Google Chromecast vs. Apple TV vs. Roku 3 was the obvious debate coming out of the search company's press conference yesterday. The $35 HDMI dongle allows users to stream content to their television via services like Youtube and Netflix. While Google Chromecast vs. Apple TV vs. Roku 3 all offer solutions to stream your favorite services, there are differences within each that may decide whether you invest in each respective platform. Even though Mountain View's offering is the new kid on the block in the Google Chromecast vs. Apple TV vs. Roku war, it still puts up quite a fight against its current competitors. See who comes out on top in the battle for your living room.
The Apple TV and Roku share a similar form factor in that they both are small black boxes that can fit in the palm of your hand. A small form factor is ideal to limit cluttering one's entertainment system. Google Chromecast takes things one step further by assuming the shape of USB flash drive. Instead of a universal serial bus connector, the Chromecast connects via HDMI. Google pulls this off by delegating the heavy lifting to Google's servers in the cloud. Unfortunately, the Chromecast needs to be powered via the USB connector in back -- making the design slightly less elegant than we thought. Though this all may can most likely be hidden behind the TV.
More important than the look of the device in the Google Chromecast vs. Apple TV vs. Roku 3 debate is the channels offered. Google and Apple's products in this space have a unique advantage over the Roku: first party services. The Apple TV is able to stream your iTunes content while Google's Chromecast gives you access to Google Play Movies and Music. All three have Netflix, but only one (Chromecast) doesn't yet support Hulu Plus or HBO Go.
While Chromecast and Apple TV offer common services as well as their own, the winner goes to Roku. Although it doesn't have Youtube natively, the sheer number of other options Roku provides has yet to be matched by either. Though if most of your content is trapped belongs to one of the former two services, you're probably better off sticking with that company.
All three provide options to control your set-top box/dongle with mobile and tablet devices. Google Chromecast seems the most inter-operable, allowing you to control what gets sent to your TV using phone (iOS or Android), tablet or even traditional desktop. It doesn't however come with its own remote like Apple TV and Roku does, should you want to save battery power.
Apple's offering lets you control their box with your device, provided it's designed by Apple in California. There are workarounds but we're starting to get the feeling Cupertino doesn't have Android's best interest at heart.
The Roku provides mobile apps for both Android and iOS, as well as their own remote. With the latest edition of the Roku, users get the added benefit of a headphone jack in the remote to listen to what you're watching solo. This, along with the volume rocker on the remote to control said audio, is a killer feature if you ask us.
The Google Chromecast vs. Apple TV vs. Roku 3 debate almost seems to make things easy when pricing is taken into consideration. While the Apple TV and Roku boxes are $99, the Google Chromecast will only run users $35. The Roku does however provide options for cheaper models that aren't the 3. But the cheapest Roku is still $15 more than the Chromecast. Apple provides no other options.
Each product has a special feature or two that the others do not. As mentioned before, the Roku's headphone jack on the remote provide unique functionality not found in the Apple TV or even possible on the Chromecast. The Apple TV includes Airplay Mirroring for desktop in Mountain Lion -- allowing users to broadcast their computer screens to their television. Chromecast supposedly has this feature, but is currently in beta.
Deciding on a winner between Google Chromecast vs. Apple TV vs. Roku 3 is a tough call. Each of the products provide access to your favorite web services (Chromecast doesn't have Hulu or HBO Go, but we imagine Google's working on this). Roku's box is the best if you want a large variety of channels that the others may not have. We suggest Apple's product if you're already heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem. As for the Google Chromecast, if portability is important to you and you don't mind the omission of Hulu, HBO Go and separate remote, then their HDMI dongle might be for you.