How we test streaming devices
By Martin Pratt
Which? judges internet TV boxes on criteria like ease-of-use, on-demand app support and picture quality to help you choose the best model.
Which? tests internet TV boxes every month to make sure the latest models are always covered. All the big name streamers from popular brands like Apple, Google, Amazon and Roku are here.
We also test other devices that offer similar services, such as games consoles, so you'll know if you actually need to buy a dedicated box or not. Our reviews answer the most crucial questions about internet TV boxes:
- How easy is it to use?
- What features does it have and do they work?
- How much energy does it use?
Find out which models perform best with our in-depth internet TV box reviews.
How easy is it to use?
Every internet TV box that we test starts off by going through our ease of use test. We look at how clear instruction manuals are and note any difficulties in setting up the devices. We also run through a number of everyday scenarios to see how they cope with regular tasks, including streaming TV shows from BBC iPlayer.
Ideally, you want an internet TV box that is quick to start up and connects to your home internet network without any hassle. Finding the app or TV service you are looking for should be a painless exercise - a well laid-out remote control and menu system is vital for this.
What features does it have and how do they work?
Internet TV boxes come in all shapes and sizes, with some actually looking more like over-sized USB sticks than a box. But it's what's on the inside that counts - how powerful is the processor? Does it connect to your internet network with an ethernet cable or wi-fi? Can you 'cast' content from your mobile devices straight to the TV?
We assess each and every internet TV box so we can answer these questions, as well as recording which of the commonly used apps are available and if we had difficulties with any of them.
Most offer access to BBC iPlayer, but they won't all give you access to other catch-up services, such as ITV Hub or All4. Some will let you stream films from Netflix or Amazon Prime Video (if you have a subscription), or watch videos on sites such as YouTube; others let you access photo sharing websites, including Picasa and Flickr.
How much energy does it use?
We check all products for energy consumption to make sure that they do not cost you the earth once they’re plugged in.
The energy use star rating takes into account how much power the internet TV box uses when turned on and while on standby, and whether it has any power-saving options.
Should I buy it?
Internet TV boxes shouldn't be a chore to use. We know you simply want to switch on, choose your show and sit back and relax. That's why most of the final test score is based on ease of use. We also consider the features each internet TV box has and how much power they use.
The final test score ignores price and is based on:
- Ease of use 40%
- Features 35%
- Performance 25%
Models that score 85% or more are awarded Best Buy status. Models that score 45% or less are declared Don't Buys.
Why Which? testing is different
We buy every internet TV box we test and look at models from all the popular brands, regardless of price. We speak to manufacturers and scour the market to make sure we test all the internet TV boxes that you'll find in the shops or online.
Which? doesn't only tell you about the Best Buy internet TV boxes that we recommend, we also tell you which models to avoid with our Don't Buys. If an internet TV box has an issue we feel is so bad it must be a fault, then we will buy a new version and retest it. We'll also speak to the manufacturer to find out what it plans to do about the problem.
For a top streaming experience you'll need check our list of the Best internet TV boxes.