Google isn’t particularly known for its clear branding. This is certainly the case when it comes to Chromecast, Google Cast, and Android TV. These platforms have some overlapping features, but they’re also completely different. Let’s look at all of them so you can figure out which one is right for you.
What is Chromecast?
Chromecast is Google̵
The latter really turns a Chromecast into a Chromecast. When you plug a Chromecast dongle into your TV, there is no “home screen” or traditional user interface. It’s a blank canvas waiting to receive content.
The remote control for a Chromecast is your iPhone or Android device, tablet or computer with the Chrome browser. When you see the Chromecast icon (shown below) in an app or website, just tap it. Select the device you want to transfer to and your content will appear.
You can mirror videos, slideshows, music, or even a screen. Casting is enabled through a protocol called Google Cast. In addition to sending streaming video to a Chromecast dongle attached to a TV, Google Cast can also send music to a Google Nest speaker.
It gets a little more complicated in Google Cast. This only refers to the protocol (devices with this function say “Chromecast integrated”). Google Cast doesn’t matter for Chromecast devices, it does come into play for an Android TV.
It is important that a Chromecast is a small device that acts exclusively as a receiver for content from phones, tablets and browsers.
What is Android TV?
Android TV is a version of the Android operating system for media devices. It’s usually found on set-top devices like the Nvidia Shield, which are larger than a Chromecast. However, Android TV is also built into smaller Chromecast-like dongles or some TVs.
Unlike Chromecast, Android TVs have physical remote controls. This is because Android TV has a traditional home screen that you can use to launch apps and games. It’s similar to what you see on a Roku, Amazon Fire TV, or Smart TV.
The easiest way to understand Android TV is to think of a smartphone. It has an app store where you can download apps and games, a home screen for shortcuts, and a settings menu.
CONNECTED: How to customize the Android TV home screen
Just like Android phones and tablets, Android TVs include the Google Play Store. This makes it very easy to install apps specifically designed for set-top boxes for Android TV. You can even install some high-end games that you can play with a controller.
The previously mentioned “Chromecast built-in” function can be found on your Android TV. While the primary method of interaction is the remote control and the home screen, you can also stream content to an Android TV. Just like a Chromecast.
It’s entirely possible to use an Android TV just like a Chromecast. Anything you can cast on a Chromecast can be cast on an Android TV, too. It can get a little strange, however.
For example, when you cast a YouTube video, the YouTube app won’t open, but it works just like it does in a Chromecast.
Even the Android TV background (also known as a screen saver) is the same as what you see on a Chromecast. The main difference is that an Android TV has a full operating system behind the casting functionality, making it a more powerful media device.
What is not Android TV?
One thing to keep in mind is that there is a huge difference between Android TV and plain old Android. There are some cheap set-top boxes on the market with the same version of Android that cell phones run.
This version was not adapted for a TV interface. Avoid these devices if you want a clean, no-hassle experience.
Which one is best for you?
Now that we’ve covered each option, you may be wondering which is the best choice for you. This depends on several factors including how much you interact with your TV, what you enjoy watching, and what your budget is.
Chromecasts are great for casual entertainment purposes like watching YouTube videos, streaming Netflix or photo slideshows, etc. Many people use a Chromecast as a secondary input on their TV. If you watch TV primarily over cable, a Chromecast is an inexpensive and easy way to add “smart” functionality.
Another benefit of Chromecast is group monitoring. Anyone connected to the same Wi-Fi network as the Chromecast can cast content on it. Apps like YouTube even include a “queue” so that multiple people can add videos to a group list and watch them together.
All of this also applies to Android TV. In addition to the functions built into Chromecast, Android TV is a full-fledged operating system with its own user interface. You don’t have to rely on a phone or tablet to use Android TV.
Android TV is also great for more relaxed viewing, as you can easily browse content with the remote control. This also makes Android TV better for streaming TV shows and movies. It is much easier to use a remote control to navigate a channel guide on a TV screen.
In general, Android TVs are more powerful and feature rich. You can connect a controller and use it as a game console, connect an antenna and watch live radio channels, download apps from the site, customize the screen saver and much more.
The last thing to consider is pricing. Chromecasts are pretty affordable. A base model costs around $ 30 while a high-end version with 4K support costs around $ 70.
Android TV prices vary. There are a few options for around $ 50, but most are top of the line models that cost you around $ 200 or more. However, it is well worth the money if you want a fuller “smart TV” experience.
Chromecasts, on the other hand, are better if you only need them for secondary use. It depends on your current setup and what you want from your internet connected TV.