(Pocket-lint) – A lot of new TVs have streaming services available as office of their Smart Television platforms, merely there are notwithstanding plenty of us that notwithstanding have “dumb” TVs, or an incomplete choice of services, or are just plain unhappy with the experience offered past a cable box or TV when it some to streaming.
If you desire to heave admission streaming services, yous’ll need a streaming box or dongle and with the selection of content expanding speedily, opting for a streaming device volition oftentimes give you access to new services sooner than relying on software updates to TVs.
At that place are a number of players in this market, with Roku and Amazon dominating, only with Apple and Google also having a seat at the table. At that place are other suppliers, but those four dominate the market place and usually present the biggest decisions when looking to buy.
Our top recommendation
We have a full breakup of the best streaming devices right here, but the device nosotros recommend is the Amazon Burn TV Stick 4K Max. This is a skillful price, offers fantabulous performance and quality, and offers a bang-up platform for entertainment on your TV.
Merely there are a lot of other factors to consider, because these devices practise a lot more than just stream Netflix, so here’s everything else you might want to consider.
Value for money
- Roku: From $29.99 / £29.99 / €29.99
- Fire TV: From $29.99 / £29.99 / €29.99
- Chromecast with Google Goggle box: From $49.99 / £59.99 / €69.99
- Apple tree Tv: From $149.00 / £139.00 / €159.00
Over the past few years, streaming devices have generally got more than affordable. Both Amazon and Roku offering a range of devices in a range of positions, but there are basically three tiers of devices:
The Roku Express and the Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite both beingness the meridian selection when it comes to value for coin. Watch out for sales like Black Friday, where these devices hit seriously depression prices – but be aware that they are only 1080p.
Those devices in a higher place are cheap considering they miss out the elevation streaming resolutions, simply both Amazon and Roku again offer devices that innovate 4K. The best value if you want 4K HDR streaming comes from the Roku Limited 4K, before you get to the Fire TV Stick 4K or the Roku Streaming Stick 4K. These are great devices in the centre of the pack.
Chromecast with Google TV is a piffling more than expensive, sitting shut to the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max, only at that place’southward only a little difference in cost here.
Apple tree Boob tube finds itself much more than expensive and then is the least appealing if information technology’s blindside for your buck that you’re looking for. Only there are a lot more features offered by Apple TV, which account for its price. There are two versions, the Apple TV HD and the Apple TV 4K. The Apple Television set 4K is triple the cost of other 4K devices and if you’re only interested in streaming, not worth the expense.
Pattern: Stick or set-summit box?
- Roku: Set-top box and HDMI stick options
- Fire TV: Mostly HDMI stick
- Chromecast with Google TV: HDMI dongle
- Apple Tv set: Set-top box
There’s quite a lot to consider when it comes to design, with two distinct divisions here: meaty set-top boxes and HDMI sticks.
That’due south how the Roku Express gets the price down, because it’south a set-top box and you adhere it via an HDMI cable. For the Roku Limited models y’all’ll need line of sight for the remote, so these boxes volition always be visible.
The Fire TV Cube and the Apple tree TV are likewise fix-top boxes, only are pretty large. In the instance of the Burn down TV Cube, the size allows more functionality – information technology supports Alexa voice control with its own mics and it has IR controls to power other devices. Apple tree TV offers more connections, similar Ethernet and optical, hence the bigger frame. Roku also offers larger set-height boxes in some markets, the Roku Ultra, although this model has mostly been supplanted past the Roku Streaming Stick 4K in terms of functions.
Many choose the smaller and more than detached blueprint of the HDMI stick. That’southward what you get from most of the Amazon Fire Tv set Sticks (hence the name) and from Roku’due south Streaming Stick devices. These connect to HDMI around the dorsum of your Tv set and so have Bluetooth remotes, and so once installed, it’s out of sight and out of mind, pregnant a cleaner installation.
Chromecast with Google TV has a similar arrangement, with an HDMI on a short cable, so the device can exist installed backside a Idiot box, with no need to remain visible.
Which is the best streaming quality?
