The best streaming devices: smart streamers for your home

Netflix, Now TV, Amazon Video and all the rest at your fingertips... which are the best smart streaming devices?

TODO alt text

If you're steadily working your way towards filling your home with smart home tech, start with the best smart home buys for your living room, and in particular streaming devices. Sometimes the usual FreeSat and FreeView channels just aren’t enough. If you own a TV that doesn’t boast an in-built smart hub or offer up Wi-Fi connectivity, then the solution is in an external streaming device, and there’s plenty to choose from.  

First things first, before you go ahead and buy yourself a streaming device, make sure you have good internet connection; there’s nothing worse than your favourite programme pausing every five minutes to buffer. 

Then have a think about what you want from your streaming device. If all you want is the basics, then go for the Roku Streaming Stick Plus; it’s a cheap 4K streaming device that offers all the best streaming services with the best picture possible.

You may want to go for a specific streaming device. Those with Android devices can use our favourite, the Chromecast to fire across to the TV whatever they’re viewing on their phone or tablet, whether that be a TV series or a games app, while those with iPhones may want to look into the Apple TV 4K to keep all devices synced up.  

Google Chromecast Ultra

1. Google Chromecast Ultra

Broadcast films, music and games from your smartphone to your TV

Specifications
Streaming quality: 4K Ultra HD
Internet connection: Wi-Fi or ethernet
Power: USB
Remote: No
Reasons to buy
+ Convenient to use + Optimises content in accordance with your TV’s capabilities 

If you don’t already have smart apps like Netflix or YouTube on your TV, picking up a Google Chromecast will allow you to stream almost anything you want directly from your phone to your TV. All you have to do is plug this into your HDMI port on the back or side of your TV and connect it up to your home internet.

There is a variety of third-party apps that have Google Chromecast support so you can then stream TV, movies, music and more directly from your phone up to your TV with ease. Want to watch the latest episode of that BBC iPlayer drama you’ve been bingeing? You can do that from your phone or tablet with a Chromecast Ultra.

Plus if you have a 4K TV, the Google Chromecast Ultra will be able to stream compatible TV shows and movies in that quality too. You’ll need some very strong internet to get all of the benefits of this, but it’s possible and one of the best ways to watch TV online in the best quality possible.

The best streaming device

2. Amazon Fire TV with 4K Ultra HD and Alexa Voice Remote

Smart home owners should take a look at the Amazon Fire TV

Specifications
Streaming quality: 4K Ultra HD
Internet connection: Wi-Fi
Power: Micro USB
Remote: Yes
Reasons to buy
+ 10,000 channels and apps + Control with Alexa voice remote 

As a good all-rounder, you can’t really go wrong with the Amazon Fire TV. With heaps of channels and apps to choose from, there’s enough content for hours and hours of entertainment. It can play back in 4K, great for those who want to make the most out of their 4K TV’s capabilities and you can use the Alexa controlled voice remote to change channels and switch over apps without having to lift a finger.  

Roku Streaming Stick Plus

3. Roku Streaming Stick Plus

The best cheap streaming device

Specifications
Streaming quality: 4K Ultra HD
Internet connection: Wi-Fi
Power: Battery
Remote: Yes
Reasons to buy
+ Great Wi-Fi pick up range + Great value 

It may not carry the big brand name of some of the other smart streamers on our list but the  Roku Streaming Stick Plus is certainly worth a mention. Thanks to the advanced wireless receiver, it should be able to pick up signal wherever the router is in the house. In addition to  giving you access to the usual streaming channels such as Netflix and Now TV, there’s also an index of Catch Up apps including BBC iPlayer and ITV Player so you will literally ‘never miss a show again’.  

Apple TV 4K

4. Apple TV 4K

Play all of your Apple content and your regular content from one place

Specifications
Streaming quality: 4K HDR
Internet connection: Wi-Fi or ethernet
Power: Mains
Remote: Yes
Reasons to buy
+ HDR technology for high quality viewing + A10X Fusion Chip for a better gaming experience 

Playing your Apple content as well as content from Netflix, Amazon and Now TV is just one of the Apple TV 4K’s many tricks. Those with the latest TVs will love its HDR upscaling and those who want to play the latest addictive app on a bigger screen will love the addition of the A10X Fusion Chip. In addition to entertainment, this streaming device enables you to share photos, presentations, websites and music, making it well worth the additional spend.  

Nvidia Shield 2017

5. Nvidia Shield 2017

The best device for streaming PC games

Specifications
Streaming quality: 4K HDR
Internet connection: Wi-Fi or ethernet
Power: Mains
Remote: Yes
Reasons to buy
+ View PC games on the big screen + Built in Chromecast 

The Nvidia Shield is a clever streaming device, with the ability to transmit your PC game from your PC screen to the TV. Thanks to its HDR capabilities, the game’s graphics will be shown in super high quality too, creating an immersive gaming experience. In addition to gaming, you can view the latest shows and movies, download apps via the Android TV App store and share videos and photos with your family using the built in Chromecast. All in all, a super smart streamer, ideal for pleasing everyone.  

Sky NOW TV Box

6. Sky NOW TV Box

A basic box with some great TV content

Specifications
Streaming quality: Full HD
Internet connection: Wi-Fi or ethernet
Power: HDMI
Remote: Yes
Reasons to buy
+ Sky Cinema pass for latest releases + Watch sports and TV shows with no contract 

If you’re tired of not finding anything to watch on regular television, invest in a SKY NOW TV Box. From Nickelodeon to the Discovery channels, you can access lots of additional content that you would otherwise have to tie yourself into a contract for if you bought a Sky box.  In addition the extra content, there’s all the usual catch up apps, plus you can pause and rewind live TV, great if you fancy a cup of tea halfway through watching your favourite programme.   

Google Chromecast

7. Google Chromecast

The little brother to the Google Chromecast Ultra

Specifications
Streaming quality: Full HD
Internet connection: Wi-Fi
Power: Mains
Remote: No
Reasons to buy
+ Cheap and cheerful + Receives video, photo and apps from your phone 

If you don’t own a 4K UHD TV, there’s probably not much point in you paying out for the Chromecast Ultra. Transmitting your phone’s content in HD, this is the perfect smart streamer for second bedroom TVs. While it doesn’t boast an ethernet connection like the Ultra, it has the ability to playback content from a whole host of apps including Netflix and the NOW TV app, plus some games apps are compatible with the Chromecast, too.  

Now TV Stick

8. Now TV Stick

Another kid’s room alternative

Specifications
Streaming quality: Full HD
Internet connection: Wi-Fi
Power: Mains
Remote: Yes
Reasons to buy
+ Great value for money + All your favourite apps plus contract-free Sky

If you’re not too worried about an ethernet cable or being able to pause and playback live TV then the NOW TV Stick may be the better option. Costing just under £15, there’s plenty of content available, including additional SKY content plus playback apps including iPlayer and ITV player. Although Netflix isn’t currently available on NOW TV devices, with Entertainment and SKY Box Office packages available, you’ll never be short on content.