(Pocket-lint) - A lot of new TVs have streaming services available as part of their Smart TV platforms, but there are still plenty of us that still have "dumb" TVs.

If you want to access streaming services, you'll need a streaming box or dongle. And with Apple TV+ and Disney Plus now launched and other services on the way, there's more choice than ever in terms of streaming content. 

The problem is that there are many different streaming sticks and set-top-boxes, so choosing the one that's right for you can be tricky.

That's why we've consolidated all the major options in one place, in price categories, to help you decide which box is best for you and your budget.

Best media streamer under $50/£50


Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote


  • Dimensions: 85.9 x 30 x 12.6mm
  • Main apps: Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Apple TV+, Disney+, BBC iPlayer
  • Connections: HDMI
  • Maximum resolution: 1080p

Coming in the form of a dongle you plug directly into your TV, the Amazon Fire TV Stick is mainly centred on the Amazon Prime experience, with Prime Video, Amazon Music and a link-up to images stored on the Amazon Cloud being at the forefront.

That doesn't mean it is solely for Amazon content streaming though, with Netflix, Apple TV+ and many other streaming apps available on Amazon's extensive app store. BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, My5, Plex - for those with home stored content they want to stream - and many games and other experiences are available too.

It comes with an Alexa Voice Remote, so you can quickly find Amazon or Netflix content using just your voice. And it does pretty much everything an Amazon Echo speaker does, with the ability to find out the weather or latest news headlines by simply asking or even control your smart home.

This particular Fire TV Stick doesn't have the Ultra HD support of the more powerful Fire TV Stick 4K or Fire TV Cube (below), but does offer a smooth, speedy experience and excellent Full HD pictures and surround sound, thanks to its 1080p output and 7.1 Dolby Digital audio.

You can even take it on holiday with you as Amazon has added a cunning way for you to input room and log-in details for connection to hotel Wi-Fi.


Google Chromecast


  • Dimensions: 51.9 x 51.9 x 13.8 mm
  • Main apps: Netflix, Now TV, Google Play, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, YouTube
  • Connections: HDMI, Micro-USB for power
  • Maximum resolution: 1080p

Like the Amazon Fire TV Stick, the Google Chromecast is a dongle that plugs directly into an HDMI port on your TV. However, it more resembles a small hockey puck.

It's not quite a movie and TV show streaming solution like many of the others listed here. Instead, it works with compatible apps you have on your smartphone or tablet and plays their video or music content on a larger screen. The Chromecast pulls the content from the internet itself, effectively turning your mobile device into a remote control.

It is capable of playing Netflix, YouTube and any Google Play movies, TV shows or music you might have bought. Android, iPhone and iPad apps that have support also include BBC iPlayer, My5, BT Sport, Now TV, Blinkbox, Wuaki.tv and Deezer. Spotify is part of the mix too.

Plex support also means you can stream your own content through a computer too.

Gaming is available, with certain games having the ability to Cast the action to the device and then onto the big screen. The list of titles is small, to be honest, but Angry Birds Go is one of the biggest names supported.


Roku Express


  • Dimensions: 35.5 x 83.8 x 17.8mm
  • Main apps: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Now TV, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, Google Play, Apple TV+
  • Connections: HDMI
  • Maximum resolution: 1080p

The Roku Express gives access to the vast library of applications on the Roku store, most of which are free to download (although you will still need subscriptions for most). It's been redesigned in 2019 with a smaller footprint and curved top. 

It comes with a remote control (which is actually bigger than the device itself), that works on IR, so you'll need to make sure the Express is in your line of sight.

Like all Roku devices, the Express has access to hundreds of apps (channels), including the solid line-up of main movie and streaming services. You get access to Amazon Video, Netflix, Now TV, BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4 and My5. 

While it can't be plugged out of sight and out of mind into an HDMI socket around the back of your TV, its diminutive size means it won't exactly be an eyesore. 

It is capable of outputting up to 1080p video and has dual-band Wi-Fi connectivity like its larger cousin (although there is no wired internet connection, so you'll need to be in range of a decent wireless signal).


Now TV Smart Stick


  • Dimensions: 84mm x 20.3 x 12.6mm
  • Main apps: Now TV, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, My5, Netflix
  • Connections: HDMI, Ethernet, microSD, USB
  • Maximum resolution: 1080p

The cheaper of the two Now TV devices is a small dongle that plugs into the back of your TV. It is made by Roku and is therefore similar in size and style to that manufacturer's own-branded devices.

Naturally, the Now TV Stick's main focus is to provide access to Now TV - Sky's streaming service that offers separate contract-free subscription or pay models for movies, entertainment, kids and sports. But, there is also access to BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4, My5 (as Demand 5), Vimeo, YouTube, Flixster and other streaming services. 

You can also use the Sky Store to rent or buy modern day-and-date films as they are released on Blu-ray and DVD. All of these you can access and use, even if you don't subscribe to any of the Now TV packages.

It is worth noting that, currently, all Now TV content is restricted to 720p even though the Stick is capable of playing other video up to 1080p.


