TVs need help. They’re great in their own right, but they can always be smarter, they can always be injected with even more stuff to watch, and they can always sound better.
That’s why you need to accessorise your telly. And we’re not talking tinted glass and furry dice - we’re talking smart sticks, home cinema systems and channel-adding PVRs.
While all the nominees deserve their seats at the awards table, the Google Chromecast is the one we've chosen to strut up on stage and collect the trophy.
Winner: Google Chromecast
Video streamers aren’t exactly new, but the Chromecast is a rather special one. Not that you’d necessarily realise that at first glance - you’re most likely to mistake it for a USB stick. But this stick is actually an HDMI dongle that plugs into your TV, connects to the internet, and delivers a whole load of on-demand content that you ‘cast’ to your telly from your smartphone. Best of all, it’s officially only £30 and regularly unofficially often available for even less.
READ MORE: Google Chromecast review
Runner-up: BT YouView+
YouView has made contract-free PVRs far more exciting than they used to be. It of course delivers all of the UK’s free TV channels and lets you pause and rewind them at your whim. But it also has an EPG that goes back in time to show you what was on over the last 7 days so you can watch it on-demand.
Speaking of which, it’s got all of the smart services, including BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD and Demand 5, and if you don’t mind paying a little bit on the side there’s Sky’s Now TV and Sky Store, too. But what makes the BT YouView+ box even better than other YouView boxes from the likes of Humax (who actually makes this one) is the inclusion of BT Sport and BT Player for football and movies respectively. You can even add the likes of Sky Sports and Sky Movies (for an extra fee) if you’re a BT Infinity customer. Content is king, and BT YouView+ rules.
READ MORE: Netflix lands on YouView
Free TV is doing its best to catch up, but Sky just refuses to be caught. This year we’ve seen a whole new homepage introduced with a recommendation engine that gets you to good stuff much quicker, expansions to the Sky Go and Now TV services, and the introduction of Buy & Keep, which often allows early streaming access to blockbuster films and includes a DVD that’s then sent in the post. Being a Sky subscriber is still the quickest way to the most TV, movie and sport content.
Runner-up: Sony BDV-N5200W
A whole (home) cinema (minus a telly) in one box? That’s the Sony BDV-N5200.
A Netflix-toting Blu-ray player, an amplifier, five speakers and a subwoofer, all for a lot less than an iPhone 6. There’s even a wireless adapter for the rear speakers so you don’t have to run cables right through your lounge, plus Bluetooth, DLNA and access to the Sony Entertainment Network apps. And it sounds fantastic. Want the moon on a stick? This is it.
Read the Sony BDV-N5200W review on our sister site, What Hi-Fi
Runner-up: Yamaha YSP-2500
If your only requirement for a soundbar is that it should sound better than your telly, almost any will do; but if you want one that will fool your ears into thinking they’re surrounded by actual speakers, you want the amazingly clever Yamaha YSP-2500. It’s got no less than 16 speakers hiding in its svelte casework, and thanks to a mic-driven setup it learns the best way to bounce sound off the walls of your room to give you a proper surround sound experience, backed up by a wireless subwoofer delivering the bassy bits. We love it.
Runner-up: Canton DM 75
2014 has been the year of the soundbase. New to you? Imagine a soundbar that’s deep and flat enough for a TV to stand on top and you’ve pretty much got it. There are loads of them now, but without doubt the Canton DM 75 is our favourite, chucking out a mightily weighty and detailed sound – and it’ll go way louder than even your neighbours can handle. It might not match the clever virtual surround sound of the Yamaha YSP-2500 above, but it utterly demolishes the weedy sound currently coming from your flatscreen telly.
Read the Canton DM 75 review on our sister site, What Hi-Fi
Runner-up: Roku 3
The Roku 3’s been around a little while, but it’s now more relevant than ever thanks to the addition of more services and the ability to ‘cast’ from your smartphone as you would to a Chromecast. So now you’ve got the likes of Netflix, Google Play Movies and TV, iPlayer, ITV Player, Sky Store and Now TV. Sure, you could get the £40 Roku Streaming Stick, but the Roku 3 is faster and has a headphone jack in the remote so you can listen in private without having to run a headphone cable right across the lounge.