Best media streamers 2024: the best TV streaming devices

Best media streamers: quick menu

Considering your TV is probably packed with streaming apps already, you might think a dedicated media streamer is unnecessary, and you could well be right. But if you own a TV that’s missing any of the main platforms, or its interface is a pig to navigate, filling one of its HDMI ports with a separate device is a worthwhile investment.   

In the 11 years since Google launched the first Chromecast, we’ve reviewed all of its successors and competitors, from pocket-money dongles to more pricey 4K boxes. They differ vastly in price and performance, but with over a decade of experience testing these devices, we know how to sort the streaming wheat from the chaff. 

As well as excellent picture and sound quality, a good media streamer needs to have an exhaustive collection of apps onboard, wide-ranging codec support, and an intuitive operating system that makes it as simple as possible to find what you want to watch. 

So whether you’re looking for an all-singing, all-dancing gadget to augment your new OLED, or something cheap to plug into the kids’ bedroom TV, we’re here to help you pick from the best media streamers around. 

Joe Svetlik
Joe Svetlik

In the nearly 20 years I’ve been reviewing and writing about consumer tech, I’ve seen the way we watch films at home change completely. What started with trips to Blockbuster has become a millions-of-movies-at-the-touch-of-a-button situation (not forgetting the DVDs-through-the-post stage in the middle). For many, streaming has taken over as the primary way to watch TV, which makes having a device that does it well essential, so I’ve used those many years of testing such devices (and sitting on my backside watching Jason Statham films) to put together this buying guide.

The quick list

The best media streamer overall

4K TV streamer: Apple TV 4K

The latest Apple TV 4K is actually cheaper than its predecessor. That never happens! (Image credit: Apple)
The best video streamer just got better (and cheaper).


Max resolution: 4K
Audio: Dolby Atmos, Spatial Audio
Output: HDMI 2.1
HDR: HDR10, HLG, HDR10+, Dolby Vision
Dimensions (HWD): 3.1 x 9.3 x 9.3cm

Reasons to buy

Excellent picture
Expressive sound
Responsive user interface

Reasons to avoid

Limited physical connectivity

The Apple TV 4K has been our favourite streamer and an Award-winner since its release in 2021. The newest model boasts more power, smaller casework, usability upgrades and it's cheaper than the previous generation. Madness.

These changes aren't evident to look at it. In fact, it's nigh-on identical to the second-gen model, with the same boxy design and matte and glossy black combo finish. Though it is a bit smaller. The pricier model has an Ethernet port too, alongside the standard HDMI 2.1 connection. And the remote control has a USB-C charging port in place of the Lightning of yore.

The A15 Bionic chip partners with 4GB of RAM to make it significantly faster than the previous-gen model. And visually, it's stunning: colours are bold yet balanced, skin tones look warm yet lively, while the contrast adds a sense of depth, making the picture more immersive. Add to that the warm, expressive audio performance, and you've got the best media streamer around right now.

Read the full Apple TV 4K (2022) review

The best budget media streamer

Google Chromecast with Google TV on a white background

Google steps out of Amazon's shadow and into the big time with this, its best streamer so far. (Image credit: Google)
Google's cracked it this time.


Max resolution: 4K
Audio: Dolby Atmos
Output: HDMI
HDR: HDR10, HLG, HDR10+, Dolby Vision
Dimensions (HWD): 12.5 x 6 x 16cm

Reasons to buy

Lots of apps
Excellent HDR picture
Dolby Vision and Atmos

Reasons to avoid

No Apple content available
Rivals sound more dynamic

Google was in Amazon's media streaming shadow until the arrival of the most recent Chromecast and, specifically, the Google TV user-interface that comes with it. While this streamer and the Fire TV Stick 4K are an even match for performance, it's Google's superior operating system that wins the day.

Google TV is the successor to Android TV and has been rolling-out to smart TVs since 2021. It's better looking, more intuitive, more searchable and, crucially, excellent at making suggestions of what to watch next.

That's best underlined in the way that it presents search results with an even hand. Top suggestions will always be from streaming services to which you already subscribe, and in top quality where possible, rather than Google trying to sell you content to which you already have access.

While, natively, it doesn't have quite as many apps as some rivals, you can make up for that by casting anything it doesn't have from your mobile or tablet instead.

The addition of Apple TV and Apple TV+ has been a particularly important update when it comes to improving the 4K HDR PAYG film and TV options. There's still no Apple Music app, though. If you need that, then try Amazon Fire Sticks or the more expensive Apple TV 4K instead.

Read the full Chromecast with Google TV review

The best Amazon media streamer

Amazon Fire TV 4K plus Alexa remote on a white background

This five-star streamer from Amazon represents great bang for buck.
Amazon's excellent streaming stick is amazing value.


Max resolution: 4K
Audio: Dolby Atmos
Output: USB, HDMI
HDR: HDR10, HLG, HDR10+, Dolby Vision
Dimensions (HWD): 9.9x3x1.4cm

Reasons to buy

Supports all current HDR formats
Dolby Atmos
Impressive performance

Reasons to avoid

Big and awkward for a stick
Limited 4K HDR film selection

Amazon's 4K streaming stick offers unbeatable value, 4K streaming, support for multiple HDR formats and all with the Alexa voice-activated personal assistant.

Amazon Prime Video comes as standard (although you'll still need to pay to access it), alongside Netflix, the terrestrial catch-up services (BBC iPlayer, ITVX, Channel 4 and My5), Now, TNT Sports, Apple TV, Disney Plus and the bonus of music services Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music and Tidal. The only minor omission is an official Rakuten app.

