Apple and Google aren’t just battling it out over phones and tablets: One of the biggest battles is in the living room, where the Apple TV and Chromecast are vying for a place next to the TV. But which is better? Read on to find out.
The biggest difference between the two devices is how they control: Apple TV is more “traditional” – in that you can operate it with a remote. There’s no need to pick up your phone – content can be consumed on the box with ease.
By contrast, Chromecast takes a different approach. The actual Chromecast stick is really dumb – all it can do is receive instructions from other devices. This means that to watch, say, iPlayer or Netflix you have to load up the app on your phone and his the “Cast” icon to send it to the TV. Once it is playing you don’t need to keep your phone out – you can put it away, but you need to trigger it through the app.
Though the Apple TV might sound simpler, I think the Chromecast wins in this respect – why fiddle with a remote when you have a rich touch-screen device in your pocket? Whilst a remote might have worked back in the days when there were only four channels and you only need four buttons, with the complex array of on-demand services we now use, a screen is a much better method of input.
If you want to use your TV without having to send content from your phone, tablet or computer there’s only one winner: The Apple TV. Without your phone, Chromecast is a paperweight – whereas Apple TV can access all of Apple’s iTunes store and Netflix too, straight off the box.
However, if you have a phone or tablet, then both services can do a great job of getting content on the screen.
Most popular services work with Chromecast – including YouTube, Netflix, iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD and Demand 5. Even smaller players, like Wuaki TV and TuneIn work with it.
If you have an Apple TV, you can access a similarly wide range of stuff using Apple’s screen mirroring technology – so if you have the iPlayer app on your iPhone, say, you can simply send the content straight to the TV.
In my opinion, this latter option whilst it does the job isn’t quite as useful as Chromecast – as it is generating the pictures on your device and sending them over wifi, if there’s a lot of other wifi users in the area, the signal can get a bit lagged – whilst Chromecast is open to the same sort of interference, it only has to receive, rather than receive pictures and send them on, as your phone does – adding greater risk of disruption to the chain.
Contrary to this, if you’re looking to play your own media back, rather than stream content from other providers, Apple TV might prove the better solution – as it is integrated into your iTunes library it will be able to pull content from wherever it is stored on your home network with ease.
There’s currently no official Chromecast solution for local media – though there are a number of slightly hacky ways to do it, such as using Plex.
Chromecast retails from Google for £30. Apple TV is £79.
To me there can be only one winner – the Chromecast. Given the range of media it can take, and the clever new method of interacting with content on TV, it is a genuinely revolutionary device. Sure, spec-wise it is underpowered compared to Apple TV – but if you actually want to watch TV rather than marvel at silicon chips, it is the smart thing to get.