Would you like to make your old TV “smart”? Or do you want to display images from your mobile phone on your TV? Today’s media players are easy to use, give you access to all streaming services and can display material from your mobile.
Our tests are independently conducted and reflect the test editor's honest and objective opinions. Selection of products and test results are in no way influenced by manufacturers, retailers or other internal or external parties.
We tested media players. The media players were tested against new TVs as well as slightly older ones without so-called smart TV functions. In our test, we assessed a number of different functions, but we primarily focused on the following:
Apps & services: Is there support for Netflix, Disney+ and other standard streaming services? Does it have the ability to play back local files, either directly or via apps?
Ease of use: Is it easy to get started and, above all, easy to operate the player for everyday use? Is the remote control easy to use, and are there apps that can act as a remote control?
Screen sharing and extra functions: Is there support for Airplay or Chromecast? How easily does the device talk to your TV via, for example, HDMI CEC? What sort of connection does it have to the smart home and any other functions?
Picture and sound quality: This is mostly determined by what today's streaming services offer and how fast a connection you have. But what’s the basic support in the player for 4K resolution, different HDR technologies and audio formats?
We are constantly testing new media players. You can compare prices and find the best price for them at PriceRunner.
The Chromecast finally becomes a simple media player with remote control, apps and voice control
CPU: Amlogic S905D3G GPU: ARM Mali-G31 MP2 **RAM:**2 GB Storage: 8 GB Software: Google TV Dimensions: 162x60x17 mm Weight: 55 g Video support: 4k/60 Hz, 1080p, Dolby Vision, HDR10, HDR10+ Audio support: Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Atmos Connections: Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac), HDMI 2.1 (built-in), USB-C (power/Ethernet) Remote control: Remote control with voice control, Android & iOS app
Google’s Chromecast platform is a really convenient solution, both for making a TV smart and for streaming video, photos and more from your phone. The downside is that the concept itself is a bit difficult to explain. This is because Chromecast isn’t a pure media player like Apple TV, but more of a receiver for things you have on your phone.
In an attempt to remedy the confusion, Google have released the incredibly awkwardly named Google Chromecast with Google TV.
Google Chromecast with Google TV is two new things in one. On the one hand, it is a kind of second-generation Chromecast Ultra – which provided 4K support for Chromecast – with the new feature of being delivered with a remote control and a graphical interface. From this point of view, the Chromecast part itself is about twice as big as it used to be, but is still intended to be concealed behind your TV. The remote control is small and messy, but very easy to use. The remote also has a built-in microphone to work with Google Assistant.
On the one hand, it’s new for Google to invest in a TV system. Calling the previous Android TV system outdated is a real understatement, and with the new Google TV name, the whole thing gets an update. What this means in practice is a greatly simplified home screen, which mixes apps with recommendations from services you’re logged into. The Chromecast bit starts automatically when you need it, just as it does with TVs where the functions are built in.
Apps are found and downloaded in the general search field instead of via an app store, which feels a bit cumbersome. At the same time, apps need to be updated to work in this new system, even if they were available for Android TV before, which means you lose a couple of smaller apps that are otherwise found on TVs with the system built-in or with a standalone media player. But all the major services are available.
Functionally, we like many aspects of Google's new Chromecast. It’s easy to use and a perfect complement to a TV that lacks smart TV functions or where the system has become too old and dated.
At the same time, it also works with newer TVs, as it supports basic 4K resolution with the associated HDR technologies. In terms of what a Chromecast Ultra has cost over the years, this is a really good upgrade if you lacked an interface for a media player. At the same time, the price comes in above the impulse buy level where the regular Chromecast has always been.
If you have a modern TV, you probably won’t gain much from a Google Chromecast with Google TV. If you only want the Chromecast function, you can get it cheaper elsewhere. However, Google Chromecast with Google TV is a perfect accessory for an older TV, children's TV or similar. An easy-to-use media player, Google Assistant and Chromecast all-in-one provide a really good package if you’re really not happy with the ‘smartness’ built into your TV.
A minimal update technically, but with much better remote control.
CPU: Apple A12 Bionic GPU: Apple A12 Bionic RAM: 4 GB Software: Apple TVOS Width: 98 mm Height: 35 mm Depth: 98 mm Weight: 425 g Connections: Wi-Fi, HDMI Remote control: Remote control with voice control, iOS app
The Apple TV 4K is in its second generation. A couple of years pass between upgrades and we have to say right from the start that you don't buy a new Apple TV for its technical innovations, but for the remote control.
