Apple TV versus Roku, Amazon FireTV, Google Chromecast, Simple.TV and more

Thirteen alternatives to the Apple TV

We've assessed the best TV streaming devices and set-top boxes , pitting them against the Apple TV, including Roku 3, Roku Streaming Stick, Google Chromecast, Western Digital WD Live & WD Play, D-Link Boxee Box, PlayStation 3 & PlayStation 4, Now TV, Virgin Media Tivo, YouView, Freetime and Amazon Fire TV.

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  • Apple TV versus other set top boxes
  • Watching, recording, and streaming TV
  • Apple TV
  • Roku 3 versus Apple TV
  • Roku Streaming Stick versus Apple TV
  • Google Chromecast versus Apple TV
  • Apple TV versus Amazon TVFire
  • WD TV Live, WD TV Play versus Apple TV
  • Simple TV versus Apple TV
  • D-Link Boxee Box versus Apple TV
  • PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 versus Apple TV
  • Sky+ HD, Sky+ HD 2TB versus Apple TV
  • Now TV versus Apple TV
  • Virgin Media Tivo versus Apple TV
  • YouView versus Apple TV
  • FreeTime versus Apple TV
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How does the Apple TV compare to other set top boxes and TV streaming devices?

If you're bored of the 60 or so free-to-air channels in the UK, you might be thinking about purchasing a set-top box to gain access to extra content available to stream over the web. Alternatively, you may be fed up with streaming TV shows on your laptop screen and looking for ways to watch this content on your TV. We've assessed the best TV streaming devices and set-top boxes in this slideshow, pitting them against the Apple TV.

Included in this round up are: Apple TV, Roku 3, Roku Streaming Stick, Google Chromecast, Western Digital WD Live & WD Play, D-Link Boxee Box, PlayStation 3 & PlayStation 4, Now TV, Virgin Media Tivo, YouView, Freetime and Amazon Fire TV.

The days of spending an evening in front of the television watching live broadcasts seem to be long gone, with people choosing to binge on full series streamed from Netflix, opting to watch programmes and movies they've Sky Plussed, or just catching up with On Demand TV shows via their laptop or iPad.

The on-demand generation doesn't watch TV when it's broadcast; instead we catch up with our favourite programmes on the various apps and internet services available to us and watch at the time (and in the place) that suits us.

The popularity of catching up with our favourite programmes online is illustrated by the fact that E4 often broadcasts an episode of a hit TV series online before it's aired on television. BBC Three has announced that it is closing its TV channel and instead streaming its programming online through iPlayer. Will there come a time when we only watch TV this way? Will the airwaves eventually be free of broadcasts?

In this age of TV on demand, programmes can be watched on our laptops, iPads or iPhones, although they may still be watched on the big screen in our living rooms. If you've bought a new television in the past few years, perhaps it is 'smart' - granting you access to a platform of on-demand apps and access to the internet. However, the 'smart' aspects of these smart TVs often goes unutilised (according to research by NPD Group), perhaps because the interface is too complicated, or because the TV requires an expensive dongle to get it on to a WiFi network.

Due to the high price of these smart TVs many consumers opt instead for flatscreen HDTVs and connect them to set-top devices such as the Apple TV or a Roku to access additional content. As long as you have a decent broadband connection, these will grant access to a great combination of free and paid-for streaming services to view on the television screen. Unfortunately most of these set-top boxes don't have the ability to record programmes, as they don't offer PVR functionality.

[Click next to find out more about the options available]

Next Prev slideshow image

If you're bored of the 60 or so free-to-air channels in the UK, you might be thinking about purchasing a set-top box to gain access to extra content available to stream over the web. Alternatively, you may be fed up with streaming TV shows on your laptop screen and looking for ways to watch this content on your TV. We've assessed the best TV streaming devices and set-top boxes in this slideshow, pitting them against the Apple TV.

Included in this round up are: Apple TV, Roku 3, Roku Streaming Stick, Google Chromecast, Western Digital WD Live & WD Play, D-Link Boxee Box, PlayStation 3 & PlayStation 4, Now TV, Virgin Media Tivo, YouView, Freetime and Amazon Fire TV.

The days of spending an evening in front of the television watching live broadcasts seem to be long gone, with people choosing to binge on full series streamed from Netflix, opting to watch programmes and movies they've Sky Plussed, or just catching up with On Demand TV shows via their laptop or iPad.

