No Amazon Prime or Netflix on your smart TV platform? You need to purchase a media streamer. The best media streamers will provide an endless and total supply of TV music, films, and shows through all the major music and video streaming services you can think of, and a whole load you never knew existed. Whether it’s Google Play Movies & TV, Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix or a service dedicated to free 1970s Kung Fu movies or skateboarding, it’s a media streamer’s job to deliver them.
Some smart TVs cover all the applications, and a media streamer will put that right without you having to spend big. It’s a media streamer’s raison d’etre to ensure that they’re stacked with all the services needed. With more competition in the market than ever, standards are high, prices are low, and gaps in their app offerings could be a killer weakness.
TV streaming devices are pretty much foolproof too as all you have to do plug them into your flat screen, connect them wirelessly to your home wifi network and you are good to go. Despite their ease of use, though, there is quite some difference in how much they cost. More advanced models that are offered, 4K and voice controls will charge more, but there are many simple streaming sticks for those on tight budgets.
Before you choose, bear in mind that you will need a fast broadband connection to enjoy 4K and HD content. For example,- Netflix recommends a steady connection of 25Mbps or higher for 4K video.
You should also check which services each device offers, especially as original, exclusive movies and TV shows are all the rage. So whether you want to use Disney’s library or Apple’s, watch the latest Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, or Netflix TV show, live sport courtesy of Now TV or independent films on MUBI, our round-up of the best media streamers has got you covered.
Top 10 TV Sticks UK
Google Chromecast is a convenient, quick and cheap media streamer. It is one of the cheapest video streaming devices around at just 40 pounds. If you don’t have a 4K TV, this little device’s 1080p resolution is all you need. You can ‘cast’ Now TV, My5, All 4, ITV Player, BBC iPlayer, Netflix along with Google Play Movies and YouTube TV. On the music front, Tidal, TuneIn, and Spotify are all catered for. Amazon PrimeVideo is now included too. It’s a different proposition from most of the streamers here as you can control Google Chromecast from your phone or tablet, but it does well what it is intended to do.
- Dimensions (HWD): 5.2 × 1.38×1.38cm
- HDR: n/a
- Output: HDMI
- Audio: Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1
- Maximum Resolution- 1080 p
Roku Streaming Stick Plus is an all-round, excellent video streamer with a tempting price tag. Roku might not be well-known in some parts, but it’s a big global brand in the streaming market, and the Roku Streaming Stick Plus is a solid bet. It boasts HDR and 4K (albeit limited formats for the latter), affordable, and doesn’t need mains power to run. There’s no hard sell as to what to watch because Roku doesn’t make its shows, as there is with Amazon devices, and all the other big streaming services are supported, that also includes Now TV (which you won’t find on an Amazon device).
- Dimensions (HWD): 2×9.4 × 1.2cm
- HDR: HDR10
- Output: HDMI
- Audio: Dolby Atmos
- Maximum Resolution: 4K
The NVidia Shield TV is one of the most impressive media streamers you can buy, while its price and features will likely only appeal to certain gaming enthusiasts.
AI upconversion works wonders with HD cartoons, but it doesn’t do much for animation or live video or lower than 1080p.
- Voice Assistant – Google Assistant
- Platform- Android TV
- HDR- HDR10, Dolby Vision
- Resolution- 4K
The 4K Now TV Stick is one of the cheapest 4K streamers available in the market. However, it won’t hide away behind your TV like a Fire TV Stick or Chromecast and is also quite bulky.
This is an Android television device that is powerful and fast. It upscale content to make it look like 4K and play 4K movies and television shows where they are available, too (although not Apple TV+). You can buy a separate games controller (approx. 60 pounds). It also has access to GeForce NOW and Google Play Games, meaning you can play games such as Lego Avengers and Fortnite. It’s worth noting that while there aren’t any apps for UKTV Player, Channel 4 and Now TV, you can cast these to the NVidia Shield TV from your phone.
- Access to all the UK’s main catch-up apps.
- Weight- 137 g
- Dimensions- 16.5 × 4 × 4 cm
- Voice control.
- Key services available- YouTube, Netflix, My5, ITV Player, BBC iPlayer
- Ethernet Port- Yes
- One HDMI Port
- 4K resolution streaming.
Xiaomi has come out with its TV Stick that is cordless and easy to take out-, that means you aren’t going to miss an episode when you are away from home. For superior functionality, it has been powered by Android 9.0.
You can quickly access all the entertainment and get answers to your questions by pressing the mic button on your remote with Google Assistant’s help. It supports most of the Mi Smart Home devices, and you can quickly cast your content such as music, images, and videos from your favourite device right to your television. You can also access tons of games and apps from the Google Play Store.
- Packaging includes one power adapter, one user manual, one remote control.
- One HDMI Port
- DOLBY MP4 Audio Decoder
- Dimensions- 92.4 × 30 × 15 mm
- Weight- 28.5 g
DFGHJK Wireless TV Stick provides you with the ultimate screen for watching films and playing games. It would help if you connected to wifi and then use AirPlay, DLNA and Miracast for mirroring the entire screen of your PC/ Tablet/ Smartphone to another large screen display such as a projector, monitor, or HDTV.