In terms of the exterior, this Apple TV is identical to its predecessor, down to the exact gram in weight. So that means this is fairly small media player which can easily be hidden away out of sight, or taken with you on holiday. And as the remote control runs on Bluetooth, that makes it even easier to hide the device – but not as easy as a Chromecast, which is installed directly in the HDMI port on a TV.
Instead, it's the inside that's new here. The predecessor’s A10 chip has been updated to the faster A12 chip, the Wi-Fi chip supports Wi-Fi 6 and the HDMI port is a model 2.1 with 60 Hz mode for 4K resolution. That's it.
If you’re still using the first generation Apple TV with apps, Apple TV4, or the 4K model that came a little later, you get the same software updates as this one so then it's mostly about what your technical preferences are. The step between full HD and 4K was justified, but here you don’t really notice the difference.
Of course, Apple wants the games you play on Apple TV to load faster and look better. But really, you don’t play games on an Apple TV.
Even more ‘new’, however, is the remote control, Siri Remote. The previous model received a lot of criticism for the fact that the touch control simply didn’t suit lots of people. Apple have finally listened to this. The new remote control is larger, sturdier and has totally physical buttons. Those buttons have a really nice click and the whole construction feels much more robust. The motion sensor, on the other hand, has disappeared, if you were one of the few people who actually knew it existed. At the same time, we would have liked the control to offer support for Apple’s Find system without us having to tape AirTags to it. Because no matter how nice it is, it still hides on the sofa just like the previous one.
The best thing about the remote control? It*s sold separately and also works with older models. So if you have an older Apple TV and dislike the remote you already have, you can simply upgrade it without having to shell out for a brand new Apple TV.
The Apple TV 4K is a great choice if you want a media player where all apps are available and where new functions are still added even several years after you bought it. For those of you who already have an earlier one, it’s probably enough to just upgrade your remote control, but if you are eager to buy a new Apple TV, you may as well get this one to get as long a life on it as possible.
The Google Chromecast is by far the cheapest way to make your TV ‘smart’, although it can be a bit confusing.
CPU: No data GPU: No information RAM: No information Storage: No Software: Google Cast Dimensions: 51.8x51.8x13.8 mm Weight: 40 g Video support: 1080p/60 Hz, Audio support: No information Connections: Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac), HDMI 2.0b (built-in), Micro USB (power/Ethernet) Remote control: Android & iOS app
The third generation Google Chromecast is as efficient as it is cheap, and that’s why we name it as best in test. But while it’s pretty good, it’s also a bit of a disappointment in some respects and not really a standard media player. More about this below.
A Chromecast consists of a small puck-shaped device with an HDMI cable that you can neatly conceal behind your TV and connect to your home Wi-Fi network (an optional adapter for wired internet is available). After that, it simply works as a receiver for anything you send to it from your telephone, tablet or computer.
There’s no direct interface to speak of and no specific remote control. This may sound confusing, but because the entire interface can be summarised as “You press a Cast button in an app on your telephone”, it’s actually very simple.
The Cast button appears in the apps that support it, which is pretty much every app for streaming films that’s currently available. You can also display the entire screen from a computer or Android mobile if necessary.
Youtube, Netflix and many others support Chromecast and you will rarely feel that anything is missing.
At the same time there are relatively few reasons for anyone who already has a second-generation Chromecast to upgrade it. Google claim that the new generation is 15% faster than the second one, which becomes apparent when video clips start a few seconds more quickly than the previous version. In other words, it’s barely noticeable.
The biggest technical novelty is that 1080p resolution content can be displayed at 60 Hz, but if this was something you found annoying you've probably already invested in a Chromecast Ultra that provides both this and 4K resolution.
You can also use your TV as a speaker if you’re running Google Assistant via Google Home speakers. Here, the video-dominant Chromecast has loaned the function from Chromecast Audio, which means your TV can form part of a multiroom solution for music.
The standard function is still the same and it’s just as stable as before. This makes Chromecast probably the cheapest and definitely the most convenient solution for anyone who wants modern smart TV functions on an older TV. But if you’ve already got the previous version, there are few reasons to upgrade.
