Chromecast Roku or Apple TV?

Published at JewishLinkBC.com

Something I am asked frequently, though I am IT, is which video streaming device I would recommend. If you’re looking to buy a streaming device, it’s likely you’ll end up choosing between three products: Chromecast, Roku, and Apple TV. Amazon Fire is also jumping into the streaming market

Streaming units have crossed over as entertainment devices and are now being used in schools and offices. Schools are using Apple TV and ChromeCast devices to stream content from a teachers or Students Smart devices right on the screen. This can be used as replacements for a low end smart board. The streaming device connects to a HDMI port on a TV or projector. WiFi is needed in addition to the streaming devices.

AppleTV

Apple TV has actually been out the longest of the three. Apple TV works perfectly with any Apple IOS product. If you own music, movies and/or TV shows on iTunes, the Apple TV lets you access all that content on your TV. And if you use iTunes Match, all your cloud-stored music is available as well. ITunes Radio was also recently added for radio.

AirPlay is just fantastic, if you have other iOS devices or a newer recent Mac computer, it’s really easy to push music, photos, and videos from nearly any app to your Apple TV. It also gives you access to a lot of apps that aren’t supported natively by the Apple TV. The Apple TV used to get a lot of complaints for its limited app support, but it’s done a much better job recently, adding high-quality services like HBO Go and Watch ESPN.

The Apple TV interface seems designed to push you toward iTunes content, with a non-customizable home screen topped by iTunes movies, TV shows, and music. That’s not a problem if you’re all-in with the Apple world, but it’s not ideal if you prefer to rent and buy content from other online stores, like Amazon or Vudu–neither of which are currently available on Apple TV.

Roku

As each Roku device is released they come with great improvements and features. The first generation needed an Ethernet cable connected to the device to provide streaming. The newer version works via WiFi and with a much sleeker and more apps to choose from. Roku has apps built right on the unit that one can choose from or subscribe to. Chromecast/Apple doesn’t have anything near the Roku AppsMenu choices.

Though I haven’t tried this, my iPad has a Roku as a choice to stream to as an option. Roku is portable and has a remote with a headset jack. One can listen to the Roku via the headset without disturbing anyone else in the home.

Roku also allows to search for video from one app to the next. Of the three devices, Roku is the leader on the apps choices. There are some nice apps for education and children. There is a screen saver that shows the time on the TV with weather while the Roku isn’t being used.

Roku is the closest streaming device that would replace the need for a cable box. Just based on the apps that were only available on standard cable TV.

Chromecast

Chromecast is the cheapest and smaller of the three. There isn’t a remote control and is easy to setup. Chromecast doesn’t have a menu or many Apps to choose from. Google seems committed to continuing to offer regular updates to the popular dongle. There isn’t any Power cord to connect–just make sure the TV has a USB port to power the Chromecast dongle. Check to make sure you have the USB port on the device you are trying to stream to. Most TVs have at least one USB port.

Since Chromecast’s launch with just Netflix and YouTube, app selection continues to expand. Chromecast now also works with HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Pandora, Google Music, Plex, Vevo, MLB TV, Crackle, Rdio, Vudu and numerous other apps.

By design, Chromecast doesn’t have a true TV-based user interface. Everything is controlled through your smartphone or tablet, which means you may need to unlock your device every time you want to pause or rewind. The other boxes offer apps for smartphone/tablet control if you’d like, but the Chromecast can only be controlled one way.

Chromecast, Roku and Apple TV would all seem like the best item to bring on a vacation. There are too many ‘Gotchyas’ in the hotels. Either weak WiFi, HDMI ports blocked etc. Don’t plan on this to work in a random hotel.

The good part is all three choices work and are pretty good. I prefer the Chromecast the most because of it’s no power cord requirement. But if you bought one of the above you are OK on your choice. Amazon Fire is releasing their own Streaming device. The streaming market has really just begun. Though it’s not really a reality but as the streaming devices improve and more apps are being offered. Having to pay for Cable service maybe slowly going away. Most of the cost with Cable is associated with having the hardware and overhead.

It’s pretty apparent that as the streaming market grows fewer users will see the need to order and pay for cable. There was a company that the court blocked that was trying to offer local TV channels to streaming devices. But that can’t last for long.

I remember the time I was on a on a business trip to Jacksonville, Florida about 12 years ago. It might be less. I had a DVD drive given to me with a work laptop. I went to a Blockbuster video asking for DVDs. This was such a new technology.

Still, I kind of miss going for Pizza and seeing the neighborhood at Blockbuster on Cedar Lane on Saturday nights. Anyone else remember that? Was that really that long ago?

If you have any questions or comment Shneur Garb can be reached by [email protected]. Shneur is the CEO at The Garb IT Consulting Group in Teaneck, N.J.