Apple TV 4K
With a starting price of $180, the 4K Apple TV is pricey but it might be worth dipping into your textbook budget. Sure, you can get AirPlay and even Apple TV+ on other hardware now, but the latest software update lets it link up with PlayStation and Xbox controllers to make it a true all-in-one entertainment machine.
All told, between key exclusives Apple has lined up for its forthcoming Arcade game streaming service and the explosion of cloud gaming options, this might be the system on which you can play the most titles going into 2020. Factor in its slick zero sign-on setup for cable-powered apps and it will keep you tuned into the channels your parents are already paying for.
— Richard Lawler, Senior Editor
Roku Streaming Stick+
Need the best pocketable option to take your streaming services wherever you go? Roku’s Streaming Stick+ has all the features you can ask for and a budget-friendly $60 price. It’s ready for pretty much any TV setup, and supports all the apps you or your roommates will want to watch. If you’re not much of a gamer or already have a dedicated system for that, this is the best option to handle just videos and music. — R.L.
TCL 5 Series
Your best TV value right now is this 2018 model from TCL. Just like last year, you can get 4K and HDR for just under $400, while this one includes support for Dolby Vision to make sure your late-night Netflix and Amazon Prime streams have the right contrast and color. Plus, it’s powered by Roku’s software so you’re getting all the benefits of that platform built right in.
It won’t cost too much on the front end, and as you continue to upgrade for 4K game consoles — or 4K game streaming — it’s ready to go. Maybe someone will eventually beat its performance-to-price ratio, but right now it’s the best option for people on a budget. — R.L.
Shonen Jump Manga & Comics Subscription
School can get pretty hectic, leaving young manga fans a lot less time to stay up to date on all their favorite titles. The Shonen Jump app makes it a bit easier by delivering the latest chapters of many of the magazine’s most popular series like One-Punch Man, Dragon Ball Super and My Hero Academia — at the same time they’re published in Japan. They’re just short enough to sneak in before class or on a commute, and best of all, the subscription is only $2 per month, making it extremely friendly for a student budget. — Kris Naudus, Senior Editor
Vizio M / P Series Quantum
If you’re willing to spend a little more, you can get a lot better quality with Vizio’s latest TVs. These 2019 models include support for both Google’s Chromecast streaming and Apple AirPlay for maximum cross-compatibility. Just like the TCL 5 Series you’ll find support for HDR with Dolby Vision, but these also include local LED dimming that gives even more precise backlighting and contrast.
If there’s some graduation money burning a hole in your pocket, go big with the P Series Quantum model and grab a 65-inch for $1,349. Or, save something for your summer abroad and select a 55-inch M-Series Quantum for $649 — if you can live with half the number of local dimming zones.
Now that streaming services have noticed how popular anime is, it’s tougher to get your favorites without paying up for a handful of different services. If your Netflix and Hulu logins alone aren’t cutting it, our next suggestion is VRV. It pulls together offerings from Crunchyroll as well as HIDIVE, Mondo, Rooster Teeth and a few others to make a compelling package. At $10 per month it won’t break the bank, and if things get tight you can still fall back to its free offerings in between binges. Some of its channels have some overlap in their catalogs, but that can come in handy depending on your preference for subs versus dubs. — R.L.