How we did the test
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.
1. Google Chromecast with Google TV – BEST CHOICE MEDIA PLAYER
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.
Two investments in one
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.
Simple but a bit more expensive
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.
Simple remote control with voice controleasy-to-use interfacefair number of functions
A bit confusing to search for appsnot all apps from Android TV work yet
Price ComparisonCompare all prices
2. Apple TV 4K (2nd generation) - BEST PREMIUM CHOICE
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.
Same as before, but better
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.
Better remote control
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.
Well-built, and good remote controlfast and functionalvery good app support
Minimal upgrade to the previous versioncould have had USB-C for charging the remote
Compare all prices
3. Google Chromecast (3rd Generation) – BEST BUDGET CHOICE MEDIA PLAYER
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.
What is Chromecast?
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.
Is it worth buying the new generation?
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’.
Extremely easy to usethe pricelots of streaming support
Minimal changes from the previous generation
Compare all prices
4. Nvidia Shield TV
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.
Old with new
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.
Comfortable remote controllong update timequick
Android TV feels datedconnections at both ends of the unit
Compare all prices
5. Apple TV 4K
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.
So what’s new in the Apple TV 4K?
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.
Stable and simple
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.
Great support for streaming serviceshomekit & Airplay4K and HDR support
The remote control can be annoyingA bit underpowered for heavier games
Compare all prices
6. Xiaomi Mi Box S
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.
Great at many things, but not so good for heavy games
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.
Great support for streaming servicesbuilt-in Chromecast Ultrabuilt-in Google Assistant4K support
Limited hardware for gameslacks Ethernet portlacks some HDR formats
Compare all prices
7. Nokia Streaming Box 8000
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.
A box rich in content
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.
Many portsgood remote control
Lack of modern audio and image formatsexpensive
Compare all prices
8. Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max
Fast and easy-to-manage with an overcrowded interface
CPU: No information GPU: No information Ram: No information Software: Amazon Fire TV OS 22.214.171.124 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.
Fast interfaceconvenient remote controlthe price
Some services are hiddenmany Swedish services are missing
Compare all prices
9. Roku Streaming Stick 4K
Interesting solution that is not yet ready for Sweden
CPU: ARM Cortex A55 GPU: no information Ram: 1 GB Software: Apple TVOS Width: 90 mm Height: 10 mm Depth: 10 mm Weight: 22 g Connections: WiFi, HDMI, Remote Control: Remote control, IOS & Android apps
Roku and their various solutions for streaming and smart TV are not adapted for Sweden. This is no wonder, as they have not launched here and have no direct presence. Instead, the US is their main market, and Germany is the closest one to us.
While an Android streaming stick can actually be made anywhere in the world and still work here, Roku runs on its own system. This makes the experience here very jarring and simply inferior for the Swedish market. It’s not really Roku’s fault, but it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on in a world where it’s very easy to order products from other countries. For this reason, the rating for Roku Streaming Stick 4K is low, but more as an example of what happens when you try to use something that is not adapted for the country.
Netflix and nothing else
We could start by highlighting what it's actually like to use a Roku in Sweden before we go into the actual product. Getting started and creating an account is no problem, nor are the basic settings for the stick itself. For rented films and the like, we had to enter card details at the time of registration, and then we were up and running. After that, there's a stop.
Our version of Streaming Stick 4K is the German version, so rented films are intended to be directed to Rakuten. The button for this service is on the remote control, but does not lead anywhere (despite Rakuten being available). We could access Spotify and Netflix via the shortcut buttons on the remote control, while the fourth button for Apple TV lead to an app we could not download.
When it comes to apps, we had expected that SVT, Cmore and Viaplay, for example, would not work. But we’re a bit surprised by not really finding a service at all. Netflix, Youtube and Crunchyroll are among the international giants, but strangely enough not HBO Max, Prime Video, Disney+, Paramount+ or the like. They are probably geoblocked in the same way as Rakuten, but from a Swedish perspective it is rather poor.
The stick itself is one of the smaller ones we have encountered in this context. Not that it matters, as it is still hidden behind a TV. We also received an almost equally sized “stick” on the power cord. That part is for boosting Wi-Fi, it says. Initially, it feels quite luxurious, but we soon found that it is a piece of hardware that would not have been needed if the actual stick had been a little bigger.
