$50 appears to be a magic value on the planet of streaming media gadgets. It’s what Roku fees for a Streaming Stick+, it’s the associated fee that Amazon asks for a Hearth TV Stick 4K, and as of lately, it’s what Google fees for its new Chromecast with Google TV software.
So if each and every of those streamers prices the similar, how do making a decision which one is best for you? With extra that unites those units than separates them, the solution might be in the main points, so let’s take a deep dive and notice the place each and every streamer’s strengths and weaknesses are.
Roku and Amazon use just about similar HDMI stick designs for his or her streamers. You get the “stick,” which plugs into an to be had HDMI port in your TV, a MicroUSB cable for energy (which within the Roku’s case additionally doubles as its wi-fi transmitter module), an influence adapter if your TV doesn’t have a loose USB port, and a voice-enabled faraway keep watch over.
Google’s Chromecast with Google TV follows a rather other way that places the streamer on the finish of a versatile HDMI cable. It’s a tad bulkier than the stick taste, nevertheless it has two advantages: It’s more straightforward to plug right into a TV’s HDMI port in scenarios the place you have already got different cables plugged into the opposite ports (or the place a TV is designed such that there’s no bodily room to have a stick poking instantly out of a port). And as it sits farther clear of the TV chassis, which is able to motive Wi-Fi interference, it will revel in a more potent wi-fi connection.
Amazon’s Hearth TV Stick 4K comes with an HDMI extender cable to lend a hand cope with either one of those problems, however the Roku Streaming Stick+ does no longer. Roku claims that having its wi-fi transmitter within the energy cable as an alternative of the stick, greater than compensates for any wi-fi considerations. However you should still to find it tough to put in it with out purchasing your personal HDMI extender.
In the long run, we don’t assume there’s a lot to suggest one design over some other.
As soon as once more, the similarities between those gadgets are important. They’re all about the similar measurement and weight, all powered via non-rechargeable batteries, and all possess the next buttons:
- Energy (for the streamer and your TV)
- Quantity up/down/mute (on your TV, soundbar, or A/V receiver)
- Navigation buttons (D-pad) with central OK button
- Voice get entry to by way of the microphone
However whilst you glance intently, Google seems to have taken a simplified method to the Chromecast with Google TV’s faraway, which doesn’t possess devoted buttons for:
- Rapid ahead/rewind
Each the Roku and Amazon remotes have those buttons, and Roku, which has probably the most buttons of all 3 remotes, additionally throws in 4 shortcut buttons for particular streaming provider apps like Netflix and Disney+, and an rapid replay button which zaps you again 20 seconds whilst observing any video.
Google’s faraway can nonetheless accomplish the similar selection of purposes (aside from rapid replay) via giving some buttons multiple serve as. As an example, the central OK button within the D-pad turns into the play/pause button whilst observing a video. Likewise for the left and proper D-pad buttons, which give speedy ahead/rewind.
There’s no query that Google’s way yields a smaller, more practical faraway, however we’re nonetheless very keen on Roku’s single-purpose buttons, which make working the Streaming Stick+ an actual no-brainer for many other people.
Get admission to to content material
At the floor, this class will have to belong to Roku. Because the oldest streaming platform, the corporate has collected an improbable array of streaming products and services (which can be added to the software as downloadable “channels”) and its channel retailer comprises the whole lot from the most important names like Netflix and Disney+ to the smallest, micro-targeted choices from non secular teams and hobbyists.
It’s additionally house to the Roku Channel, a very good useful resource without spending a dime, ad-supported content material in addition to a very simple means to herald your subscription products and services right into a unmarried interface. Roku’s contemporary addition of greater than 115 loose reside TV streaming channels makes this much more compelling.
If it have been purely in regards to the selection of to be had content material resources, Roku wins. However for the general public, it’s an 80/20 (or perhaps 99/1) rule, the place 80% of the streaming content material they need to watch comes from 20% of the to be had channels. Given this, if any large names don’t seem to be provide on a streaming platform, that’s noteworthy.
HBO Max, as an example, nonetheless isn’t to be had on Roku or Amazon Hearth TV. NBCUniversal’s Peacock was once solely added to Roku just lately after the 2 firms settled variations that have been ongoing since Peacock’s release previous in 2020, on the other hand, it’s nonetheless absent from the Hearth TV catalog.
Google’s Android TV platform (which the Chromecast makes use of for content material apps) appears to be most commonly immune from these kind of considerations, however up to now, it’s been one thing of an afterthought for builders. As an example, it took years for Hulu to replace its Android TV app to make it appropriate with Hulu + Reside TV.
We’re awarding this one to Roku, at the power of the scale of its channel catalog and its very good Roku Channel. But when the corporate leads to extra standoffs with content material suppliers that end result within the incapability of Roku customers to circulate from big-name products and services, we’ll revise this segment.
Toughen for audio and video codecs
All 3 streaming gadgets will strengthen 4K solution at as much as 60 fps. However their strengthen for top dynamic vary (HDR) codecs and complex audio codecs can vary considerably.
The Roku Streaming Stick+ can strengthen HDR10, and it shall we streaming apps passthrough Dolby Atmos. However it could actually’t be offering higher-quality HDR codecs like HDR10+ or Dolby Imaginative and prescient, and it doesn’t strengthen HLG. Passthrough strengthen for Atmos is excellent in that if in case you have an Atmos-capable TV, soundbar, or A/V receiver, apps can ship an audio bitstream to those gadgets, which can then use that to permit you to pay attention Dolby Atmos sound. The issue is that some apps, maximum significantly Netflix, received’t permit Atmos passthrough.
