Chromecast vs. Apple TV (2020): Do You Want a Remote?
After a year of testing, I determined Apple TV is the better device because it’s faster and curates your content better. Chromecast is a different take on streaming, but in the end, it accomplishes the same tasks in a slower way.
I’ll compare and contrast two streaming devices (Chromecast vs. Apple TV) by evaluating six categories: interface, content, speed, smarts, remote, and price.
Best For You
Get Apple TV if you want an intuitive interface that comes with a physical remote. It has a great way of organizing your content from all your apps into one unified list. Apple TV is a good bet for Android and iPhone users.
I recommend Apple TV 4K for an extra $30, regardless of TV type, for faster speeds and to stay relevant for longer.
Get Chromecast if want the best way to watch YouTube and YouTube TV. You control your content with the streaming apps from your phone, so you need to be comfortable without a physical remote. You can control Chromecast via Google Home too.
I recommend Chromecast Ultra for an extra $30, regardless of TV type, just in case you get a 4K TV in the future.
- Interface Your interactions come via a remote and TV screen interface.
- Content It has most of the apps from iOS with a large variety of 4K options. "Watch Now" is a unified list of the content that you're currently watching (taken from all of your streaming apps).
- Speed Apple TV HD zips through menus. It’s the fastest device I’ve ever tested.
- Smarts Siri helps you find TV shows, open them in the correct app, and fast forward.
- Remote The remote is slippery, doesn't fit the hand well, and the trackpad isn't always smooth, but at least it comes with a remote.
- Interface Your smartphone is the interface. You find content via phone apps.
- Content Most of the major streaming services are castable from your phone (as long as there’s a "cast" button in the app). You can cast any web content from the desktop Chrome browser.
- Speed Your smartphone’s speed determines the interface speed, then it takes 7-15 seconds to appear on TV.
- Smarts You can do cool integrations if you have other Google and Nest products.
- Remote It doesn’t come with a remote, and there’s no option to add one. Your phone is the remote at all times.
- Unlike Chromecast, Apple TV is a computer where you can store your apps, and your interactions come via a remote and the interface on the TV.
- Apple TV has the most polished interface of any streaming device I’ve tried (that list includes three Fire TVs and four Roku devices).
- If you’ve used iOS devices, the experience will feel familiar. It’s like using a giant iPad, except the screen is your TV.
- Because Apple TV has physical storage, you’ll need to download your favorite streaming apps in the App Store and sign in to all your apps. Entering your passwords isn’t fun, but Apple combats this in two ways:
- “Single Sign-On” lets you sign in once with your cable provider and then most of your apps automatically sign in.
- Rather than typing in passwords through the TV, whenever a text field appears on the Apple TV, you’ll get a notification on your iPhone to enter text via your phone’s keyboard.
- Apple TV’s secret sauce is the “Watch Now” feature inside the TV app. Every show you’re watching from any service (excluding Netflix) appears in the TV app. For example, on my “Watch Now” list, I have Westworld (Season 3, Episode 2) and Shark Tank (Season 11, Episode 17). When I tap Westworld, the HBO app opens and plays the correct episode. If I tap Shark Tank, Hulu opens and plays the right episode. The best part is everything happens automatically and as new episodes are released or watched, your list changes in real time. Most of the time, you don’t even end up using the apps, and I stay inside the TV app.
- Unlike other streaming competitors (Amazon & Roku), who typically break even on their devices, Apple makes money on their hardware. This means you won’t see ads on Apple TV.
- My friends and I are constantly mesmerized by Apple TV’s screensavers. They’re over four minutes long, slow-motion drone videos. (Don’t buy Apple TV for the screensavers, but they’re great!)
- Apple TV’s App Store has most of the apps you find on iOS devices: Amazon Video, Vudu, Hulu, Netflix, Showtime, HBO, Sling TV, DirecTV, and YouTube TV
- Apple TV has the biggest 4K library of any device. Aside from iTunes, you get 4K content from Amazon Video, Vudu, Netflix, and others.
- The only weakness in Apple TV’s 4K library is YouTube. YouTube has one of the biggest selections of 4K content, but you can only stream in HD.
