10
Jun
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Last month I took Amazon's Fire TV for a test drive and came away pretty damn impressed. It's a nice box with a lot to like – but there's also some pretty stiff competition in the streaming box arena. Companies like Google and Roku are both ready to take your money in exchange for enhancing an otherwise stale television experience.

Since there a variety of options on the market today, we decided to take four of the most popular and put them in a head-to-head deathmatch. We've got Google's Chromecast, the Roku Streaming Stick, Roku 3, and Fire TV all ready to duke it out and answer one question: which one is worth your money?

Unfortunately the answer isn't so simple. Each unit has standout features of its own, and none of them are bad at what they do. In fact, it's really difficult to go wrong with any of these choices. With that said, if you're looking for something in particular – be it gaming compatibility, the largest catalogue, or even the most affordable – we should be able to help guide you towards the right purchase.

Prices

Popular App Comparison

First off, let's take a look at what I feel is the most important aspect of a streaming box: app selection (or "channels" as Roku would have you call them). Table time.

 

Chromecast

Fire TV

Roku 3

Roku Streaming Stick

Netflix Yes Yes Yes Yes
Hulu Yes Yes Yes Yes
HBO GO/Showtime Yes/No No*/Yes Yes/Yes Yes/Yes
Amazon Instant Video No Yes Yes Yes
YouTube Yes Yes Yes Yes
Plex Yes Yes Yes Yes
AllCast Yes Yes Yes Yes
Play Movies Yes No No No
Sports WatchESPN, MLB.tv, MLS Matchday, Red Bull TV NBA Game Time, WatchESPN WatchESPN, NBA Game Time, MLB.tv, WWE, NHL, UFC, and much more WatchESPN, NBA Game Time, MLB.tv, WWE, NHL, UFC, and much more
Music Play Music, Pandora, Rdio, Songza Pandora, iHeartRadio Pandora, Spotify, Amazon Cloud Player, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Slacker Radio, Sirius XM, Rdio, and more Pandora, Spotify, Amazon Cloud Player, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Slacker Radio, Sirius XM, Rdio, and more

* Already announced, coming soon.

As you can see, Roku readily and easily beats the competition when it comes to content. The Channel Store is loaded with tons of great content – some you've heard of, and a lot you haven't. It's an excellent platform to explore and find new things on, and I've really enjoyed doing that throughout the course of this comparison.

Further Analysis

There's more to building a good streaming box than just a vast app selection (though that does play a pretty major role). There are also things to consider like other uses, performance, and streaming quality.

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Streaming Quality
  • Chromecast: I find Google's streaming stick to have the best picture quality, as it appears to be doing some sort of "auto-awesome" modifications before pumping the picture out to the TV. Regardless of the TV's settings, Chromecast consistently looks better than Roku and Fire TV, as it has brighter, more vivid colors across the board.
  • Fire TV, Roku 3, and Roku Streaming Stick: The difference in streaming picture across these three devices is virtually non-existent. All three units look good – easily comparable to streaming things like Netflix or HBO on any other device I've tried (PC, PS3, etc.).

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Performance
  • Chromecast: Since Chromecast doesn't actually have an interface to interact with, the performance essentially lies within whatever device is being streamed from. Thus, Chromecast's performance is always consistent, simple, and generally fast (depending on your internet connection).
  • Fire TV: Amazon's set-top box is probably spec'd better than any other box on the market, and it shows. It's blazing fast from front to back, top to bottom. You can't slow this thing down.
  • Roku 3: Like Fire TV, Roku 3 is stupid-fast. It may not be as tricked out as Amazon's offering, but it's equally as fast in my experience. Jumping from channel to channel and show to show is fast and fluid.
  • Roku Streaming Stick: Here's where it gets a little hairy for Roku. The Streaming Stick is a killer value for everything it offers (basically Roku's monstrous channel library), but it falls short in the performance department. I frequently encountered lag and choppiness with the SS's interface, though it's generally fine while actually streaming content.

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Unique Features
  • Chromecast: It does what it does, plain and simple. It's the only one of the bunch with support for Google Play Music and Play Movies, however. Also, as janky as it may be, tab casting exists only on Chromecast.
  • Fire TV: Amazon baked in some pretty impressive gaming support into Fire TV, and the company's first official game, SevZero, plays like a console title should. Additionally, the controller has a built-in microphone for quick and easy voice searching.
  • Roku 3: This box also has gaming support, though it's much, much lighter than what Fire TV is capable of. Flinging birds across your TV's screen is about as heavy as the "gaming" is going to get on this front.
    The Roku 3's remote, on the other hand, is awesome. It has a built-in headphone jack so you can watch something on TV and listen to it with headphones as to not disturb anyone around you.
    Finally, there's the Roku app. It basically turns your phone into a remote control, complete with access to the keyboard and voice search for easier input.
  • Roku Streaming Stick: Like the Roku 3, the Streaming Stick also has support for the app, but it's lacking both the kickass remote control audio-out (though it does include a remote of its own), as well as any gaming support. It's essentially a simplified version of its bigger brother for half the price. I'd say that the Streaming Stick offers the most content per dollar that you can get right now.