The remote control is great, albeit with the slightly odd solution of placing the volume buttons on the side of the remote. There are also two back buttons, one for backing inside apps and the other for backing up in the menu system. Not completely logical.
However, the back button was the first hint of how we would experience the interface in general. Regardless of whether we ran it on our “Swedish” account or used it more internationally via VPN (and gain access to more apps), it was clear that we were on a journey back in time. In many ways, the interface was reminiscent of what media players looked like in the early 2010s. It is very square and the graphics feel very “odd” while trying to emulate 3D.
The interface could be updated quite easily to feel more modern, and Roku Streaming Stick 4K would have been perfectly fine in some markets. For us in Sweden, however, this is an experience that we should skip as long as Roku does not launch properly here.
Good remote controlflexible stick
Completely pointless in Swedenoutdated interface
Compare all prices
All about Media Players
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.
What media players are available today?
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.
If you’d like to know more about Chromecast, we recommend you check out our system guides: Everything you need to know about Chromecast and Get started with Chromecast
I have a Smart TV. Do I need a media player too?
Usually not, but in some cases it can be useful.
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.
Are there media players with DVD or Blu-ray?
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.
Can I watch normal regular TV with a media player?
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.
Can I run Chromecast on an Apple TV?
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.
I have no Wi-Fi, are there media players with a wired network option?
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.
Can I build my own media player?
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.
What’s it like to play games on a media player?
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.
Which media players support external hard drives?
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.
What happened to Chromecast Audio?
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.
Is VLC still the Best Media player? ›
Considering it's been in active development since 2001, it's safe to say that VLC won't be going anywhere any time soon. For all of this, VLC keeps its spot on our list of best Windows software. Summary of benefits and notable features: Supports most media codecs out of the box.Which is best video player for Windows 11? ›
- Windows 11 Media Player. For all Windows 11 users, this video player is great news for you because Microsoft has finally released a media player app for Windows 11. ...
- VLC Media Player. ...
- PotPlayer. ...
- GOM Player. ...
- 5KPlayer. ...
- MPV Player. ...
- DivX Player. ...
VLC media player is a versatile and also Multipurpose App, It also plays almost every type of video, sound, and image file on your PC or stored devices.Which is the No 1 TV in the world? ›
LG is one of the largest TV manufacturers in the world, and they're one of the few companies that make both OLED and LED-backlit TVs. Their OLED TVs offer the best value and performance compared to other brands, with an amazing selection of streaming features and fantastic picture quality.Which is the most trusted TV Brand? ›
- The best TV for you: How much does brand matter?
- LG TVs: Best OLED TVs for movies and gaming.
- Samsung TVs: Best all-around brand with the best built-in audio.
- Sony TVs: Fantastic color accuracy and smooth motion for movies and sports.
PowerDVD is the best choice for a VLC Media Player alternative out of the five we reviewed. It supports an extensive range of audio and video formats, offers screencasting and Blu-ray support, and will play 3D and 360° videos.Is VLC owned by Google? ›
VLC media player.
|Initial release||February 1, 2001|
|Stable release(s) [±]|
PowerDVD for Windows 10 is the best video player on this list because it offers a wide range of format support for practically any video or audio file. It also allows you to play, screencast, or easily share your entire library of photos, videos, and music, as well as Blu-rays, DVDs, and VOB files.What is the best Media Player for streaming? ›
- Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K. Best for Alexa Users. ...
- Chromecast With Google TV (4K) Best for Google Assistant Users. ...
- Chromecast With Google TV (HD) ...
- Amazon Fire TV Stick (3rd Gen) ...
- Amazon Fire TV Cube (2022) ...
- Roku Streaming Stick 4K. ...
- Roku Streaming Stick 4K+ ...
- Roku Ultra (2022)
Media Player, designated as Windows Media Player in the Microsoft Store, is a default video and audio player for Windows 11 developed by Microsoft. It is the successor to Groove Music for Windows 10 (previously Xbox Music), Microsoft Movies & TV and Windows Media Player.
What is the best free Media Player for Android? ›
- VLC for Android. Videolabs. ...
- Video Player All Format. InShot Inc. ...
- MX Player. ...
- PLAYit-All in One Video Player. ...
- aPlayer - Video Play, Web Cast. ...
