TV streaming devices rated - including Apple TV, Chromecast and Firestick

Streaming services are a bit part of our lives now, but which device should you use to access them? Streaming services are a bit part of our lives now, but which device should you use to access them?
Streaming services are a bit part of our lives now, but which device should you use to access them? | Kaspars Grinvalds - stock.adobe.

This article contains affiliate links. We may earn a small commission on items purchased through this article, but that does not affect our editorial judgement.

From Apple TV to Amazon’s Fire Stick, our consumer technology writer Gareth Butterfield rates the streaming devices you can buy to enhance your entertainment experience

It doesn't seem that long since the residential walls of the world were peppered with ugly dishes, because the only way to expand the amount of content you enjoyed on your television was to sign up to a satellite service.

Thousands of people are still receiving signals through these dishes but, with so many people now hooked up to a streaming service, the company will soon stop supporting the Sky+ services with software enhancements, and letters are already landing, encouraging people to switch to a streaming system instead.

Streaming your content has never been easier. Many people might do this through their smart TV, or they may have already switched to Sky Stream, but more and more TV watchers are devouring their daily dose of content through a streaming device hooked up to the television.

We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to content these daysWe’re spoilt for choice when it comes to content these days
We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to content these days | Getty Images

These create a powerful link between your screen and your broadband service, and they open the door to a world of app-based content providers from the BBC to Disney+

It means you have a huge choice of devices, all of which offer a slightly different approach to providing you with a vast array of content, and most of them are linked up to a specific ecosystem, which you may already be familiar with.

The benefits of a streaming device include getting to know a simple interface, navigated by an equally simple remote control, which lets you customise it in various ways, and you're always in charge of what content you receive and how much you pay for it all.

But which device should you go for? A lot of the thought process when choosing a streaming stick might come down to the gadgets you already have in your house. Do you use an iPhone and iPad? Apple TV might suit you well. Do you have Alexa keeping you company in every room? Consider Amazon's Firestick.

But have a look through this list first, because the prices and functionalities do vary, and our tech expert Gareth Butterfield has picked out the best streaming devices on the market today, and ranked them in order.

Best price from: £34.99, at Amazon

The Amazon Fire TV StickThe Amazon Fire TV Stick
The Amazon Fire TV Stick | Amazon

I've been using one of these for about three years, running it alongside a Chromecast with Google TV, and the Fire TV Stick is the one I always turn on first.

Using the two devices every day, there's not a lot to decide between the interfaces, they each work in a very intuitive and sensible way, and it's extremely easy to get to your content quickly.

But screen and sound quality does have a slight edge with the Fire TV Stick, and the Alexa-based voice control is definitely better.

Although the compact remotes available with the Fire TV Sticks do have dedicated buttons, you're certainly not forced towards any of Amazon's own services, and adverts are kept to a minimum. For now, at least.

More than anything though, it's just a really stable platform, and very sensibly priced. The shape of the stick itself is a bit awkward, but it will hide behind most sizes of TV.

Overall, even if you're not an Amazon Prime devotee, it's just a really simple and effective device to use, and by far the most reliable and trouble-free one I've lived with. It just takes the top spot.

Best price from: £34.99, at John Lewis

The Chromecast with Google TVThe Chromecast with Google TV
The Chromecast with Google TV | Google

A very neat puck-shaped device, and arguably the best remote control in the business, set the Chromecast with Google TV apart from the rest straight away. The superbly-designed interface is the icing on the cake.

Accessing and downloading apps on the Google TV system is an absolute doddle, although oddly you can't have the Channel 4 "All4" app, unless you go through some complicated and unreliable sideloading processes, or you cast it from your phone.

The streaming quality is superb, and it's all very easy to customise in the slick menu system. I just wish the voice control worked a little bit better. And I have had some really annoying reliability issues with two of my four Chromecasts, which has left a bitter taste.

That said, it's still one of the best streaming devices out there, and worth every penny of the price, even for the posh 4K version.

Best price from £49.99, at Argos

The Roku Streaming StickThe Roku Streaming Stick
The Roku Streaming Stick | Argos

The cheapest 4K device is also one of the best. Roku's streaming sticks are a tried and tested formula that has improved with every new launch. And the latest version brings 4K definition below £40, which is impressive enough in itself.

But with its cute little remote, access to loads of TV apps, and one of the best user interfaces out there, it's now one of the best contenders.

Some people might find Roku's interface a little dated these days, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, because it's quick and responsive. And while it does have support for Alexa, Google Home and AirPlay 2, the voice control is a little bit haphazard.

But for a budget option that still has all the key features, you won't go far wrong with the Roku TV sticks.

Best price from: £149.99, at John Lewis

Apple TVApple TV
Apple TV | John Lewis

True to form with Apple products, this is a pricey option. But it does offer just about the best standard streaming quality of all of the devices in this list, and its interface is just lovely, especially if you're swallowed up by the Apple ecosystem already.

The remote is refreshingly tiny, which is nice from an aesthetic point of view, but it does make it rather easy to misplace.

Setting it up is an absolute doddle, and it's wonderfully stable once you're up and running, as you'd expect. But this device really comes into its own if you already use Apple's services.

The seamless connection and benefits you can reap from linking up your iPhone or iPad through Airplay 2 will become incredibly useful, and being able to use things like Apple Fitness+ Apple Arcade, and even Facetime means your TV becomes a natural extension to your handheld device.

If you don't own an Apple smart device already, it's probably not worth bothering with. And it's worth remembering AirPlay 2 is available on the Roku stick below, but if you can afford Apple TV, it's genuinely a lovely thing.

Best price: £134, from Currys

Nvidia Shield TVNvidia Shield TV
Nvidia Shield TV | Currys

If picture and sound quality are your priorities, or if you like to use your streaming stick for gaming, this is the one to go for. Yes, it's pricey compared to the other devices on this list, but it's incredibly powerful.

Out of the box it has 4K resolution and HDR10, but it also uses a clever AI system to upscale content, which means 1080P pictures from some of the big streaming services will be ultra-crisp.

This, then, is the streaming stick for picture connoisseurs and audiophiles, particularly if you're going to use it through a lavish home cinema setup.

For gamers, you can rig up your PC directly to the stick, or you can just run Steam through it as an installed app. And that will be enough for many to bite the bullet.

The triangular remote is divisive, and it's going to be too expensive for anyone who just streams TV through a normal-sized television, but for the specialists among us, or just the terminally fussy, this is the one to go for.

Free, but with subscriptions starting at £26 per month

Sky StreamSky Stream
Sky Stream | Sky

It might be at the bottom of this list, but Sky Stream is still a credible alternative to the main devices on this list, if only for the content available. Sky users will be aware that there are channels available to them that simply can't be accessed from the likes of Chromecasts and Fire TV Sticks. And if you're keen on those networks, then this might be the best bet.

The remote and interface will be instantly familiar, and the access to 150 live channels is completely unique to the Sky system.

Essentially, the Sky Stream gives you access to the usual Sky ecosystem, but without the need for a dish. And that, of course, comes at a price. Standard subscription starts at £26 per month, with an 18-month contract, but you will get Netflix included, alongside more than 100 Sky channels and all the usual free channels.

Add in things like movies and sports, and the subscription fee ramps up very quickly, but you'll already be accustomed to this sort of bill if you're a Sky customer. And, to their credit, they do often offer better deals to existing customers if you ring them up and appeal to their better nature. Give it a try.

I'd say this is very much an option for those who are hooked on Sky content already, but it's a great way to access those channels without having to have a dish.