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Shortcomings
  • Chromecast: While Chromecast's non-interface makes it very simple, it also makes it (in my opinion), the most cumbersome to use, because it relies on a mobile device to control it. I realize that some people may disagree with this, but instead of having some sort of unified way to interact with the device, it's basically left up to app developers to provide a good experience. HBO GO is a good example of a pain-in-the-ass app thanks to its less-than-stellar interface. It doesn't have the same issue on Roku, where it's much easier to parse. Moving forward, I feel like this will become even more hit-or-miss with Chromecast.
    On a similar note, Chromecast is drastically lacking in app selection, especially compared to Roku or Fire TV.
  • Fire TV: Amazon's box is lacking in three ways: firstly, it has excellent voice search capabilities...but it only searches Amazon content, making it essentially useless in other parts of the OS; secondly, it is sometimes difficult to find new apps or games on Fire TV, as there's no real place to just search through everything available for installation. You have to pick apart various lists and things to potentially discover new content. Lastly, it only has 8GB of storage. That's fine for a streaming-only box, but once you start tossing some games on there it fills up quickly. It needs at least 16GB on the lowest side if Amazon actually wants users to play games on it.
  • Roku 3: Honestly, I had to think about this one for a while. I'm having a hard time finding something I'd call a "shortcoming" with the Roku 3. It's a killer box.
  • Roku Streaming Stick: As you may have already guessed, the biggest downfall to the Streaming Stick is the [lack of] speed. It can be quite laggy and choppy when navigating the operating system, which could potentially frustrate users.

Final Thoughts

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The set top box market is quickly becoming one of my favorites to keep an eye on, because I see this as the future of TV consumption. The "old way" of cable providers being able to dictate specific packages and whatnot is dying, and eventually more and more content providers will move to the streaming platform with a small monthly cost per channel. That's a future I'm looking forward to.

But now's the time to get in and get used to the streaming box. They're all pretty damn affordable, making them readily accessible to basically everyone. Really, the problem is picking just one: if you're after simple and affordable, Chromecast is the way to go. If you want a huge selection of channels and a device that won't break the bank, it's the Roku Streaming Stick for you. If gaming is a must-have and you rely on Amazon services for most things, Fire TV it is. But if content is king and you want a blazing fast experience, Roku 3 is damn-near unbeatable.

That's what I've loved about this shootout, honestly: there's no clear "winner." All the devices rounded up here are fantastic, so it's really all about what's right for you and your usage patterns. Hell, it's nothing to grab a couple of these for different rooms. Personally, I like Chromecast in the office, but have Roku and Fire TV hooked up in the living room. If you're not looking to drop almost $300 on streaming devices, however, this piece should at least help you decide which one best fits into your life.

Buy: Chromecast ($35), Fire TV ($100), Roku 3 (currently $90), Roku Streaming Stick ($50)

Cameron Summerson
Cameron is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, musician, and cyclist. When he's not pounding keys here at AP, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, plucking away on the 6-string, spinning on the streets, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on repeat.

  • JPB

    TuneIn announced that their support for Chromecast is on the way. That should be a No with an asterisk. Also, 1FM had Chromecast support.

    Sources:
    http://www.chromewatching.com/tunein-says-chromecast-support-coming-soon/

    http://www.androidpolice.com/2014/03/09/1-fm-online-radio-adds-chromecast-support/

  • Nathan Borup

    @cameronsummerson:disqus I'd like to see the Local network streaming support, like what video types it supports, the interface to access network files, etc

  • atlouiedog

    The ability to run XBMC puts the Fire TV quite a bit ahead for me. I'd probably have one right now if Android TV wasn't just around the corner. I'll decide when we know more about that.

    • http://www.twitter.com/ninjustin ninjustin

      Once I get something on par of a Chromcast that can run XBMC I'll be set.

      • nofearofimaginarymen

        Is plex not on par?

        • Jon

          Plex+chromecast =awesome

          • nofearofimaginarymen

            I use plex and it's awesome. Just not sure if xbmc has some other features that make plex not an option.