This TV Stick can be used for business meetings, conferences, educational presentations, and e-learning, apart from the home entertainment. It’s portable and compact design stakes for its easy portability. For iPhone, Sony and Samsung tablets and smartphones, it supports iOS 9.0+ and Android 4.4+.
- Interface: HDMI
- Colour: Black
- The product lists include one instruction manual, one charging cable, and a TV Stick.
The PH4SBD TV Stick allows you to transfer your images, videos, and audio files via a wifi connection from your smartphone to the TV Screen. This TV Stick is perfect for your work stations, offices, and home entertainment.
You can watch the local video downloaded from another video application or change the video from Safari sites to the mirror.
- The package includes one user manual, one wifi antenna, one wifi Display Adapter, one TV Stick.
- System requirements: A TV with HDMI connection
- DC / Power: Micro USB port
The M2+ is a wireless TV Stick that supports the miracast standard for Android and Windows platforms. It also supports DLNA for home multimedia applications. You do not need to switch modes from system for Android to system for iOS. It is suitable for Airplay photos for Apple Mac and iOS systems.
You can enjoy the big-screen experience in three simple steps- Plug, connect and play! The processing speed of this TV Stick is 50% more than other TV Sticks in this list. This TV Stick supports display up to 1080 p resolution and can also wirelessly mirror your smartphone’s entire screen to your TV Screen.
You also get full support for video games apps, Google Chrome, YouTube, Netflix and movie websites. You also get a wide range of applications for conferences, presentations, games, home theatres. This is premium quality and high-performance product, and you can contact their customer service in case of any issue.
- Supports AirPlay, AirMirror, DLNA, or Miracast
- System support for iOS, Android
- Home TV, QuickFlix, IMDB, Hulu Plus, YouTube, etc., can be online streamed.
- BMP/ JPEG photo format supported
- Dimensions- 6.7 × 3.5 × 1.3 cm
- The package list includes one wifi Module, one User Manual and one Wireless TV Stick.
- Resolution- 1080 p full HD
The Technical TV Stick supports a wireless display from your smartphone to your TV. It is easy to connect with wifi antenna’s help, and there is no need for an app or driver to use it. Your smartphone’s entire screen can be mirrored easily and seamlessly using AirPlay, DLNA and Miracast to your TV with HDMI Interface.
The Technical TV Stick is easy to carry around, easy to take out, lightweight, portable, and compact. It is suitable for families who require a TV Stick for training, education, business or entertainment purposes. This is the perfect TV Stick to play games and watch films and TV Shows/Web series.
- Colour: black
- Interface: HDMI
- Supports DLNA, AirPlay, Miracast
- Cable length: 75 mm
- Weight: 28 g
- Dimensions (HWD)- 100 mm × 100 mm × 50mm
- The package list includes one instruction manual, one cable, and one TV Stick
10. BYFRI TV Stick
The BYFRI TV Stick is cute in look and rounded in size, similar to a cookie. It has a magnet connected on the back to save the space. Therefore, it is portable and can be carried anywhere and anytime. There is no need for any drivers to install and use it. You can switch between Miracast mode or AirPlay mode easily with the help of a switching button.
This TV Stick supports 1080 p, and you can enjoy different audio-video feast by mirroring your smartphone’s display to your TV Screen. It also supports multiple formats of files, videos, and images. It is compatible with Windows 8.1, iOS 7.0, OS X 10.9.
You can also share videos, photos and play games with your family and friends on the big screen, without having to huddle around the mini screen of your smartphone. The BYFRI TV Stick has customized design which relaxes you from the tired daily life, and you can enjoy your favourite videos, photos and movies on the best display in the house. This TV Stick is perfect for home or on-the-go. You can view anything on your TV by simply connecting this tiny TV Stick to the HDMI port of your TV, and you are good to stream content.
- Weight:70 g
- Maximum Resolution: 1920 × 1080 p
- Wifi range: 2m and less
- Colour: Black
- System support for Windows, iOS, and Android.
- The package content includes one English/ Chinese User Manual, one wifi Module one Micro USB Cable, and one TV Stick.
TV Sticks UK Buying Guide
Below are the things to consider before buying a TV Stick-
Two main streaming device styles to pick from- Streaming boxes connect to your TV with an HDMI cable and stand-alone while Streaming sticks have a built-in HDMI connector that plugs into the port on your television. The choice will eventually boil down to your personal aesthetic preference and how easy it is to access the back of your television.
Not all television streaming devices offer access to all services. For instance, only a limited number of devices currently support Apple TV+, and it is not possible to watch Now TV through Amazon Fire TV stick.
Most television streaming devices require you to download applications to access streaming services, just like smartphones. However, you may find you can ‘cast’ the desired service from your phone to your streaming device and watch it on your TV if the App for your desired service isn’t available. The streaming device and smartphone will need to be connected to the same wifi network. Google Chromecast works solely in this manner.
