Chromecast, or the new Roku streaming stick? with the new Roku stick coming down in price to $50, you can now enjoy all that Roku’s platform has to offer without a set-top box. On the other hand, Chromecast offers a lot of unique twists that make it incredibly useful. Tough choice.
The Roku streaming stick is really just a new form factor. Though it has a revamped app and better streaming quality, it's not really "new". The popular streaming device now offers everything their little boxes did, but can be neatly tucked behind your TV. You can enjoy content from Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and around 1,000 other niche channels. By “going dongle”, Roku has also left Apple TV as the only popular streaming device without a smaller form factor.
Chromecast offers a unique way to stream, though. Find it on your mobile device, and send it along to Chromecast. That’s a really unique way to discover and watch media, and the newest flag for Chrome Beta will only make it that much more useful. We tend to search for things via mobile anyway, so a Chromecast really provides an endpoint for our media while we go about our business with other apps or services.
While Chromecast is arguably quicker and easier to use, since we can just find something in an app and cast it, Roku has a few advantages. The Roku app for Android, which acts like a controller (if you can’t find the one included with the dongle), also allows you to share locally stored media. The Chromecast app doesn’t — natively. We know there are other apps that can do as much, but natively, Chromecast can’t.
Roku also has Amazon, which may be their trump card. There is no Amazon media app for Android, making Roku the only one in this argument to have access to Amazon’s giant media treasure trove. For Prime members, that’s a pretty big deal, and likely the deciding factor for that lot.
When it comes down to brass tacks, it’s all about how you consume media. If you’re a heavy Amazon media consumer, Roku will be the better choice. If you find yourself glued to your smartphone or tablet for media, Chromecast is a safe bet. If the argument is which is a better dongle today, we’d go with Roku. There are more apps available for the medium, and the ability to view pictures and video natively from your device is easy to use and reliable.
Chromecast, though — it might be the better long-term bet. You’ll find yourself wanting right now, but with the SDK being released, and apps added almost daily, it’s got a lot more promise than Roku. While native media consumption isn’t available, workarounds are. There’s also nothing saying Google won’t add that feature in a future update. We also think finding media via an app is easier and quicker than Roku’s clumsy menu system, even if Roku did rework it for this dongle. At $50 for the Roku, and $35 for the Chromecast, neither will break the bank, so we say snatch both if you can!