Best media streamers 2021: enjoy streaming movies and TV at the best prices (2022)

Best media streamers 2021: enjoy streaming movies and TV at the best prices (1)

The world has gone bonkers for binge-watching. Thanks to Netflix and Amazon Prime Video (other platforms are available), those hungry for entertainment can stream blockbuster TV shows, great music documentaries and movies anytime, anyplace.

The sheer proliferation of streaming TV services has changed the way we watch the box forever. If you’re yet to board the streaming train, we’ve tested the best media streamers for all budgets.

The best media streamers at a glance

Best media streamers 2021: enjoy streaming movies and TV at the best prices (2)

1. Amazon Fire TV 4K (opens in new tab)
2. Now TV 4K (opens in new tab)
3. Apple TV 4K (opens in new tab)
4. Manhattan T3 Freeview Play 4K Smart Box (opens in new tab)
5. Chromecast (opens in new tab)
6. Roku Streaming Stick Plus (opens in new tab)
7. Sky Q (opens in new tab)

All smart TVs (and that’s the majority of tellies you can buy right how) use some form of connected platform, and consequently have streaming apps built-in – be it catch-up TV services like BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub, or apps from streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon.

Premium pay TV services also come with media streaming functionality built-in. Whether you subscribe to Sky, VirginMedia or BT, their telly boxes offer on-demand viewing as standard.

Of course, you don’t need a cutting edge flatscreen to access media streaming services. A simple streaming HDMI stick, plugged into the back of even the dumbest of sets, will open the floodgates to smarter viewing. So which option is best for you?

Our top choice media streamer is the Amazon Fire 4K TV (opens in new tab). Offering a wealth of streaming services, and top AV quality, for a reasonable price makes it pretty much unbeatable value. Whether you want to gorge on Netflix, browse Amazon Prime or explore some of the weirder streaming channels out there (we’re looking at you Shudder), it’s in a league all its own.

The Fire TV stick has plenty of excellent rivals, but our runner-up trophy goes to Now TV (opens in new tab). While Sky Q (opens in new tab) is the money no object leader when it comes to posh pay-TV, Now TV offers extensive access to the best of Sky, be it Chernobyl from Sky Atlantic or recent movies on Sky Cinemas, and with Now TV’s voucher payment scheme, you can dip in and out as funds allow.

How to buy the best media streamer for you

The best media streamers come in all shapes and sizes, offering multiple ways to watch catch-up TV and non-contract video on demand.

The good news is that feeding your streaming habit doesn’t have to be expensive. For example, Catch-up TV is built into the very fabric of Freeview Play, and it’s (unsurprisingly) free. Not just the default tuner option for many TVs, it can also be had via a standalone media player box.

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Arguably the most advanced media player is Amazon’s Fire TV 4K stick. This HDMI dongle simply plugs into your TV (or the HDMI input of an AV receiver) and connects over Wi-Fi, offering a huge variety of streaming services, from Netflix to UFC Fight Pass. It also has built in Alexa voice control, so you don’t need to lift a finger to be able to watch what you want.

A cheaper alternative to Fire TV is Google’s Chromecast. This uses your smartphone as a conduit for media playback. The player app of your choice is cast directly from your mobile, via the Chromecast device, to the TV. As media playing solutions go, it’s pretty clever.

Key considerations when shortlisting any media player is the choice of streaming services it supports (beyond the big names, what is there?), and its AV quality (does it offer much in 4K and surround sound?). We’ve been streaming like a boss and have come to some big decisions...

Best media streamers 2021: enjoy streaming movies and TV at the best prices (3)

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Best media streamers 2021: enjoy streaming movies and TV at the best prices (5)

1. Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

This brilliant media player sets the streaming bar sky high

Specifications

Price: £50

Netflix: Yes

Amazon Prime Video: No

YouTube: Yes

(Video) Top 6 Best Streaming Media Players in 2022 👌

BBC iPlayer: Yes

Built in Wi-Fi: yes

Other features: Built in Amazon Alexa

Reasons to buy

+

Huge streaming service choice

+

4K video and multichannel audio support

Reasons to avoid

-

User interface can be a mess

-

Hard to find 4K versions of TV shows on Amazon Prime

Amazon’s 4K-capable HDMI streaming stick is an unbeatable solution if you want to watch high quality TV without a long term contract. In addition to Amazon Prime, there’s Netflix, catch-up players for all the main UK channels, Disney Life, as well as more esoteric streaming services, such as Curzon Cinema and Crunchyroll.