The on-demand generation doesn't watch TV when it's broadcast; instead we catch up with our favourite programmes on the various apps and internet services available to us and watch at the time (and in the place) that suits us.

The popularity of catching up with our favourite programmes online is illustrated by the fact that E4 often broadcasts an episode of a hit TV series online before it's aired on television. BBC Three has announced that it is closing its TV channel and instead streaming its programming online through iPlayer. Will there come a time when we only watch TV this way? Will the airwaves eventually be free of broadcasts?

In this age of TV on demand, programmes can be watched on our laptops, iPads or iPhones, although they may still be watched on the big screen in our living rooms. If you've bought a new television in the past few years, perhaps it is 'smart' - granting you access to a platform of on-demand apps and access to the internet. However, the 'smart' aspects of these smart TVs often goes unutilised (according to research by NPD Group), perhaps because the interface is too complicated, or because the TV requires an expensive dongle to get it on to a WiFi network.

Due to the high price of these smart TVs many consumers opt instead for flatscreen HDTVs and connect them to set-top devices such as the Apple TV or a Roku to access additional content. As long as you have a decent broadband connection, these will grant access to a great combination of free and paid-for streaming services to view on the television screen. Unfortunately most of these set-top boxes don't have the ability to record programmes, as they don't offer PVR functionality.

[Click next to find out more about the options available]

Best options for streaming, watching On Demand and recording TV

With the death of the VCR we have turned to streaming instead of just recording shows to watch in our spare time. But some just want to be able to record TV shows to watch on their TV at home. Many of the set-top boxes assessed in this article offer no recording functionality, although some do offer access to OnDemand services that could theoretically allow you to catch up with TV shows - although for a limited time. The alternative solution for this group is a DVR or PVR incorporating Freeview or Freesat as these usually have recording functionality.

Alternatively, many modern TVs that include Freeview will allow for recording to an attached hard drive: just buy a hard drive and plug it into the TV via USB. Another way to record live TV is to plug an Elgato EyeTV receiver into your Mac, iPad or iPhone.

For those who already have Sky, upgrading to Sky+ means they gain the ability to record programmes as well as access to on-demand TV including BBC iPlayer, 4OD, Demand5 and other channels' on demand content, including Sky's own catch up TV. For many the monthly subscription prices for Sky will rule out Sky+ as an option, although you could opt instead for Freesat with FreeTime, Sky's answer to the YouView box (both are assessed later).

If you are able to record TV, a Slingbox will encode the video you have recorded so that it can be transmitted over the web. You can also use it to start a programme recording on your PVR, Sky box or similar recording device. This way you can watch the TV you've recorded at home wherever you are.

For those who aren't concerned about recording programmes when they are broadcast, there are a number of set-top devices available that offer content for streaming or rental. Prices start at just £9.99, but there will be subscription costs to factor in too.

Thinking of extending the entertainment you can access from your TV? We've rounded up ten of the best streaming devices available in the UK, starting with the Apple TV, but also including the Roku 3, Roku Streaming Stick, Sky's Now TV box, Virgin Media's Tivo and the Google Chromecast. We've looked at the 'channels' on offer, the price, and the supported file formats, amongst other things.

Underlying all this is the question of whether these set-top boxes are here to stay, or if, eventually, Smart TVs, with the functionality built in, will rule the living room.  

[Is Apple making an actual TV? Read our iTV rumour story to find out: New Apple television release date information]

The Apple TV: Netflix and all the content available on the iTunes Store

Price: The Apple TV costs £79, which given the fact that when Apple first launched its set-top box back in 2007 it cost £199, sounds like a bargain. It's down from the £99 that the Apple TV was when we first wrote this article too, thanks to an update on 18 June. But there are a number of alternatives that cost a lot less.

Channels: Apple boasts that there are thousands of films and TV programmes available on the Apple TV - these are available to rent or buy from iTunes. In addition you can subscribe to Netflix (£5.99 a month). Beyond that the 'channels' on offer are limited, and generally US-focused.