Long-term updates: Our Chromecast has trundled along with an older TV for almost two years without a hitch. There’s now an update in the form of Google Chromecast with Google TV, which combines a “real” media player with a remote control and a 4K Chromecast. At the same time, this costs significantly more, and the third generation Chromecast continues to be the cheapest way to make an older TV ‘smart’.
The best Android media player you can buy
CPU: Nvidia Tegra X1+ GPU: Nvidia Tegra X1+ Ram: 2 GB Software: Android 11 with Android TV Width: 40 mm Height: 40 mm Depth: 164 mm Weight: 137 g Connections: Wi-Fi, HDMI, ethernet, Micro SD Remote Control: Remote control, Android app
The Nvidia Shield TV sets a shining example. Not just for other media players and not just for other devices running Android, but for the tech industry as a whole. This doesn’t really have a lot to do with its features. It’s about the product’s lifespan.
The Nvidia Shield TV is the simpler of two versions currently sold by Nvidia. The other, Shield TV Pro, is significantly larger, more expensive and boasts more working memory, double the storage space and more connection ports. Both were released three years ago and keep providing updates on a regular basis. The same also applies to the versions released in both 2017 and 2015, which are still updated with essentially the same software as the later models. In fact, we can only think of Apple TV that has the same long upgrade period. Any TV and its smart operating system or any Android phone can only dream of half that time.
The Shield TV is shaped like a metal tube with connection on both short sides. Hardly the most aesthetically pleasing solution for a bundle of cables, but the actual unit is quite stylish. At the same time, the connections are considerably more than the average for these types of products, as you have integrated space for both memory cards and a wired network.
The remote control is a triangular stick that looks rather weird at first. But after just a few minutes of use, we can confirm that the shape, together with a convincing weight, makes it super-comfy to use. The fact that the buttons are backlit is another bonus.
On the software front, this is Android TV and not the slightly more modern Google TV. This means that all the apps you want are there, even those that e.g. may benefit from stored videos on the memory card. As ever, Android TV is darkly and gloomily built up in a fairly rigid interface, but it works. Nvidia is mostly responsible for the settings, which include support for AI upscaling of video.
This Nvidia part is what sets the Shield apart from other Android sticks – the ability to pair a wireless controller and run real PC games streamed to the media player. It costs extra, of course, but is far more enjoyable than any gaming experience available for Android.
Whichever version of the Nvidia Shield TV you buy, you’ll need to pay a little more for it than a regular media player with Android. That said, there’s a completely different level of quality in the hardware, and you’re guaranteed to get something really long lasting. The experience is not as polished as Apple TV - something we can hardly blame Nvidia for entirely. But if you want Android, the Nvidia Shield TV is hard to beat.
Easy-to-use media player with modern functions and a lot of support for both apps and games.
CPU: Apple A10X Fusion GPU: Apple A10x Fusion RAM: 3 GB Storage: 32/64 GB Software: Apple tvOS Dimensions: 98x98x35 mm Weight: 425 g Video support: 4k, HDR, Dolby Vision Audio support: Dolby Atmos Connections: Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac), HDMI 2.0a (built-in), Ethernet Remote control: Remote control with voice control, iOS app
The Apple TV 4K isn’t quite as big an upgrade as its predecessor, which brought with it apps like Siri and Homekit. In terms of appearance this is much the same machine, but on the inside things are a bit faster with hardware to handle 4K resolution with HDR. In a later update, support for Dolby Atmos has also been added.
But in addition to those extra technical details, and faster hardware to back it all up, you’re also paying a higher price. In the past the service life has proven to be really good for this machine and annual major updates bring with them new picture and sound formats as well as new functions and services.
The number of apps for film, TV series and music is now at such a level that we don’t feel anything is missing. The range and general quality of the apps are really good and often a step above what you get for Android/Google TV. When Apple introduced its Apple Arcade game subscription, it also came to Apple TV. That hugely increased the number of games available for the device, though it still can’t be called a full-featured game console. However, it does now support both Xbox and PlayStation controllers, which is nice.
The remote control is the same and still as good, even if the touchpad is a bit awkward to use compared to a regular joystick. Siri still does the best she can, but talking to your TV probably isn’t all that high on your priority list. The somewhat passive function where Apple TV acts as the home server for Homekit-connected gadgets is still worth its weight in gold if you run that sort of system, and Airplay from an iPhone or Mac works just as smoothly as ever.
