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Roku Streaming Stick 4K vs. Chromecast with Google TV: Which streaming device should you buy?

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K plugged into the back of a TV and the Chromecast with Google TV in a hand
(Image credit: Future)

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K arrived to challenge the Chromecast with Google TV and the rest of the $50 streaming devices last year. Each of these streamers comes with an existing audience that sort of knows what they expect, but many may be curious about which one is right for them.

While Roku's latest is our pick for the best streaming device overall, (and, naturally the best Roku device) the question of Roku Streaming Stick 4K vs. Chromecast with Google TV is not exactly a one-sided battle. In fact, each has its own strengths, and its own group of fans. 

So, let's unpack how these devices differ, and which is right for you.

Roku Streaming Stick 4K vs. Chromecast with Google TV specs

Roku Streaming Stick 4KChromecast with Google TV
Starting price$49.99$49.99
ResolutionUp to 4K UHD at 60 fpsUp to 4K UHD at 60 fps
Dimensions3.7 x 0.8 x 0.5 inches6.4 x 2.4 x 0.5 inches
ColorsBlackSnow, Sunrise, Sky
Supported audio formatsDolby Atmos, Dolby-encoded audio, DTS Digital Surround, Digital stereoDolby Atmos, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus
Supported video formatsDolby Vision, HDR10/10+ and HLGDolby Vision, HDR10/10+
RemoteRoku Voice Remote with TV power and volume buttonsGoogle Assistant-enabled remote with TV power, volume and input buttons

Roku Streaming Stick 4K vs. Chromecast with Google TV: Price and value

While the Roku Streaming Stick 4K seems to go on sale more often, both it and the Chromecast with Google TV start at $49.99.

As we outline below, both offer 4K UHD and Dolby Atmos / Vision support. And both come with voice-enabled remote controls. 

Winner: Tie

Roku Streaming Stick 4K vs. Chromecast with Google TV: Streaming quality

Christoph Waltz in Most Dangerous Game on the Roku Streaming Stick 4K

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

Unsurprisingly, this section is also a push. The Chromecast with Google TV and Roku Streaming Stick 4K stream up to 4K Ultra High-Def at 60 fps, and both support Dolby Vision and HDR10+ formats, for stronger and bolder colors.

In terms of audio quality, while neither advertise Dolby Atmos on their box, both appear to have it. Atmos provides immersive audio sound, if you're not aware. Roku told Input (opens in new tab) that this is because of a licensing issue, while a recent Chromecast update (opens in new tab) improved Atmos support.

Atmos, according to Roku's own site, is sent via pass-through HDMI. The latter provides a deeper, more immersive sound. 

Winner: Tie

Roku Streaming Stick 4K vs. Chromecast with Google TV: Performance

Wonder what's faster? Well, while both aren't as fast as the speedy (and pricey) Apple TV 4K, this is one area where I can see a slight difference. 

The Chromecast with Google TV is definitely the slower of the two, with Disney Plus and Netflix taking noticeably longer to load. Not to a point where it's a bad device, mind you, but Roku Streaming Stick 4K brings apps up faster. 

Animations, especially on Disney Plus, can appear slightly stuttery on both.

Winner: Roku Streaming Stick 4K

Roku Streaming Stick 4K vs. Chromecast with Google TV: Apps

If we'd written this face off last year, this battle would have gone to the Chromecast with Google TV. Roku's year was spent with frustrations for YouTube's live TV app subscribers, as the YouTube TV app was kicked out of the Roku Channel Store, and then forced to hide inside of the YouTube app (like how Hulu has its live TV service).

A last second deal between YouTube TV and Roku saved the day for all parties involved.

And now? Well, both devices have every single app you could need, with the basics including Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, Funimation, Hulu, HBO Max and Peacock.

Winner: Tie

Roku Streaming Stick 4K vs. Chromecast with Google TV: Live TV

Cutting the cord has been one of our favorite topics in the last year. And while the Chromecast with Google TV doesn't do this as well as, say, Fire TV, it's still beating the Roku Streaming Stick 4K, especially with how it connects to one of the best streaming services.

Chromecast with Google TV Live tab open

(Image credit: Google)

The Chromecast with Google TV has a LIVE section at the top of its screen, into which you can connect your channels from YouTube TV and (more recently) Sling TV. And that's huge if you ask us, because live TV guide integration into the home screen shows that the Chromecast with Google TV is aware of where the market is going.

We wish the Chromecast could integrate the likes of fubo TV and Hulu with Live TV (two of the other best cable TV alternatives), but after YouTube TV and Roku's beef last year, it's obvious that partnerships are rare in these waters.

