Thinking of Buying a Chromecast? Buy a Stick PC Instead

Mihir Patkar 08-07-2016

In the middle of 2016, we can firmly say that you should not buy a smart TV 4 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Buy a Smart TV What is a smart TV and should you buy one? Here's a detailed look at the biggest drawbacks of modern smart TVs. Read More . No matter which TV you have, you will need an external device with it that adds the smarts. For most people, the first choice is Google’s Chromecast, a much-loved device costing just $35. But maybe, just maybe, it’s not right for you…


The Chromecast is a fantastic device 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 , there is no doubt about that. But if you thought it would turn your TV into a full-fledged smart TV, you’re mistaken. In fact, even as just a media device for your television, it has major limitations that you should know about. That $35 price tag, though, is hard to resist.


Intel launched the Compute Stick for $149 Intel Compute Stick Turns Any TV Into A Windows PC For Just $149 Read More in January 2015. Granted, there’s a big difference between $35 and $149, but then Intel updated the Compute Stick in 2016. As a result the original first-gen Compute Stick is now available for $69 on Amazon. And that changes the game.

Intel 1st Generation Compute Stick with Intel Atom Processor and Linux (BOXSTCK1A8LFC) Intel 1st Generation Compute Stick with Intel Atom Processor and Linux (BOXSTCK1A8LFC) Buy Now On Amazon

Just like that, the limitations of the Chromecast, compared to a full-fledged stick PC, become more prominent. We know that media streamers, media players, and HTPCs have different uses Media Streamer, Media Player or HTPC: Which One Is For You? Read More .


What’s right for you might not be right for your grandpa who just wants to watch YouTube videos of his favorite shows on TV. But for true geeks, the Chromecast has a few problems which could make a stick PC a better option.

Limited Apps, Limited Support

The Chromecast is limited by which apps support it. No, you can’t just run any video app on your phone or laptop and expect to see it played on your big-screen TV.


Take Amazon Video, for example. It has some great shows that make Amazon Prime worth the subscription 10+ TV Shows That Make Amazon Prime Worth the Money Netflix is undoubtedly the king of the movie and TV show streaming services. However, Amazon Prime has some fantastic television shows that make it worth the asking price. Read More , but the app doesn’t support Chromecast. And just like that, you can’t get Amazon Prime on your TV.


Similarly, let’s say you were to download the Star Wars digital movie collection on iTunes. Unfortunately, you can’t cast an iTunes movie to Chromecast. To do that, you’ll first need to remove its DRM through M4VGear Remove DRM From iTunes Videos Quickly And Easily With M4VGear M4VGear simply takes DRM videos downloaded from iTunes and makes them DRM-free Read More , and then cast local media from your Mac to Chromecast How to Cast Local Media From Your Mac to Chromecast Here's all you need to know on how to stream to Chromecast from your Mac, whether you're casting videos, music, or photos. Read More . It’s a long process, and not the simple “just play it” experience your grandpa is looking for.


Sure, there is the workaround process of casting your entire screen to the TV, but that’s fraught with problems too, from audio-video sync issues to not being able to use your phone for anything else.

Unless the apps you want are on Chromecast, it’s basically useless. Here’s a full list of Cast-supported apps. Because the disappointment of finding that out on the day you want to watch the big game on the big screen? Immeasurable.


Active Internet Connection Needed

When you are using the Chromecast, your WiFi router needs to have an active internet connection. Yes, even if you are casting a video from your phone to your Chromecast, and it’s all local content, the internet connection needs to be active.

It’s a crazy requirement, since it makes the Chromecast useless without an active WiFi connection. If my internet connection isn’t working for whatever reason, that shouldn’t stop my local files from being detected and played, but for some reason, that’s the limitation Chromecast imposes.


Reddit has discovered a possible workaround where you set up a mobile hotspot on your phone, pair it with your Chromecast, star the video, and then turn off mobile data. But that’s ridiculous.


That would mean not getting any email updates, social media notifications, or messages from friends as long as I’m watching the video. Without an active WiFi connection available, the phone’s mobile data is my gateway to the internet, so disabling that to watch a video is idiotic.

The bottom line is that the Chromecast is useless without an active internet connection. You’re better off trying to fix your wireless internet connection How to Fix Your Wireless Internet Connection in Windows Are you struggling to get a strong and stable wireless Internet connection? It could be the hardware or Windows itself causing the problem. Here are some troubleshooting tips. Read More than try anything with your Chromecast.

