Best media streamers 2019: The best TV streaming devices

Best Media Streamers Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best media streamers you can buy in 2019.

Want an endless supply of TV shows and films? You want to get yourself a media streamer.

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

Remember that in order 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 original content that's only available on certain platforms becomes more common. So whether you want to watch the latest Netflix or Amazon Prime Video TV show, independent films on MUBI, or live sport courtesy of Now TV, our round-up of the best media streamers has got you covered.

HDR TV: What is it? How can you get it?

Best media streamers: The best TV streaming devices

1. Amazon Fire TV 4K

Amazon's excellent streaming stick is amazing value.

SPECIFICATIONS

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 streaming stick offers unbeatable value: just £49/$49 gets you 4K streaming, support for multiple HDR formats, all with the Alexa voice-activated personal assistant. Amazon Prime Video comes as standard (of course), alongside Netflix, the terrestrial catch-up services (BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and My5), and the bonus of music services Spotify, Deezer and Tidal. The one omission is Now TV, but if you can live without it, this is the best streamer available right now.

Read the full review: Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

Best media streamers: The best TV streaming devices

2. Apple TV 4K

Not cheap, but up there with the best streaming devices around.

SPECIFICATIONS

Max resolution: 4K | Audio: Dolby Atmos | Output: HDMI | HDR: HDR10, Dolby Vision | Dimensions (HWD): 3.5x9.8x9.8cm

Reasons to Buy
Lots of 4K HDR content
Strong picture and sound
Loads of apps
Reasons to Avoid
All 4 still missing
Pricier than stick alternatives

This box of tricks offers the typically slick experience we've come to expect from Apple. Voice controls come courtesy of Siri - Apple's personal assistant - while 4K and HDR are all part and parcel of the package. There's plenty to watch too, thanks to Apple's extensive catalogue of 4K and HDR content.

And with the Apple TV+ streaming service launching later this year, that will only get better. Netflix, iPlayer and Amazon Prime Video are offered, but Now TV and All 4 are conspicuously absent. It's not cheap - it's positively exorbitant compared to some on this list - but if you're happy with life in the Apple ecosystem and you can afford it, it's money well spent for the home streaming enthusiast.

Read the full review: Apple TV 4K

Best media streamers: The best TV streaming devices

3. Google Chromecast (2018)

A cheap, quick and convenient media streamer.

SPECIFICATIONS

Max resolution: 1080p | Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 | Output: HDMI | HDR: n/a | Dimensions (HWD): 5.2x1.38x1.38cm

Reasons to Buy
Affordable
Casting is neat
Good video and sound
Reasons to Avoid
Little new of note
No dedicated remote
No Amazon Video

At just £30/$30, this is one of the cheapest video streaming devices around. Chromecast is a decent little device and if you don't have a 4K TV, its 1080p resolution is all you need. You can 'cast' Netflix, BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4, My5 and Now TV, along with Google Play Movies and YouTube TV. On the music front, Spotify, TuneIn and Tidal are all catered for. The big absentee? Amazon Prime Video. You have to control Google Chromecast from your phone or tablet, so it's a different proposition from most of the streamers here. But it does what it does very well indeed.

Read the full review: Google Chromecast (2018)

Best media streamers: The best TV streaming devices

4. Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa

This sophisticated streaming device is a joy to use.

SPECIFICATIONS

Max resolution: 1080p | Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 | Output: HDMI | HDR: n/a | Dimensions (HWD): 3x8.6x1.3cm

Reasons to Buy
Alexa voice control
Responsive UI
Multiple streaming services
Reasons to Avoid
Nothing of note

Amazon's cheaper streaming stick loses the 4K and HDR, but retains the Alexa personal assistant for voice control. All the major streaming services are supported, apart from Now TV, and the sound quality is impressive for such a cheap device. If you're looking for a cheap and easy way to start streaming, this might be the one for you.

Read the full review: Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa

Best media streamers: The best TV streaming devices

5. Roku Streaming Stick+

An excellent, all-round video streamer with a tempting price tag.

SPECIFICATIONS

Max resolution: 4K | Audio: Dolby Atmos | Output: HDMI | HDR: HDR10 | Dimensions (HWD): 2x9.4x1.2cm

Reasons to Buy
Stable 4K picture
Great app selection
Easy-to-use interface
Reasons to Avoid
No ethernet connection
No Dolby Vision

Roku might not be as well known in some parts, but it's a big global player in the streaming market and this device is a solid bet. It's affordable, boasts 4K and HDR (albeit limited formats for the latter) and doesn't need mains power to run. Because Roku doesn't make its own shows, there's no hard sell as to what to watch, as there is with Amazon devices, and all the major streaming services are supported, including Now TV (which you won't find on an Amazon device).

Read the full review: Roku Streaming Stick+

Best media streamers: The best TV streaming devices

6. Now TV Smart Stick

Sky content streamed via a stick, without the subscription.

SPECIFICATIONS

Max resolution: 1080p | Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 and 7.1 | Output: HDMI | HDR: n/a | Dimensions (HWD): 8.4x2.3x1.3cm

Reasons to Buy
Inexpensive
Easy-to-use interface
No contract or dish
Reasons to Avoid
Limited app selection
Sky content limited to 720p

At just £15, this is probably the cheapest way to turn your old TV into a smart TV. Most of the main streaming services are here, except for Amazon Prime Video, and as you'd expect, it gently nudges you towards Sky's Now TV streaming service at every turn. While it can stream in 1080p, Now TV tops out at 720p. If you can put up with these limitations, it's a bargain, and a great way to get Sky TV without a subscription.

Read the full review: Now TV Smart Stick

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