NOW TV (newly-rebranded as just ‘NOW’) has quickly become known as the place to go for affordable Sky TV shows, movies and sports.
Along with the NOW app available on smart TVs and devices, including the Amazon Fire TV Stick and PS5 (if you can get your hands on PS5 stock), the brand has two streaming devices available; the NOW TV Smart Stick and the NOW TV Smart Box.
In this guide, we put the two streaming players head-to-head to decide which should be crowned NOW’s best streaming device. The categories we will be assessing include price, design, voice control, and the apps and channels they offer.
To give you a good idea of what other streaming devices are on the market, we have also included a selection of other streaming sticks available from brands such as Amazon, Google and Roku.
Looking for more smart home recommendations? Try our best streaming stick and best smart speaker round-ups. Or, head to our Chromecast with Google TV review and Roku Streambar review for a more detailed breakdown.
NOW TV Stick vs Box: what’s the difference?
NOW has done a brilliant job of making Sky content more affordable if you don’t want to sign up for one of Sky’s TV packages. However, beyond their app, NOW has also made a variety of streaming devices, including, most recently, the NOW TV Smart Stick and NOW TV Smart Box.
While both allow you to watch apps and channels you wouldn’t otherwise have access to on an old TV, some features and design elements are unique to a particular model.
Here are the key differences between the NOW TV Smart Stick and NOW TV Smart Box to help you choose the right device for your TV. And to find out more about NOW’s streaming stick, read our NOW TV Smart Stick review.
The most obvious difference between the NOW TV Smart Stick and Box is the size. The NOW TV Smart Box is considerably larger than the NOW TV Smart Stick, which is the size of a USB stick.
The NOW TV Smart Stick is also hidden from view when in use, while the box will be visible on your TV stand. However, design-wise the streaming devices are similar. Both are sleek black devices with bright accents. On the NOW TV Smart Stick, the navigation buttons on the remote are bright yellow, and on the box’s remote, they are pink.
Simply plug either device into the HDMI port on the back of your TV to get started.
The NOW TV Smart Stick is the more affordable of the two devices, with prices starting at £24.95 depending on what TV passes are available with it. For that price, the streaming stick is supplied with a month’s Entertainment Pass and a month of the Sky Cinema. For £5, a Sky Sports Day Pass is also included.
In comparison, because of its 4K streaming capabilities, the NOW TV Smart Box was launched with a price tag of £50. However, the box is now a few years old and no longer available at most UK retailers. It is still currently sold on Amazon, but it is worth keeping an eye on the price as it can fluctuate, sometimes selling for a lot more than the original RRP.
Voice control is available with both streaming devices and is powered by Roku. Hands-free voice control via the remote allows you to search the homepage, pause the TV show you’re watching or turn up the volume.
To activate the voice control, hold down the ‘microphone’ button on the remote and speak your request.
When we tested out the streaming stick for our NOW TV Smart Stick review, we found the voice control to be responsive and accurate almost 100% of the time. We found the voice control really sped up the process of searching through the homepage but found it more natural to pause/play TV shows with the remote.
Apps and channels
Because the same brand makes the devices, they give you access to the same apps and streaming services. These include BT Sport, Netflix, BBC iPlayer and, of course, NOW TV.
NOW’s TV content is split into five TV passes. These are; Entertainment, Sky Cinema, Sky Sports, Kids and Hayu. The three included with most NOW TV Smart Sticks are the Entertainment, Sky Cinema and Sports Passes.
The Entertainment Pass costs £9.99 a month and is where you’ll find NOW TV shows from Sky Atlantic, Fox and Comedy Central. For £11.99, Sky Cinema provides you access to new releases such as Joker, Little Women and Zack Snyder’s Justice League. And finally, Sky Sports – available for £33.99 a month (or a Day Pass is £9.98), this pass allows you to watch 11 Sky Sports channels, including Sky Sports F1, Sky Sports Premier League and Sky Sports News.
While the NOW TV Smart Box offers 4K streaming on selected services, the NOW TV Smart Stick has a default resolution of 720p. However, NOW does offer a ‘Boost’ package that provides HD streaming for an additional £3 a month.
Which streaming device should you buy?
For most people, the NOW TV Smart Stick will be the better option. Beyond the fact that the NOW TV box is not readily available at most UK retailers anymore, the streaming stick is small, out of sight when in use and offers a great range of TV shows, movies and apps. The size makes it easy to throw in your bag when you’re going away, and it’s sturdy enough that it won’t get damaged on the journey.
And while the NOW TV Smart Box does stream in up to 4K (compared to the 720p resolution of the NOW TV Smart Stick), it does not offer the same flexibility. The NOW TV Smart Stick is also considerably cheaper than the box.
For less than £30, the NOW TV Smart Stick also offers brilliant value for money. As well as giving the user access to apps such as Disney+, BBC iPlayer, Netflix and BT Sport, the streaming stick also has a month Entertainment Pass, a month Sky Cinema Pass and Sky Sports Day Pass pre-loaded on and included in the price.
So whether you’re considering retiring your old NOW TV Smart Box or just intrigued about what NOW offers, the NOW TV Smart Stick is by far the best streaming device from the brand.
NOW TV Stick alternatives: what other streaming devices are available?
In addition to NOW, there are many other entertainment and tech brands that make streaming sticks. These include Amazon, Google and TV specialists Roku.
Amazon Fire TV Stick
Offering HD streaming of apps including Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, NOW TV and Disney +, the Amazon Fire TV Stick is a great alternative if you like the USB-style of the NOW TV Smart Stick. Features include voice control via Alexa, an out-of-sight design, and volume controls on the new, upgraded remote.
Read the full Amazon Fire TV Stick review, or check out the Amazon Fire TV Cube if you want more comprehensive voice control via Alexa. And for the best prices, check out our best Amazon Fire TV Stick deals.
Chromecast with Google TV
The Chromecast with Google TV is the brand’s latest streaming device. Serving as a replacement to the Chromecast Ultra, this streaming device provides 4K HDR streaming and voice control via Google Assistant. When in use, the Chromecast with Google TV is hidden out of sight, and the latest videos from your YouTube subscriptions can be found right on the Google TV homepage.
Read the full Chromecast with Google TV review.
The Roku Premiere is one of the most affordable ways to get 4K streaming. The streaming player is small and hardly noticed on a TV set-up, and features include voice control and a Private Listening mode that allows you to play TV audio through headphones via the Roku app.