The SHIELD™ Remote combines IR + Bluetooth Technologies and is equipped with a sensitive microphone for voice control (there is support for Google Assistant). Motion-activated backlit buttons are useful in the evening.
No USB ports.
The NVIDIA Shield is a full-fledged entertainment center. In addition to access to multimedia content, it also allows you to play modern games in stunning graphics. This was achieved thanks to the GeForce NOW™ cloud-based game streaming service.
CPU: Tegra X1+ (Octa-core)
RAM: 2 GB
ROM: 8 GB
GPU: 256-core Nvidia GPU
Wi-Fi (802.11ac), Bluetooth, HDMI, Ethernet port, microSD slot
Remote with backlit buttons and built-in microphone
Android 9.0 (Pie) powered by Android TV™
4 x 4 x 16.5 cm
The built-in Wi-FI module supports the 802.11ac standard and minimizes the risk of slowdowns even when playing 4K Ultra HD content. An Ethernet Adapter is included to help you set up a wired Internet connection.
The ads on this device are rather annoying.
The Fire TV Cube has amazing functionality. The device not only acts as a TV Box but also allows you to control your smart home system through the built-in voice assistant Alexa. And the box has a stylish look.
RAM: 2 GB
ROM: 16 GB
GPU: ARM Mali G52-MP2
Wi-Fi (802.11ac), Bluetooth, HDMI, microUSB (Ethernet adapter included), Infrared port (IR extender cable included)
Remote with built-in microphone
8.6 x 8.6 x 7.7 cm
The set-top box is supplied with a high-quality HDMI cable for outputting images from the player to the TV, as well as a USB cable for powering the Smart set-top box. Automatic software updates do not require user interaction, while providing access to new features.
Wi-Fi does not support the 5 GHz standard.
The Roku Premiere is ideal for people who are not very familiar with modern technology. The Roku OS has an intuitive interface, providing easy navigation. The ergonomic remote makes it easy to control your media player.
Wi-Fi (802.11n), HDMI, microUSB (for power)
Remote without microphone
3.5 x 8.4 x 1.8 cm
This appliance supports video formats from flash and hard drives including AVI, DIVX, MKV, MOV, MP4, M4V, PMP, AVC, FLV, VOB, FLV, VOB, MPG, DAT, MPEG. With an output resolution of 1080p and supported bitrate of up to 80 Mbps, this multimedia box is an excellent piece for the money.
The remote control operational range is limited.
While being designed for music playback, the AGPtEK HDMI media player truly shines at streaming videos and films, reproducing them in high quality on a large screen. The HDMI and AV cable support makes it an excellent pick for both LCD and LED monitors and TVs.
Full HD/60 fps
HDMI, Composite Out, Component Out, USB port, SD card slot
Remote without microphone
6 x 6 x 1.3 cm
This device features quite a few options that enable tampering with live shows and TV series. Owing to the built-in buffer cache, the appliance is capable of playing live streams with up to a 30-minute delay, an excellent option for users that don't want to miss their favourite shows.
The output resolution is not that great on bigger screens.
By opting for this stick from NOW TV, you are getting access to over than 300 TV channels, thousands of films, and multiple media streaming platforms like Netflix, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4, My5, YouTube and Sky Store, among others. A perfect option for newer monitors and TVs that don't have streaming capabilities.
HD ready/60 fps
Wi-Fi (802.11n), HDMI, microUSB (power)
Remote with built-in microphone
2.1 x 8.3 x 1.1 cm
NVIDIA Shield (2019)
Streaming Box + Game Console
Many people may find themselves wondering whether to get a device that is dedicated for streaming, or to get a game console such as the XBox One or PS4, both of which offer many streaming services as well. After all, games have become a huge part of many people's lives now, so game consoles would make sense. However, game consoles are also much more limited in their support for streaming services. In this case, though, why not both? You can have the best of both worlds with the NVIDIA Shield 4K HDR TV Box/Streaming Media Player. This device includes the best that the Android operating system has to offer, along with a great selection of highly detailed games that take advantage of this system's powerful architecture.
Speaking of the powerful architecture, the hardware specs of this device are a step above what you will find with most other media streaming devices. The NVIDIA Shield includes the blazing-fast Tegra X1+ processor along with a 256 core NVIDIA GPU, giving you almost the same amount of graphical and processing power as a top-end game console. This means that any games that you place on this device will run with the highest details while providing you with a smooth gaming experience that surpasses that of other similar devices.
