Buying a new smart TV is expensive business, and to be quite honest, it's probably not a great idea, as once you have spent hundreds/thousands of pounds on a new TV then you are locked in to its onboard hardware for the TV's lifetime – which may well be out of date in a year.
A great option to experience the best of an internet connected TV without the expense of buying one is to opt for an external streaming TV service. Two of the best of these are Apple TV and Chromecast, here's where we put the two up against each other in what we call an Apple TV vs Chromecast comparison review.
On the face of it both the Apple TV and Chromecast do largely the same thing, and this is stream video and audio content straight to your TV. However, there are significant differences on how the two streamers go about doing this. Keep reading and we'll cover all of this for you.
Perhaps the biggest difference here is the price of the two steamers. As you would expect, Apple is the more expensive of the two, coming in at £99. Chromecast is less than a third of the price at £30.
Things get a little more confusing when you look into what you can and can't do on both streamers. The best and most concise way we can put it is: on paper you can access more apps and media files with Chromecast than you can on Apple TV, but the things that Apple TV does let you do, it does so flawlessly. From our experience with the Chromecast, we have found there to be issues with media playback from time to time.
What do we mean by this? Well, in terms of locally stored media, Apple TV only lets you play Apple approved media file formats through channels through iOS devices or a computer iTunes installed.
Chromecast does let you do the same thing, but it is a little more confusing. If you have bought a movie, TV show or piece of music from the Google Play store, then you can stream it from your Android smartphone/tablet to your TV via Chromecast. This is a bit of a cheat though, as Chromecast is actually playing the file from Google Play's media servers and not your Android device.
If you want to play actually media stored on your Android device, then you are going to have to buy a £2.98 Plex for Android app, and then set up a Plex Media Server account, and only then can you “fling” media from your Android smartphone/tablet to your TV via Chromecast. Far from straightforward.
The flipper is that you can play more video/audio file types with Chromecast than you can with Apple TV. So the question you need to ask yourself is what file format is most of your media, and where did you get it from? Once you've answered that you should be in a better position to know whether to go for Chromecast or Apple TV.
Third party content
There are too many options (of questionable use to the average UK user) to list here. So the best advice we can give to work out which one is best for you is to go to the official What's On/Now Casting pages for both streamers and take a look for yourself. Here is the links for Apple TV What's On and Chromecast's Now Casting.
Apple TV vs Chromecast comparison review: controls
Controlling Apple TV is pretty easy as it comes with a remote, you can also operate it via an iOS device that is connected to the same network as Apple TV, from here you can simply mirror app/video/music content from your iPhone/iPad/iPod straight to your TV by pressing on the mirror icon.
Failing that you can also control Apple TV via iTunes on a Mac or PC providing it is connected to the same network. You can then use the provided physical remote control to navigate around your local media library and/or access the steaming apps such as Netflix.
Chromecast is a little different, there is no single physical remote that comes with it in the box. It relies on you controlling it from your Android/computer/iOS device that is connected to the same network. You then need to download the Chromecast app for the initial set up, from there you need to use a supported app – i.e. BBC iPlayer - to your device and press the Chromecast button in the app.
Apple TV vs Chromecast comparison review: design
Both the Apple TV and Chrome cast streamers connect to your TV via a HDMI port. The main difference is that the Chomecast is a dongle device that is key sized and slots straight into your TV where it stays – there is also a mini HDMI lead you can use if your TV is pushed up tightly to the wall. Apple TV is more of a mini set top box that will need a surface nearby to sit on.
Apple TV requires as 6-watt universal power supply (from the wall plug socket), whereas Chromecast has to be powered from a USB lead (designed to work with the USB ports on your TV).
It’s fair to say that neither Chromecast or Apple TV are the perfect media streamers. However they both get the job done providing you already have the correct hardware/software at home, and that – along with the price difference – is what you should be basing your decision when deciding which device is right for you… that and whether you want BBC iPlayer or not.