Doesn’t Support VPN or Proxies

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) protect you by masking your identity online. They’re also a brilliant way to watch everything on Netflix no matter where you live How to Watch Everything on Netflix in Any Country Internationally Changing your Netflix region to watch Netflix internationally or when you're in another country is possible. We show you how. Read More . Unfortunately, you can’t do that with a Chromecast.

If you are using a VPN, the Chromecast won’t support it. The only way to do it is if you use a router-level VPN and not a device-level VPN, which is a complex procedure. Just check this long and complicated article on how difficult it is to use Chromecast with a VPN.

Plus, VPNs are more common than you think. Several offices use VPNs as a privacy and security measure. In fact, you should be using a VPN in many instances that you aren’t 8 Instances You Weren't Using a VPN but Should've Been: The VPN Checklist If you haven't already considered subscribing to a VPN to secure your privacy, now is the time. Read More , like when you are downloading a torrent. And even though Netflix has cracked down on proxies, there are VPNs that still work with Netflix Which VPNs Still Work With Netflix? Netflix is cracking down on VPNs, but there are a few that still work. Here are the best VPNs to use with Netflix. Read More .

No Browser, No Flash

The Chromecast’s biggest undoing is its lack of a simple web browser. It is so heavily dependent on apps that you can’t just fire up Chrome and go to a website. It is a media streamer, yes, but it chooses which media you can stream by restricting your options on the open internet.


And even now, you will come across certain streams that are available only on Flash-based sites. Yup, Flash needs to die Why Flash Needs to Die (And How You Can Get Rid of It) The Internet's relationship with Flash has been rocky for a while. Once, it was a universal standard on the web. Now, it looks like it may be headed to the chopping block. What changed? Read More , but it’s not going away any time soon. That’s mainly because high-res HTML5 streams for events like live sports require powerful hardware. This is why live sports in web browsers often use Flash, which is lighter on resources.

An illustrative example of this is how the BBC iPlayer, available for Chromecast, cannot cast live sports. But you can watch them through a browser on a computer that supports Flash; but not with HTML5.

No Bluetooth Audio

It’s one of the most perplexing things about the Chromecast. Here’s a smart device, built for the 21st century, intended to be used for media streaming; and yet, it does not support Bluetooth audio. No, you can’t just cast your video to your TV and put on a pair of your favorite Bluetooth headphones Buying Wireless Headphones? 6 Things You Need to Know Planning on buying wireless headphones? Here's what you need to know about price, form, technical specs, and more. Read More for the audio. The audio is compulsorily on your TV too.

So even if you want to watch your shows without disturbing others in the house, you can’t use a simple pair of wireless headphones. It has become such a joke that a Netflix engineer quickly put together the “Quiet Cast” demo above, which topped our list of Netflix hacks you’ll wish were real 10 Netflix Hacks You'll Wish Were Real Once in a while, Netflix gives its developers a break to work on passion projects. It's called the Netflix Hack Day, and it leads to some pretty cool innovations! Here are our favorites. Read More .

Why a Stick PC Is Better

Apart from the famous Intel Compute Stick (UK), there are lots of other stick PCs. The RKM MK802IV LE is one of the cheapest Linux computers you can buy, and the Quantum Access Mini PC [UK] (read our review Quantum Access Mini PC Stick Review and Giveaway A full Windows experience in a tiny, affordable package. It rivals the Intel Compute stick, yet it's $20 cheaper. Is this the mini PC you've been waiting for? (Answer: Probably) Read More ) is a cheaper version of Intel’s stick.

The bottom line is that while these may look like the Chromecast, they are proper PCs with a desktop operating system (OS) like Windows or Linux. Most of them support Windows 10, in fact, and that alleviates all the above problems.

One quick note, before we finish. These stick PCs need a keyboard and a mouse, which seems like a lot of trouble compared to Chromecast’s “phone-only” utility. Well, don’t worry. Intel has released the Intel Remote Keyboard to turn your Android phone or tablet into a keyboard+mouse How to Turn Your Android Phone or Tablet Into a Mouse and Keyboard for Windows Imagine you could control your Windows PC with your Android? Intel Remote Keyboard turns your phone into a mouse and keyboard for your Intel PC. We show you how it works. Read More , and there are similar apps for iOS devices and Linux too.

Your Vote: Chromecast vs. Stick PC

I should point out that I came to this conclusion after being a happy Chromecast user for a long time. There was always something or the other which I couldn’t watch on my Chromecast, and that was a frustrating experience.

Today, I have both a stick PC and a Chromecast connected to my TV, and I couldn’t be happier. But with a gun to my head, if you told me there was only one device I could have, I would pick the stick PC.

