As smart TVs came onto the market around 2008 offering internet browsing and video content Apps such as iPlayer, we all quickly realised that navigation via your TV remote was not ideal, and that your TV, no matter how smart, did not have the computing power to handle streaming and several tasks at once.
Very soon after the advent of smart TVs we saw the launch of plug in media streaming devices such as the Roku box, which took on the task of providing a powerful processor and RAM, with the added convenience of a purpose built remote to make navigation simple.
Just connect the device via one of your TV’s HDMI ports, connect it to the internet and you were good to go.
The age of video streaming in our front rooms was upon us !
The rush to market was on, and the very first generation media streaming boxes were launched. Although the concept was sound, the actual devices were still a little sluggish and had to work very hard to stream HD video. New products were being launched and updated versions of original products had more power.
Over a decade later we now have plenty of choice when it comes to media streaming. Below we have a brief summary of the top selling devices currently available.
Amazon Fire TV Cube (2019)
Pros: Alexa voice recognition. Super fast performance. Supports all major HDR formats.
Cons: Quite expensive compared with smaller 4K media streamers.
Bottom Line: The new-generation Amazon Fire TV Cube improves on the the media streaming capabilities and hands-free Alexa controls from the first version. It has faster performance and expanded HDR support.
Amazon Fire Stick 4K (2018)
Pros: Affordable price. Supports 4K with HDR10 and Dolby Vision. Amazon Alexa voice control. Quick Wi-Fi streaming and easy menu navigation. Plugs in out of sight.
Cons: No Google Play apps. Ethernet adapter not included.
Bottom Line: With 4K HDR, Amazon Alexa, and fast performance, the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K is the best value for money media streamer
Amazon Fire TV stick with Alexa Voice remote
Pros: Good value. Comes with improved voice remote that can also control your TV functions. Voice search and Amazon Alexa are great. Faster than previous version.
Cons: Missing some streaming services.
Bottom Line: Amazon's Fire TV Stick is faster and less expensive than ever, and comes with an Alexa-enabled voice remote out of the box, making it the cheapest media streamer delivering this level of spec.
Roku Premiere+ (2018)
Pros: Reasonable price. Fast performance. Voice remote can control your TV. Supports HDR10.
Cons: Voice features are limited
Bottom Line: The affordable Roku Premiere+ is the same unit as the regular Premiere 4K media streamer, but with a much more useful wireless remote.
Apple TV 4K
Pros: 4K and HDR and Dolby Vision. Fast operation with strong Wi-Fi performance. Siri voice remote.
Cons: Not cheap. Apple's streaming Apps selection is still relatively small. Some apps don’t yet offer 4K streaming.
Bottom Line: Apple has made the move to 4K HDR video streaming with a nice piece of kit. The wait for Apple TV 4K was worth it, especially for people exclusively in the Mac iOS ecosystem.
Google Chromecast Ultra
Pros: Relatively inexpensive for a 4K media streamer.
Cons: Requires a smartphone, tablet, or PC. Almost twice the price of the 1080p Chromecast. Not as seamless an experience as other streamers on the market.
Bottom Line: Google's 4K-capable Chromecast Ultra is the least expensive UHD media streamer available, however you still need a smartphone, tablet, or computer to control it, and we think there are better options available.
Roku Ultra (2019)
Pros: Easy to use remote with headphone jack, finder function, and shortcut buttons. Slightly better performance than previous versions.
Cons: Voice-programmed shortcuts can feel slow. Voice features not as good as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
Bottom Line: The latest Roku Ultra is a very good media streamer like all of it’s predecessors, and its biggest selling point remains the headphone jack on the remote.
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