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New Chromecast (2015) vs new Apple TV vs 4K Amazon Fire TV Box vs new Now TV Box

Google’s launched an upgraded and prettified Chromecast, but can it hold a candle to Amazon’s 4K-capable streaming box and the forthcoming Apple TV? 

We’ve spent some time getting to know the new Chromecast and while we’re still in the process of comparing it a little more closely to its 2013 counterpart, we don’t expect it’s going to alter the verdict of our early hands-on review significantly

Put simply, the new Chromecast does exactly what the original one did – makes it a piece of cake to cast Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Now TV etc from your phone – but a little bit faster. 

For some folks in the market for a mini media streamer, this will be enough. If you want something with some extra features and more power, then you may want to reach for the new Amazon Fire TV box or keep your powder dry for the new Apple TV. 

If both of those are a little out of your price range (or you simply don’t want/need something that powerful) then you might want to consider the 2015 edition of the Now TV Box that hit the shelves this summer. It might not be as powerful as the old Fire TV (let alone the new one), but it’s also £15. Bargain much? 

We’ve yet to review the Amazon 4K Fire TV box or the new Apple TV, so for now, this comparison will be based on what we’re able to glean from spec sheets, press releases and presentations. We’ll update the relevant sections of the piece on an as and when basis. 

New Chromecast (2015) vs New Apple TV (2015) vs 4K Amazon Fire TV vs New Now TV Box (2015) – Search functions, voice controls and UIs

Related: Read our Chromecast (2015)  and new Now TV Box (2015) reviewsChromecast doesn’t have a ‘user interface’ as such – all of the content discovery is handled by your phone or tablet.

Once you’ve installed the Chromecast app on your iOS or Android device and connected to your Chromecast, it basically becomes a magic remote control. Load up a new episode of Narcos on Netflix, tap the cast icon top right on the screen and the content will magically appear on your TV screen. If you’re charging your Chromecast from the mains instead of your TV’s USB port, doing this will also wake your TV up if it’s on standby, which is neat.

Right now, there’s no native support for voice controls, but if you’ve got some free time and patience, you can tinker around with Tasker and Google Now, which will let you do things like tell Netflix to play a specific film. 

If voice controls are something you definitely want, for whatever reason, then reach for an Amazon Fire TV device. 

Every Amazon Fire TV product, including the £35 Fire TV Stick, supports voice controls. The free Fire TV app for iOS and Android lets you search for titles by talking. Queries are matched against Amazon’s IMDb-powered database, which allows you to comb for content via actor and director names, as well as titles – which is useful if you’re trying to find that weird sci-fi movie starring James Woods and Debbie Harry but you can’t remember what it’s called. 

If voice search is really the ultimate deal breaker for you, then we think that the new Apple TV might be the one for you. As well as boasting a content dragnet that operates in a similar fashion to Fire TV’s voice search, the new Apple TV incorporates one feature which we particularly like.

If you’re watching a scene on a TV show or movie and you miss a key line of dialogue, you can ask Siri to skip back a few seconds and even have the subtitles temporarily come on. As well as a very polished-looking voice search, the new Apple TV UI looks very sharp, taking visual cues from the flattened stylings of OS X Yosemite and El Capitan. Based on what we’ve seen from Apple’s 2015 WWDC event, it looks like a breeze to navigate and little extras like animated DVD art will no doubt delight.

That’s not so say that Amazon’s Fire TV UI is in any way ugly – we like the charcoal, grey and orange colour scheme and the logical layout they’ve gone for. 

Similarly, the user interface of the Now TV Box isn’t terrible by any stretch. It’s simple and functional and gets on with the job. We like that live Sky TV channels are arranged into mini programme guides, making it easy to see what’s coming up at a glance.

The lack of voice controls may frustrate some and seeing as the supplied remote doesn’t feature a microphone, it’s unlikely that this feature will be added anytime soon. 

New Chromecast (2015) vs New Apple TV (2015) vs 4K Amazon Fire TV vs New Now TV Box (2015) – What can I watch in 4K Ultra HD or Full HD? 

Related: How can I watch Amazon Prime on TV? and How much is Netflix 4K Ultra HD and what broadband speed do you need?Google says that there’s over 30 on-demand services that play nicely with Chromecast but not all of these services are available to us here in the UK (and some of them aren’t really worth writing about). 

The best services for our money are Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Blinkbox, Now TV, BT Sport, BBC News and Pluto TV. 

For a comprehensive lowdown of what’s available (and what you shouldn’t waste your time with) check out our Best Chromecast Apps and Best Chromecast Sports Apps features. 

Apple TV apps that already work here in the UK – Netflix, YouTube – will be present and correct and naturally, you’ll be able to access and purchase content from iTunes. On-demand apps like BBC iPlayer and Prime Instant Video that already worked over AirPlay should in theory work as well, although nothing official’s been confirmed yet. 

ITV Player is a recent addition to the Fire TV stable, joining BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Demand 5, TVPlayer, Curzon on Demand, not to mention Amazon’s own Prime Instant Video and Amazon Instant Video services. It’s also one of the first smart TV platforms in the UK that will get an upgrade to ITV Hub, the forthcoming on-demand service from ITV

You should also note that the Fire TV box is the only item here capable of delivering 4K Ultra HD content to your screen. Unless you’ve got a 4K TV (many of which come with on-demand services pre-installed) this point might be moot, but if you’re thinking of upgrading in the future, this may sway your hand.