Connecting over Wi-Fi, it boasts Amazon Alexa voice control via a microphone in the remote control, and is as happy streaming music as it is TV and movies. It parties hard with Amazon Music, Spotify and Tidal.

It’ll even serve as a decent casual games machine, courtesy of a sprightly quad core 1.7GHz processor. Amazon’s retro Sega collection, which includes Sonic The Hedgehog, is well worth a play.

Picture quality is generally great, provided your broadband speed is fast enough, and with two-way Bluetooth, you can pair wireless headphones for private listening.

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2. Now TV

The best of Sky without a long term contract

Specifications

Price: £30

Netflix: Yes

Amazon Prime Video: No

YouTube: Yes

BBC iPlayer: Yes

Built in Wi-Fi: yes

Other features: Voice search

Reasons to buy

+

A non-committal way to enjoy premium Sky TV

+

Decent range of supporting services

Reasons to avoid

-

HD video quality limited to 720p

-

Stereo sound only

If you want to watch the best of Sky TV without being tied to a contract, or maybe you simply can’t install a dish, then the Now TV streaming media player is a handy solution. It only needs Wi-Fi or an Ethernet connection work.

Now TV is unlocked with monthly vouchers. You can buy a Sky Cinema Pass (£9.99), Entertainment (£7.99), Kids (£3.99) and Sky Sports( £33.99), as and when you need them. There’s also Netflix, catch-up TV apps and YouTube available. Got a surfeit of popcorn? You can even rent newer movies via the Sky Store.

In addition to these on-demand streams, Now TV offers internet-delivered Sky channels live. Build quality is high, the box is actually built by Roku.

There is a caveat, naturally. While the Now TV box is 4K ready, only Netflix and YouTube stream in UHD. All Sky services are limited to entry-level HD quality (720p), and are only available in stereo. Not the best quality then, but brilliantly simple to use

Best media streamers 2021: enjoy streaming movies and TV at the best prices (7)

3. Apple TV 4K

This latest Apple TV is a slick player for iTunes aficionados

Specifications

Price: £179

Netflix: Yes

Amazon Prime Video: No

YouTube: Yes

BBC iPlayer: Yes

Built in Wi-Fi: yes

Other features: Apple Airplay 2 compatible, Siri voice control

Reasons to buy

+

A perfectly fit for the Apple faithful

+

Plenty of 4K and Dolby Atmos content in iTunes Store

Reasons to avoid

-

Not really of interest if you’re an Android user

-

Expensive

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If you’re a dedicated Apple enthusiast, the Apple TV 4K box is going to be high on your media player shortlist. Even if you’re not an Apple devotee, you might be tempted. It offers an undeniably slick user experience, with a wealth of high quality 4K HDR movie content in the iTunes store.

There are two versions of this media player available, one offering 32GB for app storage, and a step-up 64GB model. Our advice is to stick with the cheaper option, as you’ll probably not need the extra storage space.

In addition to Apple Airplay 2 streaming support, Siri is on hand with viewing recommendations.

Content isn’t limited to just the Apple store. Other apps include BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, My5, Amazon Prime, Netflix and Now TV; some but not all of these are grouped under a TV app umbrella. This box is also home to the new Apple TV+ streaming service.

Picture quality is first rate, and there’s Dolby Atmos sound on a wide range of iTunes movies, too.

Best media streamers 2021: enjoy streaming movies and TV at the best prices (8)

4. Manhattan T3 Freeview Play 4K Smart Box

Upgrade your TV with Freeview Play and catch-up

Specifications

Price: £80

Netflix: No

Amazon Prime Video: No

YouTube: Yes

BBC iPlayer: Yes

Built in Wi-Fi: yes

Other features: Freeview Play tuner

Reasons to buy

+

4K ready streaming upgrade for any TV

+

Roll back programme guide

Reasons to avoid

-

No Netflix

-

No Amazon Prime Video

(Video) Best Streaming Media Player 2021 * Top 5 Streaming Media Player (Reviews)

Manhattan is a well known manufacturer of timeshifting PVRs, but there’s no hard drive in the Manhattan T3. This 4K-enabled Freeview Play TV box is dedicated to streaming.

It offers all the Freeview Play catch-up TV services, including the BBC iPlayer, ITV hub, All4, UKTV player and Demand 5, plus CBS Catch Up, Horror Bites, the BBC’s news and sport apps and YouTube.