Familiar names include Sky News and the Now TV Sky Sports day pass (£9.99 a day), but when you consider that US users have access to Hulu Plus (subscription), HBO (subscription), various Disney channels, PBS, ABC and ESPN, it's clear that UK Apple TV users have drawn the short straw. Hopefully Apple is working on bringing more on-demand services (such as iPlayer and 4oD) to the Apple TV here in the UK. Apple's main competition in this field, as you will see if you read on, already offer access to the UK's on-demand channels. According to Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster the Apple TV has 31 content partners currently (at least in the US).

Storage: There is no storage on the Apple TV other than the storage available to you in iCloud and on your connected Mac, iPad or iPhone. There is actually a small amount of storage - but this is not available to the user.

File formats: The Apple TV will play H.264 video at 1080p, MPEG-4 video and Motion JPEG. It can also play various audio formats including AAC, MP3, Audible, Apple Lossless, AIFF, and WAV. There is also Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.

Remote control: The Apple TV comes with a remote control, but you can also use Bluetooth keyboards, various universal remotes, and an iOS app to control the Apple TV.

TV Compatibility: The Apple TV is compatible with any HDTV capable of 1080p or 720p. The TV needs an HDMI port and since the HDMI cable isn't included in the box with the Apple TV you will have to buy one. 

Can you record: No.

Do you need a TV licence: Yes. The Apple TV has some live channels, such as Bloomberg and Sky News, so according to the rules you will need a TV licence.

Pros: If you have other Apple products - iPhone, iPad, Mac - there are a number of benefits that can be had from an Apple TV. You will be able to use AirPlay to beam whatever is on the screen of your Apple device onto your TV; you can stream content directly to your TV from your device (music, photos, videos and so on); and anything you have already purchased from iTunes will be available to you. You can subscribe to Netflix.

Cons: If there wasn't a way to subscribe to Netflix the Apple TV would have little to offer. In particular its lack of BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD and Demand 5 is disappointing since it offers no way to catch up on British TV for free. However, the Apple TV's channels are expanding all the time and these new channels will come in the form of a software update to existing Apple TV models. 

The Roku 3: Netflix, iPlayer, Demand 5 and Sky's Now TV movies and more

Price: The Roku 3 costs £99.99. That price is for the fully-fledged top of the range version though, there are also units available for £49.99 and £79.99.

Channels: All the Roku boxes offer UK users access to more than 450 entertainment channels. In the States there's access to more than 1,000 channels, so as usual the UK misses out somewhat. Users get access to films from Sky Movies via Now TV (subscription), Netflix (subscription), Popcornflix (free) and Crackle (free). You can also catch up with TV via iPlayer, the Sky Store, and Demand 5. There are hundreds of channels that don't appear by default, discovered by browsing the channel store. You can also play games, including Angry Birds, and access Spotify, Vevo and TuneIn Radio.

Storage: The Roku 3 features a micro-SD card slot but this is not for playback or recording, it is for storing channel info and games data.

File formats: It can display 1080p HD video in H.264, MP4, MOV, MKV and ASF/WMV. Audio formats include AAC, MP3, Dolby Digital and DTS.

Remote control: The Roku 3 comes with a remote that features a jack so you can plug in your headphones as well as motion sensitivity for playing games. There's also a Roku iOS remote control app. The third-party Twonky Beam app will let you beam content to a TV from your iOS devices via the Roku.

TV Compatibility: The Roku 3 only works with a HDTV, but the Roku 1 and Roku 2 work with virtually any TV, according to Roku. You'll need to purchase the HDMI cable separately.

Can you record: No.

Do you need a TV licence: Yes. Like the Apple TV the Roku offers live channels (Sky News) so you will need a TV licence.

Pros: Roku has access to more content than any other streamer right now and it includes iPlayer.

Cons: You can't officially use Apple's AirPlay with the Roku 3 (to beam content from your iOS device to your TV screen), but the Twonky Beam app is a solution to that particular problem, although there is still no way to mirror the screen on your Apple device. 4oD and ITV Player are missing (but they are missing from the Apple TV too).

The Roku Streaming Stick: Netflix, iPlayer, Demand 5 and Sky's Now TV movies and more

Price: £49.99

Channels: The Roku Steaming Stick offers access to the same channels as the Roku 3.  

Storage: None

File formats: Like the Roku 3 it can handle MP4 (H.264), MKV (H.264). Audio formats include AAC, MP3, Dolby Digital and DTS.

Remote control: The included remote doesn't feature the headphone jack or the motion control of the Roku 3 remote. There's a Roku iOS remote control app.