The Now TV Box, as you should be able to guess from the name, gives you access to the Now TV suite of services – this is premium Sky content comprising entertainment channels like Sky 1, Sky Atlantic and Sky Living, every Sky Sports channel and all of the Sky Movies channels. 

While it’s capable of accessing 1080p Full HD content from services like BBC iPlayer, all of the Sky content is capped at 720p HD. Even if you’ve got bandwidth to spare, this is as good as you’re going to get. Presumably Sky wants people who want to watch Premier League football in Full HD to shell out for a pay TV package. If that’s more your bag, then you’ll want to check out our ‘How can I watch Sky Sports?’ feature. 

It’s worth mentioning that you can also get Now TV on your big screen with Chromecast and Apple TV (with AirPlay), which somewhat waters down the main USP of the Now TV Box. That said, you can also get things like ITV Player, All 4 (which aren’t officially available on Chromecast) Demand 5, Sky Store, Vimeo, Crunchyroll, Revision 3 and more. 

New Chromecast (2015) vs New Apple TV (2015) vs 4K Amazon Fire TV vs New Now TV Box (2015) – Specifications

While some of these specs are TBC at the moment, we will endeavour to update this once we have more information. 

New Chromecast (2015) specifications

  • Dimensions: TBC
  • Weight: TBC
  • Storage: n/a
  • Processor: TBC 
  • Memory: TBC 
  • OS: iOS, Android
  • Inputs: HDMI, USB
  • Max output resolution: 1080p
  • Connectivity: WiFi, dual-band

New Apple TV (2015) specifications

  • Dimensions: TBC
  • Weight: TBC
  • Storage: 32GB/64GB
  • Processor: TBC
  • Memory: TBC
  • OS: tvOS
  • Inputs: HDMI, Ethernet, USB
  • Max output resolution: 1080p, up to 60fps
  • Connectivity: TBC

4K Amazon Fire TV specifications

  • Dimensions: 115 mm x 115 mm x 17.8 mm
  • Weight: 270 grams
  • Storage: 8GB
  • Processor: MediaTek Quad-Core up to 2 GHz, Dual-Core 2.0 GHz, Dual-Core 1.6 GHz.
  • Memory: 2 GB
  • OS: Fire TV OS
  • Inputs: HDMI (dongle), USB
  • Max output resolution: 2160p up to 30fps; 720p and 1080p up to 60fps
  • Connectivity: WiFi ac, dual-band, dual-antenna WiFi (MIMO)

New Now TV Box (2015) specifications

  • Dimensions: 89mm x 89mm x 25mm
  • Weight: 141 grams
  • Storage: TBC
  • Processor: TBC 
  • Memory: TBC 
  • OS: Roku
  • Inputs: HDMI, Ethernet, USB
  • Max output resolution: 1080p (Now TV content capped at 720p)
  • Connectivity: WiFi n, dual-band, Ethernet

New Chromecast (2015) vs new Apple TV (2015) vs 4K Amazon Fire TV vs new Now TV Box (2015) – Prices and release dates

While official UK prices for the new Apple TV unit are still to be confirmed, we have official US prices for the 32GB ($149) and 64GB ($199) editions – the prices below are based on conversions that are correct at the time of writing. 

Device Price
Chromecast (2015) £30
Apple TV (2015) 32GB £97
Apple TV (2015) 64GB £130
4K Amazon Fire TV £80
Now TV Box (2015) £15

The new Amazon Fire TV box is available to pre-order now and goes on sale on October 22. Apple has yet to announce UK release dates for its new Apple TV hardware. 

New Chromecast (2015) vs New Apple TV (2015) vs 4K Amazon Fire TV vs New Now TV Box (2015) – Verdict

Which one should you buy? If you’ve got cash to burn, this question depends on whether your want a streamer that can deliver 4K Ultra HD content or you’re more sold on the glitz and glamour of Apple’s UI – that and you want something that can play the hundreds of movies you’ve already bought on iTunes. 

Additionally, while the Fire TV box does have Prime Instant Video installed as standard, if you’ve got an iPad and AirPlay, you can get the same content on your TV via Apple TV. 

If you’ve already got a Chromecast, there’s little reason to get the new one, unless you’re living in a shared house and that 2.4GHz WiFi band is super-busy or you’re simply a long way from your router. In terms of what services are available, nothing’s changed. 

The 2015 Now TV Box remains one of the best value for money streamers on the market. For £15, you get a very capable device that gives you access to the majority of popular on-demand services, with the notable exceptions of Netflix (which is available on Chromecast) and Prime Instant Video (which isn’t). 

If you’re not tied down to either Apple or Amazon’s ecosystems, you are a little freer to pick and choose, but ultimately your wallet should be guided by which services you value the most. Of course there’s nothing to stop you from having a Chromecast or a Now TV Box as well as either of the pricier options here. If you’ve got the cash, you can have the best of all worlds. 


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