          • firescool

            xbmc supports more filetypes than dlna does. the firetv is as good a local media player as the WD live TV boxes with it, and that is awesome since it has prime, too. finally, one box for almost everything.

      • awax

        You can send xbmc from phone to chromecast. You need Avia player and playercore file. It's on YouTube and it works great.

    • Fatty Bunter

      Ever try Plex? I was a long time XBMC user (from the modded XBOX days), converted to Plex last year and just cannot stand XBMC anymore.

      • niuguy

        Plex is TERRIBLE on the Fire TV. I returned mine and I'm still using the ol trusty Roku 3

  • http://www.davehenning.net/ DaveH

    I have a Roku in my bedroom and a Chromecast at work... both are great, but my living room PC runs XBMC (and is slowly dying), so I'm thinking I'm going to get a Fire for there. I'm hearing decent reviews for XBMC usage.

    I'm fine with no XBMC in the bedroom and at work, but my living room needs it.

    • Randy Strye

      Basically this.
      I use a Chromecast in the bedroom. I use XBMC on an i3 PC on my living room TV and DisplayPort to HDMI works perfectly for audio and video. There's just no replacing the plugins available for XBMC.
      If I need Netflix in the living room (which is very, very seldom), I just use the metro app.

      • http://www.davehenning.net/ DaveH

        Netflix is actually a big part of why I want the Fire. My dying PC plays movies perfectly, but XBMC (menus etc) runs slow... and any web video (i.e. Netflix) won't even get up to 720p.

        Basically it comes down to RAM + CPU upgrade vs Fire.

        • Randy Strye

          I used XBMC on an Ouya (the only reason I had the Ouya, tbh) for a long time and it worked great. *Sometimes* on 1080p YouTube videos, the sound would be like a half a millisecond off (just enough for that uncanny valley!) but it was fine on everything else. Considering the Ouya is also running Android and doesn't have as good of specs as the FireTV, I think you'd be golden with it.

          • http://www.davehenning.net/ DaveH

            Thanks for that info. Feel a bit more confident now.

            I hear the Ouya XBMC build is actually the better one for the Fire than the actual release for the Fire, lol.

          • Shaques

            There's also this new box Prometheus. $350 but supposedly insanely fast and built ready to go. Everything runs 1080 I believe. I have an Ouya which is fine (same issues as you) but when I eventually drop cable I'll probably get that.

      • Ramiro Fernandez

        Plex plugin support is basically the same as xbmc, and it supports streaming to the chromecast natively. I recommend you give it a try on that i3 pc, you will be able to play all your media on your bedroom TV as well, not to mention your phone / tablet while you're not at home...

    • Ramiro Fernandez

      If you have multiple TV's, I highly recommend you move from xbmc to plex. You build one media server, and it streams content to various services simultaneously. Just plug a chromecast into your TV's and you can throw content to whatever screen you want, and your watched status and currently watching position is synced.

      For a multi screen house there is no comparison, plex is so much better than xbmc, you'll wonder how you ever lived without it.

      • http://www.davehenning.net/ DaveH

        I love Plex.. and use it everywhere except my living room. XBMC is just too pretty to pass up for my "theatre" plus the ability to download subtitles right from XBMC makes it impossible for me to switch to Plex out there.

        • Ramiro Fernandez

          Plex supports automatic downloading of subtitles from opensubtitles.org, and the plex home theatre app provides a nice looking home theatre interface (though I've never used it so can't tell if it's prettier than xbmc)

          • http://www.davehenning.net/ DaveH

            I have Plex set to download subtitles but it's never up to date. What I mean is, if a show airs yesterday, and I watch it today, Plex won't have any subtitles. Do you find this happening as well?

          • Ramiro Fernandez

            Actually I've never used the feature, all my shows come with subtitles when I get them.

    • Sootie

      I'm using a raspberry pi for all my xbmc needs, unless I want to play games I never turn my computer on, the pi plays every file I throw at it, while downloading in the background and I can throw youtube vids on from my phone the same as chromecast, unfortunately I live in a country with rubbish internet and no netflix or other nice things (our PM is why we cant have nice things) so I havent tested any of those features but the price is much the same as the options above.

      • http://www.davehenning.net/ DaveH

        I've heard XBMC runs sluggish (through menus and other non-video parts). Do you run XBMC on it?

        • Sootie

          I do run XBMC on it and it is a little slow, I don't find it hard to use or annoying at all, and generally I only use the menus on the TV if I'm showing off anyway, most of the time I pick what I want to watch via Yatse on my phone or out of the recently added bit. Overclocking the Pi helps too.