TV compatibility: Like the Roku 3 the Roku Streaming Stick requires an HDTV.

Can you record: No.

Do you need a TV licence: Yes, because it offers live channels.

Pros: It's just 3.1x1.1x0.5 inches, plug it into the HDMI port at the back of your TV and forget about it. It offers more than the Google Chromecast.

Cons: The stick requires a separate power source as it is unable to power itself from the HDMI port. You'll need to plug it into a USB port on your TV, or plug it into a wall socket. The Streaming Stick doesn't offer gaming like the Roku 3.

Google Chromecast: Google PlayCast and Netflix

Price: Chromecast has been available in the US since Summer 2013 where it costs $35. It launched in the UK on 19 March 2014. The UK price is £30.

Channels: The Chromecast includes Netflix (£5.99 a month), YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, Google Play Music and BBC iPlayer. Google added TV shows to the UK Play Store at the beginning of August including Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Homeland, Walking Dead and other popular series. These can be streamed for £1.89 per episode, or £2.49 in HD. In the US the Chromecast initially launched with just four channels, but this has grown since Google added PlayCast (which is also available on Roku). You can also mirror any tab within the Chrome browser, whether using a PC or Mac. In February Google released its Chromecast SDK (software development kit) so you can expect to see more channels soon. Until the UK launch we can't be sure which UK catch up services will be included.

Storage: None.

File formats: H.264 High Profile Level 4.1, 4.2 and 5, VP8, HE-AAC, LC-AAC, CELT/Opus, MP3, Vorbis.

Remote control: There is no remote control; you set up your Chromecast via the laptop, smartphone or tablet. There is an iOS app luckily, so you won't have to ditch your iPhone for an Android device.

TV compatibility: It plugs into an HDTV's HDMI port; like the Roko Streaming Stick you also need to charge it via USB.

Can you record: No.

Do you need a TV licence: Depends on the UK channels offered.

Pros: Tiny, you won't even know it's there.

Cons: Chromecast feature that allows you to mirror your entire Mac or PC screen didn't work particularly well at launch. 

Amazon is begin selling its own video device

As rumoured, Amazon has launched its own streaming video device.

Price: $99 (plus $40 for gaming remote)

Channels: Includes Netflix, Amazon Instant (with 200,000 movies and TV episodes to rent or buy), Hulu Plus, Showtime Anytime, Crackle, ESPN, MLB.TV, NBA [US only] It also offers gaming to the tune of 133 games currently (gaming controller costs extra and the average price of a game is $1.85)

Storage: 8GB (+ 2GB RAM)

File formats: Streams in full-HD 1080p, supports HDMI and optical audio-out. 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus surround sound. Android based UI.

Remote control: Remote control with a built-in microphone allows control via voice or remote; games are playable via a separate remote. In addition it features a quad-core processor and a dedicated GPU, the Adreno 320 graphics chip. ASAP (Advanced Streaming and Prediction) is a personalised feature that predicts what the user will watch based on their Watchlist and recommendations.

Can you record: No

Do you need a TV licence: Not available in the UK yet.

Pros: Amazon's streaming video device will double up as a gaming controller, although you need to buy a separate game controller for $40. The FireTV offers more channels than the Apple TV. It's 0.7"-thick.

Cons: The company is likely to use the device as a means to boost digital content purchases and subscriptions to Amazon's Prime Instant Video store. Amazon Prime is already available on many streaming devices – although not the Apple TV or Google Chromecast. In March, Amazon said it is increasing the price of Prime by $20 to $99 annually, due to the rising cost of acquiring video. Gaming remote costs extra.

When we get more information we will share it here.

WD TV Live: iPlayer and some free movie streaming channels

Price: Western Digital's WD TV Live costs £89.99, it's currently out of stock on Amazon and Western Digital's site, which may indicate an update is immanent (the current device dates back to 2012). The newer Western Digital WD TV Play (launched in 2013) is also available, for around £50.

Channels: You can stream movies and catch up on TV shows via Netflix (£5.99 a month). As with the other solutions, there are a limited number of channels available to UK users but it does feature iPlayer, as well as Pop Flix (free classic TV and films). There are a number of Hauppage TV streamers you can use to watch live channels, more info here.

