Chromecast vs. Firestick—Which Should You Buy?
Devices like Google Chromecast and Amazon Firestick are entirely changing the way everyone sees and uses their TVs. Given that there are so many streaming devices now, it can be hard to determine which one to buy. You’re not alone in this feeling.
If you are keen on getting one of these streaming devices to watch movies and turn your TV into a smart TV, this article will tell you everything you need to know to make the right choice.
Let’s take a closer look into what Chromecast and Fire TV Stick have to offer, pointing out the pros and cons of both series of devices. That way, you can figure out which one suits your needs the best. Both Chromecast and Firestick are great for TV streaming, but there are some differences you should know about before making your choice. Ultimately, we prefer the Firestick for everyday streaming, and the Chromecast if you need to mirror something from your PC or Phone.
The Google Chromecast is a small device that connects to your TV with an HDMI cord. You will need to plug it into your TV’s USB port because it requires power, although you can use the supplied power adapter for maximum performance. The original idea behind Chromecast was to enable you to turn any TV set into a smart TV and use your smartphone as a controller. You can also cast apps and stream websites like YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, and others from your phone to your TV.
Google Chromecast Pros
Google developed Chromecast, and as such, it performs very well, and it’s simple to use. You can hide it behind your TV, and you don’t need a remote to control it (but you do need a smartphone). Chromecast can also work in sync with Google Home devices, which means that you can use voice control to tell it what to do.
It takes only a few minutes to set up the Google Home app. All you have to do is plug the device into your TV, download the Google Home app, verify the process with a code you will receive, and you’re ready to go.
2. Use Your Smartphone as a Controller
You can cast any video or website from your smartphone to your TV by tapping the cast icon. The feature is perfect for watching Netflix, reading articles, and playing games. You can even use Chromecast for work. The possibilities are almost endless.
3. Voice Control
Since Chromecast is compatible with Google Home, you can pair the two and get even more valuable features. Firstly, if you have an HDMI CEC TV set, you can control it through Google Home. You get to turn the TV on and off, and you can change the volume using your voice. You can also tell Google Home to play your favorite TV show, and the TV will automatically turn on and play it for you.
Google Chromecast Cons
If you already use Google Home to control various devices, Chromecast is the best choice for you. However, there are some downsides to understand.
1. Stream Sources
Chromecast is an excellent device, but it relies on other devices to mirror apps and services. Chromecast does not have built-in apps for services like Netflix, Hulu, Paramount+, etc. You use your smartphone to stream on your Chromecast, which often restricts other uses of your phone while you are watching your favorite TV show or movie.
2. The Size
Chromecast is tiny compared to other electronic devices, but it’s sometimes not small enough to fit behind any TV set. If you don’t have enough space behind your TV or around the HDMI port, you could have issues connecting it. A free USB port on your TV this also required to power the Chromecast, unless you use a long USB cable with the supplied power adapter.
3. No Optional Remote
If you want to use Chromecast as your primary TV source, you will have to use your smartphone to control it, which some users find annoying. In comparison, the Firestick comes with a remote, so you don’t need your phone to switch channels.
About Chromecast with Google TV
Aside from the standard Chromecast models, you also have Chromecast with Google TV as a device choice that adds the Google TV functionality to the Chromecast.
By far, the Chromecast with Google TV device compares better to the Fire TV Stick/Cube lineup than the Chromecast, mainly because it features apps on the device and runs on Google TV OS instead of an Android variation.
Chromecast with Google TV Pros
1. Abundant Streaming App Sources
Since the Chromecast with Google TV features Google/Play Store apps, you get most streaming apps directly on the device rather than using your smartphone to mirror or cast them. This benefit means you can freely use your phone while you enjoy the latest TV series or favorite action movie.
2. Frequent Updates
The Chromecast with Google TV runs on the Google TV Operating System. Therefore, you get plenty of regular updates and security fixes for the device. If any new streaming apps or games get developed, this device will indeed have them.
Update: As of Feb. 18, 2021, the highly demanded Apple TV+ app became available on the Chromecast with Google TV device, matching Fire TV Stick and Fire Cube device availability.
3. Remote Funcitonalty
Like Amazon Fire TV Stick models and Fire TV Cube devices, Chromecast with Google TV includes a remote to navigate the system, which the regular Chromecast devices don’t have. The remote’s small, compact size is full of functionality, including Google voice control, HDMI CEC power/volume and input buttons for your TV, Netflix and YouTube quick access buttons, and more. Yes, this remote has a TV input button!
Chromecast with Google TV Cons
Although the functionality and features of Chromecast with Google TV are impressive, setup is a bit more complex than Firestick and Fire TV Cube devices. Most of the setup process requires your smartphone, and connecting Wi-Fi and devices can be tricky.
2. Lack of Apple TV+ Casting from an iPhone
Even though the Chromecast with Google TV features the most popular streaming apps and gets new ones rather quickly compared to competitors, it does not allow the casting of Apple TV+ or any Apple Music or Apple TV purchased content from an iPhone. However, it does let you stream from the Apple TV+ app on the device.
Amazon Fire TV Stick
The Amazon Firestick is very similar to Chromecast, as it also plugs into your TV’s HDMI port and turns your TV set into a smart device. There are several Firestick versions, such as the Fire TV Stick 4k Max. You can also use your voice to control it, but it comes with an extra remote. Instead of Google Home, you will need Alexa voice control to be able to switch channels.
Fire TV Stick Pros
Firestick is the only real competitor to Chromecast, as it offers similar features designed for smart homes. It’s easy to set up, and you can use voice control to operate your TV set and security cameras.
You can set up the Firestick in minutes. Just plug it into your TV’s HDMI set, put some batteries into the Alexa remote, connect it to your Wi-Fi, and finish the setup on your TV screen.
2. Alexa Remote
Firestick’s remote control changes how we see remote functionality. It has only a few buttons you can use for basic commands, as well as a built-in voice assistant that allows you to do much more by using your voice. It’s ideal for older people, as it’s straightforward to use.
3. Cast from Your Phone
Much like Chromecast, Firestick also comes with something like a cast feature – it allows you to mirror your phone’s screen onto your TV. It’s not as good as Google Chromecast’s cast feature, but it gets the job done.
Worth mentioning, the Fire TV Stick 4k Max has Wi-Fi 6 support, the 6GHz Wi-Fi band, which is nice for those that have the network to support it. You need a router that has 802.11 ax support to use this feature.
Fire TV Stick Cons
Firestick is a handy device, but its Achilles heel is in the software.
1. Natively Only Works with Amazon App Store
Since Firestick is a direct competitor to Google’s Chromecast, you can only use it for Amazon apps unless you are tech-savvy enough to go around the restrictions. That means no Play Store, no extra Android features, and a clunky UI. The software is slow and confusing at times.
Some still complain about the UI of the Amazon Firestick, but recent versions have shown significant improvements in that regard.
In closing, both the Chromecast/Chromecast with Google TV and Amazon Fire Stick/Fire Cube easily integrate your TV with your Android or iPhone device and offer functionality to many other smart home products. They have similar features and functions, but Chromecast provides more apps and services since it is a popular OS targeted by many developers. Firestick, in comparison, is restricted to Amazon’s ecosystem, so you won’t be able to use some of the features that go with Google. On the other hand, many find the Firestick more convenient to use.