From affordable 4K sticks to comprehensive home entertainment hubs, the best streaming device will give you instant access to an arsenal of arresting shows and films. If you need help deciding which is the best model for you, we’ve reviewed them all to help you choose.
See, binge-watching has come on a long way from the days of Blu-ray box sets. Between gripping Netflix originals, remastered classics on Amazon Prime and blockbuster series on Now TV, entertaining yourself has never been easier. But with so many streams to pick between, what’s the best way to get fresh shows on your screen?
Whether you want a simple stick for easy 4K streaming or a top-notch content box with voice control smarts, the list below features our pick of the best streaming kit – all comprehensively tested from the comfort of the Stuff sofa.
What is the best streaming device?
We think the Chromecast with Google TV (check price) is the best streaming device you can buy. You can ‘cast’ video from your phone, or select shows straight from Google TV’s home screen. The interface is slick and the streaming quality is excellent, with no buffering and impressively sharp 4K HDR at up to 60fps.
Other streaming device recommendations
If the Google Chromecast isn’t quite right for you, here are four more recommendations:
The Roku Streaming Stick 4K (check price), with enhanced Wi-Fi, Dolby Vision on-board and straightforward support for every major streaming platform, is easily its best to date, and it’s great value.
With the Apple TV 4K (check price), Apple fans won’t find a more convenient 4K media hub: from Apple Arcade to iTunes to AirPlay – this box brings it all together seamlessly.
Sky Stream (check price) offers plenty of entertainment options, is a doddle to use and has a device that’s small and sleek. It’s great for watching live TV and sports.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max (check price) is a little bit slicker and a little bit faster than Amazon’s previous sticks. This feature-packed 4K streamer is excellent value for Prime customers.
With the Nvidia Shield TV (check price), you can play Android games natively on the Shield itself, but you can also bring your PC gaming rig into the mix – streaming from Steam.
The best streaming devices you can buy today:
1. Chromecast with Google TV
With a real-life remote and slick TV interface, this is the best Chromecast so far, complete with full 4K and HDR support.
- Remote control and cool design
- 4K HDR and Dolby Atmos
- No Apple TV+ or Now TV apps
- Recommendations aren’t great
|Chromecast with Google TV specs|
|HDR||HDR10/10+, Dolby Vision|
|Voice assistant||Google Assistant|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, HDMI, USB-C|
Google’s Chromecast has gone from a passive receiver to a full-fat streaming hub. You can still ‘cast’ video from thousands of compatible Android and iOS apps. The latest version, however, also allows you to select shows straight from Google TV’s home screen.
Bringing together content from your favourite platforms on a single page, you’ll see personalised recommendations from different subscription services – although it can take some time for the recommendations to actually match your tastes. Shows are displayed with a helpful Rotten Tomatoes score, as well as platform and rental info.
The interface is pretty slick, even if there’s sometimes a delay after pressing the home button. And with more than 6500 apps supported, you’ll rarely come up short for content. Navigation is easier than ever, thanks to the remote that now comes bundled in. Dedicated buttons for YouTube and Netflix make it easy to dive right in, while the Google Assistant shortcut puts voice control just a press away.
Streaming quality is slick, with no buffering and impressively sharp 4K HDR at up to 60fps. Despite its plug-and-play simplicity, support for Dolby Atmos, as well as Dolby Vision and HDR10+, means the Chromecast has the skills to suit any cinema room.
- Read more: Chromecast with Google TV review
2. Roku Streaming Stick 4K
With enhanced Wi-Fi, Dolby Vision on-board and straightforward support for every major streaming platform, Roku’s latest stick is easily its best to date.
- Works with 4K and HDR10+
- All the key video apps
- No Chromecast support
- Limited games and audio apps
|Roku Streaming Stick 4K specs|
|HDR||HDR10/10+, HLG, Dolby Vision|
|Voice assistant||Works with Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi, HDMI, micro-USB|
Roku’s latest streaming device doesn’t reinvent the formula. It’s a plastic stick that slots into an HDMI port on your TV, connects to your Wi-Fi and gives you access to a catalogue of content services. But it is slicker and more powerful than any Roku before it, at a very accessible price tag.
