Streaming devices for TV and on-demand viewing

From Apple TV to Fire TV Stick, here is our round-up of the very best streaming devices.

Streaming devices

by Ellen Kinsey |

It is safe to say that everyone in this country is familiar with streaming services. With many months in lockdown, there is no doubt that the nation's favourite routine was to cosy up in the evening to watch Netflix or other streaming platforms.

Streaming is a powerful and cost-effective way of watching media whenever and wherever. You can tune into your favourite TV series with catch-up services such as Freeview Play, BBC iPlayer, ITV Player and 4OD or scroll through thousands of options on Netflix for the latest Netflix movies and Prime Video.

The same goes for music. you won't find anyone downloading music on CDs or iPods anymore when streaming services such as Apple Music, Prime Music and Spotify grant listeners access to an everlasting supply of songs for one small monthly payment.

While it is true that many smart TVs with operating systems are capable of hosting streaming apps, there are still many people who are not using smart HD TVs. If that is the case for you, and you would like to access a range of streaming services, then a streaming hub will allow access to the latest and greatest that the small screen can offer without costing an arm and a leg.

If you want to access the world of streaming from your TV then here is our round-up of the best TV media streaming devices so you will never be searching for something to watch again.

The best streaming devices:

Fire TV Stick

Roku Express HD

Manhattan T3 Freeview Play 4K UHD Box

Apple TV 4K

Google Chromecast 3rd Gen

Fire TV Cube

Roku Streambar

Nvidia Shield

Fire TV Stick

Pros: Incredibly easy to use, affordable and Alexa built-in

Cons: Fire TV is a love-it-or-hate-it OS (operating system)

The Fire TV Stick is a popular option due to its affordable price, functionality and being one of the easiest streaming hubs to use. The operating system focuses mostly on Amazon services however there is a whole assortment of other streaming services and applications you can access from a click of a button.

One of the greatest advantages of the Fire Stick is that you can use your voice to carry out a range of commands using Alexa voice commands. Additionally, the user interface is well-presented and ideal for quick navigation. So you will be able to operate the system with ease.

Even though Amazon Prime Video is the main focus of the Fire TV Stick, If you aren't a Prime member, you can still access other services such as BBC iPlayer and Netflix.

You can also find the Fire TV Stick Lite for £10 less however that doesn’t integrate with your TV’s volume, unlike the Fire TV Stick 4K, which can stream UHD content.

Roku Express HD

Pros: Affordable access to 3,000-plus entertainment avenues

Cons: Poor wireless range and IR remote

The Roku Express is a cheap streaming device with an extensive range of entertainment options, applications and unrestricted access to streaming services.

In comparison to the streaming devices, the Roku Express is a great open-source, which shows no preference to one service provider over another. So you can hop from Netlfix to Prime to Disney + in a matter of seconds.

There are over 3,500 apps and channels for you to access so if you like browsing for new and obscure content, live TV channels and free movie services (with ads), as well as the main subscription names such as Prime Video, Netflix and Apple TV. Google Play and Sky Store and the on-demand catch-up services then Roku Express would be an excellent affordable pick for you.

On the design front this streaming device is not the sleekest and comes with an HDMI cable that's too short, so depending on your TV set up you may need to move things around.

Manhattan T3 Freeview Play 4K UHD Box

Pros: Affordable, lightweight, an all-in-one box with access to live TV and streaming services

Cons: No internal memory means you can’t pause live TV

The T3 Freeview Playbox is a mix of the affordable convenience of subscription-free TV but also has access to all the major streaming services and catch-up apps.

This device is different from others mentioned on the list as it is primarily a Freeview box, with additional smart features, apps and internet connectivity. So if you are a fan of broadcasted live television then this provides the best of both worlds.

This Freeview box isn’t as sleek as other streaming sticks or hubs is programmed for live television and programme guides. Additionally, there is a Freeview Play, which also allows the instant playback of anything broadcast in the last week.

Apple TV 4K

Pros: 4K UHD streaming and integrates with Apple’s ecosystem

Cons: Best for those with a few Apple products and subscriptions

If you like to be consistent with your tech and are an avid Apple user, then the Apple TV 4K Player is a great streaming box. It can connect up with Apple Home Kit devices and can sync with iPhones and HomePods to unlock additional features and for easy use.

This streaming hub is ideal for Apple TV’s subscription service, plus it is compatible with catch-up apps and other streaming services such as Prime Video, Hulu and Netflix.

The Apple TV 4K device comes equipped with Siri voice command and Apple Music, so it has many uses. In terms of storage, it is available with 32GB or 64GB of internal memory. The smaller size will be sufficient unless you would like to download all your content.

Pros: Easy to use and affordable

Cons: Requires external devices to cast and no Amazon Prime Video

This device from Google Chromecast plugs into the back of the TV via a free HDMI port. Once plugged in, you will have access to streaming services from a smartphone or tablet to the device and will be displayed on your TV screen.

If you are after a simple device that plays content from your smartphone or tablet straight onto the television, then this a great pick for you. Additionally, it can also be connected to Google Home and be voice-controlled with Google Assistant.

This nifty streaming hub can access many applications such as BBC iPlayer, Netflix, YouTube and Chromecast and music apps such as Spotify.

Fire TV Cube

Pros: Total control over just about everything in your living room

Cons: Overkill for those without a considerable smart home presence

This snazzy little cube offers a similar streaming experience to the Fire TV Stick but is packed with extra features such as voice control across your entire entertainment setup.

The Fire TV Cube offers more than any ordinary streaming device. This cube works more as a central hub of operations for your entire entertainment system and your wider smart home setup. Like many of Amazon’s Echo range, the Cube can be entirely operated via voice controls.

One of the best parts about The Cube is that it gathers information over time to serve you better. Such as remembering which platform you prefer for certain tasks, so eventually, your commands will be completely effortless.

Roku Streambar

Pros: Access to all that Roku has to offer in 4K

Cons: So-so soundbar

Roku is a flexible open platform with unrestricted access to entertainment at your fingertips. If you have a 4K TV and like the look of the Roku streaming hub service, then this device comes fitted with a soundbar to add to the cinematic experience.

The soundbar element of the device carries four drivers, two front-facing and one on each side. However, it will not be as powerful as soundbars from Sonos or Bose, but it will definitely work nicely in a small room. This bar is not a replacement for your TV speakers, but works as a secondary output, boosting the volume and making the dialogue in films and TV crisper.

With access to over 3,000 apps and channels, Roku is one of the most open devices out there. It also contains key players in streaming and catch-up, such as BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime and Netflix, so you will never have a shortage of streaming content. This box is also a 4K UHD capable device, so all the media you watch is going to look super sharp on your 4K TV screen.

Nvidia Shield

Pros: One of, if not the best, thanks to AI upscaling and games access

Cons: It’s expensive and a little niche

This one is for the tech-heads! The Nvidia Shield is created with sophisticated AI (powered by a Tegra X1+ processor) that’s watched thousands of hours of TV sitting inside the OS. This technology will ensure that your video content looks its absolute best on the screen.

The device is also compatible with HDR10, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. So if you have all the home cinema kit, then you’re in for an exciting cinematic experience.

In terms of content, all the main streaming services are here. It even has Chromecast, so you can stream from your smartphone.

The NVIDIA Shield TV is also a great pick for gamers as you can sync it up to a PS4 or Xbox controller and access streamed video games from either Google Play or Nvidia’s GeForce Now service. This device would make a good alternative to the Nintendo Switch.

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