The great thing about Netflix is that it’s been build as a multi-platform system almost since its inception. The easiest way to watch Netflix on a TV is to attach a device to your TV that acts as a bridge between the internet and your TV. There are lots of options.
You can connect your computer or tablet to the TV using a HDMI cable. That’s not too tricky and is probably an inexpensive way to go about it. However, you may get sick of having to tether your device to your TV.
A more elegant way is to connect a device to your TV that acts as a bridge. There are several options available. Some gaming consoles, like the Xbox, let you install a Netflix application. Apple fans will be well aware that the Apple TV has a Netflix app. However, if you don’t have a gaming console or Apple TV, then Google’s Chromecast may be worth a look.
By the way, although the Chromecast has a recommended price of $49 you’ll find it for $43 if you shop around at Harvey Norman and Officeworks.
Adam Turner reviewed the Chromecast for us last year, giving it our highest accolade – five mice. The Chromecast brings Google’s equivalent to AirPlay to compatible apps. That brings us to the matter at hand. We have a TV set up in the lounge room with an Apple TV. However, the second TV in the master bedroom is equipped with a Chromecast.
Netflix on Apple TV
Netflix via the Apple TV is very easy to use. The interface has been designed to fit right into Apple’s television user experience. The search works identically to the other Apple TV apps with a keyboard on the left side of the screen and a dynamically updated list of results on the right. The Netflix recommendation engine works with this so, if you search for a show that isn’t available, similar movies and shows are also provided.
All the play/pause controls work perfectly with the Apple TV remote and Netflix takes full advantage of the Apple TV’s ability to display glossy images – the equivalent of DVD covers and movies posters – on your screen.
In short, Netflix on the Apple TV is a great viewing experience.
Netflix via Google Chromecast
The Chromecast is a very simple device. It hangs directly off a HDMI port on your TV and is powered either by an AC power supply or by using your TV’s USB port (if it has one).
There’s no real on-screen user interface, other than pretty wallpaper you can customise, with the Chromecast. It simply connects to your WiFi network and lets you stream, or ‘cast’, content from a tablet or smartphone.
Using Netflix with a Chromecast is simply the same as using Netflix via the app on your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad. The only difference is the presence of a Chromecast icon at the top of the screen that lets you choose whether you’ll view content on your mobile device or via Chromecast – much like how AirPlay works.
Which is better?
If it comes to the user experience, then we feel that the Apple TV has the edge over the Chromecast. Being able to sit on the couch, grab the remote and start watching is great plus.
However, the Chromecast costs less than half the price of the Apple TV, has broad application support, will work easily with tablets and smartphones running Android as well as iOS, doesn’t add yet another remote to your coffee table and takes up no shelf space in your entertainment unit.
In our view – this isn’t an argument about which device is better. It’s a decision about the device that best fits your lifestyle and usage pattern.
In our house, for the Apple TV in the lounge room, its access to our full iTunes library as well as streaming content gives it the edge. But for the second TV in the bedroom, the Chromecast is a better fit, as it reduces the clutter and delivers what we need rather than everything we have.