It scores top marks for usability: the voice control remote is straightforward, with handy shortcuts for mainstream platforms, plus the option to request shows via the built-in mic. It’s not exactly premium, but it’s well-built and gets the job done. You can also use the tidy Roku app for easier typing.
Setup is a cinch: just stick it in, connect to the Wi-Fi and you’re away. And Wi-Fi is one of the key improvements, courtesy of upgraded hardware. Roku promises a longer range and faster connectivity – and we didn’t have any buffering issues.
You won’t struggle for entertainment either. As with other Roku devices, just about all the major video streaming apps are covered – from Prime Video to BritBox to BT Sport – plus a number of lesser-known names.
Picture quality will ultimately depend on your TV, but the Streaming Stick 4K still trumps its predecessor’s Dolby Vision support, alongside HLG and HDR10/10+, plus DTS Digital Surround. If you’ve got a proper home cinema setup, this stick will help you make the most of it.
- Read more: Roku Streaming Stick 4K review
3. Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max
A little bit slicker and a little bit faster than Amazon’s previous sticks, this feature-packed 4K streamer is excellent value for Prime customers.
- Simple setup
- Alexa and 4K HDR on board
- Favours Amazon apps
- No casting option
|Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max specs|
|HDR||HDR10/10+, HLG, Dolby Vision|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, HDMI, microUSB|
|Dimensions||99x30x14 mm, 48g|
Amazon’s streaming dongles are known for being affordable, reliable and versatile. The Fire TV Stick 4K Max continues that tradition. It offers faster performance, improved Wi-Fi and a few more buttons on the remote – all for a price that remains the right side of reasonable.
Styled like the Fire TV Stick 4K that came before it, Amazon’s streamer won’t win design awards. But given that it lives behind your TV, it doesn’t need to. The remote is still a functional plastic number, albeit with the addition of four new shortcut buttons for Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Music.
Setup is straightforward, with an easy on-screen walkthrough. Once you’re online and signed in, you’ll find the Fire TV Stick 4K Max features a zippy interface. This is helped by additional RAM and processing power. The service selection is properly comprehensive, including Apple TV+, NowTV and even a full YouTube app. Prime Video is still given top priority, although the home screen can be rearranged pretty easily.
With good content to work with, the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max delivers: besides 4K, there’s support for Dolby Vision, HLG and HDR10/10+, as well as Dolby Atmos audio. Wi-Fi 6 also ensures speedy connectivity with supported routers, so you can enjoy your home cinema without stuttering. Alexa’s still around as well, improving all the while. Besides using your voice to locate content across all your apps (which you’ll sometimes need to specify), the digital helper can also be used to control connected smart home kit.
- Read more: Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max review
4. Nvidia Shield TV
More than just a streaming device, the Shield TV has the power to handle your premium video needs – with clever gaming smarts to boot.
- Powerful specs
- Impressive AI upscaling and gaming options
- Still expensive compared to other streamers
- No HDMI cable included
|Nvidia Shield TV specs|
|HDR||HDR10, Dolby Vision|
|Voice assistant||Alexa, Google Assistant|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, HDMI, ethernet, power, microSD|
Nvidia’s aluminium streaming cylinder sits quietly beneath your TV. More distinctive is its Toblerone remote, with a triangular design that stands apart from other plasticky zappers. It feels good in the hand and features all the physical buttons you could need. The absence of a 3.5mm headphone port is a shame, though.
Powerful processor specs make streaming 4K content a stutter-free experience. Support for HDR10, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos means the Shield TV plays nice with swanky home cinema systems, serving up stunningly detailed content. It doesn’t work with HLG though, so 4K HDR from BBC iPlayer poses problems.
Feed in 1080p content from a variety of sources – such as Netflix, Amazon Prime or YouTube – and the Shield TV will use AI to enhance the detail in a scene. It’s very effective at boosting quality for high-res displays, though you may need to tweak sensitivity to avoid over-sharpening.
