With summer just around the corner, and the coronavirus keeping us indoors, there’s never been a better time to invest in home entertainment. Streaming devices are a great way to watch your favourite movies on the big screen and bring the whole family together for a movie night.
They can also do so much more. Some devices act as ‘home hubs’ for your smart home. They can also be great gaming platforms, should you and your family decide to get competitive. With that in mind, we at FinalBoss decided to give you a quick rundown of some of the popular options out there. Our list only covers the entry-level devices, some like Amazon have multiple options, so it’s worth doing a bit more digging if you want to upgrade. Have a look, we are sure you will find something to suit your needs!
Amazon Fire TV Stick
Available from: amazon.co.uk
Operating System: FireOS
Features: Smart home hub, Voice control with Alexa, TV control
Amazon’s Fire TV Stick is a great entry-level device. You get HDR 10 and Dolby Atmos for less than £50, which is a great deal. The Alexa remote is also pretty useful, as it now comes with the ability to control power, volume and mute on (most) TVs. The stick is nearly invisible, as it plugs straight into the HDMI port. And thanks to Alexa, you can use the Fire Stick to control your smart home, and take advantage of Alexa’s other skills. If you already have an Echo device, the Fire Stick can be synced to work hands-free.
The biggest downside is the overload of ads on the interface, especially Amazon Prime ads. It makes using the device a little bit painful, but they aren’t overly obtrusive. There’s also no native YouTube app, which can be a dealbreaker for some. There’s also not a lot of customizability, so you are kind of stuck with an endless scrolling interface. Thank God for Alexa!
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Apple TV 4K
Price: £179 (32GB), £199 (64GB)
Available from: apple.com/uk
Operating System: tvOS
Features: 4K HDR video, Multi-user support, Compatible with game controllers
The Apple TV 4K is one of the most feature-rich devices on the list. As with all things Apple, it comes at a steep cost, but is probably a great investment if you are already in the Apple ecosystem. The device can act as a smart home hub, and thanks to Apple Arcade makes a good gaming platform. It’s also a great way to view your vacation photos on the TV.
The tvOS interface is quite friendly and easy to navigate. And thanks to the Apple TV app, you can pick up where you left off on any Apple device, including a Mac. The only drawback is the Siri Remote, which is easy to lose, but luckily you can also control the device from your iPhone/iPad. Siri also isn’t the smartest assistant out there, but she manages to get the basics right.
Google Chrome Cast
Available from: store.google.com
Operating System: ChromeOS
Features: Mirror from Android or iOS, Voice control, Wide selection of Apps, Smart home hub
Google’s Chrome Cast, at £30 is economical, and very powerful. Unlike many others on this list, the Chrome Cast works great with Android, iOS, macOS and Windows. You can ‘cast’ or mirror content from most mobile apps, and using the Chrome browser on a laptop as well. The biggest advantage is the support for Google Assistant, making it great to get info quickly. It’s also a smart home hub, and offers a great UI to control your smart home kit.
However, there is no support for built-in apps, which is a huge downside. The Chrome Cast is basically a bridge between your laptop/phone and the TV, which makes it pretty useless if you want to get away from your devices. Amazon Prime also does not support Cast, which is another big letdown. The Chrome Cast works well if you are already invested in Google’s ecosystem – a Pixel phone and Google Home speaker – iPhone support is spotty at best.
NVIDIA SHIELD TV Media Player
Available from: amazon.com
Operating System: Android 9.0
Features: NVIDIA Tegra X1 processor, 4K HDR and Dolby Vision HDR 10 support, microSD slot
NVIDIA’s streaming device is built and designed for max performance. Powered by NVIDIA’s Tegra X1, the Shield packs all the latest audio and video standards (including Dolby Atmos). There’s also an expandable microSD slot, should you want to load more content on, which is a must for gaming since the device only comes with 8GB onboard. Powered by Android 9.0, you get support for both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, which is pretty convenient. The remote comes with an IR blaster, so you can control your TV and sound systems all from a single remote.
All this though, comes at a huge cost. While it is still cheaper than the Apple TV, there are some downsides. Not a lot of apps support the horizontal carousels features, it’s also over 6 inches long, so it can’t hang off the back of your TV like a Fire Stick. If gaming is your thing, then this is the best device to buy, but otherwise, it’s a lot of cash for not much.
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Roku Streaming Stick
Available from: roku.com
Operating System: Roku
Features: Long-range wireless receiver, 4K HDR streaming, TV control, Mobile app support
Roku’s Streaming stick deserves a lot of credit for punching above its weight. The device comes with a long-range receiver, so you can control it from anywhere in the house. It also offers 4K and HDR support, which at £50, is a great bargain. Roku’s remote can be programmed to work with (most) TVs, so there’s no more juggling multiple remotes. The interface also shows you where you can stream a movie/TV show from at the lowest cost, it doesn’t play favourites. The mobile app is also a fantastic way to control your Roku, plus it comes with a handy entertainment guide for local TV like Channel 4, Sky and BBC.
The only downside is the presence of ads on the free Roku Channel. They aren’t overly obtrusive, but you can’t ignore them either. Another complaint, if we really had to be picky, is the user interface. It feels kind of dated and simple. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does look out of place in front of tvOS or FireOS.
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With 3 years experience in journalism prior to joining the FinalBoss team, Srivats has made a name for himself as the go-to guy for in-depth analysis and technical pieces. From the latest gadgets to major launches announced by the biggest tech brands, Srivats brings you content that keeps you in the know.