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The best streaming devices in Australia in 2021
The stream team.
If you have a less-than-smart TV, you're definitely going to want a plug-and-play streaming device to make your viewing experience all it could be. Basically, we're talking about something that can effortlessly corral all your desired shows, movies, apps, and games in one place. The good news: to acquire such a setup, all you'll need is a spare HDMI port and either a USB port or power outlet.
Oh, you'll also need to make an important purchasing decision, too. We're currently living in a golden era of streaming services and devices. In Australia, the biggest devices in the streaming arena are Google Chromecast and Apple TV. Though there are other devices, such as gaming consoles, that offer most streaming apps. Let's find out which avenue is right for you.
- : Best device for most
- : Best streaming device for Apple users
- : Best device for 4K streaming
- : Best bundled device with Telstra
- : Best non-Telstra bundle
The overwhelming majority of our streaming device selections come with both WiFi and 4K resolution. The latter is a must — entertainment is finally starting to see a real shift into Ultra High Definition (UHD) content, not to mention the eyeball-searing wonders of High Dynamic Range (HDR) video. In layman's terms: providing you have a TV that supports both of the technologies as mentioned above, you can get insanely crisp visuals with truly impressive colour vibrancy.
It's also worth noting that while the majority of these options support voice control, you're not forced into using it. Maybe you'll want to download an app for your smartphone or tablet to let you channel surf from there. Perhaps you'll want to stick with ye olde hand remote because you don't like the potential of any big tech companies "listening in" on what passes for domestic bliss at your place. We're not here to judge.
It's all about the number of pixels built into your screen, essentially. The more you have in the entire grid, the better things look. 1080p offers you a rack of 1920 x 1080 pixels, whereas 4K is a much more dense pixel farm at 3840 x 2160. Watch the same movie running on both types of screens, and the difference is night and day. This is especially true if the 4K TV has High Dynamic Range (a technology that allows bright and dark elements of your content to have a huge contrast between them).
Best streaming device for most people
What we like about the Chromecast with Google TV
Nifty, versatile design: In a market full of uninspired oblongs, Google has delivered a bit of flair with this fancy circular dongle. Like no other option on this list, it will easily conform to the (often limited) space around your TV. It's put in your pocket portable, too.
Great remote: The Chromecast with Google TV's remote may be small, but boy is it mighty. It plays well with most TVs, includes the always-helpful Google Assistant and comes with easy-access Netflix and YouTube buttons. It just might replace your actual TV remote.
Unbeatable price: Google could've priced this bad boy at $200 and we'd still think it was great value. That's how good it is. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to get this many features, a versatile remote and 4K for anywhere near as cheap as the Chromecast with Google TV.
Even cheaper Sister products: If you're really on a super-thin budget (and you're ok to forgo 4K, HDR, and an ethernet port), you can basically halve the money you spend by getting a lower-spec Chromecast.
What could be better about the Chromecast with Google TV
Occasionally temperamental remote: Early on, the Google TV remote could be a little finicky, though it seems like Google has ironed out most of the bugs.
Unfortunately, while the hardware we're talking about today is plug-and-play, there is a hurdle in the software part of proceedings. You're going to need to create accounts and take mini-surveys and all sorts of things. Trust us when we say you don't want to do all that via a semi-ergonomic TV remote or a typo prone smartphone screen. Break out a laptop and do all your input on the surest QWERTY in town.
Best streaming device for Apple users
What we like about Apple TV 4K
All the wonders of Siri: The Apple 4K TV comes with a pretty fandangled remote that lets you interact with (arguably) the world's most outstanding virtual assistant. Why aimlessly channel hop when you can put Siri to work on finding you something awesome to binge-watch?
Always refining: Via downloadable versions of their tvOS, the Big A has generously bolted on great new features like Apple Arcade, multi-user support, and a more aesthetically pleasing home screen.
Apple TV is a champion of accessibility features: It's rare for a streaming device (or service) to take this much care when it comes to accessibility options. The Apple TV offers VoiceOver, Siri Dictation, Zoom, Increased Contrast, Reduced Motion, Switch Control and more.
What could be better about Apple TV 4K
BYO HDMI: Call us nit-picking misers, but we want our essential cables (in this case, an HDMI cable) thrown in with the package.
Uncertain future: Apple seems to be heading away from physical streaming devices, thanks to the announcement of the Apple TV app, Apple TV Plus along with good ol' AirPlay 2. Could this mean phasing out of this device and limited technical support? It's been over three years since Apple released the 5th generation Apple TV 4K and there haven't been reliable rumours that Apple is releasing a new device any time soon.
Best 4K streaming device
What we like about the Nvidia Shield TV Pro
A haven for TV folk and gamers: Streaming the latest TV is great; being able to palate swap from that to surprisingly responsive interactive entertainment is amazing. GeForce Now game streaming puts your Steam library at your fingertips like never before. You might actually work through your pile of shame at this rate.