If you don’t want to use a remote control, the app for iPhone or iPad works just as well (if not better). When it comes to format support outside of the usual streaming services, a lot depends on which app you can find for the purpose. But once you’ve found one, you shouldn’t have any real problems there. Over the years, new functions have also been added that make Apple TV 4K feel perhaps more relevant now than when it was released. Nowadays, there is support for YouTube in 4K, more users, some support for TV providers and much more.
Even though the Apple TV 4K has been around for a couple of years, this isn’t noticeable on the whole. Largely thanks to the constant updates with new functions. The hardware may not keep up with the heaviest games, but overall this is a really easy to use and stable purchase. Especially if you’re an iPhone, iPad or Mac user.
Affordable media player with support for 4K and Chromecast. But a bit weak for games.
CPU: Quad core Cortex A53 1.6GHz GPU: Mali-450 RAM: 2 GB Storage: 8 GB Software: Android TV Dimensions: 95x95x16 mm Weight: 147 g Video support: 4k/60 Hz, Audio support: Dolby, DTS Connections: Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac), HDMI 2.0a, USB-A, sound, power Remote control: Bluetooth remote control, Android & iOS app
If your home is full of Apple products, then an Apple TV makes a good addition to your collection. But what’s the equivalent for Android? There are lots of media players with different versions of ‘normal’ Android as well as the more TV-oriented Android TV system. However, they're rarely exactly alike, which can mean a number of bugs and error codes in the apps you want to use.
Xiaomi’s Mi Box S stands out from the crowd because it's an Android TV box with Google certification. This offers a lot of advantages, such as quick updates to the latest version of the system (something other media players often just won’t have). Likewise the apps you find in the app store work as they should without getting error codes. The relationship with Google also provides benefits such as built-in Chromecast Ultra to be able to cast material from your phone in 4K resolution as well as Google Assistant built in via a special button on the remote control.
Did you get all that? In other words, the Mi Box S is a media player with Android TV, and all the apps and games that brings with it. It works with all the major streaming services we tested, with the exception of Amazon's. Other than a generally broad range of apps, games and streaming services, the device also contains the equivalent of a Chromecast Ultra (in other words the version with 4K support). And that gadget alone only costs a little less than the price for Xiaomi’s media player.
As well as that, you have the entire Google Assistant ecosystem at your fingertips. It isn’t the same voice-activated version as separate speakers with the voice assistant, but you’re only the touch of a button away from all the functions. And if you get tired of the standard remote control (which, it should be said, is very good), there are apps for both Android and iPhone to control the unit.
Because it’s Android, this doesn’t involve anything more complicated than connecting Bluetooth accessories such as speakers or game controllers to the unit – and the latter gives you a pretty reasonable games library to play with. But this is where the disadvantages start to emerge, as other than support for playback of content in 4K resolution, it’s not the most powerful machine in the world.
Most games work without problems, but the biggest ones have a tendency to be rather slow. The built-in memory gives you about 5 GB of storage, which can start to be an issue if you have several large games installed at the same time. You can expand this with USB memory, but that’s a slower solution.
You may also want to use the USB port for an adapter to wired internet, because the Mi Box only has Wi-Fi built in, which can be a bit tight for streaming large video files. The 4K support also includes support for HDR10, but if you’re looking for the very latest technology, it’s lacking both Dolby Vision for images and Dolby Atmos support for sound.
But if that’s what you need, you probably need to look at media players over the £100 mark. The fact is that the Mi Box S has enough positive characteristics to more than outweigh the negative ones. It’s simply a very good value for money media player.
Long-term updates: The Xiaomi Mi Box S is still a fully capable media player in itself. At the same time, it has faced competition from both Google’s own media player and its own successor, the Xiaomi Mi Box S HDR. The latter costs about the same, but supports a few more HDR formats and can thus be considered more future-proof.
Stable high-price media player
CPU: ARM Cortex A55 GPU: ARM Mali-G31 Frame: 2 GB Software: Android TV Width: 112 mm Height: 24 mm Depth: 112 mm Weight: 170 g Connections: WiFi, HDMI, USB-A, optical audio, Ethernet Remote Control: Remote control, IOS & Android apps
Nokia Streaming Box 8000 does not come from the same company that makes Nokia phones anymore (HMD Global), but from the company that makes TVs with Nokia’s brand (StreamView). After spending some time with the machine, we can state that StreamView makes better media players than TVs, albeit quite expensive ones.