Connect your TV aerial, and you’ll also have access to the Freeview Play TV guide, with roll-back 7 day programme guide, which offers a great way to browse shows you may have missed.

In addition to a terrestrial aerial loop-through, there’s a single HDMI port, digital optical audio, Wi-Fi and Ethernet.

Picture performance is solid. HD looks sharp, while 4K content streamed from YouTube is outstanding. The iPlayer app is also compatible with BBC 4K broadcast trials.

The only thing missing is Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

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5. Chromecast

Simple, versatile and cheap as chips. One of the best media streamers around

Reasons to buy

+

Plug and play simplicity

+

Works with a wide variety of apps

Reasons to avoid

-

No user interface

-

Video quality maxes out at 1080p HD

Now in its third iteration, Google Chromecast is an HDMI puck that works with Chromecast enabled apps on your smartphone. Principal support comes from Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Now TV and All4. It can also be used with streaming music services, including Spotify, Soundcloud, Deezer, TuneIn Radio, and Google Play Music. To cast, simply touch the Chromecast icon in the requisite app.

Set-up, using the Google Home app, is straightforward. As your smartphone is the playback device, there’s no remote control. There’s no user interface either. Chromecast merely provides a means to an end.

Not all apps support Chromecast, but one solution to this is to mirror your phone to the screen, another feature of the device. It’s not exactly a seamless user experience, but it works. It can also be used in conjunction with Google’s Home or Home Mini connected speakers.

Best media streamers 2021: enjoy streaming movies and TV at the best prices (10)

6. Roku Streaming Stick Plus

Powerful 4K rival to Amazon Fire TV

Specifications

Price: £60

Netflix: Yes

Amazon Prime Video: Yes

YouTube: Yes

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BBC iPlayer: Yes

Built in Wi-Fi: yes

Other features: Bluetooth headphone pairing

Reasons to buy

+

Easy to use interface

+

Excellent Wi-Fi performance

Reasons to avoid

-

No support for Dolby Vision

-

Bluetooth headphone pairing

An HDMI streaming stick, this Roku media player is simplicity personified. Just plug and play. There’s no Ethernet option, but the Wi-Fi performance is robust, thanks to dual-band MIMO aerials.

Image quality is high. The stick supports 4K HDR when available, but isn’t compatible with Dolby Vision, like its Amazon Fire TV rival. It also has the ability to deliver Dolby Atmos from apps which support it.

The streaming service selection is first rate. All the main catch-up services are here, including BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub, plus Now TV. The Roku stick also offers voice control but it’s not as chatty as Amazon Alexa.

Other features include Bluetooth pairing for headphones, useful for viewing late at night. It’s a tough call between this and the Amazon Fire TV 4K stick, but we suspect many will find the simpler user interface easier to live with, not least because you don’t have to scroll through Amazon ads.

Best media streamers 2021: enjoy streaming movies and TV at the best prices (11)

7. Sky Q

The ultimate premium Pay TV service

Specifications

Price: Dependant on subscription package chosen

Netflix: Yes

Amazon Prime Video: No

YouTube: Yes

BBC iPlayer: Yes

Built in Wi-Fi: yes

Other features: Sky Channels

Reasons to buy

+

The most sophisticated Pay TV service available

+

The best selection of on-demand TV box sets

+

Elegant integration with Netflix

Reasons to avoid

-

Contract required

When it comes to media streaming telly boxes, life doesn’t get any better than Sky Q. The platform combines the smartest user interface with the widest selection of content, covering movies, sports and music.

Niceties include voice control, which can be used to find programmes or simply shuttle around, and a simple streaming multiroom option. Sky Q Mini boxes use Wi-Fi to relay channels and on-demand content from the main Sky Q box.

Netflix subscribers can combine subscription payments through Sky, and you can access all your Netflix shows directly from the main Sky homepage You can even use Sky Q as a music player, using the Spotify app on-board or via Bluetooth.

If you need more, there’s also a huge selection of box-sets, and movies on demand. In the world of the best media streamers, this is as luxe as it gets.

Explore the latest Sky Q deals (opens in new tab)

Steve is a home entertainment technology specialist who contributes to a variety of UK websites and mags, including Louder Sound, Yahoo UK, Trusted Reviews, T3, The Luxe Review and Home Cinema Choice. Steve began his career as a music journo, writing for legendary rock weekly Sounds, under the nom de plume Steve Keaton. His coverage of post punk music was cited in the 2015 British Library exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination, as a seminal influence on the Goth music scene.