Storage: You can stream video, music and photos from external storage and network attached drives.  

File formats: You can play a wide variety of file formats including MKV, MP4, XVID, AVI, ISO/VOB and MOV video. Audio formats include: MP3, WAV/PCM/LPCM, WMA, AAC, FLAC, MKA, AIF/AIFF, OGG, Dolby Digital, DTS. It can't play movies or music bought from iTunes though.

Remote control: There is a WD TV Remote app for iOS. You can also attach a wired or wireless keyboard.

TV compatibility: Connect to your HDTV via the HDMI port or use the composite (RCA outputs) to plug into virtually all television sets

Can you record: No, although there is a workaround if you purchase a Hauppage over-the-air tuner. 

Do you need a TV licence: No; there are no live channels currently. (But yes, if you purchase the Hauppage TV tuner.)

Pros: It includes iPlayer, plays multiple file formats, and files can be played from local or network storage.

Cons: Limited channels available, the WD TV Play offers any of the same features as the WD TV Live at a lower price (but lacks the local media streaming functionality because it's limited to Windows Media Centre and that doesn't support some file types, this also means it won't be able to stream from your Mac unless you enable Samba, which isn't for the faint-hearted).

[Read our full reviews of the WD TV Live and WD TV Play here.]

Simple TV tuner with twin Freeview HD tuners

Price: Price is to be confirmed, but Simple.TV tells us that the aim is for "sub-£150" this summer.

Channels: Simple.TV has a pair of built-in Freeview HD tuners and offers no video inputs or outputs. The box connects to your TV aerial and broadband router and takes live TV and makes it available on your home network so you can watch it on an iPad, iPhone, Android tablet, Apple TV or Roku media streamer.

Storage: You'll need to supply your own storage since the box has none of its own. There's no limit to the size of USB disk you can attach, so there’s no problem in hooking up a 4TB hard drive.

File Formats: Standard.

Remote Control: You can browse TV listings and watch any channel via the app which can be installed on your tablet, smartphone, Roku or Ouya. If you are using an Apple TV, you’ll need an iPad or iPhone in order to send the video from the app via AirPlay.

TV compatibility: You’ll need to supply your own aerial splitter.

Can you record: Yes. Simple.TV works like a DVR, so you can set shows to record and it will offer the option to record an entire series rather than a single programme.

Do you need a TV licence: Yes, you can watch and record live TV.

Pros: There is a download option so you can copy recorded shows to your tablet or smartphone to watch offline.

Cons: Unfortunately, remote access isn't free: it costs £3 per month but this 'Premier Service' also gets you advanced series recording options which ensure you never miss an episode. You'll need to supply your own aerial splitter. There's no Wi-Fi, so you'll need a wired connection to your router, which may mean resorting to using powerline networking adapters.

Boxee Box - not currently available in the UK

Price: No longer available to buy from D-Link, was £150.

Channels: Includes BBC iPlayer and MTV, but the other UK catch-up services are absent, plus there is no Netflix in the UK. In the UK there is a small library of movies and TV shows for streaming. The Boxee Browser connects to the internet, so you can access any content on the web - but beware, it's slow and glitchy.

Storage: None

File formats: MKV, FLV, AVI, DivX, MP4, WMV and more. Dolby Surround Sound

Remote control: Two-faced remote includes a QWERTY keyboard, iPhone Boxee Box remote app.

TV compatibility: Requires HDMI to connect.

Can you record: No. There was a Live TV Dongle available in the US, but not in the UK.

Do you need a TV licence: No, as there are no live channels.

Pros: Includes iPlayer and access to the internet.

Cons: Boxee no longer supports the Boxee Box, a new model, the Boxee TV has been made available in the US, but no such box has been released in the UK. Boxee has been acquired by Samsung.

[Read our full reviews of the Boxee Box here.]

PlayStation does more than just games, you can watch iPlayer and more

Price: PlayStation 4, £349.99; PlayStation 3, £149.99

Channels: Includes iPlayer, ITV player, 4OD, Amazon Love Film (now called Amazon Prime Instant Video, £5.99 a month), Netflix (£5.99 a month), PlayStation Store, YouTube, TuneIn Radio. You could plug in a PlayTV in to the PlayStation 3 to watch, pause and record Freeview TV channels (unit purchased separately, incompatible with the PS4). Sony has announced that it will launch a cloud-based TV and video streaming service in the US this year.

