Roku vs. Chromecast: Which one is right for you?

dad and daughters watching tv

Roku and Google Chromecast are two of the most popular budget devices for streaming popular content at home. The two types of devices are designed to make it as simple as possible for users to watch their favorite streaming services through their TV. However, they both provide this capability in completely different ways.

Roku provides a range of streaming devices that users connect to their TV either directly or via an HDMI cable and control with a remote. Users can then choose from tens of thousands of channels on the Roku Channel Store, which they simply download, log in to, and start watching. The service is increasingly now available directly on Roku technology-powered smart TVs.

In contrast, Google’s Chromecast devices plug into the TV and enable users to cast their favorite content from their mobile phone, which acts as their remote control, or via a Google Chrome browser window on a Mac or PC. Chromecast users can watch any streaming service that provides Google Cast support, such as Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube.

This article will explore what’s the difference between Roku and Chromecast and help users to find the right device for their streaming requirements. Head here for an in-depth review of everything Chromecast has to offer. 

Roku vs. Chromecast features and specs

 Google ChromecastGoogle Chromecast UltraRoku ExpressRoku Express+Roku PremiereRoku Premiere+Roku Streaming StickRoku Streaming Stick+Roku Ultra
4K supportNoYesNoNoNoYesNoYesYes
Dolby Vision supportNoYesNoNoNoNoNoNoNo
Expandable storageNoNoNoNoNoNoNoNoYes
Remote controlNoNoYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Google Assistant compatibleYesYesNoYesNoYesYesYesYes
Alexa compatibleNoNoNoYesNoYesYesYesYes
Dimensions (in inches and W, H, D)2.04 × 2.04 × 0.542.29 x 2.29 x 0.531.5 x 0.75 x 3.01.4 x 3.3 x  0.71.4 x 3.3 x 0.75.5 x 1.7 x 1.03.7 x 0.8 x 0.473.7 x 0.8 x 0.474.9 x 4.9 x 0.85

Roku vs. Chromecast cost

Roku and Chromecast devices are relatively similarly priced. Roku’s most affordable option is Roku Express, which costs just $29.99, compared to the standard Chromecast, which is priced at $35.

Roku does have a wider choice of devices, which range from that starting point of $29.99 up to $99.99 with the premium streaming device Roku Ultra. There are plenty of options in between, with Roku Express+ available for $39.99 and Roku Premium and Premium+ costing $39.99 and $49.99, respectively. Roku Streaming Stick costs $49.99, and its upgrade model, Roku Streaming Stick+ is available from $59.99.

Google’s premium device, Chromecast Ultra, costs $65, which is substantially lower than the Roku Ultra price point but more expensive than all the other Roku set-top boxes and sticks.

Roku vs. Chromecast interface and personalization

One of the biggest differentiators between these devices is that Roku provides its own operating system and user interface, whereas Chromecast mirrors apps on the user’s casting device.

Roku devices are packed with the Roku OS, which provides a choice of apps and channels that users can download. These are housed in the Roku Channel Store, which comes with a range of settings and search functionality that helps users to find their favorite movies, shows, and streaming services.

Chromecast does not provide a user interface or channels for users to download. The device simply enables the user to open their favorite streaming service app on their phone or play it on their computer and cast it to their TV. The device mirrors the user interface that is provided by the streaming service the user chooses to cast. 

Chromecast devices can be managed through the user’s Google Home app, which is available to download on the Apple Store and Google Play Store. They can personalize the content they cast through Chromecast by downloading various apps on their mobile device. Roku users can personalize the content they watch by downloading apps for their preferred streaming services through the Roku Channel Store.

Roku vs. Chromecast streaming quality

Streaming quality is an important consideration that will affect the type of device a user purchases. The standard Chromecast and Roku’s Express, Express+, and Streaming Stick provide streaming quality of up to 1080p high-definition (HD) video. While Chromecast Ultra and Roku’s Premiere, Premiere+, Streaming Stick+, and Ultra devices all enable users to enjoy 4K and high dynamic range (HDR) viewing.

Stepping up to 4K and HDR video quality means users will pay more for their streaming devices, while services like Netflix also charge viewers more to watch content in 4K. It is, therefore, important to consider whether paying extra is necessary. Users do not need to purchase a 4K streaming device if they do not have and do plan to buy a 4K ready TV.

Roku vs. Chromecast compatibility

All Roku and Chromecast devices connect into an HDMI port on the user’s TV, but they all do so in different ways. For example, Roku’s Streaming Stick and Streaming Stick+ and Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra all plug directly into the HDMI port. Whereas all other Roku devices require an HDMI cable to connect the box to the TV, and Roku Express also offers composite A/V ports.

Roku devices come with a remote control that enables users to select channels, download new services, and search for content. Its most basic devices come with a simple remote, while the more premium models also contain voice compatibility that allows users to search for content without having to lift a finger. The premium options also enable users to manage their TV power and volume controls, which removes the need for multiple remotes. 

Roku also provides an app for Android and iOS phones and tablets that enables users to control their streamer and switch between their Roku devices if they have more than one in their household.

The final cut

Roku and Google Chromecast are both great options for people looking to cut the cord on cable. The two companies both provide simple devices that make it easy for users to quickly start watching their favorite movies and TV shows and stream their music. However, they go about doing so in different ways.

Roku provides devices that come with an engaging user interface and a dedicated Roku Channel Store, housing more than 10,000 apps from popular streaming services. Whereas Chromecast enables users to easily cast the streaming service apps they have on their mobile device or watch on their Chrome browser onto their TV.

Both companies offer budget devices for the entry streamer and more expensive options that enable higher video quality and more advanced features. And this ensures Roku and Chromecast are excellent options for all streamers.

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