Media streaming has come a long way. The latest hardware is fast, the feature lists are filled with just the right things, and the content available just keeps growing and growing. As more people cut the cord and say goodbye to cable, companies have more incentive to improve your streaming experience. This is great for both the true cord-cutter and the casual streamer.
There are two major players when it comes to streaming media devices, and both Google's Chromecast and Roku's streaming stick have seen recent updates that beef up the hardware and support 4K streaming in HDR. Both are powerful and affordable, but which one is best for you? Let's take a look at the Chromecast Ultra vs. the Roku Premiere!
The Chromecast Ultra
The Chromecast Ultra is the high-end of Google's Chromecast family and was designed to be able to stream UHD 4K video in HDR to any TV or monitor in your home.
Chromecast devices have a legacy of being affordable and simple, and the Ultra follows that trend. Once plugged into an available HDMI port on and set up through Google's Cast app for Android or iOS (and attached to your network with an optional Ethernet port if desired) you'll be able to "cast" video from an app on your smartphone or tablet through the device to your television. Once the initial connection is setup, your phone breaks the primary connection and the Chromecast takes over, streaming audio and video directly from the source. Your phone can still act as a remote to change volume or navigate through your stream.
The content library for Chromecasts is huge. Google uses the term "endless," and while we won't go that far there are hundreds and hundreds of apps with Google Cast support. From favorites like Netflix and Hulu to your own content through Google photos or local streaming, you'll easily find something you and your family or friends want to watch.
What we like about the Chromecast Ultra
- It's inexpensive ($69)
- It has Google Home integration
- It comes with an optional Ethernet port for faster, more stable connections
- Finding content via your phone is a better experience
The Roku Premiere
Roku offers an extensive line of products that cover all price ranges. The Premiere series is an excellent option that can stream 4K UHD video and HDR video (Premiere+).
Roku is a name that's well known amongst cord cutters. One of the first companies to offer an all-in-one streaming solution, you'll find plenty of people who are happy customers. The internals are faster and more powerful that the entry-level offerings and are ready to stream demanding UHD video in HDR at 60fps with compatible video equipment and sources. Roku offers a standalone remote to control everything as well as a dedicated Android and iOS app. The Roku can also act as a Google Cast target to stream from compatible apps on your phone or tablet.
Like the Chromecast, Roku offers a vast content library with all the favorites as well as a few up and comers like Crackle. Using the Roku's integrated search feature finding content to stream is simple.
What we like about the Roku Premiere
- It has a dedicated remote
- You can plug headphones into the remote
- It has Amazon Prime Video and Amazon Echo integration
- It has a microSD slot for channel storage
Which one should you buy?
Both choices are great, especially if you're an Android or iOS user. Our recommendation is to go with the Chromecast Ultra if you haven't yet fully cut the cord.
The Chromecast Ultra is just dead simple. It features an intelligent one-tap setup, is fast, and streaming content is super easy. You can have a room full of friends connect and binge watch YouTube videos, or entertain the kids with some educational programming all at the tap of an icon. Frequent automatic updates from Google keep things running smoothly and the price means you can put one at every TV in your house. If you're entrenched in the Google ecosystem, Google Home integration means you can command your Chromecast through Google Assistant using only your voice.
The Roku has some features designed for the "power user" like an SD card slot and a dedicated remote with a headphone jack. You can store your own "channels" on the card to create content streams tailored just for you — or your partner or your kids. The headphone jack on the stand-alone remote makes the Roku perfect for the bedroom or anytime you don't want to disturb others. The big addition is Amazon Prime video support through a stand-alone app on the Roku and an open API for Alexa that lets the Roku be controlled through the Echo. You exchange some of the ease-of-use (though using a Roku is by no means hard) for some features you won't find with the Chromecast.
No matter what choice you go with, You'll find a rich content library and will have a great streaming experience.
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