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FAQs

Which streaming service is best value for money? ›

For example, Sling TV is the best for money-savers, YouTube TV is average pricing, and fuboTV is the most expensive. With that, you'll want to make sure you're getting the most bang for your buck. Sling TV will have the least number of channels while fuboTV will have the most (and make sure you get a variety you like).

What is the most popular streaming platform 2021? ›

Netflix is unsurprisingly the most popular video streaming platform in the United States. As of May 2021, the share of households using the service amounted to 62 percent. Second was Amazon Prime Video with 54 percent of people interviewed stated to use it.

Which streaming device has the most free channels? ›

Our Top Recommendation: Roku Ultra

Roku has more features and device options than the Fire TV Stick, and it has more channels/apps overall, including free content. Of the entire line, Roku Ultra is the most powerful and fastest streaming device.

Which streaming service is best for watching movies? ›

  • Netflix. Best for Original Movies. Jump To. ...
  • Hulu. Best for Movie Variety. Jump To. ...
  • Peacock. Best for Free TV and Movie Streaming. Jump To. ...
  • Amazon Prime Video. Best for Popular Movies. Jump To. ...
  • Disney+ Best for Family-Friendly Movies. ...
  • HBO Max. Best for WarnerMedia Movies. ...
  • KweliTV. Best for International Films. ...
  • Tubi. Best for Free Movies.

What is the most popular streaming service 2022? ›

10 BEST Video Streaming Services of 2022 [LIST COMPARED]
  • Comparison of Top Live TV Streaming Services.
  • #1) XtremeHD.
  • #2) YouTube TV.
  • #3) Netflix.
  • #4) Sling TV.
  • #5) Apple TV +
  • #6) Hulu Plus Live TV.
  • #7) HBO Max.
Aug 15, 2022

Is there anything better than Netflix? ›

Hulu is ZDNet's No. 1 recommendation due to its diverse volume of network and original shows. We analyzed the top streaming services based on price, original content, variety of shows and movies, live TV options, simultaneous streaming, advertisement policy, and more to find the best alternatives for Netflix cynics.

It's all about resolution and HDR.

Reasons to avoid The Fire TV Stick 4K isn't the highest-end stick you can get from Amazon, but it comes with all of the most important features; starting, of course, with 4K.. All of the Fire TV Sticks come with an Alexa-capable voice remote, but this model also supports TV controls so you can adjust your volume without finding a separate remote.. Reasons to avoid The Fire TV Stick isn't the cheapest streaming stick from Amazon, but with a low price and a solid stack of features, it is without a doubt the best 1080p Fire TV Stick.. Take all of the great things that you know about the Fire TV Stick 4K, add Wi-Fi 6 support, along with updated internals, and you get the Fire TV Stick 4K Max.. The new Fire TV Stick Lite takes the spot as the most affordable Fire TV device in Amazon's lineup.. The Alexa Voice Remote Lite in the box can't control your TV like the one included with the other best Fire TV sticks.. Like the Fire TV Stick, the Lite is also one of the first Amazon devices to be certified as Climate Pledge Friendly, and it uses less energy than any other Fire device before it.. The Fire TV Stick Lite can support the same viewing experience as the Fire TV Stick and most of the same audio experience, though you don't get Dolby Atmos.. Our pick for the best Fire TV Stick is the Fire TV Stick 4K .. The Fire TV Stick or Fire TV Stick Lite are also good options, but the price is so close to the 4K version that they only make sense right now if you don't have or plan to get a 4K enabled TV.

Team Clark signed up for Frndly TV and streamed 12 hours of content to review the service's pricing, channel lineup, key features and more.

Frndly TV is a live TV streaming service that offers one of the lowest monthly subscription prices on the market in 2022.. In total, Frndly TV offers more than 30 live TV channels for as little as $6.99 per month.. That price sounds great, but you’ll probably find it doesn’t serve as a full replacement for services that offer more of what cable TV does such as YouTube TV or Hulu + Live TV .. The three plans are Basic ($6.99), Classic ($8.99) and Premium ($10.99).. There are more than 30 channels included with Frndly TV , including Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries and Hallmark Drama.. If you’re looking for some improvements in this area, you may want to reference Team Clark’s live TV streaming channel tool to find the service that offers the channels you want for the lowest possible monthly price.. The Classic and Premium packages both include cloud DVR at no additional cost.. The major difference between the cloud DVR functionality on the Classic and Premium plans is the duration of the storage.. ProsCons You can stream more than 30 live channels for as little as $6.99 per month.Channel selection is not as comprehensive as live streaming services like YouTube TV or Hulu + Live TV.All three Hallmark channels and seven A+E networks highlight an improved channel menu.Live sports and news are not available.Unlimited cloud DVR, HD and multiple streams are available for an additional $2 per month.

