Android TV vs. Google Chromecast: Which Is Better?
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YouTube Music and Google Play Music. Allo and Hangouts. Google Plus and Orkut. Google loves to duplicate its apps and services. The situation is no different for cord cutters and streamers: one company, two completely different solutions.

So, if you’re wondering whether you should buy a Google Chromecast or an Android TV device, keep reading. In this article we pitch the Google Chromecast vs. Android TV to help you determine which one you should buy.

What Is Android TV?

Android TV is the television version of the smartphone operating system. It launched in mid-2014, 12 months later than the Chromecast.

Like the smartphone OS, there’s not a single version of the Android TV platform. Lots of manufacturers have added their own customizations, and there are dozens of Android TV dongles and set-top boxes on the market.

Android TV also powers some smart TVs from manufacturers such as Hisense, Asus, Sharp, and Sony. Google does not produce any in-house Android TV equipment.

Android TV vs. Google Chromecast: Cost

android tv aliexpress

The cost of Chromecast dongles is easy to quantify. The entry-level model costs $35 and the Chromecast Ultra (which supports 4K video) will set you back $69.

Which it comes to Android TV, the situation is considerably more complicated. Because there’s not a single Android TV model, prices can vary wildly.

Fair warning—there are a lot of cheap Android TV boxes flooding the market. Some no-brand Chinese devices can be found for less than $20 on sites like AliExpress. Give them a wide berth.

However, some cheap Android TV boxes are worth recommending. They include the Xiaomi Mi (around $50), the MXQ Android Box ($35), and even a DIY Raspberry Pi solution.

At the other end of the scale, the best-in-class is still the Nvidia Shield. You can buy the 16GB model for $180 and the 500GB version for $300. Confusingly, both Nvidia Shield models come with Chromecast built-in.

Read our list of the best Android TV boxes The Best Android TV Box for All Budgets The Best Android TV Box for All Budgets Looking for the best Android TV Box on the planet? We rounded up the top Android TV boxes around for budget, mid-range, and high-end needs! Read More for more details.

Android TV vs. Google Chromecast: Interface

android tv interface

If you’re the type of person who likes to immerse yourself in an operating system, a Chromecast dongle might not be right for you.

Chromecasts do not have a user interface. Instead, you cast content from your phone, tablet, or computer (via Chrome).

Some apps are Chromecast-enabled; they have a dedicated Cast button which will replicate their visual and audio output on your TV screen. Alternatively, you can mirror your device’s entire screen, but that requires your phone’s screen to remain on, thus chewing through the battery.

Android TV devices have a dedicated user interface that you can control using a remote or a smartphone app. Rather than installing apps on your computer or mobile, you install standalone apps directly on the Android TV device.

Android TV vs. Google Chromecast: Apps

Most of the big players (think Netflix, Spotify, Hulu, etc.) have apps available for the Android TV platform and also make their smartphone apps Chromecast-enabled.

The notable exception is Amazon Prime Video. There’s an Android TV app available, but you cannot easily cast the video to a Chromecast.

There are a few workarounds which let you watch Amazon Prime Video on a Chromecast How to Watch Amazon Prime Video on Your TV With Chromecast How to Watch Amazon Prime Video on Your TV With Chromecast As you may have discovered, Amazon Prime Video doesn't work on Chromecast. However, there are a couple of ways around this. Read More , but they are not ideal.

Android TV vs. Google Chromecast: Sideloading

Android TV boxes have access to a special version of the Google Play Store. Unfortunately, the selection of apps available is nowhere near as diverse as in the regular smartphone version of the store.

Thankfully, you can negate the issue by sideloading apps on Android TV 3 Easy Ways to Access Sideloaded Apps on Android TV 3 Easy Ways to Access Sideloaded Apps on Android TV If you have sideloaded apps on your Android TV, you need a good way to access them. Read More . If you can get hold of an app’s APK file (check sites like APKPure and APKMirror to see if you can find it), you can install any Android app on the operating system, and it will work.

The biggest drawback to sideloading apps is navigation. Because the apps have not been altered for the Android TV platform, your device’s remote might not work. If your Android TV box has a USB port, you can plug in a mouse. If it doesn’t, you can try pairing your box with a Bluetooth-enabled gaming controller.

Android TV vs. Google Chromecast: Games

If you’re a gamer, Android TV devices are the clear winner. Just make sure you don’t try to save a few bucks by buying an underpowered box.

If you want to use a Chromecast for gaming, you’ll still need to use your mobile device for the controls. That awkwardness, paired with the occasional lag you’ll encounter between your phone and your TV, makes it unsuitable for any fast-paced game. However, more sedate games, like Solitaire or quizzes, will be fine.

In contrast, many Android TV devices can be paired with gaming controllers. If you buy a high-spec box—such as the previously-mentioned Nvidia Shield—you might even find that a gaming controller comes included in the box.

The Android TV version of the Google Play Store hosts a wide variety of popular games, including Grand Theft Auto, Asphalt 8: Airborne, and Badland.

Android TV vs. Google Chromecast: Longevity

chromecast and google home

It’s fair to question whether Chromecasts have a long-term future in Google’s product line-up.

Yes, they were revolutionary back in 2013 when they brought on-demand internet video streaming to the masses for the first time, but they increasingly look like a technology from yesteryear.

All the Chromecast’s competitors—Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV, and Roku—offer a more holistic service for cord cutters. And as we’ve seen from the Nvidia Shield, it’s perfectly possible to bolt Chromecast’s screen mirroring features onto the Android TV OS for on-the-fly casting. The devices from Roku, Apple, and Amazon also all offer their own version of screen mirroring.