More Than Just Gaming
While gaming is definitely one of the highlights of this Android TV box, it is far from all you can do with it. In fact, this box is extremely flexible in its capabilities, giving you access to virtually all streaming services, meaning that any online service that you subscribe to should be accessible through this device. That includes access to the Google Play store, where you have access to thousands of different games and apps that all give you an unprecedented number of entertainment options. You can find apps for virtually every streaming service possible, as well as for other services that most other media streaming devices don't.
Controlling the device is quite easy, thanks in large part to the included remote control, which has large buttons that are all clearly marked. For those who utilize voice assistants such as Google Assistant or Alexa, the built-in microphone lets you control the device completely hands-free. A number of other features are also included in this Android box, including the Chromecast technology for streaming the contents of a computer screen to your TV (and vice-versa), and the Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos technologies, which enhance the audio and video quality of any content streaming on the device. With all of these features included together, this Android TV box is simply one of the best devices on the market.
|Last updated price||£148.98|
Amazon Fire TV Cube
A Box With It All
Streaming media players usually serve just one main function: to stream media from various sources. This is mainly what they are made to do, and what they are primarily used for. However, with how much more powerful the hardware inside becomes, the more capabilities can be added to them. The Amazon Fire TV Cube 4K Ultra HD Streaming Media Player is a great example of this. Not only does this streaming box serve its primary purpose well, but it is also powerful enough to act as a central hub for controlling all of the devices in your home.
First off, this is a streaming media box, and it does that job extremely well. Since this box is powered by Amazon's Fire OS, it has many of the capabilities that you will find from other Fire branded devices produced by Amazon. It has a full range of apps pre-installed for most of the major streaming services, including Netflix, YouTube, Disney+, CBS All Access, and of course Amazon Prime Video. Many other streaming services are supported as well, with apps available to install in mere seconds. In all, you have access to over 500,000 films and TV shows through all of the supported streaming services on this device, which is simply more content than most people will ever watch throughout their lives.
Full Integration With Alexa
One of the crowning points of this streaming media player, and what ranks it well above many of the other devices on the market, is the full integration with Amazon's Alexa voice assistant. Using this device, you can fully control your experience using simple voice commands through the built-in microphone on the remote. This lets you browse channels, find films or TV shows, and set playlists for music streaming all with voice commands. It doesn't just stop there, though. With the powerful hardware that this device is packing, coupled with the full integration of Alexa, you can even use this box as the central hub for controlling all of the other devices in the house that support Alexa.
Yet another shining point of this box is its connectivity options. Bluetooth is fully supported here, which lets you connect all kinds of Bluetooth-enabled devices to the unit, including game controllers, speakers, headphones, and even keyboards and mice. The Wi-Fi connectivity supports the latest wireless protocols and gives you blazing fast streaming speeds, so even streaming 4K content won't be prone to slowdowns or constant buffering. An Ethernet port lets you use a wired connection for the most stable connectivity possible. All told, this powerful cube-shaped streaming box from Amazon stands heads and shoulders over most others.
|Last updated price||£109.99|
As Easy as It Gets
One of the first companies to bring streaming media boxes to the markets is also one of the best. In the last decade, Roku has really made a name for themselves with the great quality media streaming boxes they have brought to the market. Featuring an extremely intuitive menu along with hundreds of different streaming channels available, Roku has deservedly earned a reputation for creating some of the best streaming boxes available. This extends to the Roku Premiere 4K UHD Streaming Media Player, one of their latest offerings that holds up extremely well against all other set-top boxes.
The main thing that should be notable about a Roku device is that it is easy to set up and use, and nothing is different with this particular box in that regard. This device takes only a couple of minutes to set up and configure, and then you are well on your way to accessing all of your favorite streaming content. You have access to just about every streaming service you can think of, including all of the most popular ones, and the hundreds of different channels available will have you covered no matter what your tastes are. Better yet, finding any particular channel is extremely easy thanks to the intuitive interface that is included in all Roku devices.
Small Form Factor
Another area that Roku has managed to impress many of its customers is in the size of their boxes. Known for their sleek yet compact designs, those who enjoy saving space near the TV have always liked how easy they are to fit anywhere. With this model, though, the device has gotten even smaller than before. If you have seen an older Roku box, then you will understand that this one looks just like one of the older ones was cut in half. This extremely compact size makes it quite easy to place it just about anywhere you want, so finding space for it shouldn't be much of a concern.
Of course, the features this device has to offer don't stop there. This box comes with an HDMI cable, which is a nice addition considering that many other similar devices tend to cheap out and not supply one. Wi-Fi connectivity is included, although it should be noted that it does not support the latest 5 Ghz standard. Software updates on Roku devices are generally frequent, and the automatic update feature ensures that you are always running the latest version of the Roku software. If you are in the market for an extremely easy to use streaming box that will give you access to your favorite content, then you can do no wrong by going with a Roku.
|Last updated price||£38.99|
Great for Any TV
This model from AGPtEK is a true Full HD digital media player that can bring an older TV back to life as well as being suitable for use on a newer monitor that lacks multimedia features.
