Video streaming is more popular today than it was a few years ago, mainly because of the availability of streaming devices. These devices are affordable and easy to use as you just plug them into your television and start streaming from your computer or smartphone screen to your TV.
Roku, Apple, Amazon, and Google all make great options, but it can be a pain trying to figure out which one to use.
Depending on what you want, Roku and Chromecast are good contenders, but which one stands out as the best streaming device?
To help, we’ll compare two of the best – Roku vs Chromecast – which have their own strengths, whether it’s better voice controls, snazzier interfaces, or more comprehensive universal searches to dig through all your services.
Roku is a streaming device that allows you to enjoy the internet on your television. You can stream channels like Hulu and Netflix on the big screen and watch thousands of movies and TV shows across many free or paid channels.
With Roku, you can use your cable login to sign into network TV channels and use the Roku player as an additional cable box. This way, you can save on the bills that you pay each month to watch your favorite content.
Roku doesn’t have a monthly equipment fee to use, so you only pay for the channels you’d like to watch. Plus, the devices act as the complete entertainment hub so you can streamline your setup, replace costly cable equipment and watch your favorite shows or movies.
Setting up Roku is easy: just power up the device, connect it to the internet, create a Roku account, and then activate your device.
All Roku streaming sticks and players connect to the HDMI port on your TV. This way, you can stream what you love without any hassles.
If you have a Roku TV, the Roku operating system is built into it, so you won’t need an HDMI connection.
With a Roku device, you can stream free and paid channels with live TV, music, shows, and more with better value than cable TV. You can stream Roku Originals and over 150 live TV streaming channels, along with hit movies, in-season shows, and more.
Chromecast is a streaming device from Google that makes it easier for you to watch videos or movies with others without huddling around a laptop screen.
Unlike the old ways of watching TV, which involved searching for movies or shows using your remote and a clunky on-screen keyboard, Chromecast makes streaming as easy as pie.
You can use Chromecast to stream many apps on your big screen and watch your favorite shows.
Google Chromecast was first launched in 2013 and is part of a family of devices you can plug into your TV or other monitor via HDMI. Once you install the device, it lets you cast audio or video streams from your smartphone, tablet, or Chrome web browser.
Today, there are two different models of Google Chromecast, both with basic casting functionality. The newer Chromecast has its own operating system, which runs streaming media apps without an external device.
When you cast media to your television via Google Chromecast, the device you use – whether that’s a laptop, smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer – becomes the initial launch site for entertainment. Plus, the device also becomes the remote that controls what you hear or see on your television screen or monitor.
Unlike other Chromecast devices, the one with Google TV has its own remote, which allows you to select whatever you want to watch.
This is a top streaming channel that Roku owns and operates, which is available for US, Canada, and UK consumers for free. They can use it on Roku streaming devices, mobile devices, and on the web.
Roku works with content and studio providers to give you a large selection of free ad-supported on-demand video, premium subscriptions, and live TV.
Along with powerful promotional tools, Roku enables content studios and providers to attract and retain a large audience on the channel.
The Roku Channel Store provides thousands of channels for streaming content from local and global content providers.
In each country where Roku devices are available, you can get a dedicated Roku Channel Store, which makes it easy and affordable for you to enjoy free and paid content. The content includes sports, news, live TV, popular vintage and recent music or TV shows, and hit movies.
If you plan to cut cable or trim your bills, a Roku player is a great place to get started. You don’t need to pay any monthly equipment fee and you can still get to watch news, sports, local TV, and DVR.
You can find the perfect Roku player for your needs from:
If you’ve never streamed content before. The device comes with a simple design and is small enough to fit in your pocket. It’s compact and easy to hide at the bottom or back of your TV.
You can plug it in, connect WiFi, create a Roku account, and start streaming. It’s also easy to add channels to it and use the remote’s shortcut buttons for popular streaming services.
The device comes with an HDMI and USB cable, adhesive mounting strip, and power adapter. You can power it via a wall outlet or USB port on your TV.
Roku Premiere works like the Express model but can stream up to 4K resolution with HDR support. You can get better performance if you have a 4K Ultra HD TV if you get the Premiere Chromecast, and also use the Spotlight channel to get movies filmed in 4K Ultra HD.
This model is also good for beginner streamers who want a better resolution from the start. You’ll also get the same accessories and quick, easy setup as you would with the Express model, except it lacks an HDMI. Plus, a remote is included with the Premiere model, but if you get the Premiere+ option, you can get the voice remote too.
If you want something portable and more powerful, with 4K+ features, long-range WiFi receiver for smoother streaming, and brilliant 4K picture quality.
