Nexus Player vs Chromecast vs Apple TV vs Roku: which media streamer is best?

Google Nexus Player vs Amazon Fire TV vs Apple TV vs Roku 3 vs Chromecast
It's like the Brady Bunch. Chromecast is little Cindy

There are too many media streaming players on sale right now. In fact, some manufacturers have more than one set-top box to bring apps to your television.

Google, for example, slipped into peoples' homes last year with the inexpensive Chromecast. It sits in an HDMI port behind your TV and beams apps to the big screen. It's now expanding that original vision with its new Android Lollipop-backed Android TV software and Google Nexus Player hardware launching October 17.

Apple TV is another app-filled option that has even broader appeal to iOS 8 users. Its exclusive AirPlay mirroring feature is pretty much the only way to make your iPhone 6 Plus screen look small.

Amazon Fire TV integrates with the online retailer and its app store, adding in a nifty remote with a microphone that can be used for searching via your voice.

Roku 3 and the Roku Streaming Stick have more apps than all of their competitors combined. They're one of the best and easiest to use media streaming players.


Streaming media players come in all shapes and sizes, as demonstrated by the full-sized Apple TV set-top box and tiny Chromecast HDMI dongle. The good news is that they're all relatively small in size and exhibit colors that blend in with black televisions, with the exception of the purple Roku Streaming Stick.

Here's the new Google Nexus Player

Here's the new Google Nexus Player

The newest box you may not know about is the Google Nexus Player. Shaped like a hockey puck, it's 4.7in all around with a height of .8in. That's slightly larger than the Amazon Fire TV, which has a low-profile of .07in and takes on a square shape of 4.5in x 4.5in.

Roku 3 requires a little more headroom at 1 inch even, but takes up less space with a 3.5 in x 3.5 length and width. Apple fits in between at .91in high and 3.9in x 3.9in. At these sizes, it's not hard to fit them all in a cabinet, or if you're uncivilized, stack them on top of a cable box.

Chromecast and the Roku Streaming Stick dongles are smaller - the size of an oversized USB thumb drive - and conveniently plug into HDMI ports. They're very simple to install. But they still require a power cable to function and there's no Ethernet port. When it comes to streaming video, that can be a problem for a lot of households with Wi-Fi interference.


Amazon Fire TV introduced an innovative remote with a built-in microphone for voice search. That really impressed us, but voice search was limited to Amazon movie and TV selections and those of "select partners."

Amazon Fire TV vs Google Nexus Player vs Chromecast vs Apple TV vs Roku

Amazon Fire TV includes voice search...

It's a surprise Google wasn't the first to do this considering it has us saying "Okay Glass" into Google Glass and "Okay Google" into Android Wear watches like the Moto 360. Its Nexus Player makes up for the silence with a voice-activated remote that is strikingly similar to the one made by Amazon.

Apple TV's click-wheel remote is small and easy to lose. That would be a problem, except the iOS app is the iOS way to navigate, so it doesn't matter all that much. You won't even have a chance to losing the Chromecast remote - there is none.

But so does the voice-search-eanbled Google Nexus Player remote

...But so does the voice-search-eanbled Google Nexus Player remote

Chromecast requires a smartphone or tablet to control, so Android and iOS device owners only need apply. It's not as out-of-the-box friendly in this way, especially if you're a Windows Phone 8 user, but it does mean a QWERTY keyboard is always handy.

The Roku 3 and Roku Streaming Stick also comes with remotes. Neither has voice search capabilities, but the Roku 3 clicker does have a unique headphone jack for remote listening.