Chromecast vs. Apple TV vs. Roku
By PF Wilson
More and more TV viewers are cutting the cord and leaving cable and satellite services behind. Many are turning to devices that can stream web-based content to their high-definition television sets. The amount of content available is staggering. A lot of it is free too, as most of the major broadcast networks offer the option of streaming shows right from their websites.
The 3 most popular devices for streaming web content to TV are Roku, Chromecast from Google, and Apple TV. All 3 cost less than $100.
If you’re an Apple user, the search is over. Apple TV, available for around $100, works with your Apple devices as well as your iTunes library. A newly released version streams content in 1080dpi (the highest possible quality) whereas previous iterations only offered 780dpi. Any app you can use on your Apple device, including content directly from websites, can be mirrored through Apple TV. It comes with fewer native apps than Roku— Amazon is a notably absent, but Apple is planning on adding more.
It’s the least expensive coming in at around $35, and the easiest to use. Unfortunately, it works with very few content providers. The limited roster includes Netflix, HuluPlus, Pandora, Google Music, Plex, Vevo, Red Bull TV, YouTube, and HBO Go. Mirroring other web content is still in the experimental stage. ABC-TV’s website, for example, seems to work with Chromecast, but it isn’t as reliable as the native apps. Its compact size makes it handy for travel. Google’s spotty history of supporting certain devices (Google TV, Nexus Q, as well as its tendency to do away with other products (iGoogle) may make people skittish about adopting Chromecast. However, the low price point might alleviate those concerns.
Roku 3 is the latest version of this popular web streaming companion, and like Apple TV sells for about $100. Its biggest advantage is its number of native apps, which tops the 1,000 mark. It also offers a cross channel search, so you can compare availability on Netflix, HuluPlus, Amazon, HBO Go, and so on. It even has a headphone jack in the remote.
The biggest drawback is that, unlike Apple TV and Chromecast, you can’t stream content from your mobile device or computer to the TV. Roku is working on this and currently offers that functionality with YouTube and Netflix. Also, if you have a lot of media files on a hard or external drive, running them through Roku isn’t the handiest way to stream that content. Software is available, but its competitors are much more user-friendly in that regard.