What to Look for in a Streaming TV Stick
The TV plug-ins that will revolutionise your viewing
Whether you’re a film junkie, obsessed with sport, like to stream online workouts from YouTube or have Disney-obsessed children, a streaming TV stick could be just what you’re looking for, but they’re not all created equal. Some will require subscriptions to get the content that you want, while for others, the performance you get might well be contingent on the tech that you already have in your home.
Before you buy a streaming stick, it’s worth assessing what you already have, and what you want, as well as how much you’re prepared to pay — because the costs might not be limited to the upfront cost of the stick. If you already have a Freeview TV set, or a Freeview box, you won’t need a stick that gives you access to live TV, but if you’re attracted by the prospect of access to a channel like Sky Cinema, you’re going to have to pay a monthly subscription fee. Not sure if you’ll use it or not? Give it a free trial. This Smart Stick isn’t as extensive as others — it only gives access to around 50 apps, although all the most common are on the list — but it does come with a free month’s subscription to Now TV’s Entertainment channel and Sky Cinema, as well as a one-day Sky Sports pass.
While many TVs now come with a variety of apps pre-loaded, if yours doesn’t, a streaming stick can help to transform your TV into a smart TV. And better still, advances in technology mean that you don’t necessarily need an Apple device or Amazon device in order to stream content from Apple TV or Amazon Prime Video. This tiny device gives you access to over 4,000 free and paid channels — including Apple TV and Amazon Prime Video (although you will need subscriptions to access their paid-for content) — and comes with an app for your phone that lets you use features such as voice search and private listening, where you can watch the TV but listen to the audio from your phone via headphones — ideal if you’re sharing your living space with someone who needs to work or read.
A streaming stick might boast that it’s going to give you 4K Ultra HD content, but that’s only the case if your existing infrastructure can also support it. If you don’t connect the stick to an Ultra HD TV, with an HDMI input that supports HDCP 2.2, and have a high speed internet connection — some apps, such as Netflix, can require speeds of at least 20mbps — then you’re not going to be able to capitalise on everything your stick has to offer. But, if you’re already ticking all the tech boxes, this stick could give you cinema quality films, including some with immersive sound, and it will also integrate with Alexa and your smart home, allowing you to view feeds from your home’s security cameras or baby monitoring system on your TV, all just by using voice commands.