Now TV Smart Box with 4K and Voice Search


  • Dimensions: 125mm x 125 x 21mm
  • Main apps: Now TV, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, My5, Netflix
  • Connections: HDMI, Ethernet, microSD, USB
  • Maximum resolution: 4K (2160p) + HDR

Like the Smart Stick above, Now TV's larger player is also made by Roku. It is shaped more like a set-top-box and will require a space in front of your telly or in a cabinet.

It offers all the same features, including Now TV services front and centre, along with voice search through the included remote control. You can also pair the controller with your TV to adjust its volume and on/off capabilities.

The big difference with the Smart Box though is that it is 4K-capable. It can output video up to 4K 60fps and is HDR compatible too.

Few apps support that, however, with just Netflix offering 4K HDR content from the box (if you have a Netflix Premium subscription). Now TV's own content is still only presented in 720p.

Other apps that come pre-installed include BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, My5 (as Demand 5) and YouTube. There are more than 50 apps available in total, which can be downloaded from a dedicated app store. A microSD card slot is present if you need to expand the storage to fit them all.


Amazon Fire Stick 4K with Alexa Voice Remote


  • Dimensions: 99 x 30 x 14mm
  • Main apps: Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV+, BBC iPlayer
  • Connections: HDMI, Ethernet (through optional adapter), microSD (for power)
  • Maximum resolution: 4K (2160p) + HDR/Dolby Vision

Like the HD Amazon Fire TV Stick above, the latest addition to Amazon's streaming family is a dongle that plugs into the back of the TV. It even looks identical.

Where it differs is that it supports 4K video and HDR/Dolby Vision, and can play Ultra HD content at up to 60 frames per second. The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K also supports Dolby Atmos surround sound.

Like the standard Fire TV Stick, the 4K version comes with an Alexa Voice Remote, which opens up the world of the voice assistant to use on your TV.

The Amazon Fire TV Stick immediately offers Amazon-based content as soon as you fire it up. Content includes music, movies, TV shows - some to buy and some to rent - and the box is intrinsically linked with Amazon Prime, the company's subscription service.

However, other, rival services are also available, including the aforementioned Netflix, Apple TV+, Sky News and YouTube, with content being integrated in the new design almost as much as Amazon's own. BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and My5 are also available as catch-up services in the UK.

Best media streamer under $100/£100


Google Chromecast Ultra


  • Dimensions: 13.7 x 58.2 x 58.2mm
  • Main apps: Netflix, Now TV, Google Play, Disney+, BBC iPlayer
  • Connections: HDMI, Micro USB, power adapter Ethernet port
  • Maximum resolution: 4K (2160p) + HDR

The flagship of the Chromecast family comes with 4K Ultra HD streaming capabilities, so is priced to match. The Chromecast Ultra supports Dolby Vision and HDR for those with compatible TVs. And an Ethernet connection means you can hard wire it to ensure your video streaming remains smooth and stable.

It is also a dongle like the conventional Chromecast (above), with a similar form factor. And again, you use a smartphone or computer to control it, with the Ultra streaming video over the internet based on what you "Cast" to the device.

The exact same app line-up for the standard Chromecast is supported here. The main difference however, is that the Chromecast Ultra is capable of streaming 4K video from relevant services, such as Netflix and YouTube.

Netflix, for example, is capable of streaming 4K Dolby Vision (or HDR) video to compatible televisions. You can also stream from terrestrial apps, like BBC iPlayer, All 4 and Now TV, although they do not currently support 4K.

If you have a 4K TV and want the best video quality it is worth paying a bit extra for the more capable Chromecast. The faster internet connectivity, needed for 4K video streaming, also ensures that non-Ultra HD video is presented at its best too.


Roku Streaming Stick+


  • Dimensions: 94 x 20.3 x 11.9mm
  • Main apps: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Now TV, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, Google Play, Apple TV+
  • Connections: HDMI
  • Maximum resolution: 4K (2160p) + HDR

Roku's second device here is a lot more expensive than its first but all that extra case goes into a faster, more efficient streamer with 4K Ultra HD and HDR10 support.

It is a dongle like many others these days, but due to its length you might consider attaching it to the back of a TV using an HDMI extension lead. You do get one included in the box.

Where the Roku Streaming Stick+ excels over most competition is in its choice of apps - which Roku calls channels. There are simply thousands to choose from and all of the major bases are covered. Now TV, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and all of the UK's terrestrial services are available to download and use.

It comes with an excellent remote that doesn't require line of sight to operate and can also control your TV's on/off and volume functionality. There are fast access buttons for several different streaming services to launch straight into their apps, including the aforementioned Netflix, plus Rakuten and Red Bull TV.

The Roku is a bit more pricey than some 4K competitors but is one of very few on the market that offers access to every service you can imagine.

