Google Chromecast has a number of advantages that the more expensive Apple TV doesn’t, but it’s got several plus points too.
Apple TV has been around for longer and consequently there’s many more apps and games available from iTunes and generally they’re of a higher quality.
We'll also indicate whether or not you’ll be able to watch 1988 Pierce Brosnan vehicle Taffin - an essential feature of any on demand TV library. If you don’t like it, then maybe you shouldn’t be living here.
Apple TV (3rd generation)
- Cost: £90
- Dimensions: 23 x 98 x 98 mm
- Apps Available: YouTube, Netflix, Vimeo, Flickr, Sky News, Sky Sports Now TV, Crunchyroll
- TV: Popular shows including 24, Geordie Shore, South Park, Peppa Pig and Ben 10 are all available to download to own.
- Movies: Recent titles including The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey next to family friendly titles like Despicable Me 2 and a selection of Japanese, Korean and Bollywood films.
- OS Support: iOS, OS X, Windows
- Taffin: Yes (£2.49 to rent from iTunes, £5.99 to buy)
The third iteration of Apple TV was released back in March 2012, with a selection of apps available from launch. Since then, new Apple TV apps have been few and far between, but the quality is high.
One of the great plus points of Apple TV is AirPlay mirroring. This means that most things you can get on your iPhone or iPad - like BBC iPlayer - can be streamed to your TV via Apple TV. This is a great workaround and mitigates the lack of apps on the platform. That said, rights issues mean that some services like Sky Go won’t work over AirPlay.
You can also access your iTunes content, so depending on how many albums and movies you’ve bought over the years, Apple TV could be the perfect living room media hub. If you haven’t bought a single song from iTunes or your investment in the Apple ecosystem is minimal, then this is much less of a big deal.
There are also high-end games like fantasy adventure Infinity Blade III, World War 2 flight sim Sky Gamblers and SketchParty - basically multiplayer Draw Something (remember that?) on your TV. As we argued at the time of Apple TV mark 3's launch, it's the app economy, stupid.
Right now the closest thing that Chromecast has in comparison is Tic Tac Toe. It reminds us of those dark times when Google Play was called Android Market and the best game you could get was Robo Defence.
- Cost: £30
- Dimensions: 72 x 35 x 12mm
- Apps Available: Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Google Play Movies, Chrome Beta, Red Bull TV
- TV: Episodes of hit shows including Sherlock, Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones.
- Movies: Recent arrivals include Gravity, Veronica Mars, Blue Is the Warmest Colour, Monsters University, Tangled and Turbo.
- OS Support: iOS, Android, OS X, Windows, Chromebook
- Taffin: Yes (£2.49 to rent from Google Play, £7.99 to buy)
In our own words, Google Chromecast is a ‘no-brainer big-screener’, an easy way for you to get content on your laptop, tablet or phone onto your big TV screen.
One you’ve set up the Chromecast device itself, all you’ll need to do is download the Chromecast apps for iOS or Android or a Chromecast browser extension for Chrome (available for Windows and Mac versions of Chrome).
Mobile apps such as Netflix which are Chromecast compatible will display a Chromecast window icon when you’re in front of your TV and connected to the same WiFi network. Tapping the icon lets you easily 'cast content to your TV.
If you’re browsing the web on your laptop using Chrome, you can choose to 'cast a single tab to the TV screen.
The genius of this, much like Apple TV’s Air Play mirroring, means that you can get things like BBC iPlayer, 4oD, ITV Player and Demand 5 on your TV screen without having to go through an app.
Fullscreen mirroring is being worked on at the moment, but the advantage of just slinging single tabs means that you’re able to multitask in a way which you wouldn’t be able to do if you were enabling a fullscreen mode.
Chromecast’s main advantage over Apple TV is that it offers you multiple ways to access your content on TV; you’re not locked in to just iTunes.
Services like Avia Media Player and RealPlayer Cloud will let you enjoy most files on your TV, although in our experience, Chromecast has trouble playing certain MKVs. We’ve also noticed that the audio from Silverlight-based services like Prime Instant Video don’t make the transition from small screen to big via Chromecast, so it’s not totally perfect.
It’s early days yet for Chromecast - it’s just one day old in the UK and it’s not even been out on the international market for a year.
As we said above, things are looking a bit Android Market now. In other words, there aren’t that many apps available and the few games that are available are lacklustre. Chromecast is a promising if immature platform - Apple TV by contrast is on its third iteration and has encouraged iOS game developers to take advantage of its dual-screen nature.
Apple TV vs Chromecast: Verdict
Chromecast is showing a lot of promise and while we’ve every confidence it’ll grow and develop it’s not there yet.
There are still things we’d like to see come to the platform, namely fixing the Silverlight/Prime Instant Video audio bug.
Sky has announced that Now TV support is in the pipeline but right now it’s green shoots territory for Chromecast in the UK.
Apple TV, by contrast, is a solid and established platform. It’s not without its drawbacks and we think your interest in shelling out for an Apple TV hinges on how much money you’ve spent on iTunes content.
If you’re an Apple convert and you’ve got a huge iTunes library then your mind is probably already made up. Customers less invested in the Apple walled garden with a collection of files obtained elsewhere may prefer the freedom of Chromecast. At £30 a throw, it’s less of a commitment than the £90 you can expect to fork out for Apple TV.