          I can try and take a video of the speed of it if your interested mate.

          • http://www.davehenning.net/ DaveH

            This is why I have avoided the Pi for XBMC. My current setup works fine.. except it's a bit slow, same as the Pi. I want snappy menus.

  • TechGuy

    Obviously a review not considering the UK market where the BBC iPlayer is by far and away the most popular streaming service.

    • Adam Wood

      You can do whatever you want with your device once you start casting. I've started something on Netflix for my daughter and then left my house with the phone. Your phone isn't playing the media, it's simply telling chromecast to play it independently.

      • NorCalAngler

        I think what you describe depends on the streaming service. The Plex app appears to require the device that starts the video to remain on the network. I started a movie for my wife and then left the house and she let me know the movie stopped playing right when I left.

  • remister

    Very cool writeup for anyone agonizing on which streaming media box to get. I personally have a Chromecast and I use the heck out of it, even though I can do that on my Consoles. It just nice to have it set on the Chromecast with the nice pictures, as your screensaver.
    It would be great if you set your own album of pictures, with an update of Google+ photos.

  • Stephen Blake

    Fire TV has more music options including iHeartRadio, TuneIn Radio, and Amazon Cloud Player coming soon.

    • David Peterson

      Roku has those and a LOT more. I don't think there is a way that Roku loses when content is the discussion

      • Stephen Blake

        I agree. Not saying it has more than the Roku or Chromecast, rather that it has more than just Pandora like the article says.

        • David Peterson

          Misread your comment then, my mistake!

  • RichA

    I have both a Roku3 and a Chormecast, and I had rarely used the Chormecast. I bought my Roku3 over a year ago and seem to use this 98% of the time. Love the content and I am a Amazon Prime member so I can watch the Amazon library from my Roku3,

  • Matthew Merrick

    You're ignoring the fact you can chromecast tabs from desktop chrome, and cast any html5 Video with mobile chrome. These are huge advantages.

    Also, chromecasting works nearly as well through desktop chrome as through Android.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

      I added a bit about tab casting, but for the record, I find it to be janky at best.

      • mgamerz

        I've found tab casting to suck (thanks 2.4Ghz!) but mobile videos work great. I've watched quite a few nostalgia critic videos and they come in at youtube quality from their HTML5 video.

        • Cat Astrophy

          God, thank you. I got so much shit and downvotes at launch when I complained about how fucking stupid lack of 5Ghz support was (especially when they already supported it on Google TV).

          • mgamerz

            I find your lack of 5 Ghz disturbing.

      • Bryan Pizzuti

        Not only have I found it not janky, but it's also a terribly convenient way to cast one's entire desktop to a big screen with very little muss or fuss. Even a game will cast with little to no loss in FPS. Granted this is a relatively specialized use, but it's something else Chromecast does that the others don't.

  • aatifsumar

    One major advantage of the Chromecast IMO is the array of 3rd party apps available for it. My mom uses an app called Framebook a lot. It lets you browse yours and your friends' Facebook albums on the TV. THere are multiplayer Quiz Apps and Word Puzzle apps that anyone can play by whipping out their Android device and installing the app.

  • KGB

    Can the roku 3 play mkv files stored locally on usb flash drives? I have an older WD HD TV box I'd like to replace, but this feature is absolutely necessary for me (not a huge fan of streaming from my desktop via Plex and wifi).

    • http://www.Nave360.com Sebastian Gorgon

      Yes and no, it plays mkv files, but with no audio.

      • Steve Freeman

        Wait, what? It can play mkv files, but only with video? Is that only the case for mkv files on a USB stick, or for any mkv files?

        • http://www.Nave360.com Sebastian Gorgon

          Any mkv files

          • KGB

            If my audio receiver (Yamaha v673) can decode DTS and Dolby HD, should I be okay? Or does it fail to output any audio signal at all via HDMI?

          • http://www.Nave360.com Sebastian Gorgon

            I haven't got a clue, I thought it was all done on the device,

      • Matt

        Wait, is this a problem with parsing the container or does it just have issues with specific audio codecs (ac3, aac, mp3)?

        • xahdica

          It won't play non ac3/mp3

  • Damon

    So I have Chromecast, Roku 3 and am testing the FireTV. The FireTV has one VERY important aspect for me that you did not mention: It has a dedicated digital audio out. I use a projector and a surround receiver for my big entertainment center. Roku and Chromecast will not work without wonky adapters that split the signal...FireTV does indeed fit the bill. :)

    • Shane Redman

      If your receiver has an HDMI input, can't you just plug the chromecast into it?

