Chromecast with Google TV vs. Roku Streaming Stick 4K vs. Am…

If you’re looking for a new streaming device and maybe you’re a little lost considering all the options out there, you’re not alone. The three biggest players in this space are Google, Roku, and Amazon, and that means it’s fair to compare the Chromecast with the Google TV 4K, Roku Streaming Stick 4K, and Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K. So, which one comes out on top? All of those devices hover around the $50 price point, so it can be confusing when comparing these streaming media devices. How do you decide which one is right for you?

Truth be told, it is difficult. These streaming devices have far more similarities than differences. And since you can’t easily choose one based on price, the answer will be in the details. So, let’s take a deeper look and see where the strengths and weaknesses of each device lie to help you find the best solution for you.

design

Google Chromecast with Google TV displayed on a mantel.
Caleb Dennison/

All three devices include nearly identical items in the package: a streamer device that plugs into an available HDMI port on your TV, a micro USB cable for power (which, in the case of Roku, also doubles as its wireless transmitter module, ), a power adapter, and a voice-enabled remote control.

Roku and Amazon use almost identical black HDMI stick designs for their streamers. Amazon’s Fire TV Stick 4K comes with an HDMI extender cable if the stick doesn’t fit your TV. The Roku Streaming Stick is not 4K. Amazon also has a Fire TV Stick 4K Max that’s only $10 dollars more and comes with extra storage and a better remote (You should probably buy that one), but we’ll focus on the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K for this piece.

Google’s Chromecast with Google TV takes a slightly different approach that places the device on the end of a flexible HDMI cable. It’s a little bulkier than the stick style, but it has its advantages: it’s easier to plug into a TV’s HDMI port in situations where you already have other cables plugged into other ports (or where the TV is designed so that is there is no physical space) sticking a stick straight out of the port). Because the Chromecast sits further away from the TV chassis, which can cause Wi-Fi interference, it can enjoy a stronger wireless connection than some of the other options in this roundup. But keep in mind that since the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K works with Wi-Fi 6, it may not be the best in every aspect. The Chromecast with Google TV also comes in three different colors: Sky, Sunrise, and Snow.

If you plan to use the 4K features, you’ll want to use the included power adapter, even if your TV’s USB can power the streamer. These devices can consume electricity. Chromecast with Google TV specifically requires you to use the included USB-C adapter, but technically, the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K and Roku Streaming Stick 4K can be plugged into USB on your TV . The Roku has a long-range Wi-Fi receiver with a long USB power cable that helps with the power issue, but without an HDMI extender, you may still have trouble installing it to your TV.

Unless the Chromecast’s power adapter requirement is a non-starter for you, the Chromecast’s included HDMI extender, as well as some choice of colors, give it a slight advantage in the design category.

the winner: Chromecast with Google TV

remote controls

Roku Streaming Stick 4K.
Phil Nickinson/

Once again, there are many similarities between these devices. They are all similar size and weight, all powered by non-rechargeable batteries, and all have the following buttons:

  • Power (for the streamer and your TV)
  • Increase/decrease/mute volume (for your TV, soundbar or AV receiver)
  • Navigation buttons (D-pad) with central OK button
  • Home
  • Back
  • Sound control via microphone

But when you look closely, it appears that Google has taken a simpler approach to Chromecast with the Google TV remote, which doesn’t have dedicated buttons for it:

  • turn on stop
  • fast forward/rewind

Both the Roku and Amazon remotes have these buttons, and Roku, which has the most buttons of the three remotes, also offers four shortcut buttons for specific apps like Netflix and Apple TV+, as well as an instant-replay button Which takes you back 20 seconds. While watching any video.

Google’s remote can still accomplish the same number of functions (except instant replay) by giving some buttons more than one function. For example, the central OK button inside the D-pad becomes the play/pause button when watching a video. Similarly, the left and right D-pad buttons provide fast-forward/rewind.

There’s no doubt that Google’s approach offers a smaller, simpler remote, but we’re still very biased towards Roku’s single-purpose buttons, which would make operating the Roku Streaming Stick 4K an easy task for most people. Is.

the winner: Roku Streaming Stick 4K

access to content

Rows of channel app icons from a Roku streaming device.
Year

All three devices include apps or channels that allow you to watch major streaming services (if you have a paid subscription to them), including:

  • Netflix
  • prime video
  • apple tv+
  • Disney+
  • Maximum
  • youtube tv
  • paramount+
  • Funimation
  • hulu with live tv
  • Peacock
  • Crunchyroll

On the surface, this category should belong to Roku. As the oldest streaming platform, the company has amassed an incredible array of streaming services (which are added to the device as downloadable “channels”), and its channel store includes content from the biggest names like Netflix and Disney+. Including everything from the smallest, to the micro-. Targeted offerings from spiritual groups and hobbyists.

It’s also home to the Roku Channel, an excellent resource for free, ad-supported content. It also offers an easy way to bring your subscription services into one interface. Roku’s recent addition of over 300 free live TV streaming channels makes it even more attractive.

