Chromecast vs. Roku

Which streaming device is better?

Both Chromecast and Roku are popular video-streaming devices that have consistently added features and software updates to improve functionality. These are simple, reliable, convenient, and robust devices that stream entertainment directly to a TV. We reviewed both technologies to help you make a confident decision about which is right for you.

Chromecast vs. Roku

Overall Findings

Chromecast
  • HD video streaming.

  • Offers basic and advanced models.

  • Has iOS and Android apps.

  • Content from hundreds of premium and free streaming providers.

  • Easy setup.

  • Watching with Chromecast requires an app for that channel or an app on a phone.

  • Doesn't have a remote.

  • Works with Google Assistant.

  • Cast content from individual apps on a smartphone, tablet, or laptop.

Roku
  • HD video streaming.

  • Offers basic and advanced models.

  • Has iOS and Android apps.

  • Content from hundreds of premium and free streaming providers.

  • Easy setup.

  • Remote is easy to use and intuitive.

  • App use is optional.

  • No native voice control.

  • Delivers content through channels and apps.

Roku and Chromecast are similar devices with strong media-streaming capabilities. Both deliver HD video streaming through an available HDMI port in a TV, then connect to your home's Wi-Fi network, providing a crisp, clean digital picture and sound.

Both Roku and Chromecast have basic models that support standard HD streaming, as well as more advanced models. Both are easy to set up and have intuitive iOS and Android mobile apps. Content options for Roku and Chromecast are plentiful.

The devices do have some significant differences, however. Roku delivers content through channels and apps, while Chromecast has a less centralized approach, where you cast from individual apps on your smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Chromecast offers more voice functionality, as well.

Content Delivery: Roku Edges Out Chromecast

Roku
  • Roku's remote is easy to use, intuitive, and anyone can control what's on.

  • App use is optional.

Chromecast
  • Chromecast is controllable through a smartphone or tablet.

  • Watching with Chromecast requires an app for that channel or an app on a phone.

It's easy to navigate through Roku's stacked screen of channels and apps to deliver streaming content. Both the Roku remote and the official app (downloadable from the iTunes App Store or Google Play) are intuitive, using a familiar D-pad and OK button.

Chromecast doesn't have a remote. Instead of one space where you choose what to watch, you cast from apps on a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. It's a less centralized approach, but one that may feel more familiar to those who watch lots of video on a phone or tablet.

The Google Home app offers basic controls for apps that are casting, but on the whole, control happens within the app that's currently streaming. As a result, if you have six sources for streaming video, you'll hop back and forth between six apps.

Voice Control Capabilities: Chromecast Wins

Roku
  • No native voice capability.

  • Enhanced functions allow some voice control.

Chromecast
  • Control some video sources from the Google Home app.

  • Google Assistant can also control a Roku.

Using either Google Assistant or a correctly set up Google Home unit, say, for example, "Hey Google, play Ballad of Buster Scruggs on the living room TV," and like magic, the Coen brothers' revisionist love letter to Westerns plays on your TV.

While Google Home connects only with a few content providers, Chromecast's amazing connection capabilities may outshine the limited channels it's integrated with.

Roku does have some voice-control abilities. The Roku mobile app for iOS and Android, enhanced voice remote, Roku TV Voice Remote, and Roku Touch tabletop remote can all search for content, as well as handle the playback commands you need for complete control.

Google Assistant can control a Roku with a few quick setup steps.

Channels and Apps: Roku Has More Choices

Roku
  • Broad swathe of content.

  • Agnostic about providers, so no content fights like the Amazon vs. Google showdown.

Chromecast
  • Chromecast can't access Amazon Prime Video.

Cordcutting.com lists more than 8,000 channels and apps that are available on Roku. From popular free TV channels such as ABC, CBS, and NBC, to premium cable streamers like HBO, and everything in between, there's a lot to see on Roku.

The Chromecast website lists more than 2,600 Chromecast-enabled apps that cover a range of entertainment sources. While both Chromecast and Roku offer YouTube, Netflix, HBO, ESPN, the news networks, the major sports broadcasters, and more, Chromecast is missing a key provider: Amazon Prime Video.

While you can cast Prime Video from a laptop, the inability to stream Amazon Prime Video natively is a significant downside for Chromecast.

Setup and Ease of Use: Both Are Intuitive and Easy

Roku
  • Roku's setup guides you step-by-step, making it clear what you're doing and why.

  • Roku's setup requires creating a Roku account, then linking it with PayPal or a credit card to purchase content.

Chromecast
  • Google's simple product lineup makes purchases easy. If you have a 4K TV, buy the Ultra.

  • You're linked into the Google ecosystem.

Chromecast's video-capable product lineup is straightforward and aggressively priced. Google offers streaming video in two flavors. The Chromecast costs $35 and supports 1080p HD video and audio through HDMI, as well as Wi-Fi networking. The Chromecast Ultra is $69 and supports 4K HD video and audio through HDMI, Wi-Fi, and Ethernet networking.

Chromecast setup is simple. Plug the device into an available HDMI port, log in to your Google account through the Google Home app, and connect your Chromecast to your home's Wi-Fi network. You'll need to log in to your TV or cable provider's account to access premium and streaming TV channels. You purchase subscriptions or rent content through Google Play.

A growing number of TV manufacturers include Chromecast in TV sets. However, with only two choices of a dongle, you're really choosing the Chromecast that delivers the picture your TV is capable of handling.

There are seven Roku options available, and all stream 1080p HD video at a minimum, connect to a home Wi-Fi network, and are controlled by compact and easy-to-use remotes.

Prices start at $29.99 on the Roku site. Mid-price models add a voice-controlled remote, while the top-of-the-line Roku Ultra adds 802.11ac dual-band MIMO and Ethernet networking, memory expansion using USB or microSD, and a pair of JBL headphones. It'll set you back $99.99.

Roku's setup is slightly more involved. You'll need to open an account with Roku, provide a credit card number, and log in to your TV or cable provider's account on your Roku to access premium and streaming TV channels. Providing a payment source allows you to purchase premium channel subscriptions, buy or rent movies and TV shows, or make other Roku Channel Store purchases.

Roku walks you through every step of the setup, and within about 15 minutes, you can watch a movie. While the setup is easy, entering passwords for Wi-Fi networks and subscriptions can be a bit of a bother.

Download the Roku app and tap the Keyboard icon for an actual keyboard to load usernames and passwords. This saves time and frustration if you practice good password safety.

Final Verdict: Both Are Strong Options

Both Roku and Chromecast are excellent choices for streaming entertainment. Chromecast offers a simple product lineup at reasonable prices and is an easy out-of-the-box experience. It integrates well with a connected home.

Roku is also easy to set up and use. While its vast content offerings and dedicated remote make the entire Roku user experience intuitive and expansive, its ability to natively stream Amazon Prime Video makes Roku a no-brainer choice for many users.