Storage: 500GB hard disk, optical drive.

File formats: MP4 video is supported. The other video file formats, such as MKV, AVI, WMV, MOV a, MPG aren't supported. It also doesn't play CDs or MP3s. There is a web browser (the PlayStation 4 browser doesn't support Flash currently).

Remote control: Typical gaming remote, no infrared port so won't work with a universal remote.

TV compatibility: HDMI connectivity required.

Can you record: No.

Do you need a TV licence: No live channels, unless you purchase the PlayTV.

Pros: Includes a Blu-ray player, you may already own one…

Cons: Not a dedicated top-set box.

A Sky+ box will bring you all the content from Sky as well as BBC iPlayer, ITV on demand, 4oD, and Demand5

Price: The Sky+ HD box is free with a Sky subscription or if you upgrade to Entertainment Extra, the Sky+ HD 2TB box coasts £49 for existing customers and £149 for new customers.

Channels: Record, pause and rewind live TV, BBC iPlayer, ITV on demand, 4oD, Demand5, and the Sky channels (according to your subscription). TV box sets from Entertainment Extra+(£32 a month). More than 800s of movies on demand available for Sky Movies customers (an extra £16 a month on top of the usual subscription), 1000s of movies to rent from the Sky Store.

Storage: 60 hours on the standard box, 2TB is equivalent to 350 hours.

File formats: Via Sky only.

Remote control: Like a typical Sky remote but includes rewind, record, play buttons. Use the Sky+ App to record shows at home when you are out.

TV compatibility: Connects to HDTV via HDMI. For web and OnDemand TV you'll need to connect up your Sky+ HD box to the web via its Ethernet port

Can you record: Yes.

Do you need a TV licence: Yes, is offers live TV channels.

Pros: If you already have Sky then the addition of the OnDemand channels and movies and box sets is a bonus that might make any other set-top box redundant.

Cons: It's an expensive way to get entertainment when you consider that Netflix has a wealth of content for streaming and costs £5.99 a month, although Sky may have new content sooner than Netflix. 

Sky's Now TV offers various bundles via subscription as well as BBC iPlayer, 4oD and Demand 5

Price: Sky's Now TV box costs £9.99 upfront, or you can get it for free if you sign up for the Entertainment Bundle (£34.99 a month), Movies Bundle (£34.99 a month), Sports Bundle (£34.99 a month). A subscription to Now TV/Sky package is required (although you can keep the box and use any of the apps you have downloaded if you cancel the subscription).

Channels: BBC iPlayer, 4oD and Demand 5 are available.  You can also download more apps from the Roku Channel Store. Sky Atlantic, Sky 1, Discovery, MTV, Comedy Central, Disney and Fox are included in the Sky Entertainment Month Pass (£4.99 a month introductory price, then £8.99). Sky Movies Month Pass (£8.99 a month – usually £14.99 a month), and a Sky Sports Day Pass (£9.99 a day).

Storage: You’re won't be able to connect the Now TV Box to a Micro SD card, or other storage device, it's streaming only.

File formats: Just Sky.

Remote control: There is a remote control provided, there is no iOS app, but you can use the Remoku web app or the RMote Roku Remote iOS app.

TV compatibility: TV with an HDMI port (although it is possible to use a mini-jack to RCA cable)

Can you record: No.

Do you need a TV licence: Yes - it has live channels.

Pros: Cheapest way to get the On Demand channels (iPlayer, 4oD, etc) onto your TV screen (other than just plugging in your laptop).

Cons: No HD content, no official remote app for iOS.

Virgin Media Tivi: Sky Channels, BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD and 5 Demand, Netflix

Price: TiVo 500GB, free; TiVo 1TB, £49.95 activation fee. Plus Monthly subscription with Virgin Media (various contracts from £5 a month).

Channels: Record, pause or rewind live TV, Sky channels, seven-day Catch Up TV, hundreds of on demand movies and shows, UK On Demand including BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD and 5 Demand, Netflix (£5.99 a month)

Storage: 1TB TiVo box (record 500 hours of standard TV or around 100 hours of HD TV); 500GB (250 hours of standard TV or around 50 hours of HD TV).

