Over the last few years more and more of us have started to stream television series’ and films over the Internet, watching them via our laptops and smartphones wherever and whenever we like.
Faster, smoother Internet connections and the growing popularity of sites such as Netflix has meant that there is now more content available online than ever before and companies such as Amazon and Google are looking for ways in which they can help us to consume this content; resulting in what are known as streaming media players.
These clever little devices connect to computers, smart TVs, tablets and smartphones in different ways and enable us to watch the latest episodes or to catch up on what we may have missed whenever we can. There are two streaming media players that are currently leading the way in the industry – Google Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV – and here we’ll run through the benefits of each, their smart compatibility and which one you should choose.
What is Google Chromecast?
With a Google Chromecast you have the ability to stream TV shows, the latest movies, play games and browse the web all by plugging this clever little device into your TV’s HDMI port. There is no need to invest in a brand new television (unless you want to, of course, in which case we have a whole host of great new models here); and it also works with smartphones, tablets and laptop computers.
What is an Amazon Fire stick?
An Amazon Fire TV stick works in a similar fashion and gives you access to hundreds of TV channels and catch-up services; plus a whole host of web apps, games, websites an Alexa skills. All you need is an Internet-enabled device and you can stream anything you like on your chosen screen. From Netflix to BBC iPlayer, YouTube to Amazon Prime Video, the options are nearly endless.
You will, of course, need an Amazon TV account in order to access the main channels and streaming services.
What are the differences between Google Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV?
In terms of physical differences both are similar in a sense that they utilise a simple USB or HDMI connection in your smart TV or computer. The Fire TV stick resembles a traditional USB drive while the Chromecast is a bit more stylish with a sleeker, rounded design.
One of the main differences comes in the way that the media players are controlled. The Fire TV stick comes with a remote or you can connect to your Amazon Echo smart speaker to use voice commands; while the Chromecast is controlled using a smartphone app or a Google Home device – there is no remote control.
Are they compatible with my smart home systems and devices?
Chromecast is fully compatible with all Google Home smart speakers enabling you to stream whatever you like just by asking. In the same way that you’d ask Google Home to give you the latest weather forecast, simply ask your device to play the next episode of your favourite series and it’ll bring it up on your TV for you.
The Amazon Fire stick is also compatible with a wide range of smart home systems and devices including the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot smart speakers. The Alexa voice remote also enables you to control smart lighting and heating systems including Philips Hue, Nest, Hive and many more; or you can simply pair your Fire TV and Echo device to use your voice instead of the remote.
How do I control a streaming media player?
As mentioned already, Amazon Fire TV comes with a handy remote with Alexa built-in or you can pair your streaming media player with an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot to control what you want to watch using voice commands.
With Google Chromecast you can also use voice commands with the Google Assistant on-hand to locate and play whatever you want to watch. Both media players also have their own smartphone and tablet apps, meaning that you can scroll through the list of shows until you locate whatever takes your fancy before streaming it on your smart TV.
How much do they cost?
Both Google Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV come in a choice of two styles. Firstly, you have the standard playback option which, in the case of Chromecast is priced at £30 while Amazon Fire TV comes in at £39.99.
So which provides the better value for money – Chromecast or Fire TV?
On the face of things, there isn’t a great deal in it. The prices are not vastly different and in the majority of cases it will come down to exactly what you want to use your media device for.
To give a straightforward answer, the Amazon Fire TV stick provides the best value for money purely because you have the added benefit of a remote control should you wish to use it. There are some who aren’t keen on smart speakers or using their smartphones as remote controls, so in those instances the Fire TV stick just edges ahead.