10 better Apple TV alternatives for the UK

Check these out before you buy an Apple TV

10 better Apple TV alternatives for the UK

Apple's latest go-to strategy for Apple TV, its self-confessed hobby, has been to drop the size, drop the hard disk and drop the price to just £99, plus £3.49 a pop for high def (720p) movie streaming and £1.19 per SD episode for some TV programmes.

Sounds great in theory, but the new Apple TV is just about as much as what you can't do as what you can - you'll look in vain for TV tuner, BBC iPlayer or LoveFilm functionality.

Even the iTunes movies you own now have to be streamed from your Mac or PC rather than stored locally.

Oh and, of course, you can't now - and have never been able to - just stick in a DVD or Blu-ray movie and watch your favourite movies and TV shows that way instead. There has to be a better way. And these 10 alternatives suggest there is.

1. Apple Mac mini

For Apple fans this is a no-brainer. For £649 you get a fully-fledged computer that's slim enough to slip under your TV and it even comes with a built-in DVD drive, 320GB of storage and an HDMI port for hooking up to your TV.

You can still download - and keep - movies and TV shows you've bought on iTunes (handy if you broadband connection is too slow to handle video content streams). And you use it to store other video content you've (ahem) acquired along the way.

Mac mini

Add a digital terrestrial TV or digital satellite tuner like the Elgato EyeTV DTT Deluxe (£79.95) or Elgato EyeTV Sat (£179.95) and you'll even gain PVR functionality, enabling you to record standard def and high def Freeview content without having to pay again and again for the privilege.

2. LoveFilm

With over 67,000 of movies and games to chose from, LoveFilm is a great choice for UK users. Sign up for a monthly subscription and your choice of DVD or Blu-rays will be delivered direct to your door.


LoveFilm also has a growing range of titles that can be streamed to your computer - either completely free or on a Pay Per View (PPV) basis. The company has even done deals with Sony and Samsung so you can watch movies on their TVs or other internet-connected devices.

3. Sony PlayStation 3

Comparing Apple's Apple TV to the Sony PlayStation 3 is a like pitting a G-Wiz against a juggernaut. The PS3 not only gives you the opportunity to play state-of-the-art games, but also includes a Blu-ray player, BBC iPlayer functionality and a 120GB hard disk for storing your video content.


There are hundreds of movies available to rent or buy from the PlayStation Video store, including a choice of high def or standard def downloads.

And, of course, you can also play games against friends and strangers using PlayStation Network, with a whole world online content available to enjoy using the PS3's built-in web browser.

UPDATE: You can also buy a PlayTV box for your PS3 which turns it into a Freeview PVR.

4. Microsoft Xbox Live

Stream, download, watch, play. Microsoft's Xbox Live brings a whole world of entertainment possibilities to your TV, from Sky Player to HD streaming movies, downloadable games and much, much more.

Xbox 360

The price of entry is a little steeper than the Apple TV: £199.99 for the console plus £4.99 a month for an Xbox Live Gold account - but, boy, is it worth it.

5. Sky + / Sky + HD

The elephant in the room. It's no wonder Steve Jobs moans that Apple TV can't get a foothold in the TV market, when it's up again behemoths like this. For just £19.99 a month (plus £30 setup charge) you'll get Sky's basic TV package, a free Sky+ box, free broadband internet and monthly line rental.

Sky plus hd

Pay an extra £10 a month (the same price as just three Apple TV HD streams) and you'll be able to take your pick from dozens of Sky HD channels, plus a free Sky+HD box to record them all on. You'l also get access to Sky Player - Sky's live TV streaming and On Demand service.

You can watch some content completely free on your Mac or PC. Access to other content depends on what level of Sky TV subscription you have - you'll need a Sky Movies subscription to get watch movie content, for example.

6. BBC iPlayer / ITV Player / 4OD / Demand Five

OK, you can't watch movies every broadcast movie using these services, but you do get lashings of free TV content which you can be streamed to your Mac or PC. BBC iPlayer is the pick of the bunch, chiefly because it also enables you to download content to a variety of platforms including the Mac. Demand Five has potential, but is limited to PC users only.

BBC iplayer

7. (cough) BitTorrent

OK, so most of the content is pirated and you could end being told off by your ISP or sued for your life's savings. But it's out there and it's widely and freely available. You can always blame your kids when the cops batter down your door - although pleading ignorance is not a defence that will stand up in a court of law.

Pirate bay

8. SeeSaw

This 100% legal site has hours of free UK TV to choose from, with content sourced from the BBC, 4OD, Five, MTV and Universal. Some content is available on a per episode basis, with 'Premium' content starting at just 99p.


Like most other streaming TV services, you'll need Adobe Flash Player to make it work, which throws up a whole new cans of worms for iPod touch, iPhone and iPod users who want to get access to content.

9. Virgin Media

Although it's not available everywhere, Virgin Media digital cable TV service offers a great range of content from just £6.50 per month for standard def content or from £11.50 a month for high def content.

HD subscribers will also need to pay a one-off fee of £49 for the Virgin V+ HD box plus a monthly fee of £5 for the company's TV M+ and TV L packages, although the free if waived for TV XL subscribers.

Virgin media box

All kinds of bolt-ons are available including TV Choice On Demand (£7 per month) and Music And Movies On Demand (£5 per month) as well as Catch-Up TV content. You can also add broadband and phone bundles so you only get one bill.

10. BT Vision

Like Apple TV, BT Vision delivers video content to your home using a broadband internet connection, which could be a problem if you live in an area with no or low speed coverage.

The rest of us can take advantage of the fact that you can choose from hundreds of TV programmes for just £14.99 per month (£7.50 for the first three months) as well as bolt-on bundles like Sky Sports 1 and 2. Pay Per View movies cost £1.99 a pop, with individual TV shows pegged at 79p.

BT vision

To get BT Vision you'll also need to be a BT Total Broadband and BT phone line subscriber. TV, broadband and call packages start at just £17.99 a month, plus £9.49 line rental on a 24-month contract. You'll also need to a pay a one-off £60 fee for the Vision+ set-top box.

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