This model is a stick, about the same shape and size as a flash drive. It plugs into your TV’s HDMI port and is powered by a USB cable that plugs in your TV directly. These traits make it portable so you can go with the Streaming Stick+ anywhere even on a business trip provided you can power it.
Plus, the stick tucks well into your TV so there are no annoying wires so it’s the ideal one if your TV is wall mounted. You can stream in 4K, HD, or HDR, and get four times the wireless range with the stick so you can enjoy a smooth streaming experience.
It also comes with a voice remote, an extender cable, and a power adapter.
If you want to cut cable or you’re a streaming pro, this is the perfect streaming device for you. It’s powerful and has the best WiFi along with other great bells and whistles you need for video streaming.
Each Roku player is easy to set up. You just need a power supply, high-speed internet connection, computer, or a smartphone.
Get a Roku account to download and stream channels, and then plug in the Roku player to your TV directly or through an HDMI cable and follow the on-screen prompts to start streaming.
With these streaming devices, you can run the Roku operating system that’s designed and specifically built for TV. The operating system powers Roku Streaming Sticks, Roku players, and Roku Smart Soundbars.
These devices offer an incredible television viewing experience that’s easy and provides a ton of value and great content.
Roku TVs are manufactured worldwide by OEMs and use the purpose-built Roku operating system and TV hardware reference design. You can find the models through direct sales at major retailers, along with pay-TV operators in Brazil and North America and licensing arrangements with TV brands.
The streamer is another all-in-one device that works with wireless subwoofer and speakers. You can stream in 4K, HD, and HDR and get the benefit of cinematic sound with Dolby Audio.
These speakers have different sound modes and speech clarity levels so you can enjoy crisp sound while streaming. You can also play music via Bluetooth or connect an external flash drive through the USB port.
You can use Roku Voice to speak commands to your streaming device and help you find entertainment or control your device. If you have Roku TV, you can use your voice to switch input, adjust volume, and turn off the TV screen without needing the Roku remote.
The devices you can control Roku with are Amazon Alexa or Google. Just speak naturally to any Roku voice remote or mobile app for your smartphone. You can also use push-to-talk voice commands to search and control your streaming device.
Some select Roku streaming remotes like the Voice Remote Pro also let you use hands-free voice commands without needing to handle your remote or press any button on it.
Roku Soundbar is a smart, all-in-one gadget that you can use to upgrade your TV’s sound while enjoying your Roku player. It works with Roku’s wireless subwoofer and speakers.
Roku also comes with accessibility options such as closed captioning and text-to-speech. When you activate these options, they’ll display the spoken elements, movie sound effects, and background noises as text on your TV screen.
With these captions, deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals can connect to entertainment and news. They’re also useful when it’s hard to understand dialogue or when you can’t turn up your volume too loud.
Closed captions are only available when Hulu, Roku Channel, or Netflix and other service providers include them with your content.
Chromecast built-in is a technology that allows you to start streaming entertainment and apps from any device – laptop, phone, or tablet – to your speakers or TV.
Chromecast comes with several devices just like Roku, but these are different versions of Chromecast, which include:
- Chromecast 1st, 2nd, and 3rd generation
- Chromecast Ultra
- Chromecast with Google TV
First released in 2013, the first-generation Chromecast, which looks different from the other models, appears like a standard USB. You set it up using a laptop or phone compared to other models, which you set up using your tablet or phone for setup.
With this model, you can stream up to 1080p and 720p at 30fps or 60fps respectively, with 2.4 GHz WiFi support. You can’t control it with voice commands though.
In addition, the second generation is compatible with 2.4-5.0 GHz WiFi, while the 3rd generation retains the features in the first two, but is faster and offers a higher 1080p frame rate.
The 3rd generation Chromecast is the only model in this category that’s listed on Google Store together with the newer models, meaning you’ll buy the others secondhand.
Chromecast 3rd-gen is also called the classic Chromecast and is the most basic one available. It doesn’t have a remote control, but you can use voice commands via Google Assistant to ask about sports, finance, weather and other things, or browse YouTube videos.
With this third-gen model, you can stream in HD at 60fps, and get support for iOS, Mac, Windows, and Android. You’ll also need a TV with an HDMI port and a good internet connection to avoid lagging or buffering.
This model is good for beginner streamers who use their phones to stream and supports Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, and hundreds of other apps. You can also use it as a second computer monitor to show photos via Google Photos.
If you use a Nest Audio speaker, you can group your 3rd-gen Chromecast with it. The device is also a good option if you’re on a budget.
This model is part of the Google Stadia Premier edition package and offers up to 4K, HDR10 support, and a 60fps frame rate. You can control it with your voice via Google Assistant on YouTube and the Google Home app.
The Chromecast was replaced by the latest model with Google TV so it’s no longer available for single sale. However, you can get it on Google Store as part of the Google Stadia Premier Edition.