It also does a cracking job as a gaming machine. Thanks to its Android TV interface, you can play Android games natively on the Shield itself, but you can also bring your rig into the mix. Streaming from Steam works well, though results vary depending on your network speed and graphics card.
If all you need is easy streaming, the Shield TV is overkill. But if you have the TV and audio setup to take advantage of its Dolby Vision and Atmos support – plus a decent PC and internet connection for gaming – Nvidia’s plug-in stick is a compellingly versatile streaming solution.
- Read more: Nvidia Shield TV review
5. Apple TV 4K
A minor update, but still one of the best – and best-looking – 4K streaming hubs you can stick next to your TV.
|Apple TV 4K specs|
|HDR||HDR10, Dolby Vision|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, Thread, HDMI 2.1, Ethernet|
Apple’s updated 4K TV box is only an incremental improvement over the original, but that still makes it one of the best streamers you can buy. Its chip is zippy, while an HDMI 2.1 port boosts 4K HDR frame rates to a slicker 60fps. Wi-Fi 6 improves connectivity too, with a noticeable bump in speed and stability.
The refreshed Siri Remote is beefier than before but remains a polished controller. It also comes complete with a universal power button that can zap both your TV and your home cinema.
When it comes to content, all your favourite apps are there – from Netflix to Prime Video to Disney+. And they all support 4K HDR, Dolby Vision and Atmos. Apple Music’s Spatial Audio works well, too. Watchers with AirPods (3rd generation), AirPods Pro or AirPods Max can also enjoy Atmos content with dynamic head tracking.
Picture quality is invariably excellent, even in definitions lower than 4K. Full HD shows get help from HDR processing. The Colour Balance feature, meanwhile, uses your iPhone’s camera and light sensor to optimise your screen’s saturation against ‘industry standards’. It’s not Dolby Vision, but it’s neat.
The Apple TV 4K is undeniably pricier than most streaming devices. But Apple fans won’t find a more convenient 4K media hub: from Apple Arcade to iTunes to AirPlay, the box brings it all together seamlessly.
If you do opt for the Apple TV, make sure to check out Stuff‘s guide to the best Apple TV apps you’ll actually use.
- Read more: Apple TV 4K review
6. Roku Express 4K
Compellingly versatile yet surprisingly affordable, Roku’s Express 4K is arguably the best value streaming device you can buy right now.
- All streaming services covered
- 4K, HDR10, HLG on a budget
- Weird shape
- No Dolby Vision
|Roku Express 4K specs|
|Voice assistant||Works with Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi, HDMI, micro-USB|
For a tenner less than Roku’s Streaming Stick 4K, the Express 4K is an impressive yet accessible way to consume 4K content. It’s feature-packed, yet undercuts every 4K streamer in this list.
Not one to hide behind your box, the dinky domed receiver goes beneath your TV. While its plastic finish reflects the price tag, setup is a cinch: Roku OS 10’s tile-based interface is clean and responsive, with a wealth of watching options. The app list is comprehensive, featuring every major streaming platform, including Netflix, Prime Video, Apple TV, Disney+ and more. All that’s missing is a proper content hub. While ‘My Feed’ allows you to follow your favourite shows, it doesn’t pull together suggestions as seamlessly as some rivals.
Navigation is straightforward with the simple remote, which features four channel shortcuts. What UK users don’t get is a volume rocker. Nor does it have a built-in microphone for voice control, unlike the zapper shipped with the Streaming Stick 4K. That said, you can talk to your Roku via the free smartphone app. Voice functionality isn’t as smart as the likes of Alexa, but it’s useful for swiftly loading shows.
Provided your TV has an HDMI 2.2 port, the Express 4K can serve up 4K HDR video at 60fps. It also plays nice with HDR10/10+ and HLG for maximum streaming compatibility. Quality is reliably excellent: vibrant, detailed and lag-free. With Apple AirPlay compatibility and Dolby Atmos passthrough for cinematic sound, the Roku Express 4K delivers outstanding bang for buck.
