Don’t buy a new Apple TV. Get a Chromecast with Google TV instead

If you’re looking to replace your increasingly defunct third-gen Apple TV, you won’t find an affordable option in the Apple Store.

Credit: Google/Apple

If you own a third-generation Apple TV and you fired it up to watch YouTube this week, you probably saw the following message:

Starting early March, the YouTube app will no longer be available on Apple TV (3rd generation). You can still watch YouTube on Apple TV 4K, Apple TV HD, iPhone, or iPad. With AirPlay, you can also stream YouTube from your iOS device directly to any Apple TV (3rd generation or later).

In simple terms, if you want to easily watch YouTube on your TV, you need to find another way. Apple’s suggestion of using AirPlay to stream YouTube from your iPhone or iPad to the Apple TV will work, but it's a hassle. And since you're probably not looking to trade in your TV set for a newer one with a smart interface, you're going to need a new streaming box.

Of course, you could buy a new Apple TV HD or Apple TV 4K, but it's going to set you back at least $149. And since I wouldn't recommend buying an HD box for more than $29, you're looking at $179 for the 32GB Apple TV 4K, which is crazy expensive. And while there's reportedly a new model on the way, it doesn't look like it's going to cost any less.

But there is a solution, one that’s not as expensive as a new TV or Apple TV or even a Roku Ultra that’ll provide the convenience and simplicity you want for the long term: Get a Chromecast with Google TV for $49.

Wait, did I just recommend replacing an Apple product with one from Google? Yup. For most people, the Chromecast has the services and features that most people need—including Apple TV+—for a much lower price.

Get your favorite services and more

I own a TV that’s not that old, but it doesn’t have built-in apps for the streaming services I use most often: Apple TV+, Disney+, HBO Max, and YouTube. Years ago, I bought a Chromecast and I used it to stream shows from those services from my MacBook Pro to the TV. It was good enough for my purposes and I couldn’t convince myself to spend the money on an Apple TV HD just to get access to those services I could watch with the Chromecast.

gtvhome Jared Newman / IDG

The Google TV interface puts content before apps.

Then some good news came last month. The Apple TV app for Chromecast with Google TV became available, joining the host of other streaming apps on Google's newest device. Now for just $50, I could get easy access to the streaming services I use. It’s an investment I made without hesitation.

In addition to the services I mention, you can use Chromecast to access video services such as Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Netflix, Google Play Movies, as well as music through Spotify, Pandora, Tidal, and others. There’s access to sporting events, Google Photos, games, and there’s still the ability to cast from a device to the Chromecast. See the list of services available.

And the interface is quite good. Where Apple TV puts a priority on apps, Google TV is more about discovery and content, offering up shows and movies rather than services. Then, when you select WandaVision, for example, you'll head straight into the Disney+ app without needing to search for anything. It's something like a universal streaming guide so you can see what to watch, rather than where to watch. 

4K support and a better remote control

If you have a 4K TV, the Chromecast with Google TV supports 4K HDR video—more specifically, the device is capable of streaming HDR10, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision content, as well as Dolby Atmos audio. Just like the Apple TV 4K. And it has a better remote to boot.

chromecastgtvremote Jared Newman / IDG

The new Chromecast remote is similar to the Apple TV one, but it's way better.

Usually, a thing like a remote control doesn’t sway a buying decision for me, but I do prefer the Chromecast’s remote over the Apple TV’s. Granted, Google’s remote is bulkier, but it’s also friendlier and more intuitive.

The Chromecast is also less visible. While the Chromecast and Apple TV both connect via HDMI and require an external power connection, the Chromecast is little more than a dongle that hooks into your TV's HDMI port, while the Apple TV is a box you place near your TV. So if you hate wires or your TV is mounted to a wall, the Chromecast might be better for your setup, though you still need to figure out how to hide the power cable.

Why you shouldn’t get Chromecast

For all it does, Chromecast with Google TV is an excellent deal. But there are a few reasons why it may not work for you.

The main reason is access to Apple’s other services. The Apple TV app on the Chromecast with Google TV is for TV+ access, but you can’t get to your iCloud Photos, Apple Music, or Apple Fitness+ like you can on the Apple TV. Also, if you’ve made investments to incorporate HomeKit devices in your house, a Chromecast will be useless for managing those devices.

You'll also lose out on Apple Arcade, Apple's gaming service. However, Google has said that Stadia support is coming soon, which blows away Apple Arcade. I'm pretty sure Cyberpunk 2077 is never coming to Apple Arcade or Apple TV, but once Stadia support goes live, I'll be able to play it over my Chromecast.

To access the internet, Chromecast is Wi-Fi-only while Apple TV has an ethernet port. That's a nice option for users who are concerned about network performance, but most people won't miss it.

And then there’s the whole privacy issue. We all know that Google makes its money from the user data it collects, but the company stresses that your data is safe and offers options to turn off tracking and data collection. Apple, on the other hand, has built a reputation for maintaining user privacy, so much so that other companies think Apple is being unfair. That privacy might matter when you realize that while neither device has a camera, both remotes have always-on microphones for voice commands.

If these are priorities for you, the Apple TV 4K is surely a better investment. But if you just want YouTube back, you don't need to spend a ton of money on a new Apple TV. You just need a Chromecast.

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Roman Loyola

Roman Loyola
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