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What exactly is the difference between a Google Chromecast and a generic Android Mini PC stick? Although visually similar, Chromecast and Android sticks work quite differently.

The Chromecast is simply an enabler. It enables you to mirror your Chrome tab from your computer to your TV, or broadcast certain apps from your Android or iOS device to your TV. It’s supplementary to the devices you already own.

On the other hand, Android sticks are essentially Android phones without a screen or the cellular component. They run the full Android operating system, generally version 4.2, and can plug into any TV and accept input from devices like USB and Bluetooth mice and keyboards. These devices stand alone and don’t need the help of another computer or mobile device.

So which is right for you? Let’s take a look at some of their features to dissect exactly what they are, and then we’ll see what kind of user would benefit the most from each.

Google Chromecast

Announced back in July Google Takes On TV With The $35 Chromecast [Updates] Google Takes On TV With The $35 Chromecast [Updates] Media-lovers rejoice! Released on Wednesday, Google has developed a new way to bring great content from the Internet straight to your television: the Chromecast, an interesting little gadget that plugs straight into your television's HDMI... Read More , the Chromecast is a relatively cheap $35 device meant for streaming content from laptops, smartphones and tablets to a TV. It can be seen as a competitor to Apple TV or Roku set-top boxes (check out our review of the excellent Roku 3 Roku 3 Review and Giveaway Roku 3 Review and Giveaway As more content becomes available online, the need for a traditional television subscription may not be enough anymore to justify the costs. If you’re already subscribed to services like Netflix or Hulu Plus, now may... Read More ), but it is really in a league of its own.

Chromecast-Device

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There are many creative uses for the Chromecast 8 Creative Uses for Google's Chromecast 8 Creative Uses for Google's Chromecast We've come up with 8 unique uses for Google's Chromecast. Read on to find out just how you can make even more use of your Chromecast. Read More , but its main benefit is allowing you to stream content to your TV. On Android or iOS devices, Chromecast officially supports streaming from Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, HBO Go, Pandora, Google Play Movies and Music, and Google says that they’re constantly working on adding more compatible apps.

The Chrome browser on any laptop or desktop supports mirroring of the browser window to the Chromecast, and it has an experimental (and buggy) feature that allows you to mirror the entire screen.

Chromecast-Screen

The Chromecast itself is a discreet little black device that resembles a chubby USB stick. It plugs into the TV via the HDMI port but has to be powered either by a USB port on the TV or a nearby power outlet.

It connects to your devices as long as you’re both on the same WiFi network. One caveat, though: if your WiFi requires an in-browser login rather than regular WPA2 or WEP verification, like some hotels or universities, the Chromecast won’t be able to connect since it doesn’t have a built-in browser.

Regardless, at $35, the Chromecast offers a cheap way to wirelessly stream your content from your phone, tablet, or computer to your TV. We’ve reviewed the device in full Google Chromecast Review and Giveaway Google Chromecast Review and Giveaway We're giving away a Google Chromecast, so read through our review, then join the competition to win! Read More and quite liked it.

Android TV Sticks

These mysterious, relatively new devices, have had a lot of people wondering what they are and how they work What Is An Android Stick Computer, And How Can You Use It? What Is An Android Stick Computer, And How Can You Use It? Miniaturization has been a computing trend for decades, but it seems to have accelerated over the past five years. Even Intel’s NUC (Next Unit of Computing), a hockey-puck sized PC, looks large compared to ARM... Read More . Basically, they’re just all the internals of an Android device. They generally have a male HDMI port to plug into an HDTV as well as a port for power and a USB port for peripheral input devices. Some even have Bluetooth for connecting additional peripherals.

