Best streaming stick & box 2023 (2023)

Best Picks

We've rounded up the best media streamers for watching the likes of Prime Video and BBC iPlayer

Best streaming stick & box 2023 (1)

By Hannah Cowton

Senior Staff Writer, Tech AdvisorMAY 17, 2023 3:57 pm BST

Best streaming stick & box 2023 (2)

Best streaming stick & box 2023 (3)

Image: Hannah Cowton / Foundry

If you want to watch streaming platforms like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video and more and don’t have all the apps you need on your TV, then it may be worth investing in a streaming stick or box – a little gadget that plugs into a HDMI socket.

They go by many names – streaming sticks, streaming boxes, media players and more – but they all do the same thing. Plug into your TV via HDMI and connect to the internet so you watch a wealth of content. Many of them also have the ability to run other apps and even games.

With many devices costing under £50/$50, they are one of the best value smart home devices you can get.

Here, we round up the best media players and streaming sticks and boxes you can buy that let you watch endless TV shows and films.

Best streaming stick and box 2023

1. Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max – Best overall

Best streaming stick & box 2023 (4)

Pros

  • Broad range of apps
  • Alexa support
  • Dolby Vision and Atmos support

Cons

  • Lots of Amazon self promotion
  • PiP only works with Ring doorbells

Price When Reviewed:€64,99

Best Prices Today:74,99€ at Amazon

The 4K Max is the best Fire TV Stick yet, with improvements including Wi-Fi 6, a faster processor and support for picture-in-picture. If you have a Ring doorbell, the video will appear when someone presses the button, too.

It will deliver 4K resolution at 60Hz, with support for Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos and other HDR and surround-sound formats.

The 3rd-gen remote adds more buttons for more TV control, while behind-the-scenes improvements (such as an upgrade to the underlying Android version) mean you’ll now get Atmos from Netflix, and you can control the volume of Bluetooth headphones and speakers using the remote control.

It doesn’t have hands-free Alexa like the more expensive Fire TV Cube, but for only £5/$5 more than the 2018 Stick 4K, it is the best choice if you have a 4K TV. If you only have a 1080p panel, opt for the 3rd-gen Fire Stick.

There are ads on the home screen, and heavy promotion for Amazon-owned content from Prime Video and IMDb TV. But, with a well-stocked app store containing all popular streaming services, it’s not difficult to recommend.

Read our full Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max review

2. Roku Streaming Stick 4K – Best Roku streamer

The Streaming Stick 4K from Roku brings4K streaming for an affordable price. The device has a lot going for it including an easy-to-use interface, smooth performance and a decent remote with controls for both the volume and power and voice support.

Roku also offers thousands of hours of free content with The Roku Channel, and a huge range of streaming apps such as Netflix and Disney+.

The Streaming Stick 4K doesn’t have a headphone jack directly on the remote, and the lack of an HDMI extension cable may make setting up a little tricky. However, it does have support for Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos.

Amazon’s Fire TV Stick 4K Max still has the edge here due to a more tailored and comprehensive homepage. Roku needs to get better at suggesting content and making shows readily available without users having to go directly into apps.

Read our full Roku Streaming Stick 4K review

3. Chromecast with Google TV – Best Chromecast

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Pros

  • Slick interface
  • 4K with wide HDR support
  • Google Assistant

Cons

  • Can't switch users
  • No headphone jack on remote

Price When Reviewed:39,99 €

Best Prices Today:€39.99 at Google54,99€ at Amazon

The Chromecast with Google TV is the firm’s best ever streamer. It’s now up there with the best from Amazon. Even if you’re not considering rivals, it’s worth upgrading from an older Chromecast – especially considering that this now has support for Dolby Atmos.

The remote control with Google Assistant and the excellent Google TV interface combine to create a great way to browse and discover content from a range of services and in 4K with wide HDR support, too.

In addition, the device now has support for Google Stadia, so you can use it for gaming as well as streaming.

Whilst the remote doesn’t have a headphone jack, you can connect Bluetooth earphones for private listening. You also can’t switch users on this device.

Read our full Google Chromecast with Google TV review

4. Amazon Fire TV Stick (2021) – Great streamer with Alexa support

Best streaming stick & box 2023 (7)

Pros

  • HDR & Dolby Atmos support
  • Broad range of apps
  • Alexa support

Cons

  • Lots of Amazon self promotion
  • Not much cheaper than the 4K Max

Price When Reviewed:39,99 €

Best Prices Today:44,99€ at Amazon

The 3rd-gen Amazon Fire TV Stick is a great-value media streamer if your TV doesn’t have all the apps you need.

It has support for HDR10+ and Dolby Atmos content, and has an easy-to-use interface with a broad range of apps, including Twitch – which isn’t available on other rivals such as Roku. Of course, Amazon could do with toning down the self-promotion.

The inclusion of Alexa voice support, volume buttons and power buttons on the remote also give you much more control over your TV than the Fire Stick Lite. That said, there’s no 4K support, and the 4K Max Stick doesn’t cost much more.

Read our full Amazon Fire TV Stick (2021) 3rd-gen review

5. Nvidia Shield TV (2019) – Best high-quality streaming

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Pros

  • 4K@60Hz HDR10 support
  • Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision
  • Google Assistant

Cons

  • Expensive

The Nvidia Shield TV offers the most complete media streamer experience on the market right now, although it’s not the cheapest gadget in our chart by a long shot.

It features 4K@60Hz playback, like its predecessor, but the new Shield TV takes things a step further with AI-based 4K upscaling that makes even 360p content look sharp and crisp. It’s not as good as native 4K content, but it’s certainly the next best thing.

