Streaming is likely your main source of entertainment - and it’s easy to see why. Hosting movies and TV series old and new, streaming offers a level of convenience and choice like never before and at prices that are hard to ignore.
Convenience and choice aren't only a description of the available catalogues, but the media streaming devices themselves. The choice is abundant when it comes to finding the best media streamer, with models of varying specification, price and design all promising to unlock the wonders of streaming television. To help you find the one that’s going to work for you, we’ve rounded up the very best TV media streamers below. Whether you’re looking to catch up with The Expanse and One Night In Miami on Prime Video, Wandavision and Mulan on Disney+, or The Witcher and The Irishman on Netflix, these are the devices that’ll see you right.
What to look for in the best TV media streamers:
Much like the TVs that they eventually plug into, media streamers come in a range of resolutions. 4K UHD is the pick of the moment, promising excellent depth and clarity, along with arresting contrasts courtesy of HDR. However, you have to own a 4K TV for the resolution to display. If you have a standard 1080P TV and you’re not planning on upgrading anytime soon, then you can save a little money by opting for HD streamers.
The user interface controls and defines the way that users interact with streaming media and applications. User interfaces vary between devices, but the best all hold ease and convenience at their heart. Some, like Fire TV and Apple TV, offer extremely clean interfaces but place their respective streaming platforms ahead of their rivals. Others, like Google TV and Roku, do not prioritise any service over another.
Which is best is a subjective choice, but as you’ll spend a lot of time engaging with a UI, looking for the one that speaks to you most is a good idea.
A remote control is the tool by which a user interacts with a TV media streamer. Much like with the UI, manufacturers here put user functionality front and centre. Its size and weight can be a deciding factor for some, while onboard controls and buttons layouts take priority for others.
Of course, all of the best media streamers stream media to a similar degree. What can make the difference when choosing between two similar models is the extra features offered.
Voice controls and smart assistants can add extra value for anyone with a smart home setup, while more libertarian operating systems will speak to those with broad tastes and VPNs. Smartphone connectivity and screen sharing features will entice anyone who likes to move around the home while streaming. Dolby Atmos will provide superior sound for those with the right equipment, and what about Bluetooth connectivity for video game controller support?
Countless nuances can make the difference between picking a great media streamer and the right media streamer. The devil is in the detail, as they say.
Just so you know, while we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this page, we never allow this to influence product selections.
The Best TV Streaming Devices
Best for Prime members: Fire TV Stick 4K
The best TV streaming device: Nvidia Shield TV
Best app selection: Roku Streaming Stick+
Best for iOS fans: Apple TV 4K
Best user experience: Chromecast with Google TV
Fire TV Stick 4K
Best for Prime members
One of the most popular streaming devices around, and arguably the easiest to use, the Fire TV Stick 4K is an excellent and affordable option. The Fire OS UI is a nice place to be, especially for Prime Video members. Amazon’s streaming service is integrated into the entire system, with the menus all relating to Prime membership services. The likes of Netflix, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and even PLEX are available here but as individual apps - all of which load and run at reliable speeds.
The Fire TV Stick remote control is small and uncomplicated. While the power, volume and mute controls communicate directly with the TV or soundbar, so, you only need to use one controller. Alexa voice control is activated by holding down the mic button.
The Fire TV Stick 4K will integrate into a wider smart home setup, too, thanks to its compatibility with Echo, Ring, Hive and Hue devices. If you don’t need the 4K resolution, the standard Fire TV Stick is just as good, but it's limited to 1080p.
You can try a free 30-day trial of Amazon Prime here.
4K HDR | Dolby Vision | Dolby Atmos | Quad-Core Processor | 8GB Storage | Alexa voice control | Amazon Alexa compatible
HDMI 2.0 | WiFi | Ethernet adaptor available separately
108 x 30 x 14 mm, 54g
Nvidia Shield TV
The Nvidia Shield provides all the essential streaming and subscription services but, being an Android TV box, it also allows unfettered access to the Google Play app store, Chromecast and PLEX services. It runs at 4K UHD resolution with all non-UHD material undergoing a highly effective upscale via the onboard AI. Dolby Vision and Atmos are here for that cinematic edge when paired up with compatible TVs and soundbars. The Shield TV’s 2GB RAM and NVIDIA® Tegra® X1+ Processor run brilliantly, while the 8GB onboard memory (which you can increase via a microSD) allows for local file storage.
