You want to watch Netflix or Amazon Instant Video on your TV but don’t have a media center PC and don’t want to mess about with an OpenElec installation on a Raspberry Pi.
You want something that is simple to use, has only one or two wires, and can be managed remotely; you want an Apple TV or a Chromecast (ignoring the Roku for now).The issue is that you’re not sure which…
Price, Design and Specification
Before we go into which streaming option is the best and most useful, let’s look at the specifics.
The Apple TV and the Google Chromecast vary somewhat not just in technology and construction, but also in pricing. Both devices have had significant price drops since their first releases; as of May 2015, the Amazon quoted price for the Apple TV is $99 (but alternative, cheaper Airplay receivers are available), while the Google Chromecast is pocket money at $35.
Apple TV Specification
An Apple TV comes with 8GB of flash storage, 512MB of RAM, and an Apple A5 CPU, as well as a maximum output resolution of 1080p using a single HDMI connector. Connectivity is provided by a single Ethernet wire (helpful if you keep the Apple TV close to your network), 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, and Bluetooth for the device remote and any keyboard you attach.
The Apple TV weighs 270g and measures 23(L) x 99(W) x 99(H) mm, however it requires plenty of room for cooling. The power supply is 6 watts, and the Apple TV is compatible with iOS 6 and higher phones and tablets, Windows PCs running XP (but you shouldn’t be running Windows XP!) or above, and Apple computers running Mac OS X 10.3.9 and higher.
Google Chromecast Specs
The Google Chromecast’s small size (2(L) x 35(W) x 12(H) mm, weighing just 34g) conceals a Marvell 88DE3005 (Armada 1500-mini) system on a chip with 512MB RAM and 2GB flash storage. The CEC-compatible HDMI connector supports 1080p output resolution and connects through 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n. A USB converter is available for connecting to a spare powered USB port on your TV.
The Chromecast app is available for Android smartphones running 2.3 Gingerbread and higher, iPads and iPhones running iOS 6 and higher, desktop computers running Windows or Mac OS 10.7 and above, and Chrome OS.
AirPlay and Casting: What’s the Difference?
Both devices connect to your television through HDMI, offer wireless connection, and can stream information from another computer or the internet. In actuality, there isn’t much of a difference between “casting” using a Chromecast and streaming to an Apple TV through AirPlay.
For example, both techniques require you to touch a certain button on your tablet or phone. You can output straight to Apple TV using approved applications, or you may pull up from the bottom of your iPad or iPhone and tap AirPlay. The work is accomplished on the Chromecast by running a supported app, clicking the Chromecast button in the menu, and then streaming.
So the changes are fairly little. In fact, after a few days of using both devices, features like applications, mirroring, and streaming from a PC or server will seem even more similar…
Both Apple TV and Google Chromecast can mirror information from your iOS or Android phone or tablet, which may be great for presentations or even utilizing the devices as personal PCs with the TV as a display.
Although there is some latency, mirroring may be incredibly beneficial for many things, such as streaming applications that don’t support AirPlay or Chromecast. Mirroring on an Apple TV may place a significant strain on the media streamer, so if you intend on streaming videos, be sure you’re just utilizing AirPlay (not AirPlay mirroring).
Mirroring seems to have minimal impact on performance on Chromecast. Even better, if you have a hardware game controller connected to your Android smartphone, gaming on your TV using Android as a games console becomes a reality. The lag is there, but it is little and easily tolerated.
Both ways may stream movies and music from a media server or PC that uses PLEX to handle the contents. Simply install the PLEXapp on your iPad or iPhone, connect it to your media PC, choose a video file, and command it to play through AirPlay. Except for the Chromecast button, the technique is almost same for Android.
Apps and Channels Explained
The majority of streaming with Apple TV and Chromecast is made possible through applications, which are referred to as “channels” on Apple TV. These are pre-installed on Apple’s devices, with a varying option based on your country of residence.
The applications are straightforward to use, but since they are confined to the remote control, inputting a login and password in a service like Netflix takes time. Bluetooth keyboards, on the other hand, are compatible. Being limited to Apple TV applications is restricting, but not so restricted that you wouldn’t use any of them.
There are no applications available for Chromecast. Instead, it use Android applications that support Chromecast, as shown by the appearance of the Chromecast button. This simplifies the process of choosing and playing a movie, TV program, or tune.
Using a Remote
Your experience with a remote on these two devices will be vastly different. The Apple TV comes with a small, iPod-style Bluetooth remote that allows you to navigate among the channels, access the settings menu, and put the Apple TV to sleep.
The Chromecast, on the other hand, does not have a remote. “What is this madness?” I hear you inquire. Google has made another ingenious approach to keep the price down. Instead of a portable remote control, the Chromecast needs you to configure the device using its mobile app (available for iOS and Android) and then depend on the many applications whose output may be streamed to the Chromecast to operate as app-specific remote controllers.
Even if the Apple TV remote is excellent, the simplicity of the Chromecast approach is both exciting and freeing. The Apple TV, on the other hand, may be managed using the free Remote app.
iOS vs Android: A UI vs a Screensaver
Because the Chromecast lacks a specific remote control, the user interface on the TV is effectively a screensaver. To be more specific, it is a collection of really intriguing and eye-catching photographs that look great on any screen size, along with some calendar and weather information. It’s exactly what any home media center aficionado would expect from a system like this.
Apple TV, on the other hand, features a complete iOS-style user interface, with icons grouped in a grid similar to your iPhone or iPad. As helpful as this is, and as convenient as having a separate remote control is, the UI may be confusing at times (for example, it’s easy to get up in channel settings rather than Apple TV settings), and it can also be sluggish.
Browsing through the list of channels may be a chore, and by the time you’re done, you could have used a smartphone app to identify, locate, and start streaming the same video to a Chromecast and saved yourself several minutes.
The Future of Apple TV and Chromecast
It would be quite simple to finish this comparison with “if you have an iPhone, use Apple TV; otherwise…” but that would not only be trite, but also wrong. As you can see, there is very little difference between the two smartphones.
For example, we bought an Apple TV primarily to view home videos from Dropbox on our TV, rather than to watch streaming TV. Netflix’s existence was a bonus, given it is already supplied by our cable provider. With the release of Game of Thrones Season 5, we signed up for Now TV, a UK-based service supplied by Rupert Murdoch’s satellite TV provider Sky for customers who don’t want a lengthy term. So we use the Now TV app on the Apple TV to watch Game of Thrones.
Now TV, on the other hand, is also accessible for Android, with casting capabilities.
What Are You Looking For in a Streaming Solution?
As previously said, the two gadgets are extremely equally matched. Where one looks to be better in one element of its design, the other may just come out on top in another. The Apple TV and Chromecast have virtually little in common.
The answer is to choose the equipment that best meets your needs. Is there a specific streaming service that you need that may be unique to one platform? Perhaps the price (although the Apple TV appears to be getting cheaper) or the requirement for a specialized remote control is a problem.
If you like iOS, you may prefer the Apple TV; Chrome OS and Android users will presumably feel the same way about the Chromecast. Danny Steiben believed that Chromecast was not as developed as Apple TV when we tested it in 2013, but that is no longer the case in 2015. As the owner of an Apple TV and a Chromecast, as well as an iPad Air and an HTC One for streaming and remote control, I would say that, while the UI and hardware on the Apple TV are superior, the most pleasing streaming solution (largely issue free, unlike the Apple TV, which can occasionally require troubleshooting) is through the Chromecast.
But which do you prefer? Tell us why in the comments.
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