File formats: Virgin Media only

Remote control: There is a Virgin TV Anywhere iOS app that can be used to control your Virgin TiVo box

TV compatibility: HD TV set required connected via HDMI

Can you record: Yes.

Do you need a TV licence: Yes, it has live channels.

Pros: Includes much of what's offered from Sky, plus Netflix.

Cons: Only 50% of UK homes can get Virgin.

YouView offers access to all the UK's free catch-up TV channels

Price: The YouView box costs from £229 without a contract. You can add paid services such as Sky's Now TV. TalkTalk and BT's subscription services bundle the YouView box for free. You will need a Sky dish and installation starts from £60.

Channels: Any of the UK's free catch-up TV channels including iPlayer, ITV Player, 4OD, Demand 5, Dave on Demand, Milkshake (Channel 5's children's programming) and the 50+ Freeview HD channels. Some additional content available on demand. Includes seven day scroll back TV for access to catch up TV from the UK's On Demand services.

Storage: ­500GB (around £229) or 1TB (around £249) options.

File formats: Uses the Freeview television platform via your television aerial.

Remote control: Yes.

TV compatibility: You need good digital TV coverage and at least 3Mb/s broadband. You need connect the YouView box to your router via the ethernet cable supplied. You connect the YouView box to your TV via the supplied HDMI cable.

Can you record: Yes you can record, pause and rewind live TV, plus there is a smartphone app you can use to set recordings while out and about

Do you need a TV licence: Yes, it offers live channels.

Pros: Includes all the UK catch up channels.  

Cons: There are more channels offered via BT and Talk Talk's subscription deal plus the BBC and ITV have recently announced that they are to team up to develop the FreeView Connect catch up service, which may be competition to YouView.  

FreeTime: access to BBC iPlayer, ITV player, 4OD, Demand 5 and around 150 Freesat channels

Price: Prices start at £96 for the Freesat HD with Freetime box (with no storage). If you want to record, the 500GB box costs £199, 1TB for £224.95, and 1TB (Wi-Fi) for £249. FreeTime is a subscription free service offered by Freesat.

Channels: Includes access to BBC iPlayer, ITV player, 4OD, Demand 5 and there are around 150 Freesat channels available for free. You can use the TV guide to access the past seven days content from 26 channels. Also includes YouTube.

Storage: 500GB (£199), 1TB (£224.95) and 1TB Wi-Fi (£249).

Remote control: There is an app that lets you to set recordings and reminders from your iPhone.

Can you record: Yes, you can record any of the Freesat channels.  You can also save programmes in 'box sets' and mark recordings so that they can't be deleted.

Do you need a TV licence: Yes, it has live channels.

Pros: The £96 box will give you access to many of the On Demand channels.

Cons: You need a Sky dish. The Dave channel isn't included, live or on demand.

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Comments

Comments

Worsenary said: Welcome, the most annoying thing is that it doesn't do Amazon instant Videos in the UK.

Worsenary said: The Roku 3 (which I own) does have 4OD (added last November 2013) and recently added ITV player.Also a USB port which supports playback, the headphone port in the remote mutes the tv so you just hear it from the remote which is a nice touch.Crackle is now offline, but on line in the US ....

macworlduk said: You're absolutely right.

Nate said: Did it work? I have the same question

DJ Khan said: Content Formats SupportedVideo: H.263, H.264, MPEG4-SP, VC1Audio: AAC, AC-3, E-AC-3, HE-A, PCM, MP3Photo: JPG, PNG

Toadsnes said: and here I am thinking I was alone on this....Can I unplug my hard drive from the WD and plug into the amazon fire TV and have it work? That's all I want to know. Will it play my 1080p DTS avengers mkv or my 720p DD "insert name here:? It should be at my front door when I get home tonight, guess I'll find out the old fashioned way....

Grimaldy Soto said: Plus 2

F&TR said: plus 1

Kiplin said: I'm still looking for more detailed info on the Amazon Fire TV's file support as a multimedia player. MKV? FLAC? FLV? Subtitle File Compatibility? (.sub and .srt? Need the .idx?) How does it handle multi-stream .avi? How easy is it to switch from Japanese Audio to English Audio? Would it be easier to keep the sub's playing regardless of the audio stream because of how annoying it will be if you wish to switch from sub to dub?What makes the new product better than the competing WD TV Live series of devices? (Which I have a number of.) Why no WD in the mix?

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