7. Amazon Fire TV Stick
The Lite version might be cheaper, but with Dolby Atmos audio, TV controls and a 50% boost in power, the standard Amazon Fire TV Stick is a solid HD streamer.
- Super speedy interface
- Improved voice control
- Upgrades are decent but not Earth-shattering
- No Now TV support
|Amazon Fire TV Stick specs|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, HDMI, micro-USB|
Whether your Wi-Fi is fettered or your TV tops out at 1080p, not everyone needs a 4K streamer. And for Full HD streaming, Amazon’s standard Fire TV Stick is a stellar all-rounder. It’s not the cheapest stick in the Fire TV family: that honour goes to the Lite version, which costs a little less. But the extra tenner gets you TV controls and Dolby Atmos support, which make the Fire TV Stick Amazon’s Goldilocks option.
Slightly smaller than the 4K-flavoured version, the Fire TV Stick is likewise a plug-and-play streamer that belongs in one of your TV’s HDMI ports. It’s 50% faster than the previous generation – and 50% more power efficient.
The familiar interface is neat and easy to navigate, albeit dominated by Amazon content – not necessarily a bad thing, provided you’re a Prime subscriber. You also get access to all of the usual apps, including Netflix and Disney+, although there’s no Now TV.
Alexa integration is better than ever, with voice control proving a genuine time-saver. The updated remote also features four platform shortcuts, plus a clearer Alexa button and an additional layer of dedicated controls for powering on and adjusting the volume of compatible A/V equipment.
4K might be off the menu, but Full HD streaming looks lovely. Pictures are ace at 60fps, with no lag or buffering issues. HDR support is a nice touch, boosting colour and contrast for a more realistic picture, while Dolby Atmos will be a welcome bonus for streamers with a home cinema setup.
- Read more: Amazon Fire TV Stick review
8. Sky Stream
Sky Stream offers plenty of entertainment options, is a doddle to use and has a device that’s small and sleek. Just watch out for those costly extras.
- Simple interface
- Great for live TV and exclusive shows
- Lengthy contract times
- Package prices and add up
|Sky Stream specs|
|HDR||HLG, HDR10, Dolby Vision|
|Dolby Atmos||Yes (extra cost)|
|Voice Assistant||Voice-activated Sky remote|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi, HDMI 2.1|
The satellite TV is dead, long live the set-top box. Sky has hinted that it could be phasing out the humble satellite dish as the company transitions to set-top box and its dedicated streaming service, Sky Stream.
Sky Stream launched as a rival to Roku and an all-in-one home for entertainment, sport and more. It includes Sky Entertainment and a Netflix membership included in the £24 per month subscription, available when signing up for an 18-month contract.
Sky Stream comes with a ‘puck’, which is a small square device that fits in the palm of a hand. Set-up is easy, with the puck plugging into any TV with an HDMI port to access the same features that come with a Sky Glass set. That includes Sky Entertainment, Netflix originals and up to 150 live channels such as BBC and ITV. Sky also has a deal with HBO to exclusively air their TV shows in the UK until 2025. That includes Game of Thrones, Euphoria, Succession and forthcoming The Last of Us TV adaptation, all shown through Sky Atlantic.
Extra costs can easily add up when it comes to Sky, though. Sport costs extra, of course, with access to 11 Sky Sports channels available for £44 a month. Want to skip the adverts? That’s an extra £5. Want to view in Sky Ultra HD and with Dolby Atmos? That’s another fiver. Compared to the Netflixes and Amazon Primes of this world, that’s a pricey meatball.
- Read more: Sky Stream review
9. Amazon Fire TV Cube 3rd Gen
Technically a cuboid, Amazon’s binge-watching box is a winner for high-res TV addicts, and it’s the most powerful, fastest iteration yet.
