Best Media Streamers Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best media streamers you can buy in 2020.
No Disney Plus on your smart TV platform? You need to get yourself a media streamer. The best media streamers will provide a total and endless supply of TV shows, films and music through all the major video and music streaming services you can think of, as well as a whole load you never knew existed.
Whether it's Netflix, Prime Video, Apple TV, Google Play Movies & TV or a service dedicated to skateboarding or free 1970s kung fu films, it's a media streamer's job to deliver them.
Few smart TVs cover all the apps and a media streamer will put that right without you having to spend big. 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 killer weakness.
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 TV, our round-up of the best media streamers has got you covered.
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
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 arrival of the Apple TV+ streaming service that's only got better. Netflix, iPlayer and Amazon Prime Video are offered with Now TV and All 4 both present now too. 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
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. Amazon Prime Video is now included too.
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)
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
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+
At under £20, this is one of the cheapest ways 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