Cozyswan-Android-Mini-PC

Since Android apps often take advantage of accelerometers for tilting motions or swiping motions meant for touchscreens, navigating Android can be a bit tricky with a mouse and keyboard, but it is possible. The advantage here is that you get a full Android experience on your TV. Download any apps from the Google Play Store like Chrome, Netflix, Hulu Plus, or even games like Final Fantasy IV or FIFA 14. You can even connect different gaming controllers How To Connect a Game Controller to Android For Console-like Gameplay How To Connect a Game Controller to Android For Console-like Gameplay Let's face it, touch controls are terrible for many games. Have you ever tried playing a platformer game on a touchscreen? It's an exercise in frustration. The good news is that you can connect a... Read More for a better gaming experience. Send email, browse the web, and use the Android mini PC just like a standalone Android device.

The downside here is that there aren’t any major brands taking a stab at the Android stick market. You won’t be buying a Samsung or LG Android TV stick anytime soon. Rather, your options come from no-name brands like Rikomagic, iPazzPort, or FAVI. A lot of people are more comfortable buying a product from Google than a no-name brand.

Rikomagic-Device

Fortunately, these devices are generally powerful enough to handle most Android apps and to even play games pretty well. Many of them support 1080p output and have dual-core or quad-core processors with GPUs fast enough to handle 3D gaming.

Does this sound good to you? We’ve reviewed a couple of the most popular Android TV sticks Rikomagic MK802 IV and MK812A RK3188 Android Smart Mini PC Review and Giveaway Rikomagic MK802 IV and MK812A RK3188 Android Smart Mini PC Review and Giveaway A complete Android system for your TV - not a Chromecast, not an adapter for your phone – no additional hardware required. Android "TV sticks" are mini computers running Android. They have no screen, instead... Read More and even detailed how to use one to create a Roku-like streaming device Got A PC-on-a-Stick? You Can Turn It Into A Roku-like Media Streaming Device For Free! Got A PC-on-a-Stick? You Can Turn It Into A Roku-like Media Streaming Device For Free! Getting your stick computer streaming media requires very little effort and money nowadays. Considering that it provides an excellent replacement for a more expensive device, getting a stick PC can actually save you a fair... Read More .

Which Should You Buy?

The Chromecast and Android TV sticks, from the outside, appear quite similar, but they actually serve very different markets.

The Chromecast is for the average non-techy consumer. Plug it in, then stream via a simple button in the Chrome browser or supported apps. You’re done. It’s simple and pretty easy to use, if rather limited by the number of supported apps. It also requires you to have a phone, tablet, or laptop nearby at all times to be able to use it.

Android TV sticks are much more of a niche market for techy folks. They’re gradually becoming more and more mainstream, but they’re still mostly made from no-name brands and require a bit of set-up and technological knowledge for connecting peripherals and such. Still, they’re relatively cheap and an easy way to transform an old TV into a smart TV without needing to have a separate phone, tablet, or laptop nearby at all times.

Which do you prefer, the Chromecast or one of the many Android TV sticks? Let us know in the comments.

  1. Marek
    November 9, 2016 at 10:57 am

    Hi I have android pc stick and looking for app that will turn it to work like chromecast. Is it possible?

    • aa
      November 25, 2016 at 12:20 am

      CheapCast.

  2. Lissa
    February 15, 2016 at 4:14 am

    Hi. My son wants to play a game on his windows 10 laptop that is made for an android phone. Bluestacks won't work and I am a bit worried about creating a separate operating system for an android emulator.

    I am pretty sure the Chromecast won't work, but will one of those Android sticks make it work on a laptop rather than a TV?

  3. Tin Le
    December 30, 2015 at 3:20 pm

    I Have an android mini pc and connecting to TV and I want to share what I open on smartphone to TV. How can I do?

    • DEE
      December 1, 2016 at 4:17 am

      Use the Miracast if it has it.

  4. Lee P.
    February 24, 2014 at 3:58 am

    Yeah I've been using my Galaxy SII Skyrocket with MHL and a PS3 controller to navigate the system. I can set up the mouse pointer to work with the control sticks and its surprisingly efficient. I even have a special UI made on Nova Launcher made specifically for the TV.