First of all, the AGPtEK Full HD streaming media player supports flash drives with a capacity of up to 128 GB, which paired with its USB 2.0/3.0 compatibility makes it a powerful appliance for media playback as a standalone device. On top of that, the appliance can be connected to a hard drive of your PC or laptop using the MBR partition, however, the maximum file size that is supported via this connection interface is limited to 4 GB.
Further down the list, this small multimedia stick allows for precise control of the playback allowing for zooming images and videos, rotating, as well as repeating the selected parts of films or TV shows. The file system also supports most of the common subtitle formats.
As for the interfaces, the device has HDMI and AV ports, which enables connecting it to modern TVs and monitors. In case your TV set doesn’t have a set of dedicated speakers, you can always use the AV port as a backup option. Owing to this, you can add a surround sound system to the mix if you are a proud owner of a home cinema.
Play Anything on Everything
As a bonus, the appliance features a YUV port, which is not that common in this type of devices, however, in case you have an older monitor or a TV screen, this will be your go-to solution on how to connect it to the streaming media. Likewise, you can always hook up multiple TV sets and monitors to the player and enjoy your favourite shows and films without any lag or flickering.
The only gripe we've had with this particular media player is its remote control that lacks some operational range. Although you can still use the remote quite effectively across the room, it won’t work if the media player is further than 15 metres away from it.
Minor issues aside, when it comes to media formats, the gadget supports most of the modern video codecs including but not limited to AVI, DIVX, MKV, MPEG, TS, WMV, M4V and AVC. With this in mind, you can always transfer your films from PCs and laptops to a flash drive and use it as a secondary media source, which will come in handy when watching them offline.
In the end, the AGPtEK streaming media player will be a good affordable option for watching your favourite shows and films on your TV without having to go through a complex installation process. This model combines simple controls and excellent ease of use in one box and that’s what makes it great for the price.
|Last updated price||£36.99|
NOW TV (NTVSE1)
Not Just a Simple Flash Drive
This NOW TV may not look like a full-fledged streaming media box from the first glance, however, the first impression can be a bit deceptive. To our surprise, this player that resembles a regular USB stick proved to be a powerful tool to stream media on TVs and monitors.
To start off, the appliance is tiny, which makes it an ideal pick for users that don’t want a bulky device residing next to their biggest screen. The actual stick is smaller than a remote control that comes together with it, however, it is not that simple. Underneath its plastic “bonnet”, there are quite a few things going on.
The major one being the compatibility with different streaming platforms. Contrary to most products in the same price range, NTVSE1 from NOW TV supports a wide variety of internet streaming services including Disney+, Netflix, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, My5, All4 and Sky Store, with an only exception being Freeview.
What Else Is in the Box
Secondly, it’s the performance of the device. Although it is tiny, as we have already mentioned, it flicks through channels and different media platforms at a whim, which is definitely a plus and can be an actual upgrade from in-house TV multimedia software. On the side note, the appliance can only be connected to a monitor or a TV using the HDMI port. Conversely, you can power up the device using a MicroUSB cable.
The only real issue with the player is that its output resolution is not that great. With only a 720p resolution, using it on bigger TVs might not be the best option. However, it is possible to upscale the picture a tiny bit using the TV’s settings, which can be a good compromise for screens that are bigger than 40 inches.
Specifications out of the way, let’s talk ease of use. Even though the setup process may take a while if you follow the instructions in the user manual, connecting the stick to a new screen won’t be that long. The remote control is simple, featuring only the essential options, which will help you with navigating through the menus fast. This time around, the remote works flawlessly in bigger rooms thanks to the high-quality IR sensors on both the main unit and RC.
Finally, this multimedia player from NOW TV is easy to use, smart and can be used with virtually any device that has an HDMI port, which makes it a real steal for the price. The installation is fairly easy, and compatibility with different media streaming platforms is definitely a plus, especially if you plan to connect the player to an older TV.
|Last updated price||£24.85|
What Is a Streaming Media Player?
An up-to-date media player can turn your TV into a multifunctional digital device and greatly expand your options for viewing high-quality media content, whether you watch it on online or use external storage. Aside from that, it provides access to all and every Internet application available, as well as social networks, video streaming websites and 3D games. The advantage of streaming media players is that they can be used with all TV models including some of the oldest, making a great alternative to expensive consoles. So, if buying a new smart TV isn't on your priority list but you'd like to enhance your watching experience, getting a streaming media player can be a solution. In this review, you can find the five most popular streaming media players that can boost the capabilities of your TV and/or bring to life some of the older LCD and LED monitors without multimedia features.
