Gone are the days when we were all happy to watch whatever TV was broadcast live via terrestrial or cable, or whatever DVDs or VHS tapes we had lying around.
Nowadays, we have catch-up TV and YouTube (among others) to get our entertainment fixes from.
Top Picks: TV Wifi Sticks (HDMI)
(the links above will take you to the dongles on Amazon)
Most newer TVs are ‘Smart’ meaning that they ship with a menu system with apps to help you connect online to stream your favorite shows. These Smart TVs are shipped with wifi, making hooking up to your home router all the more easy.
However, if you have a slightly older TV, the chances are that either you have a smart TV that does not have in-built wifi (meaning you need to connect to your network with an Ethernet cable), or you have a non-smart TV that…well….can’t connect to the internet at all.
This is where an HDMI streaming stick can come in to save the day.
As long as your TV has an HDMI slot, you should be able to connect an HDMI dongle into your TV so that you can enjoy online content like all the others who forked out for a new Smart TV.
Not only that, but some TVs that are already 'smart' only have limited features, or are slow to use. An HDMI dongle might be significantly faster, play better, and have more features than what your smart TV has out of the box.
TV wifi dongles are also extremely portable. You can carry them in your pocket and bring round to friends or family homes and enjoy them there, as long as they have an HDMI port on their TV. It’s getting pretty difficult to find TVs that don’t have an HDMI port. We’re talking mostly early plasmas and CRT TVs (big box TVs) here.
Best Wifi Dongles For TV
Amazon Fire Stick (with Alexa Voice Remote)
The Amazon Fire Stick supports up to 1080p at 60fps. It is of course wireless, supporting dual band Wireless 802.11a/b/g/n/ac. Yes, it does have Wireless AC, which helps limit any buffer time starting up programs and it speeds up searches when you’re looking for content to watch or listen to.
Watch over 140 channels from outlets including Amazon TV, Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and HBO NOW. It’s also possible to install Kodi on the Fire Stick and enjoy much more content.
The other cool thing is that you can request content with the voice remote. You don’t have to of course. It is possible to navigate around with the buttons on the remote control, but sometimes just using your voice is a nice alternative. There are thousands of Alexa skills that can be used, just like the Echo (but not as many). You can even order pizza from Dominos!
The Fire Stick doesn’t just do video.
Ask to play Adele, Madonna, Elvis, or whatever your favorite artist is. You can request song titles, or even types of music. Like “play best music for Saturday night’, or “play iHeartRadio Top 40 & Pop”.
Roku Streaming Stick 3600R
Plays up to 1080p at 60fps (only 30fps on YouTube however – a firmware release in the future may fix this). Wireless caters up to 802.11n (not Wireless AC) on dual band.
You can integrate your phone to the Roku player using the Roku app. This is particularly useful if you search a lot. Using the remote to enter characters can be slow, so it’s great to have this option to enter text faster via the phone.
It’s also possible to use voice to control the 3600R, but only via the app (on your tablet or phone). You then control the Roku via your phone.
The Roku Streaming Stick pretty much plays everything (except iTunes). Roku doesn’t have any ties to any streaming services, so that enables them to provide more without restriction.
Google Chromecast Ultra
The Chromecast Ultra supports 4K ‘Ultra HD’. So you know where the name comes from now.
Because the Ultra streams 4K, Google have included an Ethernet port. Why? Well, 4K demands more data throughput to stream. Depending on what you are streaming and how good your router is (or signal), wifi (this does include wireless AC) might not be enough to handle what’s required to stream 4K. Plugging in an Ethernet cable will more than easily cope with the extra bandwidth used.
The Chromecast Ultra is the big brother of the original Chromecast. Google claim it is 1.8 times faster and has support for HDR10 and Dolby Vision (for HDR ready TVs).
The Chromecast doesn’t have a menu per se. It relies on your laptop or smart phone to ‘cast’ content to the TV, via the Chromecast’ with an app. You can cast from an app on your phone (Netflix etc) and you can ‘mirror’ whatever is on your device screen onto your TV.
It’s possible to mirror your Windows PC, Android device or a Chrome browser too. So you aren’t restricted to only being able to cast from apps that support ‘casting’. Note that 4K casting is only supported on Netflix, YouTube and Vudu (at time of writing – this will likely increase over time).
Over to you. Have you got one of these sticks? What are your opinions? Let us know about it below...