    I can watch anything I need on Netflix, Crackle and YouTube. There's Pandora, GPlay Music, uTorrent, Chrome, ANY old videogame via RetroArch, hell I even have a Virtual Fireplace app and an Audio Visual LWP.
    I can even use it as a Chromecast with my Nexus 5 by downloading the Cheapcast app. The possibilities are endless.

    All in all I would rather have this personalized setup over a Chromecast or even a real Samsung Smart TV. I can definitely see me getting a nice QuadCore Android set top box like the one above some day after my GS2S dies.

    • Dave
      November 4, 2016 at 2:13 am

      I realize this is old, but if you read this would you mind sharing what apps you used to accomplish this? I'm wanting to do the same with a GS4.

  5. Donnie
    February 13, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    Will they work with a projector? I have a ViewSonic PJD5133 SVGA DLP Projector - HDMI, 2700 Lumens, 3000:1 DCR, 120Hz/3D Ready, Speaker

  6. tyler
    February 12, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    http://www.littlesmartbox.com sells these to the uk, all the apps and everything including xbmc. I was pretty impressed when I ordered one.

  7. Jash Sayani
    December 30, 2013 at 2:01 am

    Chromecast makes more sense as Google supports it and more compatible apps will be developed for it.

  8. U.N. Owen
    December 29, 2013 at 1:21 am

    How about you DON'T BUY anything?

    The SIMPLEST - FREE (that's for me!) way to sling WHATEVER your heart desires to your TV, is use TWONKY.

    There's an iOS app, there's a OSX application, and I'm pretty sure they've the Android side covered as well.

    There's one catch; you must use a Roku (I don't know what other devices it works with, but, check their website).

    The TERRIFIC thing about Roku (or ANY OTHER media streamer) is...(drumroll, please)... NO MORE OUTRAGEOUS cable bills.

    I'm not a Roku employee, but, I was paying over $200 for basic cabl (NO movie channels), HD ('natch), and Wifi.

    My 'demon' was Time Warner.

    I got rid of them when I moved last November, and, we have cable reps in my bldg's lobby every once in a while, and when they smile that plastic smile at me, and ask 'who's your cable provider,' I'm THRILLED to LAUGH in their faces, and tell 'them 'NO ONE' - and I WATCH EVERY SINGLE THING I WANT, and DON'T pay for crap (BTW: I only found out recently, do you know one BIG reason cable bills are so high? Thanks the sports teams,etc. WHY? Because of the HUGE aount of moolah THEY want from cable operators, they spread THAT cost around - EVENLY - to EVERY one - regardless of whether you even WANT, WATCH, or CARE about sports. I don't, and no way I'm paying for that BS).

    So, yeah - the Chromecast's a nice way to SPEND more money.

    I ALWAYS try to do it the BEST way for the LEAST amount, and 'free' is THE best, right?

    I'm watching something right now from You Tube

  9. Scout D
    December 28, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    Of course you could buy one of these new sticks, but of course they only work with certain applications and you have to set up the whole device in order for it to actually work. If you use an HDMI cable and hook it up to both your TV and your computer it works just the same, can stream literally anything from your computer to your television, and you can take it anywhere and it will work flawlessly. Just because something is new doesn't mean that it's better, and I continue to support the reliable cables that we have today.

  10. Daniel
    December 27, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    There is an application called Cheapcast, which you can install to any android device and emulate a chromecast. It's in beta, lags a lot, crashes a lot, but is still in development. Also, I can almost stream anything via UPnP and DLNA, so I'd stick with an android stick instead of the chromecast.

  11. Brian R
    December 27, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    thanks

  12. Brian
    December 27, 2013 at 11:14 am

    Does chrome cast work outside the US???

    • Jeff Schallenberg
      December 27, 2013 at 12:55 pm

      Yes, @Brian, Chromecast works here in Canada, except for some apps like Hulu that are for US-only services.

    • Jeff Schallenberg
      December 27, 2013 at 1:10 pm

      I have a Chromecast, a dual-core Android TV stick, and a quad-core Android TV BOX. The box has several advantages besides raw speed.

