Nobody uses their TV sets “just” to watch TV these days. Nobody in their right mind would want to watch free-to-air MediaCorp channels. Unless you have Netflix, cable TV or a streaming media player like Google Chromecast or Apple TV, that TV set is nothing more than a hunk of plastic.
The most popular streaming device right now is the Google Chromecast. It’s a little disc that hooks your TV up to your computer, tablet or smartphone, so you can stream content from the Internet to your TV screen.
That means you can watch YouTube videos, movies and more on a nice big screen instead of hunching over your tiny and fingerprint-stained mobile phone.
Google Chromecast’s biggest competitor is (of course) Apple TV, a box-shaped console that does something similar.
Chromecast vs Apple TV – what’s the difference?
The biggest difference between the two devices is price. The Google Chromecast 2 costs about $65 in Singapore, while Apple TV 4K costs at least $268. That’s huge!
But why? While both devices let you do very similar things (ie. stream media and watch it on your TV), the two devices work quite differently.
Chromecast must be used together with another device like a smartphone or laptop. You are essentially (1) streaming videos using your computer, and then (2) transmitting the content on your TV screen.
Because of this, Chromecast lets you access a wide range of content, since everything that is available on your Google Chrome browser is fair game… including some content that might be pirated or that MDA would rather you not look at.
Both your device and the Chromecast need to be connected to the same Wifi network, and the signal must be strong enough to link them.
Apple TV, on the other hand, doesn’t need to be connected to any other device than your TV. You can access content through various apps installed on it, which include YouTube, Netflix and so on. It also comes with its own remote control. So you don’t need to have your phone with you to use the device.
However, you can also stream stuff from your iPhone or iPad, similar to Chromecast. You can pair it with an Apple device (say, an iPhone) and transmit what is shown on your phone screen to your TV. This is done via Apple’s AirPlay technology, not through Wifi.
Bottom line: Chromecast is a lot cheaper, but you need to pair it with a phone or laptop, whereas the Apple TV is capable of being a standalone device.
Does it matter if you use Android or Apple products?
To use Chromecast to transmit something from your device, you need to look for the little in-app Chromecast icon to start “casting”.
Your app must support Chromecast. This capability is built into the Google Chrome browser, of course, and apps like YouTube and Netflix. More and more smartphone apps now support Chromecast, but some have yet to jump on the bandwagon.
Many apps developed for Android will have Chromecast support. You might run into more issues if you use an iPhone or iPad. Apple’s default browser Safari, for example, doesn’t support Chromecast automatically – you have to download a plugin separately to use it.
Apple TV can work just fine on its own, but what if you want to stream content from your phone?
When you pair it with your Apple device, it doesn’t matter what app you use, because AirPlay is not an in-app feature. Connecting your device to AppleTV is smooth and easy as long as the device is within range.
But it’s a lot more trouble to use Apple TV with Android devices. You’ll need to download the Apple iTunes and AirPlay apps, which isn’t terribly difficult but still a hassle nonetheless.
Bottom line: Apple TV is a real breeze to use if you’re using all Apple devices. But Chromecast is much more user-friendly if you have a mix of Apple and Android at home.
What else can you do with a Chromecast or Apple TV?
Other than watching videos, both Chromecast and Apple TV let you enjoy other types of media on your TV, such as doing slide presentations, looking through photos, and (most importantly) gaming.
Again, the problem with Chromecast is that useability really depends on whether your game supports Chromecast. Some Android smartphone games are Chromecast-enabled, but at the moment PC games are not. (Technically you might still be able to transmit the game to your TV screen, but there will be a time lag.)
With Apple TV, you can easily mirror games from your iPhone, iPad or even MacBook using a game controller. (You need to buy it though.) Plug the controller into your device, and then Apple TV will project the game on your TV screen.
Alternatively you can obtain Apple TV game apps (yes, they exist) and play straight without involving another Apple device. In this, the Apple TV is closer to gaming consoles like the Xbox.
Bottom line: Both devices allow you to transmit stuff on your phone/laptop to your TV screen. But the Apple TV is way better for gaming.
OK, so what’s the verdict on Chromecast vs Apple TV?
Which device which gives you more utility depends on what you want to use it for. If you just want to stream content, Google Chromecast should be more than enough for your needs, regardless of whether you normally use Apple or Android devices.
However, if you’re looking for seamless compatibility between your various devices and media and also want to play games, Apple TV is better — especially if you’re are already using Apple devices.
Still, Apple TV costs over 4 times the price of a Chromecast. So for most Singaporeans who’re simply looking to stream videos on their TV screens, Chromecast offers way better value.
Do you have Chromecast or Apple TV? Share your reviews in the comments!