I tested these for months and finally determined that the Roku Streaming Stick is the best streaming stick around. Not only is it the most compatible of any streaming stick, but it also includes a remote. However, Chromecast (3rd Gen) is a great choice for those who don’t mind, or even prefer, using your phone as the remote controller.
I will compare Chromecast vs Roku Streaming Stick based on interface, content, speed, smarts, and remote.
Read on to see why I thought Roku was the best, and to see which is best for you.
Neither interface is amazing, and Google Chromecast technically doesn’t have an interface, but we have to give the win to Roku here. It’s a good middle-of-the-road choice that isn’t the best we’ve seen, but definitely not the worst.
Roku’s interface lacks the polish and pizzazz of other streaming systems. It even looks a little dated and clunky, plus it lacks a streamlined playback feature. At the same time, the Roku interface is right on your TV. Simply use the included remote to easily move the cursor around to different shows and apps. You won’t get this with Chromecast.
Roku does sell advertising space on its interface, such as including an ad on the right-hand side of the home screen, but it’s not obtrusive (unlike with Amazon Fire TV, which was the worst with ads). You can even be notified when new movies or shows come out. Overall, it’s an OK interface that works well, but doesn’t look as good as some other systems.
Google doesn’t have an interface. You instead cast from your device to your TV. All the apps (Netflix, Hulu, HBO, etc) come from your phone. Simply click the “Cast” button to have the content show on your TV. It’s the same concept as AirPlay.
While some people don’t like casting, it does have its benefits. For example, you don’t need to learn a new system. You already know how your phone works. You just have to click the Cast button to make Chromecast work. You also don’t need to log into apps separately.
But, it also has disadvantages. There tends to be a 30-second delay between episodes. Also, many times the cast button will disappear. Restarting the app should make it reappear, but sometimes you’ll need to reset the whole phone. Also, I’ve found times when I cannot change the channel or content after about an hour of viewing. It’s like Chromecast has gone rogue. I’ll need to disconnect the stream and start it all over again.
Back to benefits, Chromecast doesn’t specifically mirror your device (though you can do this if you’d like). Instead, the content streams through your WiFi, which makes the picture look better, and you can see the content even if your phone’s screen is off or if you leave the house.
The picture quality is fantastic. There’s no difference in the quality between Roku or Chromecast, so both are amazing in this regard. You can also use the Google Home app to search for shows and movies. This even opens the associated app to turn the content on.
These two streaming sticks are very close in this regard, but Roku is a little better. This is largely because Roku is unbiased to different apps while Google lacks some support (though only a little).
Roku provides you with nearly every content app. Plus, you’ll find free services first whenever you search for a show or movie. Roku has a database of over 500,000 shows and movies. You can stream these from YouTube TV, Prime Video, Google Play Video, Vudu, Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, Showtime, HBO, Sling TV, and YouTube.
Not only that, but there’s a good selection of 4K content from Vudu, Netflix, Amazon, or YouTube.
Want to keep your channel subscriptions under one roof? Instead of paying for Showtime, HBO, Starz, Epix, or Cinemax through your cable provider, you can subscribe to them through The Roku Channel. However, The Roku Channel isn’t as useful if you already have the subscriptions. In that case, use the regular Showtime Anytime or HBO Go apps.
As we said, Google is close, but you might notice a few services it lacks.
Google allows you to stream most content apps by clicking the cast button in the respective app. Some apps with cast buttons include: Netflix, Sling, HBO, AT&T TV, Google Play Movies, Vudu, Hulu, Disney+, Showtime, Amazon Prime Video, and Spotify.
You also get a good number of 4K content options with Netflix, YouTube, or Vudu.
Now, what about apps or mobile services that don’t offer the cast button? You can cast from the Chrome browser on your computer or laptop, which makes Chromecast surprisingly versatile.
It’s close, but we give the win to Roku.
Speed & Specs
Both rank pretty highly in my opinion and I would say their speed and specs are about the same. However, I suggest you read through this section as I’ll go over the pros and cons of each system.
Roku’s setup can be annoying. It only seems to go smoothly half the time (and I’ve installed more than 10 Roku devices at this point). You need to sign up for a free Roku account, but the process can be frustrating. However, the good news is that it’s a one-and-done deal.
When it comes to HDR standards, there are two competitors: HDR10 and Dolby Vision. Roku supports HDR10 exclusively. Though not quite as fast, and you can technically cast HBO, YouTube, and Netflix via your phone similar to Chromecast, but this can be slow and you’ll need the same channel already installed on Roku.
Roku is compatible with Google Assistant and Alexa, but it can be unreliable.
One of the best things about Chromecast is that you don’t need to sign into streaming apps (you already are on your phone). While Roku does require you to sign in, the good news is that the login credentials carry over to other Roku devices. This doesn’t work with every app, but it does work with most.
There’s also a Guest Mode. Guests sign in with their own credentials and are signed out when they leave.
Google on the other hand is very easy to install. Plug it into the TV, click the cast button on your phone, and watch the streaming content on your TV. It takes an average of 15 seconds for the content to stream.
While Chromecast is fast, channel surfers or those used to the TV experience may not like it. You need to open the app on your phone, find the next show or move you want to watch, and then cast it. Roku’s remote allows you to quickly change between episodes and movies. Google is fast enough, but there’s often a 10+ second gap that can get annoying when going between different shows.
Both Dolby Vision and HDR10 are available with Chromecast Ultra.
This is a one-sided win for Google as Roku doesn’t have any smarts. It’s a good system, but it doesn’t offer any deeper features.
Google allows you to control everything hands-free with your voice. Go through Google Home and tell it to cast to certain TVs, pause, or play. For example, say, “Hey Google, cast Ozark on Netflix to the Living Room TV.”
While this doesn’t always work, and it may not start on the right episode, it’s still an impressive feature and I had fun using it. It tends to work best if you pick your default TV and speaker before through the Google app.
Asking Google Home to cast shows can be a problem sometimes as there’s no interface to easily change channels or episodes. But, you can easily turn the TV off, play, pause, or rewind with voice commands.
There’s also a guest mode where others can cast to TVs without using your WiFi network. You can also control the TV volume with your phone. Another unique feature is that it works well with Nest cameras.
While Chromecast’s size makes it ideal for travel, the WiFi setup can be annoying. It’s meant to connect to one WiFi network, so changing it to another one in a hotel or somewhere else can be tedious.
This is an easy win for Roku because it has a remote while Google uses your phone.
Roku’s remote is actually quite comfortable and easy to use. There are four dedicated streaming buttons on the remote. However, the buttons cannot be changed and it seems to change with every system. For example, some will have a Netflix button while another might have a Hulu button in its place.
This remote can turn the TV on and off, and change the volume. You can also use the Roku app on your phone as a remote.
Google has you use your phone as a remote. You can control playback through the streaming app or through Google Home. You can change the volume on your TV through the app. It’s not your actual TV volume per se, but rather the app’s volume. They can work in conjunction if you want things really loud or soft.
Both are good, but I rank Roku Streaming Stick as the better of the two. Chromecast has nearly as many content options, runs easily through your phone, and installs very quickly, but it lacks a dedicated remote and it takes longer to switch between channels, shows, or movies. Roku on the other hand offers even more content options, has a good interface, and the dedicated remote is fantastic.