When it comes to the best streaming devices today, there is no shortage of options. Roku has long been a popular option for streaming, but Google has also been a player in the game for some time with Google Chromecast. Both products use an external device that you plug into your TV. Using a wireless connection, you can stream all sorts of exciting, new content from a ton of different providers and networks. Roku vs Google Chromecast can be a tough decision to make.
So what is the difference between the Chromecast vs. Roku, and which is the better option for your streaming needs? We take an in-depth look at the differences between Google Chromecast vs. Roku.
Compare Roku vs. Google Chromecast
|Price||$29.99 – $99.99||$35 – $69|
|Device style||Set-top box, wireless box, stick||Plug-in|
|Size||Set-top box: 1.4 x 3.3 x 0.7 in.Stick: 3.7 x 0.8 x 0.47 in.Wireless box: 4.9 x 4.9 x 0.8 in.||Chromecast: 51.9 x 51.9 x 13.8 mm|
Ultra: 58.20 x 58.20 x 13.70 mm
|Compatibility||1080p HD, 4K, Ultra HD, HDR||Chromebook Pixel, Android smartphones and tablets, iPhones, iPads, Windows and Mac laptops|
|TV episodes + movies available||500,000+||200,000+|
|Voice search capability||On Roku stick and wireless box models||Yes|
Which streaming device is right for you?
With Roku, you have your pick of seven different devices and prices, ranging from set-top boxes to plug-in sticks and wireless boxes. There are more than double the movies and shows that Chromecast has, and a readily available interface that makes it easy to find what you want to watch. The remote makes it easy to either scroll or use your voice to control what you watch.
|Roku Express||Roku Express+||Roku Premiere||Roku Streaming Stick+||Roku Streaming Stick+ HE||Roku Ultra LT||Roku Ultra|
|Device type||Set-top||Set-top||Set-top||Stick||Stick||Wireless box||Wireless box|
|Compatibility||1080p HD||1080p HD||1080p HD, 4K, Ultra HD, HDR||1080p HD, 4K, Ultra HD, HDR||1080p HD, 4K, Ultra HD, HDR||1080p HD, 4K, Ultra HD, HDR||1080p HD, 4K, Ultra HD, HDR|
With its Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra, Google brings a different kind of streaming experience. Instead of using a separate set-top box, the Chromecast uses the power of your phone or computer to stream your content on your TV. It’s the better pick for someone who prefers not to use a remote control and instead use the convenience of your phone or computer. It’s the modern solution to your TV.
|Google Chromecast||Chromecast Ultra|
|Best for||Affordability||Faster load times|
|Compatible services||Hulu, Google Play, Netflix, Pandora, Spotify, YouTube, HBO GO, HBO Now||Hulu, Google Play, Netflix, Pandora, Spotify, YouTube, HBO Now|
|Picture||HD||Ultra HD (4K), HDR|
Roku gets our vote for user experience because the clean, easy-to-use interface makes it easy to find something good to watch. It runs off thousands of apps that you can download for free. Many of these apps are either free or sync up with your existing cable subscription
There are even games you can play, too. If you prefer to use your mobile phone to control your Roku, you can do that, too.
Google Chromecast works as an extension of your phone. The plug-in works with your computer or mobile phone to cast information wirelessly to your TV, so you never have to worry about finding a remote. Chromecast uses apps, too, but you will quickly find that the format changes pretty dramatically depending on whether you are using Android, iOS or a computer.
Roku is an external device available in several different formats. You can choose from a wireless or set-top box or a USB option that plugs directly into your TV. You receive 1080p max playback resolution, but the RAM varies on the exact option you choose.
This is the kind of RAM you can expect with each Roku model.
- Roku Express – 512 MB
- Roku Express+ – 512 MB
- Roku Premium – 1 GB
- Roku Premiere+ – 1 GB
- Roku Streaming Stick+ – 1 GB
- Roku Streaming Sticki+ HP – 1 GB
- Roku Ultra LT – 1 GB
- Roku Ultra – 2 GB
Chromecast is a compact USB device that still manages to pack quite a punch. With up to 1080p resolution, all it needs is a wireless connection and a smartphone or a computer. There is 512 MB of RAM with Google Chromecast, or you can get up to 1 GB of RAM with the Google Chromecast Ultra. It is decent processing power, although it is not quite as much as the 2 GB of RAM that you get with the Roku Ultra.
Casting, sharing and mirroring
Roku is pretty limited to its platform, so this is not going to be your pick if you plan on using your smart device to mirror any content. This is a product line that is developed to work as a middleman for all of your favorite services, like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu, as well as networks like CBS, FOX, F/X, TBS, HBO, STARZ, and more.
Google Chromecast is the clear winner when you are looking for a device that will cast and mirror content from your phone to your computer to your device. While Roku focuses heavily on apps, Google Chromecast relies on your phone for future direction. It is far more friendly to casting than Roku and many other devices on the market, using the power of Google to share your photos and videos.
Audio and video quality
Video quality is excellent, and that’s evident based on its many capabilities. This device will work with your TV to provide a picture that offers 1080p HD, 4K Ultra HD and HDR compatibility. All models give you 1080p, but you will need to upgrade to the Premier, Streaming Stick or Ultra models if you want to take advantage of 4K Ultra HD and HDR picture.
Chromecast doesn’t bother with the basic 1080p that comes with Roku’s more standard models. Instead, you can choose from either HD or 4K Ultra HD and HDR picture if you upgrade to the Chromecast Ultra.
Like most devices, Roku comes with a remote control. The remote has convenient shortcuts with buttons for some of the most popular streaming services, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. There is also the option to use your mobile phone as your remote, giving the best of both worlds where Google limits you instead. Some models also offer a voice remote and headphone compatibility for even greater convenience and accessibility.
Chromecast doesn’t come with a remote; your phone or computer is all you need to operate the platform. Regardless of whether you are navigating apps for the latest program or mirroring content from your TV, the power is all in your smart device that works as your own personal mobile remote.
The best part about Roku is all of the options that you get for your Roku. You can choose the basic model, the Express, for $29.99 or choose from a variety of options priced all the way up to $100. While Roku offers options both cheaper and more expensive than Google’s models, you also get more bang for your buck because Roku is a more versatile pick that matches the majority of Chromecast’s options but also manages to give you more.
Chromecast is all about simplicity. If you don’t want to make a lot of choices and just want something that is compatible with your phone, you should consider the Chromecast for your viewing needs. This makes it easy to view your pictures and videos, but you won’t find some of the extended capabilities that Roku delivers. It all depends on how you want to watch your favorite programs.
Although we love its value, Roku isn’t for everyone. There are many, many devices to choose from, so it can be off-putting to some users who prefer a more streamlined and inclusive design. It is made for streaming TV shows and movies, and while there are some games available, too, you will quickly find that this is not a device that is meant for mirroring and casting content from your smart devices.
This is a device that is entirely dependent on your phone or computer, so if you do not have these devices handy, you will find yourself powerless to operate the system and watch your programs. While you have access to the Google store, Chromecast lacks the user-friendly setup and clear accessibility with its apps that Roku offers its users.
Our hot take
When considering Google Chromecast vs Roku, both do what they set out to do. It all depends on what kind of functionality you are looking for in your streaming device. Roku gives you several devices that all offer an easy-to-use, clean interface with access to all of your favorite cable networks and streaming services. Google Chromecast can access some of these apps, but its greater focus is placed on your own content available right on your phone and computer. If you don’t want to be chained to the typical cable and streaming services, Chromecast gives you greater opportunity to comb the web for more personalized content.
Either device will keep you entertained; it just depends on how you prefer to do your viewing.