- Video player. ...
- Archos Video Player Free. ...
- VLC Media Player. The best free video player you can download today. ...
- GOM Player. A feature-packed free video player with lots to offer. ...
- 5KPlayer. Whatever the source, this free video player can handle it. ...
- PotPlayer. ...
- Media Player Classic – Home Cinema.
- VLC Media Player. Supported Formats: Support a wide range of video and audio formats, including ASF, AVI, MP4, OGG, OGM, WAV, FLV, VOB, AAC, AC3, FLAC, and others. ...
- KM Player. ...
- GOM Player. ...
- Real Player. ...
- BS Player. ...
- Tomabo MP4 Player.
A video exists in different formats such as MP4, MPEG, WebM, Ogg, AVI, QuickTime, etc. But HTML supports only 3 types of video formats, which include MP4, Ogg, and WebM. We will explore all those types of video formats that are supported by the browsers in detail.What are top 5 TV ratings? ›
- Best TV. Samsung S95B OLED. SEE PRICE. ...
- Best Home Theater TV. Sony A95K OLED. SEE PRICE. ...
- Best Upper Mid-Range TV. Samsung QN90B QLED. SEE PRICE. ...
- Best Mid-Range TV. LG C2 OLED. SEE PRICE. ...
- Best Lower Mid-Range TV. Hisense U8H. SEE PRICE. ...
- Best Budget TV. Hisense U6H. ...
- Best Cheap TV. Insignia F50 QLED.
|1||Funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales||1997|
|2||Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer||1981|
|3||2000 Summer Olympics closing ceremony||2000|
|4||2000 Summer Olympics opening ceremony||2000|
Super Bowl XLIX is currently the most watched U.S. television broadcast with 114.4 million viewers.What TV is better than a smart TV? ›
Options like Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and Chromecast are far better platforms. They offer less convoluted interfaces that are easier to navigate than your smart TV's OS. The app selection is likely greater than what your smart TV's app store offers.How long should a TV last? ›
The industry standard for LED lifespan is 100,000 hours, or about 10 years, and most people assume that's how long their display will last. But it's not quite that simple.Which media player has the best sound quality? ›
- CyberLink PowerDVD 20 Ultra.
- VideoLAN VLC Media Player.
- GOM Player.
- Media Player Classic-Home Cinema.
Is VLC owned by China? ›
So the VLC app itself doesn't come from China and is an open source software from a France-based group.What happened to VLC player? ›
Some suggest it may be because Chinese hackers use it as a medium to hack into computers in India. However, some claim that the government has nothing to do with the ban. The truth is neither the government nor the people at Videolan are aware of what's happened to VLC.Is VLC shut down? ›
One of the most popular media player software and streaming media server VLC media player, developed by VideoLAN project, is no longer working in India.Do smart TVs have media players? ›
Smart TVs and streaming devices both stream media, but there are major differences in how they work. Smart TVs come ready to accept media from a variety of sources, from streaming media subscriptions like Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and Hulu, to content viewable with an internet connection.Do you need a media player with a smart TV? ›
If you already have a smart TV, you don't need a streaming device. However, if you have extra needs or an older smart TV, a streaming device could be a better choice for you. Streaming devices provide more content. If you want endless options for entertainment, a streaming device is more beneficial.What is the best Android TV player? ›
The NVIDIA Shield TV is undoubtedly one of the best Android streaming devices you can buy right now with its Pro model being more suitable for power users. Chromecast with Google TV is clearly one of the best value streaming devices out there going head-to-head with TiVo's Stream 4K.What is the easiest streaming device to use? ›
Best streaming device overall
Roku is our favorite streaming system, with the most streaming app options, the simplest streaming platform interface and the best search. It also has a content-agnostic platform that doesn't push any one media streaming service provider, like Amazon Prime Video or Apple, over another.
- Software crashes when it needs updating.
- Insufficient processing power causes freezing or crashing apps.
- Input lag when pressing buttons.
- Not getting updates or software patches.
- Limited app features (some don't transfer over from desktop or browser versions).
must read. The Amazon Fire TV Stick is a media streaming device that transforms your TV into a smart one. It lets you to watch your favorite TV shows and movies from top services like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, Disney+, and Amazon Prime in one place on a popular, easy-to-navigate platform.