CNET: Streaming video and TV gifts for your new grad

Your grad worked hard to get through school, and he or she deserves an entertaining new gift. Here are a few suggestions.

———

Roku Streaming Stick 2016

Product Review: http://www.cnet.com/products/roku-streaming-stick-review/#ftag=CAD187281f

CNET rating: 5 stars out of 5 (Spectacular)

The good: The $50 Roku Streaming Stick is one of the least expensive devices to stream video from Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO, Sling TV and other online services. It’s just as responsive as other devices — meaning it’s lightning-fast — and an updated app lets you listen via your phone’s headphone jack. Roku’s ecosystem offers more apps, better search and more customization than any other.

The bad: No Ethernet port means it only works via Wi-Fi, not a wired connection. Some app interfaces are less polished than on rival devices. Private listening feature loses lip-sync with some Bluetooth headphones.

The cost: $39.00 to $54.99

The bottom line: The new Roku Streaming Stick is the best value in streaming-video hardware, period.

———

Roku 3 (2015)

Product Review: http://www.cnet.com/products/roku-3/#ftag=CAD187281f

CNET rating: 4 stars out of 5 (Excellent)

The good: The Roku 3 has an updated remote with voice search, which works very well; as well as the unique headphone jack for private listening. The Roku platform delivers more apps than competitors, constant updates and doesn’t favor one content provider over others. Its interface is lightning-quick, fully customizable and dead simple to use. Search is the best on the market, hitting numerous services and arranging results by price.

The bad: The cheaper Streaming Stick is just as fast as Roku 3 and offers all of Roku’s platform advantages, and you can add the voice-search and headphone jack remote for $30 more. The Fire TV offers a wider list of games.

The cost: $80.97 to $89.99

The bottom line: Voice search makes the Roku 3 the best video streamer in its price class, but it’s no longer as good a value as the Streaming Stick.

———

Vizio M series (2015)

Product Review: http://www.cnet.com/products/vizio-m-series-2015/#ftag=CAD187281f

CNET rating: 4 stars out of 5 (Excellent)

The good: The Vizio M series is one of the least-expensive 4K TVs you can buy. Its picture quality, thanks to full-array local dimming, delivers deep black levels and excellent contrast for an LCD TV. Color accuracy and some aspects of video processing are solid, and input lag for gaming is among the lowest we’ve ever tested. The Vizio’s feature set is well-chosen but not bloated, and it includes excellent connectivity with five 4K-compatible HDMI inputs.

The bad: Competing 4K TVs offer better video processing and more accurate color prior to picture-setting calibration. Only one HDMI input is compatible both HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2. The silver finish doesn’t blend in as well as black would.

The cost: $999.99 to $1,099.99

The bottom line: The Vizio M series sits at this year’s sweet spot of price and picture, and just happens to be 4K, too.

———

Amazon Fire TV Stick

Product Review: http://www.cnet.com/products/amazon-fire-tv-stick/#ftag=CAD187281f

CNET rating: 4 stars out of 5 (Excellent)

The good: The Amazon Fire TV Stick is a bargain at $40. It provides the best way to watch Amazon Instant movies and TV yet, and Prime subscribers can stream thousands of titles for no additional charge. The interface is zippy, and Amazon content streams lightning-fast. Supported third-party apps include Netflix, HBO Go, YouTube, Hulu Plus, Sling TV, Watch ESPN, Spotify and Pandora, as well as hundreds of games. Amazon also offers flexible parental controls, and setup is incredibly simple.

The bad: The user interface strongly favors Amazon Instant content over other services, and the search feature doesn’t comb through Netflix or most other non-Amazon apps. You really need a Prime subscription to get the most out of the device.

The cost: $39.99

The bottom line: While it doesn’t match the app selection or search capabilities of Roku, Amazon’s Fire TV Stick’s solid performance and mastery of Amazon content make it easily worth the $40 price.

———

The following CNET staff contributed to this story: Section Editor David Katzmaier and Senior Editor Laura K. Cucullu. For more reviews of personal technology products, please visit www.cnet.com.