I admit it: I broke down and got a Chromecast. Spotify had a deal where you sign up for Premium for 3 months at $30 and get a free Chromecast. For me, this worked out to getting a Chromecast for $5 off with 3 free months of Spotify Premium.
This is not my first “smart TV” device I’ve used. I’ve used Roku for several years, and have both a first generation Roku and a Roku 3 that I greatly enjoy. The Roku runs apps, like a smartphone or tablet, to stream the video or audio, and you interact with Roku via remote control.
When the Chromecast first came out, I was skeptical due to one key difference between Chromecast and other similar devices. The Chromecast also runs apps to stream the video and audio. In contrast to the Roku, however, you don’t use a remote control to interact with the Chromecast. Instead, you use Chromecast-aware apps on a smartphone or tablet, and tap a “cast” button on the app to tell the Chromecast what to stream.
For the first year or so, there weren’t a lot of Chromecast-aware apps. YouTube could use it, of course, and several other apps came out at launch, but most streaming apps that I use on Roku didn’t understand how to use Chromecast. It seemed like yet another pointless device from Google.
Flash forward 2 ½ years, and the picture has changed. There are a great number of apps that support Chromecast, both on iOS and Android. The usual suspects are here: Netflix, Hulu, and Pandora to name 3. Other apps have added the capability: MLB at Bat (for those of us who are baseball junkies and subscribe to MLB.TV), Twitch (video game play streaming), major networks like ABC or HBO, and much more.
The lack of remote on Chromecast is actually an advantage instead of a detriment. On Roku, searching for something to watch on Netflix involves the hunt-and-peck on a virtual keyboard using the remote. There is the Roku app for phones and tablets, but I haven’t had a lot of luck with it. The same process on Chromecast involves using the tablet or phone interface on the particular app, which is much more convenient and faster, then hitting “cast”.
I’m actually enjoying the Chromecast over Roku, to my surprise. I installed it on a secondary TV, but I might be switching the Roku 3 to this TV and put the Chromecast on my living room TV – if I don’t buy a second Chromecast. They are only $35 each, after all, which is a huge advantage Chromecast has over Roku. Depending on the model, Roku run from $40 to $130.