Couple that with Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision support across Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, Google Assistant support, access to AAA gaming via GeForce Now and a new triangular remote with backlit media keys and you’ve got a truly premium media streaming experience.

Read our full Nvidia Shield TV (2019) review

6. Manhattan T3-R – Best for Freeview

Best streaming stick & box 2023 (9)

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Great selection of UK on-demand apps
  • PVR capabilities

Cons

  • No Netflix or Amazon Prime
  • Expensive
  • Limited access to 4K content

If you still primarily watch TV over streaming services, the Manhattan T3-R is a great option. It offers Freeview Play, complete with 85 channels (15 of which are HD), and you’ll also find catch-up apps from all the main UK broadcasters if you miss something on TV.

Boasting a 500GB or 1TB HDD, you’ve also got the option of pausing, rewinding or recording TV shows, with the ability to record two channels while watching a third simultaneously. And, most importantly, the software is simple, easy to use and stutter-free.

The only complaint? The lack of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video apps, meaning there’s a lack of 4K content beyond what’s available on YouTube and BBC iPlayer.

Read our full Manhattan T3-R review

7. Amazon Fire TV Cube (3rd Gen) – Best smart speaker combo

Best streaming stick & box 2023 (10)

Pros

  • Excellent, fast performance
  • HDMI passthrough
  • Doubles as an Echo Dot

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Ad-heavy software

Price When Reviewed:159,99 €

Best Prices Today:159,99€ at Amazon

The 3rd-generation Fire TV Cube once again combines all the benefits of an Amazon streaming stick with an Echo Dot smart speaker, but this time with faster and slicker performance.

This media streamer supports 4K HDR video, HDR10+, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, and is simple and easy to use thanks to Amazon’s interface. You have the option of hands-free control with your voice – you can also use your voice for all the usual smart speaker commands such as reminders, playing music, asking questions etc.

This is one of the pricier media streamers on the market though, so only consider it if you really want an Echo Dot as well as a streaming stick. You’ll also have to put up with Amazon’s tendency to including lots of ads on its OS.

Read our full Amazon Fire TV Cube (3rd Gen) review

8. Roku Streambar – A great all-in-one entertainment package

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Pros

  • User-friendly interface
  • Decent sound
  • Huge range of content

Cons

  • Older TVs without HDMI-ARC/Toslink not supported
  • Expensive

If you like the sound of the Roku system with its roster of catch-up TV and streaming apps, games and high-end features like AirPlay 2 support, and also want to upgrade your TV audio system at the same time, the Roku Streambar is a capable and budget-friendly option.

Offering the capabilities similar to that of the Roku Streaming Stick+, including 4K HDR support, it’s a fully-fledged Roku streamer embedded within a great-sounding, compact soundbar that’ll sit in front of your TV. It’s a huge upgrade over your TV’s built-in speakers and, with AirPlay support, it’s a particularly great buy for Apple users.

However, it is at the high end when it comes to streaming boxes.

Read our full Roku Streambar review

Buying advice for a streaming stick or streaming box

1.

What is the purpose of a streaming stick or box?

Even if you have a so-called ‘smart TV’, it’s likely to offer an inferior experience – not to mention a deficit in content – compared to the media streamers we’ve reviewed here.

The content available through each streamer is the most important factor for a lot of people. This is why it’s crucial to check that the services you want are available. It’s rare for one device to offer everything, but many have a wide range, with hundreds or even thousands of apps to choose from. Amazon-owned app Twitch isn’t available on devices such as Roku, for example.

2.

What is the difference between a streaming stick and a streaming box?

The difference here is minimal but a stick is what you’d imagine; a stick-like device that plugs directly into your TV. Designs have changed a little over time so some, like the Fire Stick, have a small cable and tend to be called dongles.

Streaming boxes are, well, boxes and they tend to sit underneath your TV and then connect via an HDMI cable.

There are no huge benefits to either unless you have a wall-mounted TV and have nowhere to sit a box. In this case, get a stick so it can be hidden behind your set.

3.

What are the key specs and features to look out for?

When buying a streaming device, check it has the specs and features you need. Not all support 4K Ultra HD resolution output and you’ll also want to check for HDR for a more vibrant picture.

The design of the remote is also something to consider. Some have the ability to control your TV (normally power and volume) and might even have a headphone jack so you can easily listen privately. Others might support voice search via Alexa or Google Assistant.

In short, as long as you have a HDMI port, a streaming stick should work on any TV.

4.

Can you game on a streaming stick or box?

Gaming is a bonus feature on some media streamers. You can play casual games such as Tetris on Roku and Amazon devices, or opt for the Nvidia Shield TV for something a little more console-esque. You can even buy optional gamepads for some if you’re serious about wanting to play like that.

Google Stadia is one of the most popular options for cloud gaming, which you can get directly on Chromecast.

5.

Do Roku devices have YouTube?

Yes – Roku was set to lose YouTube on 9 December 2021. However, a last-minute deal between Roku and Google reversed these plans and ensured that the YouTube app will remain on Roku streaming sticks and boxes for at least a few years.

In addition, the new deal reinstated YouTube TV back onto Roku devices – this app had been gone since April 2021. The inclusion of the YouTube app on Roku devices has now been reflected in the order of our chart.

Author: Hannah Cowton, Senior Staff Writer

Best streaming stick & box 2023 (12)

Hannah Cowton is a Senior Staff Writer at Tech Advisor and Macworld, working across entertainment, consumer technology and lifestyle. Her interests and specialities lie in streaming services, film and television reviews and rumours, gaming, wearables and smart home products. She's also the creator of The London Geek, a geek culture and lifestyle blog.

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