      The sticks run hot, and they have tiny WiFi antennas that are usually located behind the TV, which tends to block the radio signal and limit the air circulation.

      The box has an external rubber-ducky antenna, has a big heat-sink, and sits in the open air on a shelf.

      With a gyro mouse from Mélé or Ipazzport, the Android sticks and boxes run rings around the Chromecast.

      Come and discuss with us here:

      https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/103510820500984874818

  13. Flink
    December 27, 2013 at 10:39 am

    A Tronsmart MK908 is 20 times better product than a Google Chromecast. And it will let you do whatever you want to do, not just a couple of things.

  14. Baka no Kami
    December 27, 2013 at 6:55 am

    If you want both video and games, get an android stick.
    If you don't have a good wifi signal (or the video has to be local), get an Rpi with XBMC.
    Otherwise, get a Chromecast.

    I have all three, and whether or not they work well depends on the job you set them up for. Pretty much all my video is in Plex which is now accessible through the Chromecast. The cast is less than 5 feet from my router so I don't have a problem with signal. I sometimes set up a projector in the backyard, but I don't get a good signal out there. The cheapest solution was a USB ethernet adapter and a long cable for the android stick.
    In theory I should be able to travel with the chromecast and still stream to it from my Plex server at home but it's hit or miss. I usually take an Rpi with a 1TB drive instead.

    • ham
      January 1, 2014 at 4:04 am

      or you could get wifi extender..that would help...but thats just me..unless its huge yard..

  15. Chris B
    December 27, 2013 at 5:46 am

    I got a Favi SmartStick a few months ago on 1SaleaDay, and I really like it - it turned our old TV into a SmartTV just like that. I buzzed over to Staples and got a Microsoft wireless keyboard and mouse that were on sale for $19.95 with a tiny USB dongle and for $65, we have basically got a 39" HD tablet, with basically anything the Play Store has to offer, from weather apps to web browsers.

  16. Phil E.
    December 27, 2013 at 4:57 am

    I have both, and I hardly ever use the android stick. It's an older version of what you can get now, so maybe they've improved, but the wifi reception on mine is pretty weak. I bought a little mini keyboard that works pretty well (about $30). It's fun to play with, but as for its usefulness, there's not much I can do with it that I can't use my android phone for. I use the Chromecast quite a bit.

    • Matt Van Gogh
      December 27, 2013 at 9:21 pm

      i was going to buy the midnight mx2 but it was so big i didnt feel like carrying it
      the reason why i have the android mini pc is becuase its so small. and i mainly use this to travel - which we do alot and when we goto hotsl. i want to be able to use netflix and browse the web without bringing a laptop.. its a Tronsmart CX-919 quad core 2gb ram 8gb internal/ with microsd card slot
      ths thing easily fits into your pocket and cheaper.

  17. Matt Van Gogh
    December 27, 2013 at 4:36 am

    I bought my android mini pc several months ago. I love it .You can connect any USB wired or wireless keyboard or mouse, includng a motion controller or gamepad.

    From what i heard about google chromecast, it has very little functionality the only good thing about it is the price. but you can get a mini android pc for less than 70. I did and i never looked back. The only drawback is theres no touch screen or accelerometer like a android tablet/phone, so certain games may not play well, but alot of games work great..

    • Shomari
      December 27, 2013 at 12:05 pm

      I have a first generation Imito MX1 that works phenomenally and beats the pants off a Chromecast as far as performance and functionality go.

    • Anonymous
      December 20, 2014 at 8:17 pm

      Matt,

      Some Rockchip Android Boxes live the Mnix x7 mentioned above have the touch screen or accelerometer capabilities you are looking for using an application through your phone.