- Most powerful Amazon Fire TV
- Wi-Fi 6E for speedy connectivity
- Large size
- Favours Amazon’s services
|Amazon Fire TV Cube 3rd Gen specs|
|HDR||Dolby Vision, HDR 10, HDR10+, HLG|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.0, HDMI 2.1 Input, HDMI 2.1 Output, USB-A 2.0, Ethernet port|
|Dimensions||86x86x77mm, 513 g|
Technically a cuboid, Amazon’s binge-watching box is a winner for high-res TV addicts, and it’s the most powerful, fastest iteration yet, thanks to a faster octa-core processor, coupled with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage.
Specs aside, it’s visually more appealing too, with a soft fabric covering that’s easier on the eyes than its predecessor’s raw plastic finish. And while we’ve yet to review it (watch this space), we expect visuals to shine. As with all streaming devices, it won’t match the level of detail you’d get from 4K Blu-ray, mind, but material streamed from Netflix and Amazon Prime Video on the previous model look stunning, so we have high hopes. Support for Dolby Vision and HDR10+ also means you get the very latest visuals, too – as long as your Wi-Fi is quick enough.
On that note, the third-generation Fire TV Cube also has Wi-Fi 6E, for even faster network speeds. You’ll need a newer Wi-Fi 6 router to take advantage of it of course, but even if you don’t have one yet, it’s always nice to have a little built-in futureproofing. Round the back, connectivity is taken care of with a built-in ethernet port, along with both an HDMI input and output, with the former letting you control third-party equipment with your voice.
Forever losing the remote? With Alexa built into the box, one vocal request is all it takes to load up a show, navigate apps and even control your smart home. Certain functions won’t work with every set – such as input-switching with a Philips TV – and Alexa can’t dig out content from the likes of BBC iPlayer. All the same, the ability to control the television with your voice transforms the experience and makes the new Fire TV Cube into a true entertainment hub.
How to choose the best streaming device
Want to stream movies and TV but don’t know where to start? When buying a streaming device there are several things you’ll need to think about to make sure the streamer suits your needs and preferences.
The most important aspect you’ll want to consider is what content is available on that device. If you’ve got Netflix, Apple TV+, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, HBO Max, or one of the many other streaming services, you have to make sure it’s available on the device you get, as some devices may not have access to certain platforms.
For more information on this check out Stuff‘s guide to the best streaming service in the UK.
Likewise, if you are already invested in a particular ecosystem, such as Apple or Android, you should get a streaming device that complements your existing devices and services. So, for example, if you’ve got an iPhone, Apple TV+ and Apple Music then an Apple TV makes perfect sense for seamless integration.
If you’re kitting out a home theatre, then you’ll obviously want the best resolution and performance. Many streaming sticks now pump out 4K Ultra HD, although some more affordable ones top out at Full HD (1080p). Of course, if you’re after the ultimate in performance, then you’ll also want a streamer with HDR10/10+ (for enhanced contrast and colour) and Dolby Atmos (for improved audio).
We’ve reviewed all of the streaming devices above and found all of the user interfaces intuitive and easy to navigate, but you might want to think about how you navigate the UI. Do you want another remote laying around, or are you happy to cast everything from your smartphone?
Some streaming devices also come with app support, allowing you to install news apps, games, and other types of entertainment. While this is nice to have, we found we rarely use these, so don’t make it a key deciding factor.
However, some streaming devices also have built-in voice assistants, which makes searching for content much easier, and Bluetooth, so you can turn your television into a Bluetooth speaker. We think these are definitely features worth looking out for.
How we test the best streaming devices
We’ve reviewed every streaming device on this list, so you can trust our recommendation on which streamer to buy.
We usually spend a week or longer reviewing streaming sticks, testing out UI, streaming quality, number of apps, and connectivity.
We’ll also use any additional software features, such as voice assistants and games, to see if they’re worth the hype.
Once we’ve fully tested the streaming devices, we’ll compare them with rivals, give them a star rating and add them to this buying guide.
For more information on Stuff’s rating and review process, read our page on how we test products.