4K upscaling: We're big fans of the AI upscaling feature here. It essentially takes any not-exactly-high-definition content (like cartoons from our misspent 1980s youth) and makes them absolutely pop on the screen as 4K. This was particularly handy when Netflix decided to reduce the quality of its streams to help ease Internet congestion in March 2020.
Android store: The much more open Play Store marketplace can offer savvy users the opportunity to download emulators. (For the laymen: little apps that pretend to be classic gaming consoles.)
What could be better about the Nvidia Shield TV Pro
Head-scratching: Unlike the other options on this list, the Nvidia Shield TV 2020 isn't the most novice-friendly device. Yes, streaming some TV is a relative cinch, but setting up the gaming stuff will require some patience and Googling.
What we like about Telstra TV
Plenty of streaming options: Telstra users get a very generous assortment of TV to tap into. We're talking all local catch-up services like ABC iView, SBS On Demand, 9now, 7plus and 10 play, as well as paid services like Netflix, Stan, Foxtel Now, Kayo Sports, Binge, Prime Video and Hayu.
4K is now a go: Telstra has listened to the complaints and has made this set-top box sequel 4K-capable. Providing you're rocking a decent NBN connection, you can hook into some Ultra High Definition Netflix.
What could be better about Telstra TV
Apps gone AWOL: If you were to buy this (Roku-produced) box in the US, you would have access to over 4,500 apps. Telstra's software has effectively locked a ton of this good stuff out.
Live in the moment... or else: Unlike other set-top box solutions like Foxtel iQ and the Fetch box, you can't record TV shows to watch later. Similarly, you can't pause and rewind live TV, either.
If you're a Telstra customer, or you're toying with the idea, you can bundle the Telstra TV with the telco's unlimited data plans. Here's a small selection of Telstra TV and Internet bundles.
Telstra customers have a few entertainment options at their fingertips, but if you're not a Telstra customer then Foxtel and Telstra TV bundles aren't an option. That's where Fetch comes in. Both the Fetch Mighty and Mini are both available to bundle with a number of Australian broadband providers. Optus, iiNet, iPrimus, Aussie Broadband, Dodo and Internode all offer their own Fetch TV bundles.
What we like about Fetch TV Mighty
1TB of storage: If you still like to record old episodes of Jonathan Creek, the Fetch Mighty box might be one of the burliest PVR boxes in Australia. It packs a whopping 1TB of internal storage, which Fetch claims can store around 585 hours of television. It's not expandable, unfortunately, but sometimes you've just got to let go of all nine seasons of Doc Martin and move on with your life.
Great bundles: Every partnered provider offers different pricing for Fetch bundles, but there are some decent deals out there. For example, Optus will bundle the Fetch Mighty 4K, three months of the Ultimate Channel pack (all 45 channels included) and one ongoing Premium Channel with the $90 Optus Entertainer package.
Here's a short list of popular broadband plans that you can bundle Fetch with:
What could be better about Fetch TV Mighty
Premium Channel packs cost: Like Foxtel, Fetch offers traditional pay-TV channel packs at a cost. At $6 a pop, Fetch's Premium Channel packs aren't as expensive as what Foxtel charges, but they also don't offer the same calibre of television. There are popular sports channels such as ESPN, British fare like BBC First and kids options like Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, but these services are all shifting their content to new and existing streaming services too.
Not many niche streaming services: You'll find most of the popular streaming services on Fetch. Netflix, Prime Video and Stan are all there. So are digital catch-up services like ABC iview, SBS On Demand and 7plus, but if you subscribe to more niche services, such as Apple TV Plus, Disney Plus and Shudder, you won't find support on Fetch.
|$53 at Kogan|
Google Chromecast Ultra
|$79 at Kogan|
Dolby Vision, HDR10
Chromecast with Google TV
|$98 at Kogan|
Dolby Vision, HDR10+
Amazon Fire TV Stick
|$59 at Amazon|
Dolby Vision, HDR10
|$198 at Catch|
Apple TV 4K
|$236 at Catch|
Dolby Vision, HDR10
Nvidia Shield TV Pro
|$329 at Kogan|
Dolby Vision, HDR10
|$216 at Telstra|
|From $449 at Kogan|
|$169 at The Good Guys|
Other devices you can use to stream
Before you go out of your way to buy a standalone streaming device, it's worth checking whether you already own a device that's compatible with Australian streaming services. The most obvious option is via your smartphone, tablet or computer. Every single streaming service has an app for Apple and Android smartphones and tablets. Every service also offers the option to stream in your web browser of choice (though browser compatibility varies between services). Still, you probably arrived at this guide because you want to stream on the big screen.
If you own a smart TV, you probably have access to a variety of streaming apps. Again, compatibility varies from service to service but brands like Sony, Samsung and LG offer widespread support for most streaming services. If your Smart TV uses the Android TV operating system, you should be in safe hands, but there's still a variety of cheaper televisions that have limited support.
Next, if you own any brand of gaming console, it's worth checking which streaming apps are available on your platform of choice. Once again, compatibility varies across brands and even console generations. Last generation's PlayStation 4 and Xbox One offer decent support, while the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X are making short work of supporting most major streaming services.