If you're looking for two top streaming devices in 2021, the Chromecast with Google TV and Roku Streaming Stick+ should both be on your shortlist. These sticks slot into an HDMI port, have a dedicated remote complete with buttons for specific streaming services, and let you cast from your various mobile devices to your TV screen.
The rise of smart TVs packed with streaming apps doesn’t seem to have stopped any of the leading streaming stick manufacturers. The truth is that while the majority of new smart TVs come with Netflix et al, they might be missing a particular service or feature you want, and in the case of budget TVs, the software may not work as smoothly as you'd like. This is where the best Chromecast devices and other options, including Roku, come in.
The Chromecast with Google TV might not be winning awards for the snappiest title, but you know what you’re getting with this streaming stick. The standalone Chromecast is a device solely for streaming content from another device, but the Chromecast with Google TV includes a suite of dedicated movie and TV apps to deliver 4K HDR content as well as Google Assistant voice control.
The Roku Streaming Stick+ on the other hand is the top of Roku’s three HDMI-hungry offerings. An upgrade from the Roku Express and Roku Premiere, it has 4K and HDR capabilities, and comes with extended wireless range as well as a remote with bonus voice control. Let’s see how the Chromecast with Google TV and Roku Streaming Stick+ stack up.
Chromecast with Google TV vs Roku Streaming Stick+: Features
In terms of what’s in the box, both sticks are very similar. You’ll get the dongle itself, a battery powered remote, a USB cable for power via a USB connector on your TV, and a power adapter. With regards to USB vs the adapter, which you use will entirely depend on the age of your TV. Relatively new smart TVs with a USB port should power the Chromecast with Google TV and Roku Streaming Stick+ no problem, but if you are using the device as a smart TV substitute, you’ll have to connect it to a power outlet.
The Roku Streaming Stick+ comes in just black, so while that's ideal for Batman, if you’re looking for tech to match your room decor, the Chromecast with Google TV comes in a choice of white, pink, or blue, and that applies to both the device and the remote. As well as just being enjoyably different from a world of dark tech, this selection of pastel hues also means that it’s easier to see the dedicated remote on your coffee table.
As we said in our Chromecast with Google TV review, the remote and operating system are intuitive and the remote happily responds accurately to voice commands. Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos capability mean that if you’ve got a compatible smart TV, you’ll get to feast your eyes and ears with superlative quality content. And, as we said in our review, the results are excellent. “Given the best 4K HDR stuff to work with, the Chromecast with Google TV turns in an authentically impressive performance. Dolby Vision-assisted images are crisp and detailed, with plenty of dark-tone information available and contrasts handled well.”
The Roku Streaming Stick+ is no slouch either when it comes to visuals. While there’s no Dolby Vision to play with, 4K HDR content is impressive and Dolby Atmos is here on audio duties. As we note in our Roku Streaming Stick+ review, the ability to sync playback across apps is a nice touch and the stick works with all three voice assistants. Whether you want to talk to Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri, they’re all here.
Plus, AirPlay functionality is ideal for those who want to be able to stream from Apple devices. If you have an Android phone, you can mirror to the Roku Streaming Stick+ but the Chromecast with Google TV is the slicker option for Android devices.
Chromecast with Google TV vs Roku Streaming Stick+: App support
When it comes to app offerings, the Roku Streaming Stick+ comes with an astonishing number of streaming apps and has a useful subscribe option for individual shows to give you updates every time a new one becomes available.
Roku is known for its wide suite of apps but both the Streaming Stick+ and Chromecast with Google TV come with support for the majority of the big names; Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and Apple TV are all here on both sticks, plus BBC iPlayer for UK buyers. Roku also gives you the free Roku Channel which shows a selection of movies and TV.
One omission from the Chromecast with Google TV in the UK currently is the Now TV app but you should be able to cast this from a mobile device without too much trouble. Both sticks are also happy for your home screen to be themed around what you watch rather than pushing specific services which is always reassuring. Both make it very easy to find what you want to watch and keep watching it.
Chromecast with Google TV vs Roku Streaming Stick+: Price & conclusion
At £59.99/$49.99 for the Roku Streaming Stick+ and £59/$50 for the Chromecast with Google TV, these streamers are evenly matched in terms of price. Both are excellent 4K bang for buck but you’ll definitely want to make a decision based on your current ecosystem.
If you want to stream from your Android phone and fancy Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos content, you might err on the side of the Chromecast with Google TV.
On the other hand, the Roku Streaming Stick+’s AirPlay functionality and collection of apps might sway iPhone owners in its direction. Either way, these are two excellent 4K streaming sticks with a wide selection of apps, intuitive remotes with excellent voice control, and software not obsessed with selling you specific streaming subscriptions.