It may be worthwhile to spend money on a streaming stick or box, a small device that plugs into an HDMI port, if you want access to services like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, and others but don’t have all the apps you need on your TV.
They go by various names, including media players, streaming sticks, streaming boxes, and more, but they all perform the same function. Connect to the internet and HDMI-plug into your TV to access a multitude of entertainment. Many of them can also run other programmes and even games.
They are among the finest value smart home products available, with several gadgets costing less than £50/$50.
Here, we’ve compiled a list of the top media players, streaming devices, and boxes for movies and TV shows.
Best streaming stick and box 2022
1. Roku Streaming Stick 4K – Best Roku streamer
- 4K streaming for less
- Smooth performance
- Great remote
- No HDMI extension cable
- No headphone jack
- Homepage not as detailed as Amazon’s
The Roku Streaming Stick 4K offers 4K streaming at a reasonable cost. The device has a lot going for it, including a user-friendly UI, slick operation, and a respectable remote with buttons for the power, volume, and voice assistance.
Thousands of hours of free material are also available on Roku through The Roku Channel, in addition to a wide variety of streaming services like Netflix and Disney+.
The absence of an HDMI extension wire and the lack of a headphone connector on the remote control of the Streaming Stick 4K may make setup challenging. Both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos are supported, though.
Due to a more specialised and thorough site, Amazon’s Fire TV Stick 4K Max retains the advantage in our comparison. Roku must improve its ability to recommend content and make shows easily accessible without requiring consumers to open apps first.
2. Chromecast with Google TV – Best Chromecast
- Slick interface
- 4K with wide HDR support
- Google Assistant
- Can’t switch users
- No headphone jack on remote
The company’s best streamer to date is the Chromecast with Google TV. It is now on par with the greatest Amazon products. It’s worth upgrading from an older Chromecast, even if you’re not thinking about competitors, especially since this one now supports Dolby Atmos.
A terrific method to browse and discover material from a variety of sources in 4K with broad HDR support is made possible by the remote control with Google Assistant and the outstanding Google TV interface.
The device now supports Google Stadia, allowing you to use it for both streaming and gaming.
Although the remote does not have a headphone jack, Bluetooth earbuds can be connected for in-ear listening. On this gadget, you can’t change users either.
Read Also: 7 Best OTT Streaming Services in 2022
3. Apple TV 4K (2021) – Best for Apple users
- Redesigned remote
- Slick OS
- Improved processor
- No increased storage
- Not all apps support remote functions
The most recent Apple TV 4K is an excellent option if you own an iOS device. High framerate HDR content is supported by the updated A12 Bionic CPU, and the OS is easy to use.
With a combination of click-based controls and swiping, the redesigned Siri remote is simple to use. You can also use Siri on the remote to make voice commands. Should you prefer it, you can also choose to play audio through the HomePod.
There is no getting around the expensive cost, though, and there is also fierce competition from other media streamers. However, if you use an iPhone, iPad, or Mac, you’ll like the Apple TV’s AirPlay functionality, which enables you to instantaneously wirelessly stream entertainment from your phone or tablet to the big screen.
4. Nvidia Shield TV (2019) – Best high-quality streaming
- 4K@60Hz HDR10 support
- Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision
- Google Assistant
Although it’s far from the most affordable device in our comparison chart, the Nvidia Shield TV offers the most comprehensive video streamer experience currently available.
Like its predecessor, it supports 4K@60Hz playback, but the new Shield TV goes a step further with AI-based 4K upscaling that makes even 360p material appear sharp and clear. Although it’s not as nice as native 4K material, it’s unquestionably a close second.
You can access AAA gaming via GeForce Now, Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, Google Assistant compatibility, a new triangle remote with backlit media keys, and other features to create a truly premium media streaming experience.
5. Manhattan T3-R – Best for Freeview
- Easy to use
- Great selection of UK on-demand apps
- PVR capabilities
- No Netflix or Amazon Prime
- Limited access to 4K content
The Manhattan T3-R is a fantastic choice if you still prefer watching TV over streaming services. If you miss something on TV, you can catch up on it using the catch-up applications from all the major UK broadcasters. It offers Freeview Play, which includes 85 channels, 15 of which are in HD.
With a 500GB or 1TB HDD and the ability to record two channels while watching a third, you have the choice of pausing, rewinding, or watching TV episodes as they are being recorded. Most significantly, the software is straightforward, user-friendly, and stutter-free.
The sole criticism? the lack of 4K material beyond what is offered on YouTube and BBC iPlayer due to the absence of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video apps.
Buying advice for a streaming stick or streaming box
1.What is the purpose of a streaming stick or box?
Even if you have a so-called “smart TV,” it will probably provide a worse experience and less content than the media streamers we’ve examined here.
For many people, the most crucial aspect is the content offered by each streamer. This is why it’s so important to confirm that the services you need are offered. One gadget rarely has everything to offer, but several do, with hundreds or even thousands of apps to pick from. The Amazon-owned app Twitch isn’t accessible on, say, Roku-compatible hardware.
2.What is the difference between a streaming stick and a streaming box?
There isn’t much of a difference here, but a stick is exactly what you’d think it would be—a stick-shaped gadget that connects into your TV. Some have short cables and are often referred to as dongles because designs have changed slightly over time, like the Fire Stick.
The Apple TV and other streaming boxes are, well, devices that typically reside underneath your TV and connect to it using an HDMI connection.
Unless you have a wall-mounted TV and no place to put a box, neither has a lot to offer. Get a stick in this situation so you can hide it behind your set.
3.What are the key specs and features to look out for?
Make sure a streaming device has the specifications and functionality you require before purchasing. Not all can output in 4K Ultra HD, and if you want a picture with greater colour, you should also check for HDR.
Another item to think about is the remote’s design. Some even contain a headphone port so you can easily listen in private, the ability to control your TV (often power and volume). Others may allow voice search with Google Assistant or Alexa.
In other words, a streaming stick ought to function on any TV as long as it has an HDMI port.
4.Can you game on a streaming stick or box?
A supplementary feature on some media streamers is gaming. On Roku and Amazon devices, you may play casual games like Tetris, or you can choose the Nvidia Shield TV for something a little more console-like. If you’re really serious about wanting to play in that way, you can even purchase optional gamepads for some.
Additionally, the most recent model of Apple TV 4K is more than capable of running Apple Arcade. One of the most well-liked solutions for cloud gaming, Google Stadia is available straight on Chromecast.
5.Do Roku devices have YouTube?
Yes, YouTube was slated to disappear on Roku on December 9, 2021. The YouTube app will continue to be available on Roku streaming sticks and boxes for at least a few years thanks to a last-minute agreement between Roku and Google that overturned these intentions.
In addition, the new agreement brought YouTube TV, which had been removed from Roku devices since April 2021, back. Now that the YouTube app is available on Roku devices, our chart’s ranking has been updated.