      • wideopn11

        Yep, that's how I use mine. Chromecast and all other HDMI devices plug into my Pioneer Elite and then 1 HDMI cable runs to my TV. No adapter needed.

      • nofearofimaginarymen

        But then you need to get audio out of it which many projectors don't have audio out.

        • Shane Redman

          aaaaah, not sure why I glanced over the projector part. Yeah, I see your debacle.

  • brekfest

    I think Chromecast would benefit greatly from having a dedicated app that can control it once content has started playing. It is incredibly frustrating to have my phone (because it is old) kill the background app that's running with chromecast and then try to do something as basic as pause a video. This basic function routinely take several minutes to accomplish.

  • DirkBelig

    Missing in the features grid is that AFAIK the only place you can get Google Play store content (movies, music) onto your home theater is with the Chromecast. If you buy from Google, you must have a Chromecast. The other day I was streaming Play All-Access to my Chromecast from my Nexus 5, but if I was at my girlfriend's where I have a Roku 3 set up, I couldn't have done so.

    OTOH, the Chromecast is kneecapped by Amazon's continued refusal to release an Android app for Instant Video. (I swear if I ever get Jeff Bezos alone in an elevator, he's going to be answering for this continued BS.) Yeah, I can watch at home via my X360 (now that M$ has finally stopped requiring Gold for streaming) or PS3 but why should I have to fire up a console when every. other. service. has an app?

    Killer feature for the Roku 3 for me is the headphone jack in the remote. Now I can stay up watching TV loud enough to hear without disturbing my sleeping g/f.

    • Bryan Pizzuti

      Amazon is now to the point where they don't want VUDU on their devices either. They want a nice walled-garden ecosystem.

  • Matt

    Can they all play most codecs (x264/h264, xvid, even divx in mkv/avi/mp4 containers) from a NAS or media PC? I know the purpose of the review is mainly the streaming capabilities, but I think readers would still be curious about network media streaming capability and performance.
    I guess Plex is meant to cover a lot of that, but are there any major differences in Plex compability and/or are there formats that these can play natively (DLNA, etc.)?

    • http://twitter.com/ryocoon Kurtis Whittington

      Don't count on old XVID/DIVX support, nor AVI. However x264, h264 in MP4 and often MKV support is there. You would need a specific app. I have Chromecast, Roku 2HD, and an Ouya with XBMC and Plex on it, so Apps will vary.

  • Gian

    no words about dlna or supported formats? :(

  • http://www.Nave360.com Sebastian Gorgon

    You missed something important... and those are supported formats, Roku 3 is atrocious when it comes to playing media from a USB or DLNA, Most of my TV shows and Movies are .mkv and while it plays, there's no audio and that's as good as not playing.

    • David Peterson

      I use Plex for that. Can't you just setup Plex server on your PC and then use Roku Plex app? Pretty sure I've got a ton of mkv that work greatthat way...

      • http://www.Nave360.com Sebastian Gorgon

        I might as well just play it from my PC then since they are next to each other. I just don't like my loud PC when watching movies,

        • David Peterson

          fair enough, I've got my PC in my office and using Plex to get movies in my living room is great... yeah it doesn't help much in your scenario

    • neo905

      I have the same setup as Alfuh except I dumped all my media on a USB WD Cloud Drive and it is attached to my router. I play it through Roku on the Plex App. Works perfectly. No lag because Roku and USB drive both connected wired.

      • http://www.Nave360.com Sebastian Gorgon

        How did you get plex to work with a router DLNA?

  • timrcm

    I have a Roku 2 XS and a Chromecast. I find myself using the Roku 90% of the time unless I want to cast something from a browser. Not having a dedicated remote is annoying to me. My phone's about dead from a long day at work? Guess I have to leave it plugged in just to watch my damn TV. Pass.

    I'm debating upgrading to a Roku 3 or Fire TV, but my 2 XS still works just fine. Laggy in the interface and needs rebooted every couple weeks, but once it starts streaming it's golden. Someone needs to add a feature that's too awesome to resist before I pull the trigger...

    • xanok

      Your complaints about Chromecast are certainly legit, but Chromecast does Google Play Music/Movies/TV, and HBO Go on Chromecast seems to work better than its Roku counterpart.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

        I disagree with that. The HBO GO Android app is awful.

      • KathyJN

        For those of us with Comcast, our only option to use HBO GO is through Chromecast; it's blocked on the Roku.

    • Brad

      I'm the opposite... I'm on the chromecast mostly. The only thing I miss is amazon prime video.

      • Crispin Swickard

        Wouldn't it be possible just to cast a chrome tab to the chromecast that's playing a prime video?