If you are looking for a portable device to fill in for a PC by connecting to a monitor or a TV set, we recommend taking a look at our picks of mini PCs or microPC sticks.
What Features to Compare
Form Factor and Performance
A choice of a streaming media player should start with looking at its form-factor and performance. There are several form-factors nowadays, the most popular among which are desktop players and smart sticks. The latter are usually placed beside the TV and connected to it via a cable. The smart sticks are known to be quite miniature (a little bigger than your average USB flash drive, so you can easily hide it behind your TV) and to have high functionality. The performance parameter includes the data processing speed, the response time, and the options for data storage. An important part here is played by the streaming media player's processor (CPU) as it is responsible for playing out your high-resolution videos and for a comfortable gaming. The best streaming media players are those with quad-core processors. Then there is also the RAM capacity. To obtain a device with a good response time, look for the one with larger RAM, 2 GB or more. Talking about memory, remember about the media player's storage space. The larger it is, the more data you will be able to keep there. Up-to-date streaming media players sometimes feature a flash memory capacity of 8 GB and higher, or even an HDD drive of up to 3 TB, and some use external USB drives of various shapes and capacity. Additional modes also affect the performance: alongside a standard online video replay option, they might provide a gaming possibility with a special control, or they can include a DVR mode to record online streaming to the internal or external drive.
Next, pay some of your attention to the functionality. It largely depends on the operating system (OS) as the operating system is what determines the number of supported applications, operation stability, and the availability of additional features like, for example, voice search. A major number of streaming media players are Android-based, and this means you will have a whole world of multimedia entertainment before you, right on your TV screen. Be it simple flipping through pictures or playing 3D video games, the good streaming device will let you enjoy it to the fullest. Today, the smallest resolution for a streaming media player is HD format, but we recommend you to look for at least Full HD device, as it is the resolution the films are released in, mostly. If you have a 4K TV, you will need a device that supports Ultra HD. Note that the bigger display you have, the larger resolution it will require for comfortable watching. As for the screens that support 3D, it will probably benefit you to buy a media streaming device with the same option. The models with an embedded TV-tuner also exist, although they usually only work with digital TV, not analog. But instead, you will be able to record the shows you want to re-watch later. The great alternative to the tuner will be an IPTV-supporting streaming media player. IPTV is similar to the cable TV, it uses an Internet connection as an incoming signal. IPTV media players will provide you with an opportunity to watch high-quality TV channels in both standard and HD resolution. Among the supported video formats, we'd say, the most widespread would be MPEG 1/2/3/4, AVI, MKV for video, MP3, FLAC, WMA-Pro for audio, and JPEG for images. So choose a device that supports those.
Interfaces and Controls
The last important parameter we'd like to point at in choosing the best streaming device is its interfaces and controls. Almost any up-to-date streaming media player includes an HDMI port for the maximum image quality and great sound. We recommend the HDMI of 1.4 or higher version both in the player and the TV. If you are planning to connect your streaming devices to the older TV models, you will probably need the composite and the component video outputs. At the same time, to play sound via the external acoustic system, you should, probably, consider the number and types of audio outs, which can be either digital optical, or have coaxial connections with analog stereo outputs. The awesome addition to your best streaming media player will be the availability of a USB input and a place to put a memory card in. It will make the content transfer a piece of cake. As for the controls, all standard media streaming devices operate on closed systems and go with a classic remote control. More cutting-edge devices might be equipped with a QWERTY-keyboard remote, voice search option, and embedded sensors to determine their position in space (the Air Mouse). About the half of modern streaming media players can be controlled via your smartphone or another device using an official application. Sometimes you can connect a keyboard and a mouse to type and use social networks. And for fierce gamers, the gaming remote is surely a must.
Here we have told you the info you can use to make your final choice. Now let us proceed to the best streaming media players on the market as of today.
1. Grant Clauser Streaming Media Stick vs. Streaming Media Box: Understanding the Differences, Electronic House. November 12, 2015.
2. Lauren Barret Finding the Best Streaming Media Player: Roku vs Chromecast vs Amazon Fire vs Apple TV, Money Under 30. March 23, 2016.
3. Streaming Media Buying Guide, ConsumerReports. Last updated: September 2016.
4. Marshall Honorof How to Buy a Streaming Media Player, Tom's Guide. May 4, 2016.
5. Brittany Hodak RIP VHS: World's Last VCR Will Be Made This Month, Forbes. July 23, 2016.