- The fourth-generation Apple TV zips through menus and was the fastest device I’ve ever tested.
- Apple TV 4K uses the A10X Fusion Chip (the same chip in iPad Pros) and is even faster than the fourth generation.
- Apple isn’t known for its polished AI, but Siri on Apple TV remote does everything it’s supposed to and does it well.
- You can hold down the remote’s voice button and ask Siri things like:
- “Skip forward two minutes.”
- “Open Silicon Valley,” which will open the show in the correct app and the correct episode.
- Ask “What did he just say?” to rewind the content 30 seconds and add captions for those 30 seconds.
- Siri can perform HomeKit tasks and be used as your “HomeKit Hub” to control your HomeKit devices when you’re not home.
- You can mirror your iPhone or Mac via AirPlay.
- Most people don’t like the Apple TV remote because it’s different from a typical remote, but at least you’re getting a remote. It’s made of glass and comes with a trackpad. I admire its simplicity, and the Siri button works well, but:
- It gets lost easily.
- It doesn’t work flawlessly from far distances.
- It’s difficult to tell the front from the back.
- It doesn’t fit the hand well.
- Directional buttons would be easier to use than a trackpad.
- You can use your iPhone as the remote too with the Remote app or through the control center.
- Chromecast is unique because it’s the only streaming device without an interface. How does it work? Your smartphone is the interface. You find content via your the streaming apps on your phone. (Apps like HBO, Showtime, Netflix, etc.) Once you find content to watch, you tap on the “cast” button in the corner of the app, and the content is sent to your Chromecast and displayed on your TV.
- Chromecast’s lack of interface is polarizing. The benefits to casting:
- Most people know how to operate their smartphone, so there’s nothing new to learn.
- You don’t have to configure or sign into apps you don’t usually use.
- You can use your phone for other activities while casting without interrupting the stream.
- The downsides to casting:
- The stream doesn’t always work flawlessly, and it takes awhile to appear on the TV.
- If your phone loses connection with Chromecast (which happens after long periods of casting), it’s hard to change what’s playing.
- The cast button doesn’t always show up on your iOS phones when it should. Force quitting the app usually fixes this.
- I prefer an interface on my TV, but there are exceptions where casting is a better option. For example, casting YouTube TV and YouTube is a brilliant experience. It’s easier to sort through channels with your fingers than with a remote. It’s a more intimate experience.
- You can stream most of the major services from your phone, as long as there’s a “cast” button inside the app.
- Compatible services include Netflix, YouTube TV, Google Play, Hulu, Showtime, Sling, Vudu, HBO, Amazon Prime Video, Spotify, and Pandora. (The entire list is here).
- Netflix, YouTube, and Vudu are the only 4K content options.
- You can mirror any Android device.
- You can mirror your computer’s Chrome browser to put any content in the world on your TV.
- You can do cool integrations with Chromecast if you have other Google and Nest products.
- You ask the Google Assistant app or a Google Home speaker to perform playback commands. The play, pause, skip and go back commands work well if you have your Chromecast paired to the speaker that you’re talking to.
- Commands for playing specific content get wordy and don’t always work due to the huge amount of content in the world. For example, for mainstream shows, you can say “Hey Google, stream Breaking Bad on Netflix to Living Room TV.”
- Your smartphone’s speed determines the interface’s speed.
- How long does it take to for a casted video to show on the TV? Assuming you have reliable, high-speed Internet, it takes 7-15 seconds for the video to show on the TV if your Chromecast is already powered on.
- Skipping episodes takes a long time because there are many steps. You have to unlock your phone, find the app you’re casting, make your adjustments, then wait 1-2 seconds for your input to show on the screen.
- It doesn’t come with a remote, and there’s no option to add one. Your phone is your remote.
- You can control Chromecast with the Google Home app or inside the app that you’re casting from (e.g., Netflix, HBO, etc.).
- You can control the volume with your phone, but you can’t turn off the TV with your phone.
- Chromecast (3rd Gen) is $35 and streams HD content.
- Chromecast Ultra is $60 and streams HD, 4K Ultra HD, and 4K HDR content.