From the ever-growing number of Marvel and Star Wars spin-offs offered by Disney+ to the chance to re-enjoy favourite shows from the archives on Britbox, streaming sticks and boxes bring instant access to a wealth of great films and TV shows.
But these relatively low-cost devices have some other uses which can help you get even better value from your purchase:
It’s not just video you can stream, most devices also support apps from music services such as Spotify and three of the best-selling devices are made by firms – Amazon, Apple and Google – who also run their own music services which you’ll find supported out of the box and, in some cases, instantly available through a dedicated button on the remote control.
There’s also a good selection of third party podcast and radio apps available for most devices, including BBC Sounds, Radioplayer, plus music video apps including Roxi which recently launched on Google TV devices and Amazon’s Fire TV range.
Gaming is a growing business for streaming devices, with some capable of playing console quality titles.
Google’s Stadia – supported devices include the new Chromecast with Google TV – and Amazon’s Luna – available on various devices including the Fire TV range but currently only available in the US – both leverage the power of cloud computing to deliver premium AAA titles to devices which would otherwise lack the native processing power to deliver a great gaming experience.
Both services offer a monthly subscription which gets you access to a changing line-up of titles, but Stadia also offers the option to buy a game outright so that it’s always available to play.
For its part, Apple has Arcade, a subscription gaming service for the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV box ranges which offers access to a bundle of games, including NBA 2K21 Arcade Edition and exclusive Star Wars titles, for a simple monthly fee.
Many streaming devices’ app stores also offer stand-alone game apps spanning multiple genres and levels of sophistication.
Nostalgia buffs will enjoy the chance to play titles such as Pac-Man, the always addictive Snake, Tetris, and Tic-Tac-Toe – perfect for recreating the finale to WarGames on your big screen TV.
There’s also a selection of slot machine, poker and casino related titles which can make an entertaining addition to a party night or just a simple night in, though they won’t offer the sort of rewards available through games listed on sites such as VegasSlotsOnline where you can find the perfect new online casinos in your area. These sites were reviewed by experts, and they only recommend flawless gaming, fresh titles, and safe gambling. And for fans of TV quiz shows, there are official apps for Tipping Point, Blockbusters, The Chase, Countdown, Tenable and Lingo available on some platforms.
If you don’t already have a smart speaker, a streamer can be a good way to explore the growing range of smart home accessories as Google’s, Amazon’s and Apple’s voice assistants are each built-in to their respective streaming devices.
Voice controlled bulbs and plugs are available from a range of brands. Some need a ‘hub’ device which acts as a central controller, but there are plenty of low-cost standalone options available, including TP-Link’s Kasa range and the TCP line-up which is readily available online and on the high street.
Once your bulb or plug is connected to your Wi-Fi, you’ll be able to turn it on/off, set timers and, for bulbs, change the brightness level with just your voice.
Some streaming devices can also be used to bolster your home security by bringing footage from external CCTV cameras and even doorbell cams to your big screen.
As you can see, while most of the headline sales talk is about which picture and sound formats are supported and which of the latest big name shows you’ll be able to watch, today’s streaming devices can bring a much wider range of entertainment to your TV and surround sound set-up and can even put you in control of other devices around the home.