Google made headlines in July when the company released Chromecast, a $35 dongle that allows users to stream online content to their TVs. The Chromecast has been hugely popular – the device sold out quickly, and it’s now for sale on eBay at almost double its original price. Part of its appeal? It’s less expensive than similar products like Apple TV and Roku, both of which run at $100.
Chromecast is cheaper – but can it really compete with the quality of Apple TV? Now that Chromecast has been on the market for a few months, let’s take a look at the two streaming devices to see how they stack up.
The Chromecast dongle is about the size of a USB drive – it’s just 35 mm by 72 mm. It’s small enough to easily take with you from room to room, or even out of the house.
The AppleTV device is larger – a 98 mm square. Instead of plugging directly into your TV like Chromecast, the Apple TV connects to your TV via an HDMI cable.
Chromecast streams content wirelessly from the cloud through an HDMI port in your TV. You can control it from your smartphone or tablet, and you can use your device for other things while you watch.
Apple TV also streams content to your TV from your mobile device. The only difference is that Apple TV doesn’t use the cloud – it requires that you also run the content on your iOS device while it’s playing on your TV. But that may not be the case for long – Apple is rumored to be releasing an update that will allow cloud streaming.
Chromecast is compatible with any Android or iOS device, as well as any Mac or Windows computer with Google Chrome.
Apple TV is only compatible with iOS devices (including iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch) and Mac computers.
Chromecast has access to some online streaming apps, including YouTube, Netflix and Google Play. You can also stream anything you can access in your Chrome browser.
Apple TV supports more apps, including HuluPlus, Vimeo, HBO Go®, Disney, ESPN, VEVO and many professional sports networks.
Both devices will allow you to stream (almost) all the content you want to your TV. But Apple TV is the clear winner, with more content and better quality. Though Chromecast works fine – and it’s cheap – it just doesn’t have the same capabilities yet.
But that’s not to say that Chromecast won’t pull ahead in the future. It does have greater device compatibility – and the price can’t be beat.
Chromecast and Apple TV aren’t the only players in the game, either. There’s also Roku, a lot like Apple TV. And Sony recently released the Sony Smart Stick, a USB device that adds Google TV functionality to Sony’s Bravia TVs.
One last tip– to avoid slow loading times when you stream content to your TV, use your device with a high-speed Internet connection. The fastest? Fiber optics, like FiOS Internet or Google Fiber. If it’s available in your area, fiber is the best option for Internet streaming, no matter which device you use.
Sam Melton is a freelance tech writer and former IT professional with a focus on new technology and equal access broadband initiatives who spends most of his time reading tech news and writing for his blog.