Gone are the days of crawling behind a TV with a HMDI cable, trying to read the tiny writing that tells you which channel you need to switch over to. Entertainment has come a long way, and as of the last few years, it's going almost entirely wireless.
Streaming sticks are designed to make browsing as simple as possible. They turn your TV into a smart device, placing all your favourite entertainment at your fingertips (or at the tip of your tongue, for those voice-activated set-ups).
They just need to be plugged into a port on your TV, and you're good to go. From budget to premium options, we've listed our picks below.
Google Chromecast 4K
Google’s Chromecast features seamless compatibility with Google devices and accounts, allowing users to cast content from their phones to their TVs.
It offers access to Google Assistant, meaning you only need to do a voice search to find your favourite films and TV programmes. You don't even have to ask for titles; you can browse by genre, actors or your mood at the time.
Content can be displayed in 4K and 1080p, accessed via the home screen, which includes Netflix, YouTube, Prime and many more. There’s also access to Google’s cloud gaming service Stadia, and it’s compatible with smart home devices, including anything from smart thermostats to surround sound smart speakers.
Fire TV Stick 4K Max
Amazon’s flagship streaming stick provides 4K UHD and claims to be around 40% faster than its predecessor, the Fire TV Stick 4K, due to its new system chip.
With the dawn of 5G and internet speed surging to new heights, it’s good to get a stick that helps future-proof your streaming. It features a Wi-Fi 6 antenna, able to facilitate much higher download speeds than the average household.
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It also gives you access to Alexa for voice compatibility and Luna, Amazon’s game streaming service. There are a whole range of other features to use in your home, far beyond normal capability from a streaming stick. Alexa can connect to smart home devices, allowing you to control voice activated speakers, security cameras and smart locks.
Roku Streaming Stick 4K
This streaming stick from Roku is more affordable than its counterparts from Amazon and Google but still holds some handy features, such as voice control and 4K streaming. It offers access to The Roku Channel for a wide selection of entertainment, including YouTube, Netflix, Prime and iPlayer.
We all know how annoying it can be when streams buffer because you're positioned too far away from the Wi-Fi box. The Roku streaming stick features long-range Wi-Fi connectivity to ensure you can stream content throughout the house, enabling 4K, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision.
NVIDIA Shield TV 4K
This high-end streaming stick from NVIDIA aims to be as fast as possible. It features a new processor, claimed to perform 25% faster than its predecessor. It also features Dolby Vision Atmos, which upgrades your sound system to create a more immersive audio experience.
It upscales HD video to 4K, using a futuristic AI operating system. There's also dual-band AC Wi-Fi, designed to avoid connection issues and offer more stability to keep your streams from buffering.
There are a number of other subtle touches that make this an advanced piece of tech, including a motion activated remote control and voice recognition. There's even a built-in lost remote locator, so you won't need to go searching down the back of the sofa anytime soon.
Apple TV 4K
Apple’s answer to the streaming stick (technically a wired streamer with a stick, so we're stretching the definition a little) is the most expensive option on this list, but comes with an array of features. It offers 4K Dolby vision, aiming to provide high-quality, vivid picture quality. There is also Dolby Atmos, which is said to provide three-dimensional surround sound.
It uses Siri to allow for voice-assisted controls, accessed by a touch-enabled clickpad – you can also purchase a HomePod mini, which allows for hands-free access. Apple also provides access to Airplay, which allows you to share your photos and videos from an Apple device to your TV.
Users can browse Apple Original shows and movies using Apple TV+ or make use of Apple Arcade, Apple Fitness+ and Apple Music. You can even set up a private listening session using up to two sets of AirPods.
Roku Streambar 4K
Roku’s stream stick and soundbar hybrid is an upgraded version of their standard stick, offering 4K streaming for thousands of free and paid channels including Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Disney +, Prime and many more.
Roku provide a voice remote that can control your TV, streaming and sound. It’s also fully compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant, allowing users to search for programmes or turn the TV on or off hands-free.
This hybrid model comes with a Dolby Audio-based soundbar that features built-in volume modes, allowing you to quiet down loud commercials, boost the volume of voices or optimise the sound for night listening.
Fin Cousins is a digital writer for Our Media’s special interest brands. He works across BBC Science Focus and 220 Triathlon, offering recommendations for the latest tech, innovative gadgets, and state-of-the-art training gear. He also writes about music in his spare time and is an ever-despairing Crystal Palace fan.