The Ultra model comes with an Ethernet port so you can use it if you can’t use WiFI. Plus, it supports Dolby Vision and HDR10, which means brighter highlights and greater color depth.
With this latest and current Chromecast model, you get advanced functionality, including video quality of up to 4K HDR, remote control with Google Assistant, and the first-ever user interface in Google TV.
You get a whole new home entertainment experience and can search content on the TV directly. You can also stream up to 4K HDR and get a 60fps frame rate, meaning you need good internet speeds and equipment that supports 4K.
Plus, it comes with a remote that has a Google Assistant button to help you control the device with your voice. If you’re a gamer, you can use Chromecast with Google TV to game through Google Stadia.
Roku works with Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Showtime, PBS, HBO, and The Roku Channel.
You can get support from the Roku team via email, FAQ pages, social media platforms, help guides, phone, or the Roku community.
Google Chromecast works with Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, YouTube TV, HBO Max, and Prime Video.
Support is available via Google’s support pages, call, chat, social media pages, or the Help community.
You can get a Roku player on the Roku store, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, and more. Here are the prices on the Roku store:
- Roku Express $29.99, comes with a high-speed HDMI cable
- Roku Express 4K+ $39.99, comes with brilliant 4K picture and vivid HDR color, fast WiFi performance, voice search, and voice remote with TV controls
- Roku Streaming Stick $49.99, comes with long-range WiFi, and Voice remote with TV controls, Dolby Vision, HDR, 4K, and HD
- Roku Streaming Stick+ $69.99, comes with HD, 4K, HDR, Dolby Vision, long-range WiFi, lost remote finder, private listening, voice remote (rechargeable) with personal shortcuts, and TV controls
- Roku Ultra $69.99, comes with HD, 4K, HDR, Dolby Vision, WiFi, fast channel launch, lost remote finder, private listening, voice remote with personal shortcuts, and TV controls
- Roku Streambar $99.99, comes with HD, 4K, HDR, Dolby Audio, and voice remote with TV controls
- Roku Streambar Pro $149.99, comes with HD, 4K, HDR, Dolby Audio, cinematic sound, voice remote with TV controls, and personal shortcuts
Chromecast also offers three main models in its store, but if you want the 1st and 2nd generation Chromecast models, you’ll need to check secondhand outlets.
- Chromecast 3rd generation: $29.99, comes with 1080p resolution and a power cable
- Chromecast Ultra: $78.49, comes with a power cable and is capable of up to 4K Ultra HD and HDR
- Chromecast with Google TV: $49.99, comes with Dolby Vision, HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Audio, and a power cable
Visit Google Store for pricing details on the Chromecast models.
|Type of device||Media streaming or casting||Media streaming or casting|
|Unique features||Roku Channel and Store Accessibility features – live captioning and text-to-speech||Google TV Chromecast built-in|
|Available models||Express, Premiere, Streaming Plus stick, Ultra, Ultra LT, Roku TV, Streambar & Roku Smart Soundbar||Chromecast 1st, 2nd, and 3rd generation Chromecast Ultra Chromecast with Google TV|
|Compatibility||Android, Mac, Windows, and iOS||Android, Mac, Windows, and iOS — also web-based via Google Chrome web browser|
|Works with these apps||Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, SHOWTIME, PBS, HBO, and The Roku Channel||Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, YouTube TV, HBO Max, and Prime Video|
|Voice command support||✅||✅|
|Support||Email, FAQ pages, social media platforms, help guides, phone, or the Roku community||Google’s support pages, call, chat, social media pages, or the Help community|
|Pricing||Roku Express $29.99 Roku Express 4K+ $39.99 Roku Streaming Stick $49.99 Roku Streaming Stick+ $69.99 Roku Ultra $69.99 Roku Streambar $99.99||Chromecast 3rd generation: $29.99 Chromecast Ultra $78.49 Chromecast with Google TV $49.99|
- Easy setup
- Easy to use
- Extensive movie channel
- Roku TV lacks program storage
- Doesn’t support Dolby Vision HDR
- Voice control isn’t as good as on other streaming devices
- Can cast from different devices
- Easy to set up and use
- Can be controlled from your devices
- Needs phone app to use
- Doesn’t have restrictions on sensitive material
There you have it, an overview of what you can get from Roku and Chromecast. While both devices have almost the same features and provide easy setup and streaming, we recommend using the Chromecast device from Google.
Not only is Chromecast affordable and easy to use with multiple devices, but it also works with multiple popular service providers, is portable, and you get great voice control, sharp display, and great streaming quality.
Scott L. Macarthur is a marketing consultant and an online author. He is mostly engaged in providing his expertise to startups and SMBs. He is also an author on TheNextWeb.