Google Chromecast with Google TV comes with over 10,000 apps to download. If you want to watch live TV on Chromecast, you can download Pluto TV, YouTube TV, Sling TV, Philo, or a separate local app if available. You can also opt for Google TV, which has over 800 live TV channels, including some exclusive to Google. Although many of those channels aren’t very well-known, you’ll find your standard networks that you’d expect to see on a live-TV service. Additionally, you can buy or rent movies that will be added to your Google Library.

The Amazon Fire TV Stick also has access to an endless supply of channels. And it comes with access to Prime Video, which is home to many exclusive movies and TV shows, but all devices include the ability to watch it through the app if you have a subscription. You also get the facility to buy or rent movies from Amazon.

We’re giving Roku this award based on the size of its channel catalog and the strengths of its great Roku Channel.

the winner:Roku Streaming Stick 4K

Support for audio and video formats

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K (2023) and Fire TV Stick 4K Max (2023).
Phil Nickinson/

All three streaming devices will support 4K resolution at up to 60 frames per second (fps). They also support all major video formats, including HDR, HDR10, HDR10+, HLG, and Dolby Vision. They are all the same. There is a slight difference in audio here.

Chromecast with Google TV offers Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, and Dolby Atmos via HDMI passthrough. Amazon offers Dolby Atmos, 7.1 surround sound, two-channel stereo, and HDMI audio passthrough up to 5.1. Roku offers digital stereo, DTS digital surround, and Dolby-encoded audio passthrough over HDMI.

Passthrough support for Atmos is nice in that if you have an Atmos-enabled TV, soundbar, or AV receiver, apps can send an audio bitstream to these devices, which you’ll then use to hear Dolby Atmos sound. . The problem is that some apps, notably Netflix, will not allow passthrough to Atmos.

The Fire TV Stick 4K appears to be the winner, with the ability to fully decode Dolby Atmos. But, for reasons we have yet to discover, Netflix has also denied the Fire TV Stick 4K access to Dolby Atmos soundtracks, forcing it to use Dolby 5.1.

It’s a similar story for Google’s Chromecast with Google TV, although, in this case, like Roku, Dolby Atmos is passthrough only. And yet, in a move that seems to defy all logic and consistency, Netflix will let Chromecasts with Google TV access Dolby Atmos soundtracks.

Overall, Dolby Atmos support is the same, and there are similar video formats on all three devices.

the winner: Drag

Ease of content discovery and access

Phil Nickinson/

Roku’s search has always been at the top, and we have no doubt that this position will continue. But these days, with thousands of movies and shows at our fingertips, searching isn’t necessarily the best way to find something to watch.

That’s why both Google TV and Amazon’s Fire TV interface are solid improvements to our ability to discover new content. Both offer a curated view of all your apps, channels, and subscriptions based on your habits and what you watch, and Google TV has added a new feature to blur the lines between on-demand and YouTube TV (for those who subscribe to that service) is also integrated. And what’s live next?

For that intuitive search alone, it looks like it’s a tie between Google and Amazon.

the winner: Tie between Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K and Google Chromecast with Google TV

Content casting, games and additional features

Amazon Luna has a Prime gaming channel for Amazon Prime members.
Image used with permission of the copyright holder

There’s a lot going on here, so let’s break it down:

Roku Streaming Stick 4K

  • Private Listening Mode and Screen Mirroring via the Roku App
  • Share videos, photos, and music from your Apple devices using AirPlay
  • Hotel and hostel rooms are connected for easy access while traveling
  • Compatible with both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa voice assistant to launch channels and discover entertainment

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

  • Compatible with Amazon’s Luna subscription gaming service
  • Alexa built-in for controlling smart home devices
  • Connect to headphones or game controller via Bluetooth
  • optional ethernet adapter

Google Chromecast with Google TV

  • Casting content from Android or iOS devices
  • Connect to accessories via Bluetooth
  • Google Assistant built-in to control smart home devices
  • optional ethernet adapter

We doubt that unless you’re a gamer, Roku’s collection of thoughtful extras makes it a winner. And on the gaming front, Amazon is arguably leaning into it the most with its Luna subscription gaming service as the only option between the three devices. So if this is a big attraction for you, there is your answer.

If you need a hardwired connection in your home, both Amazon and Google devices offer separately sold Ethernet adapters, but most users won’t need one and can connect via Wi-Fi.

Yes, you will decide this, not us.

the winner: Drag

conclusion

Were you expecting an easy decision here? Perhaps some fatal flaw that will shut down at least one of these streaming gadgets?

Unfortunately, that’s not the case this time, but it’s for the best possible reason: Roku, Amazon, and Google have all made great 4K streaming media devices at prices that most will find too affordable.

But we won’t leave you stuck with your streaming device decision without a little advice. Roku offers the most content options, a neat remote, and some unique custom features like a private listening mode. Google offers a uniquely designed device that can make it easier to use with your TV and Google Assistant, and this holds up in all other categories as well. Amazon’s device offers an HDMI extender and Alexa built-in and is equally strong in all other categories.

Overall, which device you choose will mostly depend on what you already have in your home, as they are pretty similar devices at this point, and you can’t go wrong with any of them.






Leave a Comment