Nokia Streaming Box is more classic in its design. Nowadays, most media players are a small stick hidden behind your TV, but this one is more intended to stand out and be seen. However, the box itself is very small and discreet. On the back, we found a pretty good set of ports that should cover most needs. The remote control is very similar to the one from the TVs carrying the Nokia brand, but actually feels like it has a slightly better construction quality and feel in the buttons.
Once up and running, we were greeted by Google’s old Android TV interface. There is no information about whether the box will be updated in line with the newer Google TV, but we wouldn't count on it. Android TV works in purely practical terms, but feels rather stiff and dark in comparison.
On the technical front, we found support for 4K resolution in 60 hertz, but very poor support for audio formats. Given the cost of this media player, we should actually be able to wish for DTX as well as Dolby Vision and Atmos, but this is not the case.
As a media player for those who want a little more connectivity, Nokia Streaming Box 8000 is an OK choice. At the same time, you can also add an extra amount of money and buy a Nvidia Shield to get something with the right amount of features for your money.
Nokia Streaming Box 8000, Android TV (Chromecast, HDMI, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+)
Streaming Box 8000, Android TV (Chromecast, HDMI, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+)
Nokia Streaming Box 8000, Android TV (Chromecast, HDMI, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+)
Small, innovative, low price media centre that’s very easy to use
CPU: Marvell 88DE3006 GPU: GC1000 RAM: 512 MB Software: Chrome Width: 51.9 mm Height: 51.9 mm Depth: 13.49 mm Weight: 0.391 kg Connections: WiFi, USB (2.0), HDMI Remote control: iOS/Android app
Google’s Chromecast is a media player that’s cheap as it is small and innovative, so we name it as our best in test. When the first generation Chromecast was launched in 2013, it quickly became a great success. The second generation has a more efficient processor and a better antenna, which is claimed to give 2-4 times higher performance. The result is that films start more quickly and there is less buffering. You insert the Chromecast into an HDMI outlet on the TV, after which you can connect it to a smartphone, tablet or computer with the press of a button. The idea is to easily create a smart TV from a “dumb” TV by giving it access to Android apps. In other words, the Chromecast is like a Google version of the very popular Apple TV, but for a much lower price.
The Chromecast app is now quite good, and we primarily tested YouTube, Spotify, HBO Nordic and Netflix. “Casting” these video on demand services by using your mobile or tablet as a remote control actually works really well. We’d have liked it to be possible to stream locally stored content to your TV via the Chromecast. Thus far, even if it’s possible to do this on a purely technical level the copyright mafia have put the kibosh on this particular functionality. Unsurprisingly, the film industry is terrified that such a cheap and easy to use gadget will make it far too easy for the general public to stream pirated videos to their TVs. This is definitely a disadvantage for the Chromecast, but hopefully it will be possible in the future. In any case, what’s certain is that increasing numbers of Android apps will be accessible for Chromecast in the future and as the Android platform is so enormous, this means almost unparalleled opportunities. This is the market’s most practical and affordable streaming solution and we think every TV deserves a Chromecast.
Fast and easy-to-manage with an overcrowded interface
CPU: No information GPU: No information Ram: No information Software: Amazon Fire TV OS 18.104.22.168 Width: 97 mm Height: 30 mm Depth: 14 mm Weight: 48 g Connections: WiFi, HDMI, Remote Control: remote control with voice control
Amazon has been making media players in the Fire TV series for many years now and Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max is both the latest version, and one of the first to be released in an international version. This means that it works without any problems in Sweden, and that Swedish apps have begun to be available. Alexa support is still in English, but is also included.
The actual Fire TV media player consists of a plastic stick with HDMI connector on one end and power connector along the one long side, similar to all “streaming sticks” in the same genre. Instead, it’s the remote you’ll see and interact with. It honestly looks like a Fisher Price toy. The noisy plastic feels well-built and the buttons have a good bounce, but the shape together with the blue Alexa button makes it feel a lot like a toy.
Getting started is basically about logging in with your Amazon account, and you’re up and running with both the stick and Prime Video. After that, just download the apps you want and, as long as they’re fairly international, there’s no problem finding them. Domestic apps, on the other hand, are worse. When we tested it, major Swedish players such as Viaplay or Cmore were not available, but Discovery+ is there. SVT Play could not be found when we searched for it, but when a program from that service appeared in the advertising line on the start page, we got in that way and downloaded the app. Just the right amount of hassle and not entirely localised yet, quite simply.