Philo is a cable and satellite TV alternative that caters to cord-cutters who are serious about keeping their costs down. We tried it out!

The sales pitch for Philo is pretty simple: It has a bunch of the channels you like for a fraction of the monthly bill you’d have with the cable company or even with some other live TV streaming services such as YouTube TV .. The Philo channel lineup is unlike most of the other options in the live TV streaming market thanks to an alternative programming strategy.. Good news for potential cord-cutters: Philo has one of the better cloud DVR policies in the live TV streaming space.. ProsCons One of the best live TV streaming subscription prices on the marketNo local channel accessUnlimited cloud DVR storage is included at no additional cost Sports and news channels not includedUp to 3 concurrent streams and 10 user profiles on one subscriptionPrice jumped from $20 to $25 in June 2021If you’re streaming on a budget, there may be no better combination of price and product on the market than Philo.. If you’re willing to spend $65 per month, some of the other live TV streaming services offer channel lineups that will more closely resemble a traditional cable or satellite TV package.

The best TVs we've reviewed offer the best picture, smarts, and cinematic experience

Exceptional amounts of brightness make it onto the screen with startling consistency, delivering some of the most flat-out punchy and bright HDR pictures we’ve ever seen on a 50-inch TV.. (Image credit: Sony)Sony’s step-down OLED might just be the TV of the year. The new Google TV operating system means the user experience is better than that of any pre-2021 Sony TV, too, and the exclusive Bravia Core streaming service is a genuine value-added feature.. While you could buy a 55-inch OLED for around £1500, it’s perfectly reasonable to instead choose to go for a TV that’s a little less premium but a full 10 inches bigger.. On the other hand, sit too far away from the TV and you’ll struggle to pick up all the picture detail your TV has to offer.. 65-inch TV – minimum 98 inches (Full HD) or 83 inches (4K) 50-52-inch TV – minimum 87 inches (Full HD) or 67 inches (4K) 46-inch TV – minimum 75 inches (Full HD) or 59 inches (4K) 40-42-inch TV – minimum 67 inches (Full HD) or 51 inches (4K) 32-inch TV - minimum 51 inches (Full HD). If you're buying a TV below 32 inches and can save a lot of money on a Full HD model, by all means go for it (4K won't be a huge benefit at that sort of size anyway), but otherwise 4K is both worthwhile and, in all likelihood, your only option.. (Image credit: Future / Star Trek Picard, Amazon Prime)You can now buy 8K TVs from a number of brands, including Samsung, LG and Sony.. First up is HDR10, which is essentially the core HDR format that every HDR TV should support.. LCD TVs, which require a backlight usually made up of white LEDs to show a picture on the LCD panel, are available in a wide variety of screen sizes and, thanks in part to the technology's low cost of production, at affordable prices.. A QLED TV is an LCD TV but with a quantum dot coating over the backlight.

This post clarifies what is download speed. What is a good download speed for your specific activities? What is a fast download speed for the best online experience?

Since 2015, the FCC has defined Internet broadband as internet with the minimum download speed of 25 Mbps, which can meet many household needs.. ActivityMinimum Mbps General Usage Browsing and Email1Streaming Online RadioLess than 0.5VoIP callsLess than 0.5Student5-25Telecommuting5-25File Downloading10Social media1 Watching videos Streaming Standard Definition Video3-4Streaming High Definition (HD) videos5-8Streaming Ultra HD 4K Videos25 Video conferencing Standard Personal Video Call (eg, Skype)1HD Personal Video Call 1.5HD Video Teleconferencing6 Gaming Game Console Connecting to the Internet3Online Multiplayer4 Source: Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Probably you require decent internet speeds, even during peak Internet usage hours.. If you want to have the best gaming experience without interruptions, then Internet tiers with speeds of 300 Mbps and above are highly recommended.. Netflix recommends that your internet service should be at least 5 Mbps for streaming high-definition TV and movies, and at least 25 Mbps for streaming 4K.. As mentioned above, the internet speed requirements depend on the types of online games you enjoy playing.. Whatever console you use, the Internet speeds required for gaming is at least 25 Mbps.

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