In addition to movies and TV series, the Shield TV can stream video games and a gamepad connects via Bluetooth. The device’s big sister, the Nvidia TV Shield Pro is even more adept in this area and features in our list of the best Android TV boxes.
The SHIELD Remote features backlit buttons, Bluetooth connectivity, IR blasters, voice commands and a lost-remote locator.
Android 9.0 Pie | 4K HDR | AI Upscaling | Dolby Vision | Dolby Atmos | NVIDIA® Tegra® X1+ Processor | 256-core NVIDIA GPU | 2GB RAM | 8GB Storage | NVIDIA GeForce NOW | NVIDIA Share | Chromecast 4K | Google Assistant | Google Home and Amazon Alexa compatible
HDMI 2.0b | MicroSD | Bluetooth 5.0 | WiFi | Ethernet
40 x 165 x 40mm, 137g
Roku Streaming Stick+
Best app selection
The Roku Streaming Stick+ is comparable in look and operation to Amazon’s compact Fire TV Stick - albeit with an additional long-range receiver that extends the wireless range fourfold. However, plenty is going on inside that really sets it apart from the Fire TV range.
Roku has a liberated view of apps, with no overt bias towards any streaming providers or services. Not only does this make for a clean UI, but, technically, there are over 3,500 apps and channels accessible through the Stream Stick+ (though those looking to access the full remit of Roku’s powers will want to couple the device with a VPN). Subscription services sit alongside free streaming apps comfortably with the likes of PLEX, Pluto TV, Now TV, Netflix and Prime Video all benefitting from Roku’s ‘come one, come all’ philosophy. There’s even access to Google Play and Sky Store rental services.
The Stream Stick+ remote is well-designed. In addition to the navigation and play/pause buttons, the remote can control TV commands. The TV control buttons are side-mounted to not corrupt the pleasant form factor, and there are four quick-launch buttons for the most popular services: Netflix, Google Play, Rakuten TV and Spotify. Voice control is also onboard, and smartphones can function as remotes via the Roku app.
4K HDR | DTS Digital Surround | Dolby Audio | Dolby Atmos | Voice control
HDMI 2.0a | WiFi | mini-USB for long-range receiver
94 x 20 x 12 mm, 26g
Apple TV 4K
4. Apple TV 4K
Best for iOS fans
The Apple TV 4K is the best pick for those using iPhones, iPads, Home Kit and HomePods. It allows full access to the convenience brought by the iOS Internet of Things.
Apple’s TV streaming box is to the Apple TV subscription service what the Fire TV Stick is to Prime, and as such is also compatible with catch-up apps and rival streaming services such as Disney+ and Netflix. The tvOS is clean and intuitive, with Siri ready and waiting for any voice commands you may throw into the ether. Apple Music is here, too, which is great news for those with some external speakers. As well as the 4K UHD resolution, Apple has included Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision to give an extra cinematic pop to the viewing experience.
The Apple TV 4K is available with 32GB or 64GB of internal memory. The remote is a sleek little do-dad with all the standard controls, plus a Glass Touch surface for a tactile navigational experience.
4K HDR | A10X Fusion Chip | 32GB or 64GB Storage Siri voice control | Apple Home Kit compatibility
HDMI 2.0 | WiFi | Ethernet | Bluetooth | Apple AirPlay
35 x 98 x 98 mm, 425g
Chromecast with Google TV
Google’s latest Chromecast device, as the name suggests, comes with its all-new Google TV. An Android-based OS, this platform grants access to thousands upon thousands of applications.
In terms of functionality, the UI is a delight to use and features a genuinely useful 'Recommendations' interface. Subscription services from Netflix, Prime Video and Disney+ are all here, as are free on-demand apps like BBC iPlayer and YouTube. As is standard with Chromecast devices, media from a smartphone can cast to the device to appear on the TV - this is ideal for checking out social media or browsing photos and videos. It’s also handy for accessing the handful of services not supported by Google TV, like Now TV. 4K UHD, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos all work to make sure the abundant entertainment sources look and sound the part, too.
The remote is a welcome addition to the Chromecast space. It’s well laid out and well-sized, with Google Assistant built-in for quick and easy navigation.
Google TV | 4K HDR | Dolby Vision | Dolby Atmos | Google Assistant
HDMI | WiFi | Bluetooth
13 x 162 x 61 mm, 55g
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