Chromecast and Android TV are both Google-branded devices–a fact that proves confusing when shopping for a streaming device. Both services provide similar features, but they also differ from one another in major ways.
This guide will break down the difference between Chromecast and Android TV to help you understand how they differ and decide which of the two is the right choice for your streaming needs.
What is Chromecast?
Originally, Chromecast was a USB-powered dongle that plugged into your TV’s HDMI port that enabled streaming. Now, however, the name refers more to the branding. While there are still Chromecast dongles available for purchase, the service is built-in to more modern televisions–no dongle required.
Chromecast differs from other streaming services in that it doesn’t have an interface. There is no home screen or menu to select the content you want. Chromecast acts as a receiver, so you can cast content directly to it from your phone or other device.
The casting protocol is referred to as Google Cast. It’s what enables you to cast from your phone to the dongle, and it isn’t limited to just videos. You can cast YouTube, photos, and much more. With the right Google app, you can even livestream your own face–a great party trick for freaking out guests if you want to act like Zordon.
What is Android TV?
Android TV is an operating system. More specifically, it’s a version of the Android operating system that is designed for media devices. It’s often found in set-top devices like the Nvidia Shield, but it is also used as the default OS for many smart television brands.
Unlike Chromecast, Android TV has a home screen. It functions much like any smart TV does, with a series of different menus and options. You can use Android TV to launch multiple streaming services and even play games.
One thing to note is that Android TV also uses the Google Cast protocol, which means you can cast content to your Android TV exactly as if it were a Chromecast. There may be minute differences in the way content displays, but the functionality is the same.
This means that you can use an Android TV exactly as you would a Chromecast. With that in mind, you might be asking: what’s the point of Chromecast?
Chromecast Vs Android TV Features
As we mentioned earlier, there is a lot of overlap in feature sets between the Chromecast and Android TV.
Chromecast can receive content from other services and allow you to play Netflix, Hulu, and other services on a non-smart TV. Android TV can do all of this and more.
You can stream content to your Android TV, but it also has built-in services. You can login to your Netflix, Hulu, and other accounts directly through the OS and play through the TV itself. If Android TV is installed on a set-top box, the same concept still applies–you just need to turn on the device to make it work.
Android TV also works with lesser-known streaming services like Red Bull TV and TED, as well as bigger companies like Starz and HBO Max. You can also stream Live TV, sports, news, Twitch, and more. According to Android TV, users have access to more than 700,000 different movies and shows.
If you’re looking for different entertainment, you can access games through the Google Play store and download and play them on your Android TV. Pair it with a controller for a better gaming experience.
Chromecast vs Android TV: Which is Better?
The largest difference between the two devices is price. A single Chromecast dongle is significantly more affordable than an Android TV.
One of the lowest priced options for an Android TV is the Nvidia Shield at roughly $150 or so. Comparatively, a third-generation Chromecast will run you just $30. That said, determining which of the two is the better option is difficult, especially given the feature overlap.
From a pure cost standpoint, the Chromecast offers streaming capabilities (provided you have a smartphone) for a budget price, with 2020 Chromecast models offering 4K streaming too. It works with most TVs, and can be an easy way to set up streaming without breaking the bank.
On the other hand, Android TV has far more features and can do everything the Chromecast can do–but it costs significantly more. There are a few budget options if you want to avoid a set-top device. A few 32-inch televisions from HiSense run on the Android TV operating system.
Android TV’s feature list also makes it a better overall investment, too. If you’re on a budget, go for Chromecast–but if you can afford it, invest in the Android TV. It does everything Chromecast can do and more and will give you a much better return on your investment.