.

But, considering the R6 only costs $398.00 for the 58-inch model, it is a hard TV to beat. Hisense has managed to build a TV that looks and works well and still make it affordable to a wide range of consumers. While it does lack in the sound department, everything else shines, making the Hisense Roku 4K R6 a great purchase for anyone on your list this holiday.

You can buy the Hisense Roku 4K R6 from Walmart for $398.00.

Roku Range of Products

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Roku Streaming Stick+

Roku has managed to build a name for themselves in the streaming market, and as more services make the move to online, Roku has been at the forefront, boasting the largest selection of apps on any platform. With 2019 coming to a close, this has never been truer. Roku has thousands of apps on offer, with every service you can think of and many you did not know existed on offer on the platform.

Roku also remains some of the cheapest and most value-filled boxes you can currently buy. With the Roku Express costing $39.99, the Roku Premiere $44.99, and the Roku Streaming Stick+ only $89.99, there is a Roku that should fit most people’s needs and budget.

The key thing with Roku is the interface and how easy it is to use. Roku is designed from the ground up to get you to the media quickly. From launching your favourite apps to exploring new services you did not know existed, everything can be done with a few clicks of the remote. Even setup on the Roku is easy, a new device will be ready to go within 5-10 minutes of first plugging it in. The team at Roku has managed to build a device that puts streaming first and it is all the better for it.

Now, as with any box, I have a few gripes with how Roku manages ads and pushing new content onto the user. Granted, it is much less obtrusive than some services such as the Fire TV, but it still feels a bit much, especially when many are already paying for the services on display. Also, depending on the box you buy, the interface can lag at times. This is less true with the Streaming Stick+, but it should be noted, if you are used to a snappy buttery smooth interface, Roku can be on the slower side at times.

But that all said, Roku has built a range of products that are hard to match in the streaming space. While it may not be the most powerful or offer the latest features, Roku stands as a streaming box that will do everything. It is built to bring the content first and is a joy to use. If you or someone you love wants to get into streaming, you can’t go wrong with Roku.

You can buy a Roku STB from BestBuy or Amazon

TCL 6 SERIES Roku TV

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TCL 6 SERIES Roku TV

The TCL 6-series is a staggering deal at first glance with a starting price point of $749.99 for 55-inch and $1,235.85 for the 65-inch. The TV comes packed with all the features modern audiences demand, such as HDR10, Dolby Vision HDR, full 4K 3840×2160, full-array local dimming backlight, Dolby Atmos support, Wired and wireless 802.11ac WiFi, along with built-in Roku smart TV capabilities. The models also, for good measure, have three HDMI ports, one with ARC Support, Optical audio, and RCA input should you want to hook up an older piece of equipment.

From the brightest sunrise to the blacks within a dark scene, the HDR on offer in the TCL 6-series is fantastic. TCL even manage to impress with selective zones of the backlight, allowing a dark scene segment and a bright segment to share the screen and actually add to the immersion, rather than making the full image muddy or hard to see.

This is partially due to the isolated lighting zones behind the screen when compared to the edge or single backlight seen on many cheaper models. The 55-inch comes with 96 zones of local dimming, with the 65-inch offering 120 zones. While it is not as impressive as what can be seen on higher-end OLED screens, the results work very well.

The built-in Roku has a bit of lag at times, especially when compared the latest and greatest in the Roku range of set-top boxes, but for the majority of people it will be negligible and out of the smart TV options I have tested, Roku sits well at the top. It is easy to use, understand and set up—just what people want from a new TV.

At the end of the day, the TCL 6-Series manages to tick just enough boxes to make it a must buy if you are looking for a new 4K HDR TV. While there are a few nitpicks related to input lag and lack of OLED, these are minor, and considering the price, the TCL 6 Series is a fantastic value. If you are looking to upgrade, and want to stick within a budget, you can’t go wrong with the TCL 6-Series range of televisions.

You can purchase the TCL 6 SERIES starting at $669.99 on Amazon