- Roku: Up to 4K HDR with Dolby Vision
- Fire Idiot box: Up to 4K HDR with Dolby Vision
- Chromecast with Google TV: Upward to 4K HDR with Dolby Vision
- Apple Television set: Upwards to 4K HDR with Dolby Vision
At the peak end, all these devices support 4K with Dolby Vision. You’ll need a 4K display with Dolby Vision to get the best visuals. The device we’ve establish to offer the best performance is the Amazon Fire Television Stick 4K Max, but the Apple tree Goggle box 4K is also very adept. This mostly comes down to the power these devices offer rather than improved visuals. The Roku Streaming Stick 4K is also very slick, as the latest device from Roku.
Roku, Amazon and Apple all offer a lower quality device that just has 1080p – that’s fine if you have a smaller Goggle box or an older TV that doesn’t support 4K resolution. In most cases these devices are cheaper, but watch out for Apple tree TV Hd – this is really expensive for the quality it offers, because you’re more often than not paying for other features, like access to other Apple tree services.
With so many devices bachelor from Roku and Amazon, information technology’due south of import to make certain you lot’re getting the support you want. Some devices don’t accept Dolby Vision back up, for example, so make sure it’s listed – if you buy an old model, you might miss out.
Chromecast with Google Goggle box comes in one multifariousness, there’s currently no cheaper selection. There is a standard Chromecast device, merely with no remote and no user interface, we wouldn’t recommend information technology as the feel isn’t as good as yous’ll get from Roku or Amazon at that price.
How do the features differ?
- Roku: All major streaming services, Spotify Connect, Google Bandage, AirPlay 2, vocalization command
- Fire Television set: All major streaming services, Spotify Connect, Google Bandage, Alexa
- Chromecast with Google TV: All major streaming services, Spotify Connect, Google Bandage, Google Assistant
- Apple Goggle box: All major streaming services, AirPlay 2, Apple Fitness, Apple Arcade, Siri
Many volition purchase ane of these devices for streaming Idiot box and movies. All will deliver the major services, only it’s always worth checking that the apps you lot subscribe to, or the services yous want, are supported. In the UK, for case, the Chromecast with Google Goggle box doesn’t support All 4. If you desire apps like Plex, for local streaming for example, yous demand to make sure information technology’due south available.
The big divergence between Roku and the other platforms is that Roku has a bones interface – it’s basically a filigree of apps, at that place’southward no discovery or shortcuts back into the content yous want, so it’southward less visually engaging on the habitation screen. But some might take that simplicity, considering they will just open and app and start watching. Roku is too well supported by other services – Google Bandage, AirPlay two (on many models), Spotify Connect – and these all arrive a keen choice to control via your telephone.
Amazon’due south Burn down TV is more visually engaging and is pretty close to Chromecast with Google Goggle box in terms of how it looks as you lot navigate around. But it supports Alexa through the remote, so it’south platonic for anyone familiar with Alexa. That ways yous tin can also control your Alexa devices and on the top device, you can have picture-in-picture to view security cameras connected to Alexa.
Chromecast with Google TV is similar to the offering from Amazon, but with Google Assistant in place. That ways y’all tin can get access to a whole load of information and home control for smart devices. Some will argue that Google Assistant is a fiddling better at search than Alexa, simply it’s a pretty level experience in our opinion.
Apple TV actually is a slightly different proffer and there’due south immediate appeal for Apple fans, especially if you are tied into lots of Apple services. While all the other devices take an Apple tree TV+ app and can access your one-time iTunes purchases, there’s an expansion with things similar Apple tree Fitness, seamless connectivity with AirPods (and Spatial Audio on Apple TV 4K), as well equally Apple Arcade games and an enhanced Apple tree Music experience with music videos and lyrics. It’due south likewise a slightly tighter experience when interfacing with your iPhone and can as well play its part every bit a HomeKit hub. That’s why information technology’s more than expensive, considering it does a lot more.
The most affordable devices to get you started are the Roku Express or the Amazon Fire Telly Stick Lite, simply they aren’t fully featured and for anyone with a large Television receiver, they’ll want to step upward to the range of mid-range devices on offering.
As nosotros said at the start, the Fire Idiot box Stick 4K Max offers a cracking experience, we like the user interface and the performance is great. Chromecast with Google Tv is close in feel and Roku Streaming Stick 4K also delivers the goods. The important thing is to consider what access you want and what you’re going to use information technology for – and, of class, how much y’all want to pay.