How to make your TV smart: our tips for the best streaming devices
TVs are getting smarter, with newer models offering increasingly slick and user-friendly interfaces to access a range of online services, including video on demand. But if you’re happy with your existing TV you don’t need to buy a new set to explore the world of online entertainment.
A media streaming device will connect your Freeview HD TV to your Wi-Fi. You can then beam a range of films and box sets from your smartphone, tablet and laptop straight to your big screen. Sounds simple, right? But it’s rare for one device to offer everything you want, which is why it’s important to check the services that are available before you buy.
Here’s our latest tips for streaming devices that’ll make your TV smarter without breaking the bank:
Cheap and blissfully easy to use. Simply plug this compact HDMI dongle into the back of your TV for quick and effortless streaming from your smartphone, tablet, or PC, using Google Chrome Browser or the Google Cast app (now rebranded as Google Home). And with your mobile device acting as the remote, you can then stream content from BBC iPlayer, Netflix, YouTube, Spotify and other services straight to your TV.
Apple TV (3rd Generation)
As you’d expect from Apple, the design is stylish, slick and intuitive. Apple TV lets you easily stream iTunes content from your PC, Mac, iPad or iPhone running Apple’s software. And like the rest of iTunes, you just pay for what you want. The interface is presented in a clean, uncluttered way with apps for a range of on-demand services. If you’re a fan of everything Apple, you should consider Apple TV even if you already own a smart TV.
Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa
This immaculately designed set-top box plugs straight into an Amazon account – making it easy to stream any TV programme or film from Amazon Instant Video to your TV. But you can also access other services like Netflix, BBC iPlayer and Demand 5, thanks to a range of pre-installed apps. The Alexa voice remote facility is included, with a microphone for voice searches. Just say “Launch Netflix”, or “Skip ahead five minutes” and Alexa will do the rest.
With the biggest range of apps available, this premium all-rounder gets great reviews – it’s been described by one tech ratings site as “the gold standard in streaming”. Not only does the latest Roku 3 let you enjoy TV programmes and films from the likes of Netflix, Demand 5 and BBC iPlayer, you can also stream music from Spotify and other services and play a selection of files from a USB drive. The supplied remote can also be used as a motion controller, which is handy for apps and games. And Roku’s recently revamped app is now much easier to navigate.
Despite being limited to only 720p video output, Sky’s Now TV box is great value for money. The device is designed to stream Sky’s Now TV service, including movies, entertainment and sports channels. The box also has apps for BBC iPlayer, the ITV Hub, All 4 and Demand 5, as well as YouTube, BBC Sport and Spotify.
This small box looks good and won’t take up much space. The unit itself is very easy to install, simply plug in the external power plug and HDMI cable to the TV, then log in to your wireless network – you’ll be up and running in no time. A small, credit-card style remote makes it easy to navigate on-demand services like Netflix, Facebook and YouTube.