        • Brad

          yeah, but the chromecast tab is janky at best haha

          • Crispin Swickard

            That's unfortunate. I considered getting a Chromecast, or the like, but for now since I have a long HDMI running from my PC to TV I haven't had an actual need. Not the most non intrusive solution, but it works for me for now.

          • Brad

            The rest of the apps are so much better, though. It's by far worth the $35

        • mgamerz

          I've found the tab casting quality far subpar to actual content streaming.

  • Steve Freeman

    /sigh I'm probably one of the few that got the WD HD TV Live Hub, after the HD TV Live was so awesome... And regretting the Hub.

    After finally getting my wireless-N router working (a new firmware version fixed the VERY frequent network drops I was getting) I'm probably going to consider getting a Chromecast or Roku 3.

    • fillyo75

      I am happy with the hub, store all my movies on the hard drive

      • Steve Freeman

        Well, I use a NAS for storage, the 1TB drive isn't NEARLY large enough for my stuff.

        That being said, it's so SLOW! I'm not even talking about navigating through my NAS (which could be explained by the NAS itself being not quite fast), it's slow doing everything. Navigating through the top menu, the settings, etc etc. It started crawling one night, and the only way I could use it for anything was to do a factory reset, and after getting it set back up it was running much better again. Not fast, but at least at a speed where I didn't feel the need to throw it against the wall.

    • neo905

      I had a WD TV Live. Great device if you want to access ANY file codec you have on your computer. But it was sooooo sloooow it was painful. Netflix took forever to load and rewind/fast forward was a chore. Roku way better from that standpoint.

  • jtc276

    I have a Roku 3 and a Chromecast and love both of them. I use my Roku for Netflix and Amazon Instant Video and my Chromecast for Google Music and the occasional YouTube video. My Chromecast also serves as a nightlight of sorts (don't judge me) which I leave on during the night. The pictures are usually bright and nice looking, so going to sleep while looking at them is relatively peaceful. If I really had to pick just one, I'd probably pick the Roku. But the Chromecast's price makes it possible to easily own both without breaking the bank.

  • Anonym

    Liitle typo: Chomecast's

  • tech84

    Am I the only one kinda excited for the AppleTV? After WWDC it seems like they have some good plans for it. I still use my old WD MyTV and still works well. I'm planning to get a chromecast though, due to its kinda more affordable.

    • http://www.thinkingbrian.com/ ThinkingBrian

      Correct me if I'm wrong, but Apple TV only works with iOS devices, not anything else. So for many people including myself who don't own an iOS device (I use iTunes though on my PC), the Apple TV while pretty good in its own right, it wouldn't work for Android users.

      • Andrew Beard

        Aside from display mirroring there isn't a lot of interaction between iOS and AppleTV. It's pretty much a standalone device, and if you have iTunes on a PC or Mac it'll play an content you've purchased from the iTunes store. I don't think I've ever done anything between my iPad and my Apple TV, but I've mirrored the display from my Mac laptop plenty of times. You're not missing a lot from the Apple TV by using an Android device instead of an iOS device.

  • madmaglio

    I'm still rocking my Boxee box. Never Give Up. ;)

    • WretchedGenius

      I loved that little black and green monster. Still my favorite remote control ever.

  • SimonPieman

    As soon as Google launch an All you can eat "All Access Movies/TV", I am dumping Amazon instant video, that's all I know. I'm sick of their artificial barriers they have created. Happy enough to fork Android, but don't want to offer up theri video service so it's exclusive on their tablets. They can go screw themselves.

    • Ketan Gandhi

      Exactly, this is why anything Amazon is not even an option for me.. Me, I will get the next Android TV (which will have built in chromecast),. More than likely, Android TV will come with a remote, so now, I have both ways of control (via phone/tablet and via remote)

    • primalxconvoy

      They have castrated fire tv to the extent that it seems to suck as a gaming machine, too.

  • Andy Stetson
  • Ahmad Nadeem

    As far as countries like India are concerned, I believe that the Chromecast does the job for streaming needs. Netflix and HBO Go etc don't work here.

  • xanok

    "No clear winner."

    It's Roku hands down if you don't care about the gaming aspect, which I suspect most people don't.

  • John

    What you fail to mention is how the cable providers can hijack the experience.

    I have both a Chromecast and Roku. While both are capable of playing content, such as HBO Go, Cox Cable prevents HBO Go from being accessed through Roku. I can play HBO Go just fine through the Chromecast.

    If your cable company blocks your access to certain channels, Roku may not be for you. I watch far more HBO Go than I do Netflix these days so my Chromecast is my go-to device.