The Hearth TV Stick 4K seems to be the winner, with all 4 flavors of HDR onboard: HDR10, HDR10+, HLG, and Dolby Imaginative and prescient, plus the power to completely decode Dolby Atmos. However, for causes we’ve got but to find, Netflix additionally denies the Hearth TV Stick 4K get entry to to Dolby Atmos soundtracks, forcing it as an alternative to make use of Dolby five.1.
It’s a identical tale for Google’s Chromecast with Google TV: Superb strengthen for HDR codecs (HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Imaginative and prescient) and Dolby Atmos. Then again, on this case, Dolby Atmos is passthrough-only, identical to the Roku.
For the reason that Dolby Atmos strengthen is identical on all 3 gadgets, it comes all the way down to video codecs. Technically, the Hearth TV Stick 4K will have to win as it has strengthen for HLG along with the opposite HDR flavors, however we’re no longer certain that’s sufficient to claim victory. We’ll fence-sit slightly right here and say…
Winner: Tie between Amazon Hearth TV Stick 4K and Google Chromecast with Google TV
Content material discovery and straightforwardness of use
Roku’s seek has all the time been top-notch, and we haven’t any doubt that can proceed to the case. However nowadays, with thousands and thousands of flicks and displays at our fingertips, looking out isn’t essentially one of the best ways to search out one thing to observe.
That’s why each Google TV and Amazon’s new Hearth TV interface seem like promising enhancements for our skill to find new content material. Each be offering a curated view of all your apps, channels, and subscriptions, and Google TV has even built-in YouTube TV (for individuals who subscribe to that provider) to blur the traces between what’s on-demand and what’s reside even additional.
We’re having a look ahead to making an attempt them each, however till we do, it appears to be like adore it’s as soon as once more a tie between Google and Amazon.
Winner: Tie between Amazon Hearth TV Stick 4K and Google Chromecast with Google TV
Content material casting, video games, and further options
There’s so much happening right here, so let’s destroy it down:
Roku Streaming Stick+
- Non-public listening mode and display mirroring by way of the Roku app
- Apple Watch integration
- Lodge and dorm room attach for simple use whilst touring
- Suitable with each Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa for sensible speaker keep watch over
- Make a choice cellular apps on Android can solid to Roku, and this may increasingly enlarge to Apple gadgets when AirPlay 2 is added by way of Roku OS nine.four
Amazon Hearth TV Stick 4K
- Suitable with Amazon’s Luna subscription gaming provider
- Alexa integrated for keep watch over of sensible house gadgets
- Non-compulsory Ethernet adapter
- Hook up with headphones or sport controllers by way of Bluetooth
Google Chromecast with Google TV
- Casting of content material from Android or iOS gadgets
- Hook up with equipment by way of Bluetooth
- Toughen for Google’s Stadia subscription gaming provider coming in 2021
- Google Assistant integrated for keep watch over of sensible house gadgets
We suspect that so long as you’re no longer a gamer, Roku’s selection of considerate extras make it the winner. However, there’s no denying that Google and Amazon’s integration of each their voice-based assistants and gaming products and services would possibly cause them to the easier selection for other people who’re already invested in such a ecosystems.
The Hearth TV Stick 4K’s not obligatory Ethernet adapter would possibly seal the deal for the ones with deficient Wi-Fi, however that’s almost certainly a small minority nowadays.
Yeah, this one’s going to be made up our minds via you, no longer us.
Have been you hoping for a very simple determination right here? In all probability some deadly flaw that may take a minimum of such a streaming units off the desk?
Sadly, that’s no longer the case this time round, nevertheless it’s for the most productive conceivable reason why: Roku, Amazon, and Google have all created nice 4K streaming media gadgets at a value that almost all folks will to find very inexpensive.
However we’re no longer going to go away you caught together with your streaming software determination and not using a little recommendation. If complex HDR codecs like Dolby Imaginative and prescient and HDR10+ subject to you, whether or not since you merely need to benefit from your TV’s talents, otherwise you’re only a overall video nerd, you’ll be able to take the Roku Streaming Stick+ off your record, a minimum of till Roku releases a brand new model that has this skill.
At that time, it’s going to be all about Google vs. Amazon. If that’s the case, and also you don’t thoughts ready slightly longer, cling off in your determination till we will be able to post our in-depth evaluate of the Chromecast with Google TV, and we will be able to check out Amazon’s new Hearth TV interface. Those critiques will most probably lend a hand your determination so much.
But when gaming and complex HDR don’t put a grin in your face, we predict you’ll be able to’t cross fallacious with Roku’s Streaming Stick+. It can be the oldest of the 3 gadgets, nevertheless it’s nonetheless an improbable little streamer with one of the vital very best interfaces we’ve ever used.
Yet another factor…
Despite the fact that we didn’t come with it on this comparability, it’s price noting that the TiVo Circulate 4K may be $50 and stocks lots of attributes with the brand new Chromecast. It’s powered via Android TV, it has an excellent faraway keep watch over, and it has strengthen for complex HDR and Dolby Atmos.
In case you’re a Sling TV person, it makes much more sense as a streaming software as a result of TiVo has tightly built-in Sling’s reside TV streaming channels into the Circulate 4K’s primary app — this means that it’s the Sling an identical of the YouTube TV integration into the brand new Chromecast.