1. Now TV
Sky’s Now TV box is a true bargain, coming in at under a tenner - it gives you access to the Now TV service for streaming Sports and Movies, while also offering BBC iPlayer, 5 on Demand, Spotify and Facebook. The re-branded Roku box comes complete with a remote and an HDMI cable so you can make any TV a smart one.
Price: £9.99 | Link: Sky
2. Roku LT
The Roku LT is the baby of the Roku family, but delivers a huge bang-for-buck at it's price point. It'll fire out 720p HD streams of all your favourite video content, and features a Spotify app into the bargain.
The Roku mobile app is a must-have too, bringing genuine voice activation to your living room for under £50 - bargain.
Price: £49 RRP | Link: roku.com
3. Apple TV
Alongside the release of the iPad 3, Apple updated its media streaming device, the Apple TV, which now offers streaming in full 1080p HD resolution. As well as a browser for select Internet content, including YouTube, Netflix and Vimeo, Apple TV’s photostream can be integrated via iCloud, automatically sending all new pictures to the TV and letting users view their snaps on the big screen (all of which can be controlled via iPhone or iPad, of course). Frustratingly, it still can’t stream free TV channels, and whilst Airplay streaming is solid, it’s annoyingly restricted to content stored on iTunes - though workarounds are available.
4. Western Digital WD TV
For £80, the WD TV is one of the most appealing media streamers on the market. Smaller than the WD TV Live Hub, it also offers Wi-Fi capabilities, which its bigger brother notably lacks. The TV Live is also exceptionally easy to use, supporting almost every file format under the sun, as well as a bevy of internet channels such as Spotify and Netflix. Furthermore, it offers playback of up to 1080p. The lack of DRM and internal storage are among minor gripes to be had with the WD TV, but for its price we can’t complain too much.
Price: £80 | Link: wdc.com
5. D-Link Boxee Box
As far as streaming goes, the Boxee Box certainly goes beyond the call of duty, offering the ability to collect media from the internet as well as scouring users’ home network for all existing content. There’s an impressive range of supported media formats here, including WMV, DivX, Xvid and ISO. The Boxee's remote, complete with QWERTY keyboard on one side, is another desirable aspect, as is its ability to automatically organise all media content by type. Following a few glitches on launch, a recent firmware patch update has fixed these issues, leaving a fluid interface that’s a pleasure to use.
6. Roku XS
With a heft similar to that of Apple TV, and just £50 more than the entry-level Roku LT, the 2 XS offers an impressive video streaming service at 1080p HD. It also brings Bluetooth capability and a motion-based controller, which are amiss in the small brother model. Easy to navigate with customisable layouts, the 2 XS is a strong market contender for casual users - and the first of the Roku series to support games. The lack of DLNA will be a deal breaker for media aficionados, and supported audio and video formats are comparatively thin on the ground. But for its moderate price and easy-to-use setup, this is one to recommend.
Price: £100 | Link: roku.com
7. Sonos S5 Zoneplayer
Sonos’s multi-room music streamer, the Zoneplayer, has the added functionality of having its own built-in speaker - something that its competitors lack. While it's easy to connect directly to the router, wireless streaming requires an added piece of kit – a Zonebridge (£79). It does, however, support a wide range of music formats, including MP3, AAC, WMA and Flac, while the free iPhone app negates the additional cost of a traditional controller and makes creating playlists a breeze. With a price tag of £349 it’s a hefty purchase, but certainly a worthy one. Additionally, the Sonos Play:3 (£259) offers a cheaper, compact standalone player that’s perfect for expanding your Zoneplayer system.