Google’s won itself a lot of friends with its affordable, deceptively simple streaming Chromecast dongles. So can it possibly be worth spending two to four times the money on Apple’s solution to the booming streaming market — the Apple TV? Read on to find out!
Apple TV vs Google Chromecast
These are the two veterans of the home TV streaming world — classic devices that have taken on all challengers and still managed to stay at the top of their game as go-to options for anyone wanting to get streaming video onto their big-screen TV. But in a world which now has many other stand-alone device options — as well as smart TVs that can do it all — how do these two classics measure up? And are they still worth buying?
On the surface, it would seem to be a somewhat unfair face-off — and a slightly more complex one than usual. For starters, we’re talking about two very different kinds of streaming devices here. Apple’s is a conventional tiny black box, designed as a “source device” for your TV in much the same way that a pay TV box or a PVR might be — you interface with the box via an on-screen interface, and get it to run a variety of apps for you to do the stuff you want to do. Google’s device is very different — and is still almost unique in its simplicity. Its smarts are all packed into a tiny plastic dongle that hides behind your TV and feeds it video. It doesn’t run “apps” in the way we usually know them — instead, you run the apps on your smartphone or tablet, and use them to control playback on the device.
But what seems like an unfair fight is actually not so black and white. There’s an innate flexibility with Google’s way of doing things that Apple can’t quite match. But to appreciate it, you’ve got to be willing to accept a complete change from the usual way of doing things — a change where your smartphone doubles as a remote control, with all the extra complexity that brings.
This is really a comparison between two devices from each company, as well — what you’ll want depends on whether or not you have a TV that can display 4K video (and a fast enough broadband connection to stream it). Apple’s 4th-generation Apple TV, limited to 1080p video, is still a current product, now priced at $209. The newer Apple TV 4K, meanwhile, starts at $249.
Google, meanwhile, maintains two versions of its Chromecast as well. The standard 1080p-capable model can be had for as little as $49, while the 4K-ready Chromecast Ultra (which we reviewed here at launch) spikes the price up to $99.
As you can see, in price terms, Google’s got the upper hand by a long way. Does the Apple TV offer enough to make the huge price gap worth it?