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Showdown: Google Chromecast Vs. Roku 3500R Streaming Stick

The entertainment industry has put a large focus on the streaming market these past few years, and many companies are producing their own devices dedicated strictly for media streaming. Among these are Google's Chromecast and Roku's 3500R Streaming Stick. I'm going to put each through four different rating criteria below and help you determine the better bang for your buck and which device is best for your individual needs.

The Chromecast and Roku are very similar in size thus resembling an oversized flash drive. They both feature a male HDMI connection on one end and a female microUSB port on the opposing end. Additionally, each has a subtle reset button which blends in nicely on one side of each device. The build quality of the Chromecast is slightly better although it isn't a drastic difference. Both of these devices are small enough to hide away behind your HDTV so the build quality and overall appearance shouldn't be much of a factor.

Advantage: Google Chromecast 

Google's Chromecast is more of a streaming media accessory meaning that it can only provide functionality with another compatible device. Supported devices include any laptop or desktop that is running Google Chrome in addition to both iOS and Android devices. Think of a Chromecast as an easy way to wirelessly stream content from the original source to your HDTV.

The 3500R Streaming Stick from Roku offers much greater functionality as it is a truly standalone device. It acts like a traditional Roku and offers the ability to browse and enjoy hundreds of “channels” which are made up of services, apps, and games. You can control the Roku Stick with an iOS or Android device (via an app) yet it is not required and you'll get a physical Roku remote bundled with your purchase.

Advantage: Roku 3500R Streaming Stick

Both devices support a variety of services, but I figured I'd put them to the test and see which devices officially support the most popular and well-known options. Out of the 14 services listed below, Roku's 3500R Streaming stick impressively supported all of these services while the Chromecast only supported just over half of them.

Service Chromecast Roku 3500R
Netflix Yes Yes
Hulu Plus Yes Yes
Amazon Instant Video No Yes
Redbox Instant No Yes
Twitch Yes Yes
YouTube Yes Yes
Pandora Yes Yes
Spotify No Yes
Rdio Yes Yes
Crackle Yes Yes
HBO GO Yes Yes
Vudu Yes (limited) Yes
MGO No Yes

It is important to note Chromecast may have some 3rd party solutions for streaming more of these services yet we didn't count them as these methods are not officially supported by Google and aren't guaranteed compatibility.

Advantage: Roku 3500R Streaming Stick

You can pick up a Chromecast for $34.95 on Amazon whereas Amazon sells the Roku 3500R Streaming Stick for $49.99. On paper, the Chromecast wins this category yet you need to remember the core difference in functionality. While you are saving $15 choosing the Chromecast over the Roku Stick, you don't get a standalone unit and will need to rely on a companion device in order to utilize it properly.

Advantage: Google Chromecast 

It appears we have a tie with the Chromecast winning in the ‘design and build quality' and ‘price' categories while the Roku 3500R Streaming Stick took home the gold in the ‘features & functionality' and ‘compatible services & apps' section. I think it is fair that these two devices ended in a tie since they are similar devices in their design, but their intended uses are differ dramatically.

For example, the Chromecast is perfect for someone who would like the ability to “extend” their computer or mobile device to a bigger screen whether it be for personal viewing or sharing content with friends. I have mine hooked up to my 50″ HDTV in my living room and my friends will come over and pass off controlling the Chromecast to share their favorite YouTube videos with the group. It is important to remember the Chromecast's limitations as it only officially supports a handful of streaming services at the time this review was written.

The Roku 3500R, on the other hand, does harness standalone capabilities and can turn your basic HDTV into a “smart” capable unit without any real effort. I have been using mine in my bedroom since I have a HDTV in there, but didn't want to dish out the extra $15/month to rent out yet another HD cable box. This way I can use the TWC TV app or Netflix to watch content from the comfort of my bed and utilize the included Roku remote for easy navigation. I never need to rely on my smartphone or laptop to transmit the media which saves the headache of worrying about dead batteries or connection issues among these external devices.

Depending on your needs, both the Chromecast and the Roku 3500R Streaming Stick are great options. While I'd recommend the Roku over the Chromecast for the average consumer, there are surely some advanced users who would prefer have the more limited Chromecast functionality and lower-price point.

Advantage: Tie

Which will you choose?

Google Chromecast  or  Roku 3500R Streaming Stick

Feel free to address any questions or concerns via the comment section below. I'll do my best to address them in a timely manner!