Whether you’re looking to ditch your cable service or just add some more media options to your living room, you’ll need some kind of streaming video box. But choosing between Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, or the new Amazon Fire TV box is tough. We compare these four leading streaming devices to help you choose the best option for your needs.
Note: While Roku has a wide array of devices, including the Roku Stick and three set-top boxes, we’ll focus on the Roku 3 for this device comparison.
The Apple TV, Roku 3, and Amazon Fire TV all retail for $99. Chromecast, on the other hand, retails for just $35. However, Chromecast is a much smaller device, similar to a thumb drive. In contrast, the other three devices are larger. As a basis for comparison, the Roku Stick, which is the most similar to Chromecast in terms of design, costs $49.
All four of these devices are fairly portable, with the Roku 3, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV all small enough to tuck into a backpack or coat pocket. However, the stick-like nature of Chromecast makes it easy to stick in a pants pocket or purse. Plus, Chromecast doesn’t require any cables or cords to operate. While all four devices are easy to transport, only Chromecast is truly portable.
3. Content & Channels
Amazon has put together a handy chart comparing all four devices, which can be accessed here. The chart notes which popular channels are not supported on the devices. Roku, Apple TV, and Chromecast all support HBO, but Amazon Fire TV does not at this time. Apple TV and Chromecast currently lack Showtime Anywhere support, which the other two devices have. Lastly, Chromecast does not support ESPN, Bloomberg TV, or Amazon Instant Video at this time.
4. Special Features
The Roku 3 box offers a headphone jack built right into the remote, allowing you to watch TV without disturbing others. The Roku 3 also offers Angry Birds, with a motion-based controller that makes playing the game quite simple. In addition, the remote does not require a direct line of sight to the TV. Roku supports about 100 games at present.
Apple TV is great for families who own Macs or iOS devices, as AirPlaying content from those devices to the big screen is as simple as tapping a button. That being said, the Apple TV is a bit harder to customize than these other options. It offers some parental control options, but nothing quite as robust as what Amazon’s box will offer in the coming months.
Chromecast is unique because it doesn’t require a remote. Instead, you can control your TV with Android tablets or smartphones, Apple tablets or phones, or from your computer using Chrome.
Amazon’s Fire TV has a whole host of cool features, including voice search, customizable parental controls, karaoke, and ASAP (an algorithm that reduces buffering by predicting what you want to watch next and pre-loading it.) It also comes with an optional game controller, making this an ideal set-top box for people who love video games. While Fire TV currently supports about the same number of games as Roku, that will change in the coming months as Amazon brings thousands of titles into Fire TV support.
5. Final Thoughts & Conclusion
The Roku 3 is ideal for TV fans who want access to apps and channels that aren’t supported on the other set-top boxes. It’s much easier to work around device limitations to access user-created channels, including adult content.
The Apple TV is the best choice for Mac and iPhone users, as it syncs seamlessly into Apple-friendly tech environments. The Apple TV will also appeal to people with a large iTunes library.
Chromecast is the best choice for people who are constantly traveling, and need a streaming device that is highly portable. It’s also ideal for the budget conscious.
Amazon’s Fire TV box is the best device overall, thanks to its intelligent search features, ASAP algorithm, and robust video game selection. This is by far the best choice for gamers, as well as for parents who want to more tightly monitor watch their kids are watching.
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