What about you? Which would you buy between a Chromecast and a stick PC—or heck, a proper HTPC—to make your TV into a true smart TV? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Related topics: Buying Tips, Chromecast, Media Player, Mini PC.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Larry W Virden
    February 4, 2018 at 11:37 pm

    2 year old article on a product not available.

    All your writers watching the super bowl?

  2. Andy Christian Loyola
    July 27, 2017 at 9:02 am

    Sold mine months ago and went with roku and raspi :)

  3. Chris
    June 10, 2017 at 2:47 pm

    PC Stick is better than Chromecast … if you choose all the features the Chromecast does not have, indeed.
    If you want to make coffee, PC Stick does not fit too.

  4. Jan
    June 7, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    Or, you could just buy a Roku that does all your"can'ts"

  5. Anonymous
    July 20, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    None of them. Android TV box for the win :D

  6. Anonymous
    July 12, 2016 at 10:21 pm

    "Ooops! :(

    Failed to find video url"

    Been happening a LOT with embedded YouTube videos lately...

  7. JD
    July 9, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    Wow, I could comment on nearly every paragraph. Your goal seems to be to SELL everyone on a Stick and NOT to HELP the less technical and less informed individual make the BEST decision with their hard earned and "limited" money. Sad really because everyone really should consider their needs and the "actual differences" in order to make the BEST choice themselves. This article however will no doubt miss-guide the less informed. I suggest that folks READ several other articles on this Topic before parting with their hard earned money :)

  8. JD
    July 9, 2016 at 12:43 pm

    Complete rubbish! PLEASE do your HOMEWORK next time! - "Take Amazon Video, for example. It has some great shows that make Amazon Prime worth the subscription, but the app doesn’t support Chromecast. And just like that, you can’t get Amazon Prime on your TV."

  9. Frank
    July 9, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    Chrome cast 2 gen is cheap and tops.???

  10. LazyBones
    July 9, 2016 at 4:48 am

    When it's time to veg out in front of the TV, last thing I want to do is use a keyboard and mouse and Windows. Sounds awful.

  11. efighter16
    July 9, 2016 at 1:48 am

    Does the PC stick pass through surround sound audio formats?

  12. Jdub
    July 9, 2016 at 12:00 am

    Also mirroring an entire Android screen to Chromecast fixes just about all these "problems" . N00B.

  13. m-p{3}
    July 8, 2016 at 4:35 pm

    Or you could go in between and go with a Chromebit.

  14. Todd
    July 8, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    A PC stick? Really. Windows10... sounds like utter crap. Not many people care to use their TV to browse the web or use it like a computer. They use their phones or a tablet to browse. Not at all thrilled about the PC stick at all. It will fail or at least be a very small niche market for die hard windows fans.

    Nothing is perfect but a PC stick is def not appealing, especially for your grandpa. As if the chromecadt was a bad idea for him. Get real.

  15. bewarethequemens
    July 8, 2016 at 3:07 pm

    Most of the issues brought up in this article can be solved by simply casting the tab or casting the whole desktop, which works fine with a decent computer and wireless connection.

  16. John
    July 8, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    I choose neither ..
    I choose a fire stick with a side load of kodi

    It all comes down to control, who wants to lay in bed and fiddle around with a mouse and keyboard app on there phone just to watch media or surf the web...

    Kodi let's me do all that and with a remote.
    Me thinks someone might of been paid off for this article by Intel..

  17. Pfk
    July 8, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    The $69 first gen model runs Linux and has half the memory and storage as its Windows based counterpart.

  18. 208s
    July 8, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    Chromecast is simple and does it's job very well. Why overcomplicate the process if all I'm looking to do is cast Netflix, Plex, Pandora to the TVs or audio receivers in my home?

  19. sfmitch
    July 8, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    I am very happy with using a Roku and an Apple TV. I own a Chromecast but find it pails in comparison and don't use it.

    • Dick Space
      July 9, 2016 at 4:57 pm

      Thanks, macfan#218085. Your auto-response is greatly appreciated.

  20. Jonas
    July 8, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    Personally I just did what you recommend not to do.

    I bougth a "smart-tv". The TV has Chromecast built-in and runs Android TV.

    After installing Kodi (or, more precisely, SPMC) and the Plex client, I see no need for an external device.
    Netflix for Android TV (which was pre-installed and works fine) is the only streaming service I use, so I don't know how other streaming services work on it.

    Previously I used an external Android box, which was cheaper than a tiny PC and ran Kodi and Plex client quite well (but was quite frustrating with many apps since it used ordinary Android and not Android TV).

    • Stu
      October 23, 2016 at 11:45 am

      I don't need any of that I can just cast to my TV directly from my PC, just right click on the file, select cast to and away you go