    • http://www.thinkingbrian.com/ ThinkingBrian

      I didn't know that, I will have to look into that and see if Charter allows streaming video for HBO GO through Roku boxes if I get one. Thanks.

  • http://www.thinkingbrian.com/ ThinkingBrian

    Personally I only have a Chromecast in my bedroom and for the money, you can't beat it. Of course a chromecast does have a few issues including having to have a smartphone or tablet handy (which I drain the battery on regularly) and the limited apps for it (which is growing at a pretty good rate). All in all, one of the best buys I have made in a long time. That said, I wouldn't mind trying the Fire TV (at $140 with controller) especially the games on it. Gaming consoles are expensive, so being able to play a few games like Asphalt 8 and Riptide on it is a big plus. I just wonder if AllCast will be enough for me to stream my videos via DLNA like I do on my Chromecast....

    • Bryan Pizzuti

      Chromecast is very handy (I own one) but outside of casting a desktop or Google Play movies, it doesn't do anything other devices do. It's extremely handy for those things, but I end up doing Netflix and VUDU from my BluRay player rather than the Chromecast.

  • Itchy_Robot

    Now that ESPN is on the Chromecast (thanks to my brothers cable TV account), I feel like it is the perfect media consumption tool for me. I absolutely love using the phone/tablet for the user interface. It is also great that friends and family can queue up what ever they want to watch on the TV using their own phones - especially great for sharing pictures on the TV using the 'Photocast' app. I find myself watching more and more DIY and hobby-learning videos on YouTube ... to the point that it is about half of my media consumption now. I would have never thought that I would be watching so much YouTube ... simply because I never could get myself to sit in front of a computer long enough. But now that I subscribed to a bunch of channels, I find it very satisfying queuing up a bunch of videos and chilling on the couch and watching them.

  • black

    You can't beat a $35 price tag. That's a clear winner right there.

    • Cel

      Sure you can, when for $15 more for the Streaming Stick, you get so so so much more content.

      • Thaddeus Dannar

        That also depends on the user, there are ways of using most of this content on a chromecast. It's just not supported by the app/content provider directly. It depends on the user, I'm happy with chromecast but would buy my parents a Streaming Stick.

    • niuguy

      I love my Chromecast for some things but when it comes to playing bluray rips I'll gladly spend much more.

    • Roman Losev

      Nope. ezCast price is lower

  • http://www.twitter.com/ninjustin ninjustin

    Why even have a separate column for the Roku Stick? Maybe add in something like Apple TV.

    • Brad

      Because it's a different product.

  • solbin
  • jstnbsn

    The biggest downside of the chromecast for me is no universal remote support. If I have my harmony programmed for every other device, I don't want to get out something else just for that.

    • nofearofimaginarymen

      I can understand that. I seem to be on my phone, computer, or tablet quite a bit so I just utilize the device I am already on.

    • atlouiedog

      I'm with you on that. I like selecting content with my phone but once it's playing I want to control it with my Harmony. It's much easier and quicker with one press of a physical button.

  • David Li

    Some dev really needs to hack CyanogenMod or the upcoming AndroidTV (or ChromeOS) onto the FireTV. It is so software limited right now and sideloading is a hassle. If Bluetooth Keyboards+Mouse worked, it could actually be half useful for something other than purchasing Amazon content.

  • Mystery Man

    Chromecast is not even a dedicated device. Does not compare.

  • lynx

    At the moment, for me, it is Chromecast all the way. In fact, the 'features' of some of the other options actually fall into 'shortcomings' for me personally. For example, the dedicated remote of Fire. The last thing I need is ANOTHER remote laying around my table. I never manage to kill the battery on my phone and it is always within reach. Another remote is too much clutter. I use Google All-Access for all my music needs, so wouldn't want to be splitting that up onto Spotify or any of the other bajillion music solutions that Roku has; they'd just be wasting space. As far as primary use, I used to be an XBMC user, but Plex has long since converted me to their ways. Plex is available on EVERYTHING, allows me to stream the local media on my hard drives while away from home, etc. Nothing quite as nice as going to my dad's, telling him about a new show I found, pulling out my phone and simply starting it on his tv. Now if only the WWE Network app would get their act together and add Chromecast support.... In the end, I'm not saying Chromecast is better for everyone, I'm saying it suits my particular needs the best.... being the cheapest is just an added bonus.

  • thehippie

    The roku boxes don't support alot of formats. That is made up mostly by plex. I found plex didn't function well for me. I found PlayOn, a third party software for your pc. After that u install a third party channel to your roku and your off. It adds so much more content and everything from your pc. Music, movies, and photos. I cut my satellite after buying the roku3 and the PlayOn software.

