Google Chromecast vs Roku 3 vs Apple TV (3rd Gen) - Streaming Devices for Your TV

Google Chromecast is cheap, very cheap. As far as what it is capable of (currently, and projected feature set) does it really compare to the Roku 3 or Apple TV? Let's see.

View attachment 2513 On price point alone, sure, it can't be beat (although the U.K.'s BSkyB does come in at around $15 after currency conversion). At $35 it is very affordable. And for those lucky few (err, 250k+ according to some reports) who got three months free of Netflix, the price for the streaming video and music to TV stick is realy just $11. If you're late to the party and haven't backordered yours yet (3-4 weeks wait right now unless you hit up eBay and pay extra), even if you are already a Netflix subscriber you would have received the three free months. Ouch.

$35 and three free months of Netflix. No wonder the buzz. Great marketing.

If Google Chromecast is your first taste at streaming, it is the cat's ummm, meow

To decide if the Chromecast is all you need and if you can forgo the idea of Apple TV and Roku, consider the following two scenarios, the first one fictional and the second one real.

Beaming from Chrome to TV:

View attachment 2514
A young fella is playing a web based video game in his Chrome browser on his iPad (Chrome browser is relevant, iPad is not - could've been an Android-based tablet just the same), in his living room. A crowd of people are surrounding him, because let's face it, watching people play video games (when they are good) is exciting. Don't believe me? Look on YouTube for "super mario brothers" and what you will find primarily are people screencasting their play time, and they have BIG followings on their channels. I mean BIG!

OK, now if we could mirror that Chrome-based game play to the TV at a cost of a mere $35 wouldn't we do it? I bet most would.

I know some people are knocking the idea of "yet another HDMI-connected device" and "nobody has the free ports" blah blah blah, but there's an easy easy workaround for that. One costs money (an HDMI switcher), and the other does not (unplug something).

Watch TV (any web based TV) and listen to music (any web based music):

View attachment 2515 Sure, at the moment, app support is limited. But, you can watch YouTube, Google TV and Movies, and Netflix. As for music, some are saying Pandora is now available but if it isn't it will be in a minute. Then you have Google Music.
And for the rest: you have a web browser, namely a Google Chrome tab. I don't know about you but for me that is a good enough hold over until official apps become available. Heck, I prefer a browser tab to apps anyway, it's how I started with "streaming to TV." I was "mirroring" since the beginning.

So what does the Chrome tab open up? To name a few we have: Hulu, HBO Go, and full episodes from major TV networks like CBS, NBC, Fox, and ABC, Amazon Instant, Spotify, Rdio, and MLB.TV, Pr0n, etc, and so on and so forth.

But it doesn't have a remote!

The lack of a remote can be looked at as a good thing or a bad thing. Many are saying it "lacks" a remote and adding that to the "cons" category. I disagree strongly.

First, if you are into streaming at all, you will have a device that can remotely control the dongle. A computer is the worse case scenario, and providing it is on the same WiFi network you are golden. But most people will have a handheld device of sorts.

This is why we (and by "we" I mean those in the U.S., because Canadians aren't able to get the Chromecast just yet) are paying only $35, because it doesn't ship with a remote control. The remote "holds the apps" in a sense. There is no need to buy multiple devices. The apps grow on the web and become usable immediately. There is almost no need for firmware updates with the Chromecast. We wait for someone to play with the SDK in the wild, and we have instant access to new apps.

To be fair, I haven't used it. Some say the "mirroring" aspect isn't all it is cracked up to be.

View attachment 2516 While it seems I am pro Chromecast over the proprietary Apple TV and the app-choked Roku, it is only in theory. I'm not in a country that can get one, and to be frank, I don't even want one. I'm good with attaching my laptop to the TV set via HDMI and using a cordless keyboard and mouse from the comfort of my couch. I feel I am without restrictions this way.

However, I would choose the Chromecast over any other device. The biggest perk for me besides the price and the anticipated mass expansion, is the mirroring. However, some of those that have used it say that the mirroring aspect isn't all it is cracked up to be.

With that said, the main site that stated that "the awesome-sounding screen-mirroring feature ends up being entirely underwhelming in practice" demonstrated its use flawlessly in a video above the article. Love you CNET, just saying.

Bottom line, is the Chromecast better than Apple TV and Roku?

Now, to decide whether the Chromecast is better boils down to what you want it for. Does it suit your needs? It suits mine (in theory).
Do you have the need for apps for whatever reason? Then you might want to take a pass.

The Chromecast streams direct from the cloud making it a superior to Apple TV in that regard. But, it currently (without a hack) cannot stream local content. However, you have to remember that anything that you can do in a browser window you can mirror to the TV with Google Chromecast. And last I checked I can view photos, listen to audio, and watch videos in a web browser, Google Chrome being no exception.


techmichelle said:
The Chromecast streams direct from the cloud
I think you've got a little misapprehension there. From what I've read, the Chromecast just slings a signal from a connected device to a TV. A Roku streams directly from the cloud; Chromecast needs a third player in the middle.

There doesn't seem to be a high appreciation for the processing power in an iPad or Android, which allows it to unravel the internet packet stream, and assemble it into the appropriate media stream -- of which there are dozens of formats and resolutions, all of which must be supported in that smart little phone. The Chromecast itself doesn't do any of that. I'm not even sure the Chromecast converts to HDMI output -- that's trivial, but it's probably also done by the go between.



Staff member
Rickideemus;bt1033 said:
I think you've got a little misapprehension there. From what I've read, the Chromecast just slings a signal from a connected device to a TV. A Roku streams directly from the cloud; Chromecast needs a third player in the middle.
Unless CNet has it wrong too, I think Michelle has it right.

For example, with YouTube, AirPlay streams from the cloud to your device, then to an Apple TV, while the Chromecast pulls content straight from the cloud.
Google Chromecast Review - Watch CNET's Video Review
Aaron62 said:
Unless CNet has it wrong too, I think Michelle has it right.
But the article seems to contradict itself! I've seen that "straight from the cloud" comment all over, and only thing I can figure is they're expaaaaaaaanding the definition of "cloud" to include the user device.

For instance, they say: "the Chromecast is never truly streaming from your smartphone" and "the Chromecast pulls content straight from the cloud." But earlier they say: "Once you're set up, you can use a smartphone or tablet to watch content from four sources... Also: "The Chromecast lets you stream from Netflix and YouTube using your Android or iOS mobile device as a remote, with Android users also getting access to Google Music and Google TV and Movies." Huh? Why would the Android get more if it's just acting as a remote control?


OK ... I guess Google's servers do all the processing, and puts it in one of the limited formats the Chromecast can accept, then sends it back sort of peer to peer over the internet to user's WiFi router. From the director of product management for Chromecast:

Rishi Chandra said:
Literally it's just a browser content shell. All it can do is display content that's sent to it from the cloud or your computer... All we will know is that we received something to send to somebody else. We have no information about the actual message itself."
What a strange idea for a product! The Android/tablet is acting as a remote not just for the CCast, but for Google's servers and the entire internet. Guess, it's not that different from what a PC does getting a YouTube video. But YouTube is free! What if Google goes under in a few years?? Then ya got a cute $35 piece a plastic.

So that takes most of the strain off the phone, which is good. But I don't think that's how a Roku works at all. I'll guess the Android offering content unavailable on other devices is a very temporary situation.


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