  18. Jo-anne P
    December 27, 2013 at 4:05 am

    I would go with the android but I like new toys, in the end probably both since chromecast is only 35$

  19. Matt
    December 27, 2013 at 3:45 am

    RPi is still working fine for me (and that's linux) :D

  20. Sh
    December 27, 2013 at 3:41 am

    I have a Chromecast and love it. The Netflix android app is a bit clunky, but that's not the fault of the Chromecast. For some bizarre reason I cannot use Google Play on my Motorola Droid to stream to the Chromecast and I wish that Amazon would release an app that works with the Chromecast, then I could play my Amazon prime videos on the TV, without needing to plug a device into the TV (I use FF, not Chrome as my browser).

    • Jello
      December 28, 2013 at 5:13 am

      ...there's your problem.

    • RyanTheBruce
      January 20, 2014 at 9:05 am

      Well you should start using Chrome, at least use it concurrently with FF. Google Chrome has the capability to cast an entire Web page to your Chromecast by Casting the tab. Just use Chrome to open up the amazon prime Web page and press the cast button.

  21. Dalsan M
    December 27, 2013 at 1:17 am

    I recently purchased a couple Favi sticks, and they work nicely for what they are. I'll wind up using my older LG G2X with HDMI out and a Bluetooth keyboard, maybe a Bluetooth game controller, in place of one of the Favi's since the phone is more powerful, has Bluetooth capabilities built in, and has no problems with installing most apps. Having mild gaming and internet capability on a big screen would be great, and makes great use of an otherwise unused device.

    If anyone has a phone or tablet that can connect to a TV and external keyboards and mice should try it out before committing to these specific devices; why buy something that may not fit one's needs if one can test an android phone in a similar fashion.

    Find out if your phone/tablet has a micro-HDMI out or MHL capabilities, get the right cables and hardware, and make use of Ryde devices you may already have. You would already be used to the functionality and interface, though not using a touch screen takes time to get used to, and some apps just won't work properly without full touchscreen capabilities, but for a better than smart tv experience, Android sticks and services connected to the tv offers a great works of experience.

  22. Davin Peterson
    December 27, 2013 at 12:58 am

    Just like I wouldn't be comfortable buying a no-name brand Android tablet, I wouldn't buy a no-named brand Android TV stick. I would rather buy the Google brand

    • Achraf A
      December 27, 2013 at 5:59 pm

      I believe those no-name brands are doing great work in those Android TV devices, notably better than in their Smartphone or Tablet products, I think that's because they feel that for the first time they've invented something themselves and people actually use and love their invention.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox
      January 3, 2014 at 12:47 am

      The Google Chromecast is far inferior to the Android sticks and mini-devices. The Neo Minix X7 is one of the best and kicks seven shades or Brendan Shine outta the Chromecast.

      The Minix X7 hardware specs are: Quad-Core ARM Cortex-A9 processor with Quad-Core Mali-400 GPU, and the OS is the latest Android 4.2.2. Put XBMC on it and you have the cheapest wireless internet mini-computer connected to your TV on the market.

      Connectivity: 3 USB ports, 1 OTG port, headphone and microphone jack, optical audio, and Ethernet port. Dual-Band Wi-Fi external antenna that works on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz. It also supports Wi-Fi Display and AirPin PRO, enabling you to share media content, such as videos, music, photos, between your smartphone, tablet or laptop and your TV.

      The also have the A2 wireless remote air mouse in case you don't have a smartphone or prefer physical remote with keyboard.

  23. James Kasper
    December 27, 2013 at 12:24 am

    First!

    ok jk but I go with the Android (I would guess the chromecast is technically android hmmmm) but it would be cool if the community would generalize these and make them more user friendly to lesser techy people.

    It is all marketing. If they know how to use it or make it turnkey then more will buy. Check the mk808 btw little newer chips etc.

    • Achraf A
      December 27, 2013 at 5:56 pm

      Chromecast does not use Android instead it uses a custom firmware developed by Google for this specific device.

    • lois fuller birk
      December 27, 2013 at 10:19 pm

      ChromeCast does not work with NetFlix. Bummer. I had hoped to watch movies streaming from my laptop. Seems that Silverlight/etc. do not allow it.

      • Ross
        October 12, 2016 at 1:35 pm

        Yes it does!

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