  • primalxconvoy

    Why not compare these systems to Ouya, ps3, etc? Also, as vita tv is coming to America, surely you should have waited to their that into the mix, too?

  • WretchedGenius

    The article mentions that the Roku app acts as a remote control, but completely leaves out mention that it also allows you to cast local pictures, music and video much like the Chromecast. Also left out is Roku's much-heralded search feature, which will search for content across all available applications. Amazon also has a search feature, but it only displays Amazon results at the moment (they've announced intentions to make universal search available in the future).

  • Bryan Pizzuti

    Someone forgot to add Vudu. Or, come to think of it, ANY UltraViolet client. Serious oversight there.

    Might be beneficial to compare to a generic BluRay player as well, most of which come with support for Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Pandora, and YouTube at the very least, and generally also VUDU, CinemaNow, or both.

  • Cat Astrophy

    What content does Roku have that's so good compared to a Chromecast? There's a plethora of shit channels with shit content. Quantity means very little compared to quality. What QUALITY programming does Roku have over the Chromecast? And it better be a lot more to justify the price because Chromecast works over many devices instead of just the stupid remote.

    I love being able to add content to my Plex server, remote control my televisions, manage content, and stream content, all with the device I'm always going to have on my person: my phone.

    Literally the only thing that I wish I had on Chromecast is Spotify and that's only because I was a Spotify customer long before Google finally showed up and there is no good tool to transfer the massive amount of playlists and "saved" songs I have on Spotify.

  • Ty

    Chromecast got my vote. I fits what I need. I control it from my computer or phone instead of using a whole new remote. I can stream ANYTHING (one way or another) to it via some app or extension (Plex is heaven sent). The others (roku especially) have a ton of channels but as I look through their lists, there aren't more than 5 I'd ever use. It just depends what you really want it to do. 70% of my casting is of local files where Chromecast excels.

  • overtook

    "Auto Awesome"

  • http://www.bloodflame.com/ Patrick

    I've been pretty happy with my FireTV, even if I had to pay a small premium to get it imported into Canada (bought it on eBay, ironically enough). And while the FireTV lacks the services of Roku, it's even worse in Canada since half of what's offered isn't even available here.

    So why do I love the FireTV so much? Well, Netflix, AllCast, and YouTube casting work quite well, but the major selling point for me was the ability to sideload XBMC.

    As a root user, I'm a little disappointed that we haven't got root yet, but hopefully it comes soon (and yes, I know the story behind the current root method, and why it hasn't been released). I do, on the other hand, see the FireTV becoming a real beast in the months to come. Root will eventually come, and with Android TV expected to launch at I/O, I'm hoping that one day soon, I'll be able to flash Android TV and have the streaming box of my dreams! If not, well, I can happily settle with what it can already do.

    What it does, it does well, and I've even cancelled some of my premium digital cable services as a result.

    Oh, and since I already see comments about Plex, I want to point out that I have tried it, and while it works pretty good for a home media collection, it just doesn't live up to what XBMC can do with it's numerous addons and powerful customization. YMMV, but my preference is with XBMC.

  • Likilose

    I set up this chromcast last
    month it barely works with youtube using the Chromebrowser. Go to a video
    from Crackle or another site and the video will stutter. Even if you set it up
    on a nweer machine you still have to find a version of Chrome newer then 27 and
    then find the add on. Once you get all that done if you launch it with XP
    it just stalls. 2 weeks ago I bought Amazon FireTV. Its far far more
    better than google chromecast with 99$ only. See the feature in the below link:
    http://goo.gl/cuSNWZ

  • Christopher Williamson

    Let's get real - most of these offerings are utterly terrible! The only offerings worth comparing are Chromecast vs XBMC vs Plex.

    • neo905

      Ok. But with Roku I get all those experiences in one package. Roku has a Plex channel and a PlayOn channel that along with PlayOn scripts get's me all the content I would have had with XBMC.

  • michyprima

    why they keep doing 1€ = 1$? :/

    dear google, 35€ are almost 50$.

  • RottenRonnie

    Something people seemed to have missed for playing mkv files is play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.videostream.Mobile & http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwIV7-Xi_eo it allows you to play them with audio :) I use it all the time no more cables !!!!

  • Roman Losev

    You forgot ezCast... its a bit powerfuller than chromecast and price is less... - goo.gl/Moy2nO

  • Jeff

    Raspberry PI + XBMC is the truth... For 40$ you cant beat that.

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