The main reason that this device doesn't score quite as well as the Chromecast above is because its operating system isn't as good. It's too Amazon-focused, and so doesn't perform quite as well for suggestions, even with the latest version of Fire TV OS onboard. But anyone in the Amazon ecosystem will find plenty to enjoy.

Read the full Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K review

Also consider

Amazon Fire TV Stick (3rd Generation): There's no 4K or Dolby Vision, which means the resolution maxes out at 1080p, but if you want to save a few quid and aren’t worried about future proofing, there’s very little not to like about the middle child of the Amazon streaming stick family.

How to choose the best media streamer for you

The best media steamers will provide a total and endless supply of TV shows, films and music but there are performance differences too. Some look and sound better than others.

Few smart TVs cover all the apps and a media streamer will put that right. It's a media streamer's raison d'etre to make sure that they're stacked with services. With more competition in the market than ever, prices are low, standards are high and any gaps in their app offerings could be a fatal flaw.

TV streaming devices are pretty much foolproof too. All you do is plug them into your flatscreen, connect them wirelessly to your home wi-fi network and get watching. Despite their ease of use, though, there is quite some difference in how much they cost. More advanced models that offer 4K, HDR and voice controls will charge more, but there are plenty of simple streaming sticks for those on tight budgets too.

Before you chose, bear in mind that to enjoy HD and 4K content, you'll need a fast broadband connection. Netflix recommends a steady connection of 25Mbps or higher for 4K video, for example.

You should also check which services each device offers, especially as exclusive, original TV shows and films are all the rage. So whether you want to use Apple's library or Google's, watch the latest Netflix, Disney Plus or Amazon Prime Video TV show, independent films on MUBI, or live sport courtesy of Now, our round-up of the best media streamers has you covered.

Media streamers FAQ

How fast does my internet need to be to stream 4K?

The speedier your connection the better, but as a general rule you need 25Mbps or faster for Ultra HD, and at least 5Mbps for Full HD.

Bear in mind that as you get further from your router the strength of your Wi-Fi signal will deteriorate, so you need to test the connection speed by your TV rather than just going by what’s coming in through your internet pipe. 

Using an ethernet cable will eradicate this issue and maximise reliability, but not all media streamers offer a wired connection (or you might have to pay a bit more for a model that does, or buy an adaptor).

Do I need Amazon Prime to use an Amazon Fire TV Stick?

Amazon’s devices are certainly guilty of pushing the company’s services more than others, but while you do need an Amazon account to use a Fire TV Stick it doesn’t need to be a paying Amazon Prime one. Signing up is completely free, but unless you subscribe the only part of Prime Video you'll be able to access is the Freevee channel.

How we test the best media streamers

Testing a media streamer is a bit like reviewing a TV without a screen. Sure, you have to plug it into a television in order to assess its picture quality, but the features being scrutinised are almost identical.

Whether it’s a stick you bung straight into one of your TV’s HDMI ports, a little black box you need to find space for underneath, or something in between, we work out how easy each one is to incorporate into your setup. We’ll also consider how easy each one is to set up in the first place, and how intuitive its interface is. If it’s too complicated or too slow to react it can make day-to-day use a real pain. If it offers voice control we’ll also fully test that.

As well as ticking off which major streaming apps each media streamer offers, we’ll do the same with video and audio codecs to make sure there are no significant gaps. We’ll also test each one to check that they actually work as claimed.

After that, it’s a case of spending some serious time evaluating the video and audio performance, whether that’s with 4K or HD content, and, where applicable, downloaded as well as streamed. We test music playback as well as soundtracks, and if a device offers games, we’ll also get our thumbs in on the action.

All of What Hi-Fi?’s testing is comparative, so while it’s important to use the products in isolation and focus on finding out exactly what they’re capable of, we’ll also put them up against their rivals and our current favourites to see how they stack up against the best. 

Our testing takes place predominantly in our state-of-the-art facilities in London and Reading, and while each review is written by a single member of the editorial team, all of our verdicts are agreed upon by the whole team in order to eliminate subjectivity and ensure consistency.  

The What Hi-Fi? team has spent well over a century covering consumer technology, so there’s enough accumulated experience behind our reviews that you know they can be trusted to inform your buying decisions. We then pick the best products in each category to populate Best Buy lists like this one. 

You can read more about how we test products here.

Recent updates

  • Thursday 2nd May: Updated intro, added Also Consider, FAQ, and How We Test sections. Removed out-of-date products.


Our pick of the best video streaming services

And finally the best TVs to accompany your new streaming stick

Joe Svetlik

Joe has been writing about tech for 17 years, first on staff at T3 magazine, then in a freelance capacity for Stuff, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Men's Health, GQ, The Mirror, Trusted Reviews, TechRadar and many more (including What Hi-Fi?). His specialities include all things mobile, headphones and speakers that he can't justifying spending money on.

With contributions from
  • robinl59
    If you are sport mad and want the cheapest option (so excluding Apple TV) the only media streamer which allows BT Sport, NowTV and Amazon Prime for football is the Google Chromecast
  • Luis Santos
    The best, which is Chromecast Ultra, is not listed.
  • Lubje

    View comparison
  • Mike Shippers
    How can you trust a review where the favourite isn't even in the race? Makes What HiFi untrustworthy.

    Maybe Nvidia doesn't advertise with What HiFi, but that's no reason to exclude (what I have found to be) the best streaming box on the market. Not even mentioned. Surprised, as I trusted (past tense) What HiFi to give fair and balanced reviews.