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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.

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