What should be said about the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max is, at least, that it is ready to handle. Even though it is Android at the heart of the system (the open source variant, so without Google), we have to admit that Amazon has succeeded significantly better in delivering a pleasant interface compared to equivalent sticks with Android. At the same time, Prime Video has a huge emphasis on the interface, which is quite logical given the manufacturer. But this also makes it a little more difficult to access other services that you have downloaded.
As a kind of first attempt, Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max is one of the better streaming sticks we’ve tested. At the same time, it’s Amazon’s tenth attempt in the area and only its first time in these countries, so it should work this well.
Media player, streaming stick, media centre… they have lots of different names. Basically this type of device has undergone a big transformation over recent years, and what we mean today by a media player isn’t the same thing that was on the market about ten years ago.
In the past, there was a strong focus on playing local files, mainly films. Either via the player’s built-in hard drive or by downloading material from a networked hard drive. Some online services, such as YouTube, were included, but in the main it was very much about format support. Downloaded films, their audio tracks and subtitles came in a variety of formats, and it was important that the player had support for everything you needed.
Either you bought a ready-made box or you built your own media computer. Essentially a normal PC with a TV-friendly interface such as XBMC (later Kodi) or Windows Media Centre.
Over time, things have changed to focus more and more on the various streaming services people use today, such as Netflix, Viaplay, Disney+ and the like. Of course you can still play local files, but these are managed via an app designed for the purpose, because all of today’s media players are based on the same app architecture as your mobile phone.
Another important aspect is the ability to display content from your mobile. Here, there are basically two technologies in use today, Airplay or Google Cast. The former is Apple’s own technology and thus works with their products, while the Cast part is a bit more universal.
Just as with sharing of content from your mobile, there are two different platforms in use today.
Apple TV. Apple’s own media player, which works best in a household with mainly Apple devices. Although this is also a really efficient device independently. If you want to read more about Apple TV, you can take a look at our guide on the subject: Get started with Apple TV and Everything you need to know about Apple TV
Google. Google actually have three different systems, which more or less overlap. First and foremost is Google Cast, which is both built into many TVs and forms the basis of Chromecast. In simple terms, this is a receiver for whatever you want to transmit from your mobile, whether it’s a Netflix film or holiday photos. The step up from that is called Android TV, or now also Google TV. The Cast option remains, but you also get a graphical interface on your TV, with the option to install apps and the like.
Android TV and Google TV are the systems that ‘everyone else’ uses. So they’re built into TVs from, for example, Philips and Sony, but also into stand-alone media players such as Xiaomi's various Mi Box models.
Virtually all TVs today have some form of media player built-in and readily support apps like Netflix and so on. As we mentioned above, Sony and Philips TV’s have Google’s Android TV built in, while LG has its own WebOS and Samsung has its own Tizen system.
All modern TVs are extremely competent in this area and in many cases there’s really no reason to buy an extra media player as well. The same goes for the Xbox and PlayStation, which contain a lot of today's streaming services.
But there are always exceptions:
An old TV. You may be completely happy with the TV you currently have. But maybe its a bit old and didn’t have a ‘smart’ system built in? Or maybe it’s a bit too slow now, or the system has stopped updating and your apps have started to disappear? Whatever the case, whether your main TV or one that the kids use, it can get a new lease of life from a media player that has all today’s apps installed and ready for use.
Services are missing. Whether you have an older TV or a brand new one, sometimes there may be an app that isn’t available. Your TV might just not support the app you want, for instance. If that’s the case, it might make sense to supplement your TV with a media player.
Mobile connection. You may be completely satisfied with both your TV and its built-in system. But maybe it’s a bit older and doesn’t have support for Chromecast or Airplay? Instead of buying a brand new TV for the missing bit, it’s significantly cheaper to just add a media player.
Well... Not really. There are no pure media players such as Apple TV or Chromecast with a built-in reader for CD, DVD or Blu-ray.
Depending on where you want to draw the line for what a media player is, however, there are alternatives. Perhaps the most common is that you have a PlayStation or Xbox, which have both a turntable for physical discs and support for streaming apps such as Netflix. The downside to these is that the number of streaming services available is quite small compared to Apple TV or Android TV.
