Share this post

Best Online TV Streaming Devices

best-online-streaming-devices-title

Online streaming devices allow you watch On-Demand TV at your leisure, but the options for how you get the content to your TV is growing faster than ever before. If you’re Looking to get On-Demand TV into your home but don’t quite know what’s the best way to get it, we’ve got the ultimate guide to streaming devices.

From mini sticks like the Chromecast, Fire TV and Roku to Home Entertainments systems like the PS4 and Xbox One here are some of the best options for streaming.  Streaming-Media-What-are-the-optins

TV streaming has revolutionised the way many viewers watch TV. No longer are consumers tied to TV schedules or timing restrictions. Online services allow the viewer to watch programmes whenever it’s convenient for them, rather than when the broadcaster says so.

This change in attitude has seen many people replace traditional TV habits with web streaming and catch-up services like LoveFilm, SkyGo, iPlayer and Netflix. All these services can be broadcast to your TV via a streaming device.

We’re now going to take a look at some of the devices available to open up your TV to the world of online streaming…

 

Gaming Consolesbest-online-streaming-devices-console

So let’s start with something most people have in the house already, a games console. The last generation of games consoles were, arguably, the beginning of the media streaming revolution. Both the Xbox and PS3 could stream online programmes direct to your TV and made services like LoveFilm Instant and Netflix incredibly popular. Each system may have been tied to particular providers (Xbox or Sky) but the bulk of services were available across both platforms. In the UK, both systems share Netflix, Crackle, Amazon Instant Video(Prime) and Demand5. However, Sky’s Now TV is only available on Xbox whereas PS4 has more BBC channels.

For the new generation, both the PS4 and Xbox One have the same streaming capacities, although agreements are still not in place for every provider. When the dust settles and problems are ironed out, it’s safe to predict that the PS4 and Xbox will both have an almost full array of channels to offer.

The next (semi) generation of Sony and Microsoft consoles are set to have 4K streaming capabilities, with the PS4 Pro upgrading to 4k and the Xbox S and Scorpio at true Blue Ray 4K… all you will need now is an internet connection fit to stream Ultra High Definition content.

Pros– Apps already built-in to system, rapid interface, powerful processing, tailored apps, work great with home entertainment systems.

Cons– Lack of options after ‘big providers’, some channels are locked to one manufacturer, £200-350 cost.

 

Streaming Sticksstreaming-stick-tv

Designed as a simple way to get you connected to the smart TV infrastructure, Streaming sticks are a fantastic, cheap and effective way to watch OnDemand content. With an easy hook-up to your TV, via HDMI, streaming stick connect to your WiFi to basically turn your TV SMART.

We’ve picked the top four on the market ApplePlay, Amazon Fire Stick, Chromecast and Roku (some are technically a box not stick) as they are frankly the best options with the most support.

Apple TVapple tv

Apple TV is the official product for streaming media via Apple devices. Apple users will be familiar with the device as the best way to play media from a Mac, iPhone or iPad to a TV using the Airplay function.

Apple TV also works as a standalone streaming player allowing you to watch movies, listen to music and stream your media onto your TV in glorious HD.

If you have an Apple device, Apple TV is still the most natural and seamless way to play media from your technology, but as a standalone player it lacks the all-round functionality of its rivals. The device is also let down a little with the lack of approved channels and the typically high price tag.

Pros– Works seamlessly with Apple products, great interface.

Cons – Not great to use with non-Apple products, limited streaming options, cost.

 

Chromecastchromecast

Google’s venture into the streaming market had been met with mixed success before the launch of their simple streaming stick. Although Android-powered devices have been popular, the flagship streaming service, Google TV (Andriod TV), has had limited uptake . To combat this, Google launched the Chromecast Dongle in 2013 with roaring success.

the £30 Chromecast is a miniature device that plugs into your HDMI port and streams media via your WiFi connection. As with many other devices, the usual ‘big players’ are supported: Netflix, Iplayer, ALL4, Spotify, Deezer, Youtube etc. However, for other services, the Chromecast supports a “casting” feature that mirrors whatever’s open on Google’s Chrome browser. Great for watching programmes without a tailored app.