By contrast, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K is playing checkers to the Chromecast's chess. Recently, the Roku OS added a Live TV Zone, which is just a way to promote and integrate the live/linear free TV channels from The Roku Channel and promote the live TV applications mentioned above. Integration with those third parties would be much better. 

Winner: Chromecast with Google TV

Roku Streaming Stick 4K vs. Chromecast with Google TV: Design

Chromecast with Google TV in a hand

(Image credit: Google)

Both the Chromecast with Google TV (a dangling oval-shaped puck) and Roku Streaming Stick 4K (a rectangular dongle with HDMI port) are designed to hide behind your TV. 

The biggest difference here is that the Chromecast with Google TV uses a USB-C port, which reportedly enables USB-C hubs for accessories such as ethernet adapters (which we've yet to need, but power users may prefer for their stable connections).

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K and all of its parts

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K has a Long Range Wi-Fi Receiver built into its power cable, a perk for those whose routers are far from their entertainment centers. Both draw power from small USB adapters.

We don't like giving out ties but the optional USB-C hub support and integrated Wi-Fi boost are slight enough features to make this a wash.

Winner: Tie 

Roku Streaming Stick 4K vs. Chromecast with Google TV: Features

The new Chromecast still has an edge here as it allows users to cast from iOS and Android apps on their phone to the TV screen. And you can mirror a Chrome browser window to the TV. Yes, the Roku Streaming Stick 4K supports AirPlay for Apple devices, but that's not as widely available as Casting.

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K's biggest special feature is private listening, which can be really valuable for those trying to not blast their homes (and annoy roommates or family members) with the sounds of their shows. Roku also has a library of free ad-supported content in The Roku Channel, and while there is no Chromecast with Google TV app for that content, it can be cast or streamed from Roku's mobile app. 

The Chromecast with Google TV also comes with a bunch of perks completely unrelated to streaming. Google Stadia has its own version of gaming for the Chromecast, which you may or may not have adopted yet. The Chromecast also supports checking the feeds from compatible Nest cams.

Winner: Chromecast

Roku Streaming Stick 4K vs. Chromecast with Google TV: Home screen

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K home screen on a TV

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

This is the most subjective round, as your mileage may vary on what makes a good home screen. Between the new Chromecast and Roku Streaming Stick 4K, though, we prefer the latter. 

Chromecast with Google TV home screen loaded on a TV on a wooden surface

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Google opted for a home screen that's centered around content-promotion and recommendations. Many people probably like that. We count ourselves on the opposite side of the field, preferring what Roku and Apple TV do: give you a grid of apps and get out of your way.

Winner: Roku Streaming Stick 4K

Roku Streaming Stick 4K vs. Chromecast with Google TV: Remotes

Chromecast with Google TV review

(Image credit: Google)

The Chromecast with Google TV is the first Chromecast to pack a remote, and it's pretty good. And while it has one button that we wish the Roku Streaming Stick 4K had — the input-switching button near the bottom — we gotta give this round to Roku.

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K's remote

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K remote comes with both a directional pad and dedicated play/fast-forward/rewind buttons. Oh, and it also has an instant replay button, which rewinds just a small bit. That alone is enough to make it a winner for us. 

Winner: Roku Streaming Stick 4K

Roku Streaming Stick 4K vs. Chromecast with Google TV: Which is right for you?

Roku Streaming Stick 4KChromecast with Google TV
Price and value (10 points)99
Streaming quality (15 points)1414
Performance (15 points)1410
Apps (10 points)1010
Live TV (10 points)48
Design (10 points)99
Features (10 points)69
Home Screen (10 points)97
Remote (10 points)97
Total (100 points)8483

And that's what we call a nail-biter, folks. If anything was proof-positive that these devices are similar, and both worthy of being called two of the best streaming devices, it's that score of 84-83, with the Roku Streaming Stick 4K taking it by a hair.

In this Roku Streaming Stick 4K vs. Chromecast with Google TV face-off, we've seen how they're incredibly similar in multiple categories, only differing in ways that may or may not exactly matter a whole lot to you.

If you want to cast video, you know you should get the Chromecast with Google TV. And if you love Roku's free content? Well, go right ahead. Both make for great streaming devices, and the Chromecast's attempts to break out from the prison of just-streaming are to be commended, even though I am not telling Roku to get into gaming. 

But if I had to tell you which one of these streaming devices to buy? I'm recommending the Roku Streaming Stick 4K.

Henry T. Casey
Senior Editor

Henry is a senior editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.