In the same way, it isn’t completely impossible to find pure Blu-ray players with support for some streaming apps.
Yes, but some thought may be required beforehand.
Many TV providers offer their channel packages either in app form or through collaboration with, for example, Apple and their Apple TV. Check with your TV provider for what applies in your case.
If you have no problem jumping between apps, you can watch quite a few channels through their own apps.
You don’t need a separate TV tuner, antenna and the like. The only problem that can arise is if you’ve got used to recording a lot of material, which often isn’t possible with normal media players. The alternative here is that material being broadcast often remains on the service afterwards (and in many cases before too). This allows you to easily catch up on the latest films or news reports when it suits you, without having to record them in advance.
No. Apple has its own technology for mirroring content from a Mac, iPhone or iPad to an Apple TV (or TV with built-in support for Airplay). Supporting the competitor’s technology isn’t really going to happen with Apple.
However, you can “cast”, as it’s called, from an iPhone to a Chromecast or TV with built-in Cast functionality. This isn’t because Apple’s phone has that technology built in, but rather because specific apps have built in support for Chromecast.
Both Chromecast and Airplay make use of your normal Wi-Fi network, so they don’t require any special technology to work.
Yes. Apple TV and many standalone boxes with Android TV have a standard network socket and can thus be run wired.
This works if you don’t have Wi-Fi at home, but can also work as a way of getting the best possible connection to the internet.
In fact, Google's Chromecast devices can also be wired if desired. The USB port on Google's streaming sticks works for both power and data. So you can buy an adapter from USB (USB-C on Google Chromecast with Google TV and Micro USB on all previous Chromecasts) to Ethernet and power.
Yes, but expect it to be a lot of work.
Either you can do as people have ‘always done’, which is dedicate an entire PC to the purpose. Or you can build a fully functional media player using the Raspberry Pi minicomputer (or any similar computer types).
Getting started with playback of locally stored files and Chromecast or Airplay functionality is usually quite easy on these devices. On the other hand what can be difficult, or at least need a lot of fiddling, is to get the normal streaming services up and running. If you can’t install them as apps, you have to run them via a web browser, which will affect how easy they are to control with a standard remote control.
But it definitely can work and if you have examples of successful solutions, feel free to mention them in the comments here.
If it’s mainly gaming you want to do on your TV, then a game console or computer is still the best option. But of course you can use other methods too. Direct from a media player, the range of TV-adapted mobile games is often quite limited. Both Android/Google TV and Apple TV support a large number of game controllers (including PlayStation and Xbox controllers), which makes it easier. But the range is a bit meagre.
A growing niche that will probably take over more and more is streamed games. These are games run on a computer in a server hall somewhere and streamed to you over the internet for you to play. There are currently several different solutions for this, with three of the bigger examples being Nvidia's GeForce Now, Microsoft's xCloud and Google's Stadia.
The services are primarily based on PC games that can be streamed to your mobile or computer, or Chromecast in Stadia's case. They all work in the same way as Netflix or other film streaming services in that you pay a fixed monthly fee.
In terms of today’s range of media players, this means either Android TV devices or those you have built yourself with, for example, Kodi as an interface that supports a USB stick or USB hard drive with locally stored files.
However, most modern media players, game consoles and smart TVs can play locally stored files via Plex.
Plex is free software that handles a large amount of online-based streaming as well as local files. You can run a Plex server on a regular computer or on most network accessible storage drives (NAS) where you store all your local files. The devices that will be able to play material from the Plex server are equipped with the Plex client app (available for almost all platforms) and thus make it possible for all devices in the household to stream movies, pictures and music added to the Plex server.
Up to 2019 Google had a Chromecast audio-only dongle called Chromecast Audio. For some reason they chose to stop work on that product – to the annoyance of many. It was an extremely cheap way to make a pair of ordinary speakers or an older amplifier a bit ‘smarter’ in the same way as a regular Chromecast did for film.
But are there any alternatives today? Yes.
Quick and dirty. You can actually achieve the same results with a normal Chromecast as with a Chromecast Audio. To succeed, you need a TV to start the device and to buy an HDMI to Aux adapter.
Smart speakers. There are a plethora of smart speakers which have Google Assistant built-in as well as many amplifiers with the technology. Depending on the model, you can stream the sound from one of these speakers via Bluetooth or the auxiliary port to your real system.