Comparing Smart TV Devices: Chromecast, Fire Stick, Apple TV, Roku

14 May 2019| Post by Graham

AuthorGraham

We’re going to compare the best smart TV devices on the market, so you don’t have to.

In today’s blog post, we’re taking a look at some of the leading smart devices for your TVs and comparing the stuff you really care about. There’s so much choice out there, sometimes it’s hard to know which really is right for you. Don’t worry, we’ll be totally impartial throughout so you can make your next purchase decision wisely.

Comparing smart TV devices 2019

We’ll be discussing each device honestly and rating them based on these categories:

  • Affordability
  • Integration with apps
  • Ease of use
  • Design/look
  • Pros and cons (of course)

Google Chromecast

Source: Ctrl Blog

Affordability

The Google Chromecast costs £30 for a basic model. Look out for special offers for events like Black Friday as prices can drop to £15/20. The Ultra version costs £60 and streams in 4K.

Streaming capability

You can stream music and video from your smartphone or laptop via apps like Google Play, BBC iPlayer, All4, ITV Hub, Spotify, YouTube and Netflix. When you open a compatible app, you’ll see the Chromecast logo which means it’s ready to stream. You can also stream directly from your Google Chrome browser if you want to view websites that don’t currently have Chromecast capability – so that’s a handy feature.

Ease of use

Chromecast is relatively easy if you’re used to using apps and streaming platforms but people less familiar with anything other than traditional TV might struggle at first. For set-up, you’ll need to download the Google Home app on your chosen device, log into a Google account and connect to the Chromecast via WiFi. Once you’re set up and know how to spot the logo on your apps, it’s easy and instant to stream.

Design

The Google Chromecast looks nice and comes in either Chalk or Charcoal colour. As it plugs into any HDMI port on your TV, it can be tucked away out of sight. Although, it’ll need powering, either via a USB port on your TV or a nearby power supply – the latter means an extra cable coming from your TV.

Other need-to-knows

If you have a Google Home, you can ask it to play something on your TV for you, so that’s worth considering if you’ve already invested in the Google products family.

You’ll also need a separate Chromecast for each TV in your home. Once they’re all set up, you can quickly choose which TV you want to stream to from your phone or laptop.

Amazon Fire TV Stick

Amazon Fire TV Stick smart tv device

Source: Amazon

Affordability

The latest Fire device from Amazon costs £39.99, with an Alexa Voice Remote included (you don’t need an Alexa product to work this – it’s just a remote – but it adds voice capabilities if you do). You can opt for the 4K Ultra version at a cost of £49.99.

Streaming capability

Using the Fire Stick, you have access to a control panel on your TV. This is filled with apps like Prime Video (of course), BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, Netflix, All4 and Disney Life, along with browsing the web via Firefox on your TV. A benefit to the Fire Stick is that it can also stream live TV, including sports and news.

Ease of use

It may seem easier to set up than the Chromecast as you don’t need to download anything extra like the Google Home app. As long as the Fire Stick is plugged into a power source and a TV in a home with a WiFi connection, you’re good to go. However, you will need an Amazon account to sign in and you can only navigate using the remote control. We think it’s more straightforward than Chromecast but this has its limits – Fire Stick isn’t as flexible when it comes to streaming from, say, a browser on your laptop.

Design

The design is pretty easy to conceal with a slim HDMI connection, although it does need to be plugged into a power source. There’s also the added extra of a remote to control your viewing (as it doesn’t stream from your phone or laptop like Chromecast). It all looks sleek and modern so you don’t need to worry about bulky products ruining your setup.

Amazon’s interface for the Fire TV Stick is a little cluttered but once you’re used to it, it’s easy to use and navigate.

Apple TV

Apple TV smart TV device

Source: Apple

Affordability

Coming in at the most expensive price, Apple TV costs a minimum of £149. The 4K version bumps the price up to £179 or £199 with more storage. All versions include the Siri Remote.

Streaming capability

When you plug Apple TV into your existing TV, you have access to all your favourite apps and streaming services for watching TV and film, listening to music and playing games. The HD-ready box streams

If you have an iPhone with an up-to-date iOS, you can use the AirPlay feature to cast photos, audio and video to your TV. You can also mirror your iPhone screen on your TV if you want to see your content on a bigger screen.

Ease of use

For loyal Apple users, you’ll find the Apple TV easy to set-up and use. It only requires a single sign-on and then it syncs across all your devices. For non-Apple users, the interface is still easy to navigate. That’s the beauty of Apple. However, you won’t be able to connect to your phone or laptop if they’re not Mac or iPhone, so it kinda ruins the experience.

Design

Of course, it looks beautiful, in-line with the Apple style guide. But the box itself is bulkier than the Fire Stick or Chromecast, with the added extra of the Siri Remote. It’s not going to take away from the look of your living room but it needs to be plugged into your TV to work.

Other need-to-knows

You’d think for the price, you’d get all the streaming services included. This isn’t the case, you’ll still need subscriptions to Netflix and Prime and accounts with the free services like iPlayer and All4.

Roku TV

Roku smart TV device

Source: Roku TV

Affordability

The basic Roku Express is the cheapest device on here, costing £29.99. If you want to level up, the Roku Streaming Stick + is £59.99 – it can support 4K video and includes a voice remote with TV power/volume buttons.

Streaming capability

Roku can stream all the usual apps you’ll have become familiar with in this post: Netflix, YouTube, Now TV, BBC iPlayer, Prime Video, ITV Hub, My5 and more. There are hundreds of free channels for you to enjoy, including TV, sports and music, as well as international channels and movies at your disposal. It’s really up to you how you want to use Roku but it really does support a wide variety of platforms.

There’s also a Roku mobile app that enables you to share content from your iPhone or Android to your TV. You can also cast video and music from your phone to your TV when you spot the ‘casting’ icon, just like Chromecast’s functionality.

Ease of use

You’ll need to set up a Roku account when you buy the stick but other than that, the set-up is pretty straightforward. You use the included remote to control what you watch and as long as you’ve got a TV and WiFi connection, it’ll be pretty simple to get going.

Design

The Roku Express stick is pretty similar in physical design to the Amazon Fire Stick. It connects to your TV via an HDMI cable so it can be easily tucked away behind your television if you want it out of sight. In terms of the control panel on your TV, the design is nice and simple – it’s easy to navigate and it’s not confusing in the slightest. There’s a definite difference between Roku’s interface and Fire Stick’s!

In conclusion, which is our favourite smart TV device?

If you’re looking to save money, go for the Roku Express. It’s the cheapest smart TV device and pretty much turns any TV into a smart TV.

If you want something easy to use and set-up, without having to learn how to use new devices, we’d pick the Chromecast every time. You’re essentially just giving more capability to your existing devices.

The Fire Stick and Apple TV have their own benefits – Fire Stick is great for accessing the most varied content whilst Apple TV is perfect for syncing across your devices. However, the price of Apple TV might be too high to justify when so many other great smart TV devices exist 😁

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