4K (Ultra HD)
You will want to stream content in 4K (also known as Ultra HD) if you have a TV that supports this format. Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and Apple TV+ currently boast the widest choice of 4K movies and TV shows. Note that 4K video comes in different formats (HDR10+ and Dolby Vision are the most famous), but not all TV streaming devices support their playback and not all streaming services use all formats. Check that your selected television streaming device supports the format that your favourite streaming service uses.
The 4K above TV movies and TV shows often feature immersive cinematic audio formats, such as Dolby Atmos. Therefore, you should ensure that your streaming device can process it if you have a sound system that supports this connected to your television.
Most television streaming devices connect to your wifi, but few have an Ethernet port for creating a wired internet connection from your router. This is ideal if you don’t have a stable, strong wifi connection in the room or place you plan to use it in.
Most television streaming devices let you play games on your TV, too. They are controlled by the included remote and are in the form of downloadable apps. These can be fiddly to use, so few devices (like the NVidia Shield TV) give you the option to connect traditional controllers from games consoles over Bluetooth. Others allow you to purchase an optional games controller.
Video and photo sharing
It is possible to display your phone’s videos and photos on your television screen using the streamer, so long as both devices are connected to the same wifi network.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Do you need a box with a Smart TV?
It is probably not, but it depends on the TV as some older ‘smart TVs’ really have the bare minimum of streaming services. I had one that claims to be a smart TV but can only live on the BBC iPlayer and Netflix. SoI need to use my streaming device if I want to stream content from elsewhere.
But, for argument’s sake, you probably don’t need a box or streaming device if your smart TV has all the streaming services you want to be built into it. However, with functionality such as casting from a phone, voice control, and the like, you might find that they offer some functionality that your TV doesn’t.
What is a streaming stick, and how do I use one?
It’s a small internet-connected stick that allows you to stream movies and TV programmes from various services by plugging directly into your TV’s HDMI input. With a few exceptions, you can usually download apps onto the stick for free-to-watch apps such as BBC iPlayer and YouTube and paid streaming services (Now TV, Disney Plus, Netflix etc.). The majority of streaming sticks can also be controlled via an app on a tablet or smartphone and bundled with remote controls.
Do I need a subscription to watch content with a streaming stick?
Streaming sticks always have a variety of free apps that do not require a paid subscription. ITV Hub, BBC iPlayer, YouTube, All four and My5 are commonly found on streaming stick devices and won’t require a monthly subscription – although if you intend to watch live TV, bear in mind that you will need a TV license. Paid-for streaming services like Disney Plus and Netflix will cost extra, and, outside of free trials, you will be unable to access any of these apps’ content until you have a paid subscription.
How much should you spend?
An individual can spend as little as 25 pounds on a streaming stick, but that figure could be higher depending on your requirements and budget. You can expect to spend around 50 pounds if you want the very best in HDR 4K playback and surround sound support. Meanwhile, you can get away with spending 30 pounds or less for a decent budget stick with Full HD playback.
Don’t forget to take streaming service subscriptions into account: a 4K premium Netflix account will run you £12/mth, while Disney Plus starts at 6 pounds/per month and the separate subscription costs for Now TV’s Sports, Kids, Entertainment, and Cinema channels can add up to a hefty fee. Of course, subscribing to these is optional, and there is always plenty of free-to-watch content from YouTube, Freeview Play apps and so on.
How are streaming sticks different to media streaming boxes?
You may be familiar with media streaming set-top boxes such as the Now TV Smart Box and Amazon Fire TV Cube, but perhaps are wondering how they differ from streaming sticks. For one, streaming sticks always usually come in at around half the price of their set-top box counterparts.
Secondly, streaming sticks are much easier and smaller to conceal; you plug into the back of the television and power it up through one of your television’s spare USB slots. Media streaming boxes are not as convenient as they need a plug socket for power and a space to sit.
On the other hand, media streaming boxes generally have more RAM and more powerful processors than you will find in a streaming stick. This extra power speeds up the user experience that helps navigate the smart platform and launch apps faster. Set-top media streamers typically have spare ports for connecting to AV and Ethernet receivers too.
The contest is between Amazon Prime and Now TV for monthly paid content. Now TV wins on this one due to not appearing to limit TV seasons in a way that prompts upsells, plus having the backing of Sky’s large catalogue.
Now TV offers the best option for premium content with access to Sky and has the potential to be costly if more than one pass is taken, though Roku and Fire TVsuffer from the same issues for paid content. While Roku is an almost endless platform, the many superfluous apps may lead to bad experiences with poor subscriptions and apps and can make it difficult to navigate.
Meanwhile, the Chromecast’s price tag demonstrates that users should access on-demand content from free sources. The streaming market isn’t static with Apple’s likes launching new streaming services and BritBox being launched by British TV providers clubbing together.
Competition may alter apps’ availability on different devices equally, as demonstrated by the 2015 row between Amazon and Apple and Google. All this means that the TV stick, a smart solution today, may not seem smart in a few years. Whether it will benefit providers or customers remains to be seen.
Premium Choice: Sky Now TV Stick with 4K
Best Value: Roku Streaming Stick+
Best Choice: Google Chromecast
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