However, for other services without a ‘supported app’, the Chromecast features a “casting” options (hence the name) that mirrors whatever’s open on Google’s Chrome browser. This means you can watch, almost anything, that runs in your Chrome Browser… Great for watching programmes without a tailored app or projecting sites and video in meetings.

Chromecasts ability to mirror websites means it is a great option for those without a TV satellite connection- Although you will need pretty decent Wi-Fi to stream video content. To use Chromecast, all you need is a smart device (Yep Apple is supported) and a WiFi connection. You can also stream from a computer with a Chrome browser.

Pros– Incredibly cheap option (£30), Easy set-up and compact design. Can ‘cast’ anything from Chrome browser.

Cons- Limited built-in apps, some providers block live streaming (All4, Sky GO) 

 

ROKU

roku-lt-chart-pics-p_1

The Roku Box is a standalone streaming device with a huge array of inbuilt channels to pick from. Ok, technically not all of their devices are ‘streaming sticks’ (they do have a stick version) but the tiny boxes are about the size of a beermat, and hold the key to a world of online channels.

Most big providers like Netflix, NOW TV, BBC iPlayer, Sky Store, Demand 5, ALL4 and Spotify are already signed up to the service and Roku are always adding more.

The rest of the channels are made up of specialist networks streaming news, documentaries, music and sports. Coverage depends on your area, but the UK already has great options.

Roku players come in four variations, each with different levels of features Roku 2, 3 and the Stick.

The basic Stick model is around £30 and comes with over 450 channels to choose from. The device can play 1080p HD video, mirrors your smartphone and has built-in Dual Band wireless. As you go higher in the range, features like Ethernet, USB, and microSD card slot are added as well as a faster HD optimized processor.

The top package, ROKU 3, is a superfast streaming machine with the capabilities of a fully-kitted media player with remote and headphone jack, though the £80price tag is a little higher than many of its competitors.

Pros– Huge array of channels to choose from, super easy to use and great interface.

Cons– Lack of connections on lower models (no USB or SD)

 

Amazon TV amazon-fire-tv-stick-1

A somewhat surprising success in the streaming market in 2015 was the Amazon Fire TV range. Inspite of the Amazon Prime Video service suffering from a case Netflix-Dominance, the US ecommerce giants created a very impressive and versatile streaming device.

Fire TV range comes in two models, the Fire TV, which is a small box (like the Roku 3 and Apple TV) and the Fire TV Stick (more akin to the Chromecast and Roku streaming stick). The two models work from the same system but have a few performance differences. Both models support 1080p HD, however, the box (Fire TV) also runs 4K UHD, is faster and has more memory. It also has an Ethernet, USB port and microSD slot to provide even more storage- The stick is just a (Very good) streaming device.

The budget Fire TV stick, £25-£35, is probably the best value and stacks up very well against its rivals.  The Fire TV (Box) retails around the £80 mark and faces off against AppleTV and top end Roku.

The experience on the Fire TV is a somewhat akin to Roku, however, Amazon Fire TV is based on an Andriod backend system, meaning it is super easy to sideload Android apps. This opens the device up to a world of opportunities.

Many people sideload apps such as Kodi, turning their Fire TV device into a fully-fledged media system. Fair warning here, Amazon recommend you load apps from their store only, but if you are tech competent the process is pretty simple.

 

Pros- Simple easy to use system, sideloading from Android, good selection of apps. 

Cons- Limited Mirroring function, Amazon Prime is baked in and constantly pushes it’s service

 

Media Playerswd media player

Media Players are devices that have pre-set channels and applications built into the machine. Think of it like a Freeview box that hooks up to your WiFi to stream content rather than using an aerial connection. All you need to do is plug the device into a TV, usually through HDMI, and power it up via a USB or wall socket.

Media Players have the advantage of being able to connect to a home network. If you have a Networked Hard Drive (NAS), you can stream media from it via the Media Player to your TV. The Media Player will then convert the files into a format your TV understands.

Pros– Tons of options, can stream media via NAS drives, often have SD/USB slots for expandable storage

Cons– Don’t always have a full range of services or channels, Expensive compared to other options on market

Android TVtronsmart-cx919

Want to turn your TV into a massive tablet? Well, now you can. Android TV Boxes and Dongles act as mini tablets broadcasting directly to your TV. This means you can run any app you have on a tablet on your TV, effectively cutting out the need to link your tablet to a TV.