We’re not sure what’s preventing Google simply putting the Android TV operating system into a Chromecast-sized dongle and offering it at a similar price point. It’s likely to happen at some point.

Android TV and Kodi Boxes

You’ve probably heard of Kodi boxes. They are set-top devices that automatically launch Kodi upon boot, allowing you to easily access all your content. In simple terms, they turn Kodi into a smart TV operating system.

Although it’s not strictly essential (you could use a Raspberry Pi), almost all Kodi boxes run on Android TV. It’s also the operating system of choice for all those illegal (and they ARE illegal) “fully loaded” Kodi boxes you see popping up on eBay.

We’ve rounded up some of the best Kodi boxes What Are Kodi Boxes and Is It Legal to Own One? What Are Kodi Boxes and Is It Legal to Own One? In this article, not only do we explain what Kodi boxes are, but also offer you a definitive answer on their legality. Read More on the market if you would like to learn more.

Google Assistant and Your Smart Home

Chromecasts are not smart devices. You cannot use them to control third-party smart home products around your home. You will need to use your phone’s Google Home app, which is a bit of an effort when you just want to turn off a light.

In contrast, an increasing number of mid-range and top-end Android TV devices now come with Google Assistant built in. As we know, the smart assistant offers an array of smart home integrations, entertainment options, and productivity tools. If you enjoy the benefits of voice control, an Android TV box is the way to go.

What About the Amazon Fire TV?

Don’t forget that Amazon Fire TV devices run their own customized version of Android TV. Sure, it’s unrecognizable from the vanilla operating system, but it still qualifies.

If you want more information, we’ve previously explained what Amazon Fire TV is and how it works What Is the Amazon Fire TV Stick and How Does It Work? What Is the Amazon Fire TV Stick and How Does It Work? In this article, we take a closer look at the Amazon Fire TV Stick to explain what it is and how it works. Read More .

Android TV vs. Google Chromecast: The Winner Is…

Everything else being equal, the clear winner is Android TV. It has more features, it’s just as easy to use, its future looks more certain, and it’s more flexible. But don’t write off the Chromecast completely.

If you want a highly portable device that’ll work in hotels, for business presentations, and at other people’s houses, they are the best option on the market. They’re also a cost-effective choice for secondary TVs in your home such as in bedrooms and kitchens.

Of course, you could also consider a Roku device. And if you need to know how the Roku stacks up against the Chromecast we have previously written a comparison of Chromecast and Roku Chromecast vs. Roku: Which One Is Best for You? Chromecast vs. Roku: Which One Is Best for You? There are many streaming media devices to choose between. In this article, we compare the heaviest hitters: Chromecast vs Roku. Read More .

Explore more about: Android TV, Buying Tips, Chromecast, Google, Media Streaming.

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  1. Slartibartfast
    January 7, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    You fail to mention that there is a difference between an "Android TV" box and an Android powered box running Kodi. The former is running a distinct OS which is not 100% compatible with the Android which runs on phones and tablets so that not only do you not get access to Google Play, but many apps meant for the full version of Android won't run properly even though they can be manually sideloaded. The latter boxes though are actually just standard Android hardware running the full version of Android. These typically DO have Google Play and will run anything you can normally run on a phone or tablet. They get their multimedia capabilities from Kodi and other Android streaming apps, such as NetFlix (usually won't run over 720p due to lack of DRM certs) and Amazon Prime Video. All the low-end and most mid-range TV boxes don't run Android TV, but instead are really just Android tablets without a screen. Although this type of box won't run NetFlix and Prime at full HD resolution, I actually prefer them over real Android TV boxes because I have full HD versions of NetFlix and Prime on my BluRay player, and I can run anything I want, including games and utilities, on my streaming boxes. They also allow me to change the home screen launcher, making it much easier to customize the box to my liking.

  2. Badle
    January 5, 2019 at 5:17 am

    Google had its own Android TV box, the Nexus Player... But they killed it off.

    • Matt
      January 6, 2019 at 3:19 pm

      I may be in the minority, but I hate being forced to use bad hardware and a sluggish UI. One can purchase a non-smart TV for hundreds if not thousands less than the same brand with their smart software installed and get a Chromecast for $35. Then the only UI you have to worry about is the one your streaming service has built for their own app on Android or iOS and the one that is updated directly from Google. That means you are saving a ton of money and still getting the latest updated build of your UI.

      Not to nitpick, but, how much harder is it to find a Google home mini if you don't want to use the assistant on your phone to control your Chromecast? "You will need to use your phone’s Google Home app, which is a bit of an effort when you just want to turn off a light." Or... Just talk to the Google assistant on your phone like you would when you buy that Android TV.

      Also, can you add Android TV to speaker groups yet in Google Home to use your TV sound system as part of your house-filled music? Nope.

      Plus many Android TV's don't have the cast ability. That means Google presentations, phone and computer screen sharing, Google photos, collaborative YouTube watching... The list goes on as to what you lose without the cast ability.

      Less expensive and more versatile and hardware straight from the source. The only drawback is games (and I haven't met anyone yet complaining that they can't play their Android games on their TV).

      Chromecast is the clear winner.

      I think your article is fine when tailored directly to those looking for streaming content devices, but Android TV is lost in the crowd without Chromecast besides its one trick (it can do Android games). Everything else requires the Chromecast technology and you can get that hardware straight from Google for $35.