Best media streamer under £200


Amazon Fire TV Cube


Dimensions: 86 x 86 x 77mm
Main apps: Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV+, BBC iPlayer
Connections: HDMI, Ethernet (through optional adapter), IR blaster 
Maximum resolution: 4K (2160p) + HDR/Dolby Vision

At just over the £100 mark, the Fire TV Cube is a more expensive version of the 4K version of the Fire TV Stick above. But it has a lot more capability because not only can use Alexa to do all the normal Alexa-type stuff, but you can also use Alexa to control your TV and Sky box (UK) or cable box (US). You can also control audio devices such as a soundbar - providing it's compatible.

It also has far-field mics. With the Fire TV Stick you need to use the Alexa remote to talk to Alexa but with the Fire TV Cube you can just talk to Alexa as you would on any other Alexa device. 

There are some limitations in terms of the set-top boxes and what you can do, but it does mean you can say "Alexa, play The Crown on Netfix" and Fire TV Cube will turn on your TV to the right input and start streaming it. 


Apple TV HD


  • Dimensions: 35 x 98 x 98mm
  • Main apps: Apple TV+, Netflix, Disney+, Now TV, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video
  • Connections: HDMI, Ethernet
  • Maximum resolution: 1080p

The fourth-generation Apple TV box was launched in 2015 and is still available - now renamed as Apple TV HD. There's also a 4K version available these days too (see below). It has a touchscreen remote control with Siri voice recognition, and access to its own App Store to purchase and download tvOS apps based on their iOS equivalents.

Now though, there's a new impetus for this box and its brother in the form of the Apple TV+ streaming service. Otherwise, this box provides access to movies, TV shows and music bought or rented through iTunes, plus the Apple Music streaming service as well as other services including Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and Now TV.

It can search for content across multiple services through the one search bar, bringing up results no matter the source. There are an impressive line-up of applications and games to download and enjoy - many of them free.

A dedicated TV app for iOS gives you access to catch-up content from the likes of BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub. Plus, you can stream additional content through an iPad or iPhone to the Apple TV via AirPlay. It will even mirror your iOS device's screen.

Like Amazon Fire TV and the Nvidia Shield as well as Apple's Arcade service, another major aspect to the Apple TV is that it doubles as a great casual games console too. There are plenty of titles already available, some of which almost identical to their dedicated console counterparts.


Apple TV 4K


  • Dimensions: 35 x 98 x 98mm
  • Main apps: Apple TV+, Netflix, Disney+, Now TV, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video
  • Connections: HDMI, Ethernet
  • Maximum resolution: 4K (2160p) + HDR/Dolby Vision

Although it still sells the HD version of Apple TV, for just a little more you can upgrade to a 4K version, which also supports high dynamic range (HDR) visuals in both the HDR10 and Dolby Vision formats. It also supports Dolby Atmos surround sound on supported movies.

That means streaming services, such as Apple's own Apple TV+, Netflix and Amazon Video both offer up to Ultra HD content in HDR - the best format possible. In addition, Apple offers 4K HDR versions of movies through iTunes to rent or buy.

A bold and welcome step that Apple has taken is that 4K versions of films cost the same as HD editions. And any compatible HD movie you bought before should be automatically upgraded to the 4K version for free.

Everything else about the Apple TV 4K is similar to the HD model, except it has a considerably faster processor. This ensures this version of the box runs twice as quickly and with four times the graphics power.


Nvidia Shield TV


  • Dimensions: 40 x 165 x 40mm
  • Main apps: Netflix, Google Play, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, YouTube
  • Connections: HDMI, Ethernet, microSD
  • Maximum resolution: 4K (2160p) + HDR/Dolby Vision

The third generation Shield TV box is more than a media streamer - it's a capable games machine too. It has a load of firepower under the hood in the form of Nvidia's Tegra X1+ processor so is significantly more powerful than most on the market. It is also capable of outputting 4K video in 60 frames per second, plus HDR and Dolby Vision.

Its 256 core graphics chip is also suitable for top-notch gaming, so has a stack of optimisation abilities for games that none of the other rival boxes can match. And, while it no longer comes with a dedicated games controller, it is compatible with any Xbox One and PS4 DualShock 4 pads you might have lying around.

As an Android TV box, the Nvidia Shield TV has access to Google Play content, including its app store, plus a dedicated app for video. Google's YouTube service is also represented too, which is important as it's one of the sources for 4K content.

It comes with Plex and Netflix pre-installed, with the latter capable of Ultra HD streaming in HDR. You can subsequently download Amazon Prime Video, which also has 4K HDR programming. Netflix and Amazon also offer some content in Dolby Vision and with Dolby Atmos surround sound.

An AI Upscaling video feature is available to enhance SD and HD video across many of the streaming apps, so they look almost as good as native 4K content.

There is compatibility with Nvidia cloud gaming service, GeForce Now. And, those with a PC that sports a GTX or RTX graphics card can stream their games to play on the Shield locally.

Thanks to the Google Play Store, hundreds of other apps are available too. 

It can even double as a Google Chromecast, so you can use an Android or iOS device to send other content to it. And Google Assistant voice-control support is available, so you can use the device to control your smart home or interact with just like you would a Google Home. Alexa support is on-board too, if you have an Echo device nearby.

Writing by Rik Henderson and Dan Grabham.