The boxes and dongles are basically low specification tablets without a screen. Most run the JellyBean 4.1 operating system. They can be controlled via remote, smartphone or tablet so you aren’t tied to your TV.

Prices vary hugely with the device just like standard tablets. Models can start from the £20 mark but will probably be far less powerful than something like the highly rated Tronsmart-cx919 which is around the £60 mark.

Pros– Turns your TV into a giant tablet, that’s just awesome! Lots of apps and programs, customisable, good value.

ConsSome models can have poor WiFi reception due to small size, Reported compatibility issues with older TVs. Cheaper devices are very slow and interface is nowhere near as good as a full tablet.

 

SMART TV and Playerssmarttvwhatis

Ok, so what about if you want everything in one place, well Smart Tvs could be for you. A Smart TVs has a selection of streaming services built into the TV itself, think of it as the Roku, from above, built into the TV itself, but usually with less apps.

Different manufacturers have contracts with various providers, so each model of TV could carry different services. It may be possible that a Sony TV will have Netflix but not 4oD, whereas in an older LG TV the opposite could be true (this is just an example, not a guide), check with the manufacturer to see what their smart TV come built in with.

Having these channels built into a TV is naturally very advantageous as there is no need for external connections. Manufacturers are now begging to equip SMART TVs with a much larger range of channels. Newer SMART TVs are much easier to update than older models, if anyone ever has the experience they’ll know why other devices saw a gap in the market.sam tv

A new consideration with Smart TVs is the introduction of Android TV- Effectively Android OS baked into the TV. It’s still not quite as good as you get on a tablet or smartphone but having the option of adding Android apps and updates means Android-equipped Smart TVs are usually a great idea and give the view far more options than say a SONY or SAMSUNG portal.

 

Pros– Built-in to your Smart TV. Tailored apps mean great user experience.

Cons– Limited choice, many programs are ‘paid for only’. Older TVs often cannot be updated.

ebuyer-small-logoPC-into-TV-title

Share this post

Danny Young

Features Editor

27 comments

Add yours
  1. Asterix 15 November, 2014 at 21:05

    I’ve tested just about all of them and I’m yet to find one I’d like to keep permanently. They all feel like prototypes, sluggish, buggy and severely limited to the owners own software, apps etc. the Roku has Now TV but it’s a cut down version and the Now TV box is restricted to what Sky wants you to see not to mention intrusive until you sign up for a trial period that goes to full paid version if you don’t cancel after giving one months notice. Apple TV again is restricted to Apple devices and difficult to use with other brands. The best thing to do is get a smart TV and stream from your network whether it’s a computer, laptop or a wireless HDD. Using XBMC on your main computer is great for streaming any media to your TV or a tablet with a XBMC compatible app. Like the article says if you buy cheap when it comes to an android device then it’s going to give you grief. I wouldn’t pay any less than the £60 price tag as stated. But why do this at all if you have an android phone or tablet? I have a smart TV and playback when streaming from my PC is flawless as is built in apps like Netflix and daily motion etc. I’d forget streaming devices until the companies release a good all rounder that isn’t full of ads, annoying subscriptions and is seamless with any wifi device. If it says 450 channels like the Roku does then you know that means BBC to CH5 on demand and 445 other crap channels you will never use.

  2. Robert 5 January, 2015 at 10:46

    Roku does allow streaming from your local content because it supports the Plex player. Airplay requires an iTunes application running to act as a “Server” and Plex runs using Plex server (which is free).

    Other DNLA options are also available.

  3. Anonymous 5 January, 2015 at 12:02

    I have been bitten by various Android streaming devices. I have sky so thought I’d be able to use sky Go on such a device connected to another TV upstairs…NO…Sky(the swines!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) have made sure that HDMI outputs and mircast don’t work at all. The only way to do this is to use a windows machine with an HDMI output. They can’t stop this as the typical output these days for a PC is HDMI. I will soon ditch Sky accordingly.
    Amazon Prime Video…this also doesn’t work on many of these devices. Probably thee same reason as Sky..ie they want you to buy Amazon Fire TV…which I did…but then Google play doesn’t work. Neither do loads of other app’s that should. That went back as well. The only thing I would recommend is the Chromecast. It’s cheap and works fine for most things. Don’t expect to do exactly what you can do on your tablet or phone however. You can’t. They don’t want you to either. Sky won’t do themselves out of multi-room(God I loathe them!!). How I admire the guy who threw a pie in Murdoch’s face!!

