On-demand content streaming providers such as Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer have driven the market for streaming media devices. It’s a hot space right now as Smart TV prices are still out of reach for many households, making these devices the next best thing.
There’s no shortage of choice, but two of the biggest competitors in this area right now are Google’s Chromecast and Roku. Both companies have their own approach when it comes to streaming devices, but which is better?
Here’s a quick overview of the Chromecast vs. Roku so consumers can choose the device that’s right for their budget and lifestyle.
What is Chromecast?
This line of streaming dongles was created by Google as an easy alternative to other streaming devices that require their own boxes and remotes. The dongle connects to a television or monitor through an HDMI port and connects over WiFi to another device. A smartphone, PC, and Google Home can be paired with the Chromecast dongle.
Once everything is set up, anyone can stream music or video content to the Chromecast from their device.
What is Roku?
Roku is a company that makes various online media players designed to bring music, video, and game streaming to television. The Roku devices and software continue to be a popular choice for people looking to stream on-demand media. Right now, the Roku family of devices mainly consist of:
– Roku Express
– Roku Express +
– Roku Streaming Stick
– Roku Streaming Stick +
– Roku Premiere
– Roku Premiere +
There’s also the Roku Ultra, but it’s not a dongle that plugs into the screen and so won’t be taken into consideration here.
Chromecast vs. Roku – How Do They Measure Up?
Now comes the fun part – pitching these two against each other and seeing who comes out on top.
Roku and Chromecast are both fairly easy to navigate, though Chromecast has a bit of a leg-up here with the Google suite. It’s a popular interface that’s already being used by a lot of people (especially Android users). So people who have been using Google Home and other Google platforms will already be familiar with the general setup.
That said, Google doesn’t use its own interface with the Chromecast – it simply mirrors what’s displayed on another device like a smartphone. Whereas Roku has its own interface, called Roku OS. This might be a better option for people who aren’t familiar with Google or don’t like Google’s interface. On the other hand, learning to use a new OS can be a chore for some.
There isn’t a big difference in terms of prices between Chromecast and Roku devices. The standard Chromecast goes for $35, and the Chromecast Ultra (which adds 4K support) costs $69.
Roku devices cover a similar range, with the cheapest being the Roku Express at $29. At the other end, there’s the Streaming Stick + which is going for $59.
The price difference is small enough that it probably won’t be a deciding factor for most people.
Ever thought, “Should I hide my IP?”. When it comes to accessing content with either the Roku or Chromecast devices, that might be a good idea. Both have access to a great deal of content, but plenty of it is still locked away behind arbitrary geo-restrictions. Using a VPN or proxy to switch to a different IP address can open up lots of new content.
The Roku apparently gives viewers access to over 500,000 channels, but most of them aren’t worth watching. Luckily there’s still all the important ones like Amazon Prime and Netflix.
Chromecast, on the other hand, doesn’t have access to quite that many channels and not every big streaming site is cast-enabled. Which means sometimes people have to cast their entire mobile screen. This can drain battery life quickly and prohibits them from doing anything else on the phone. Amazon Prime was one such case, but luckily, Amazon and Google have buried the hatchet, and it’s now cast-enabled too.
Roku devices come with a host of remote controls. The cheapest ones only come with plain controls that control the device. But other remotes can be voice-controlled, contain TV-related buttons, or have a headphone jack. So Roku users have the pick of the litter depending on how much they want to spend.
In contrast, the only way to control Chromecast is through the device it’s being cast from. So any changes made on the device will reflect on the TV screen.
So which device is the winner? Thanks to its easy setup and additional voice control features without having to spend extra money, the Chromecast comes out on top here. However, the Roku devices are still a great option for people who want access to a lot of varied content.