  4. Paul 6 January, 2015 at 16:55

    @ Asterix.
    You only need an Apple device if you want to stream to the Apple TV. The Apple TV will work on any television (with HDMI connectivity). And why do you recommend buying a smart TV when buying a far, far cheaper box to install XBMC on, is a better option, and can turn ANY TV into a smart TV. And then there’s this, if your SMART TV has the Netflix app installed, you are NOT streaming from your PC. You are streaming from your wi fi router via your internet connection. Your PC does not need to be switched on to do this. Only your router.
    @ Robert.
    Apple TV does NOT need iTunes to act as a server. It works very well over your wi fi connection without it. you do, however, need an iTunes account (free) if you want to rent/purchase media from Apple.
    @ Anonymous.
    Amazon Prime (and Netflix and most other music and movie apps) can be watched on your TV with the right device and cable. Its not hard. You can watch Sky in another room without multi room, its not hard. You “Loathe” Sky and yet, you are still giving them money,,,,Priceless.

    Every device has its pro’s and cons. Decide what you want it to do, search online to see if it does it, then buy the right one. Its not hard.

  5. tony 20 January, 2015 at 04:18

    I please can anyone help me.i brought a roku . dongle. I watch most of the channels from it off my tv..what I need to no I am trying to watch a cirtain app on my note4 but I can not able to open it.is there a app that I could download for this to open up on my smart tv.please could you give me any information please .thanks again.

  6. Bob 27 June, 2015 at 08:32

    what is the cheats way to watch TV from iPad ? I have a smart TV , chipped iPad and want to stream films from it on to big screen

  7. Anonymous 17 September, 2015 at 13:08

    Don’t ever buy a smart TV! The services are very limited and never updated. Spend the money you save on buying a TV box that will give you much more – especially if it’s based on Android

  8. Anonymous 11 January, 2016 at 21:53

    So if u all had to pic the top 3 who would it b..
    I’m try to get the best 1 ..
    Internet & cable
    …….
    Can’t wait to see who yall pic…

  9. Alan C. 15 April, 2016 at 13:26

    Samsung Smart TV’s.

    Can I just confirm that if I purchased a Samsung H6400 Smart TV, with built in Wi-Fi and Freeview HD, would I need an aerial or would a wireless Broadband connection suffice?

  10. Anonymous 30 September, 2016 at 11:28

    The cheapest and most flexible choice with the most options would be to buy a powerful tablet and a chromecast to mirror onto your TV with.

  11. Anonymous 8 October, 2016 at 10:07

    If you want to use Sky in another room without buying a multi room licence. There is always Sky Eye but you will need to connect to a Sky HD+ box with a coax cable.

  12. George Smith 8 October, 2016 at 20:11

    WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE?

    Article

    Best Online TV Streaming Devices
    Danny Young | 8 September, 2016 at 10:27

    Comments

    from 17 January 2014 to 08 October 2016

  13. Anonymous 9 October, 2016 at 13:09

    I agree how come ebuyer collect all comments before publishing this article. Or is it just merely bringing the article to attention with publish date changed.

  14. Stephen Potter 31 October, 2016 at 11:18

    I have tried most, and have gone through the old white sky Now boxes, then the black ones, Fire stick, Chromecast both types and a laptop attached to the TV

    Now settled on a Roku streaming stick, as it supports my old LG tv, and is the only device (stick and puck) to support Sky Now (yes I pay for a subscription), Amazon Prime, and all the normal UK catch up services, and of course Plex for my downloaded library. I still keep Chromecast (Google Home) as I find it easier for anything else such as Mobdro etc.

  15. Matt 7 January, 2017 at 13:07

    May be worth mentioning that the Roku is also capable of streaming locally stored media files (NAS or PC), using the Plex Channel or the Roku Media Streaming channel.

Post a new comment