With different proposal and specifications, Google Chromecast, Roku Express e Xiaomi Mi TV Stick there are three dongle options to turn your TV or monitor into a smart. Chromecast brings Google TV software and can play in 4K at 60 fps, Roku Express is focused on streaming and even offers a dedicated app, while Mi TV Stick runs Android TV and plays in Full HD at 60 fps.
With all that, here’s the question: which one should I buy? For being the only one to play in 4K, Chromecast ends up standing out in relation to other models. Therefore, the focus of this comparison is to explore the main differences between them for you, then, to make the best decision.
Chromecast, Roku Express or Xiaomi Mi TV Stick on video comparison
Notice of ethics
O Techblog is an independent news outlet that has been helping people make their next purchase decision since 2005. Our reviews are not intended for advertising, so they highlight the strengths and weaknesses of each product. No company has paid for, reviewed or had advance access to this content.
Chromecast was acquired by Techblog in retail. Roku Express was provided by Roku as a donation and will not be returned to the company. The Mi TV Stick was provided by DL Eletrônicos on loan and will be returned to the company after the tests. For more information, visit tecnoblog.net/etica.
Starting from the design, the Mi TV Stick looks very similar to the Amazon Fire TV Stick. Both have a flash drive format and are very discreet on the back of the TV without interfering with the other connections. The Roku Express is what I least like, as the box cannot be on the back of the TV, as it works via infrared and not Bluetooth. The company even sends you a tape for you to attach the dongle to the side of the TV, but I don’t like this solution.
Chromecast, on the other hand, has a soap-like shape and, like its rival Mi TV Stick, is easily hidden. It is also unique in offering three different finishes and the remote control matches the color of the main device. Transporting and installing Chromecast and Mi TV Stick are easy tasks, whereas Roku Express tends to be more work.
In remote control, we have some interesting points to analyze. Chromecast has finally gained an accessory to control the software, but the company hasn’t abandoned content mirroring, which works just fine. The equipment, in my view, is the most beautiful in this comparison. It’s small, compact and has the essentials with two extra buttons: one from Netflix and one from YouTube.
Mi TV Stick’s equipment again resembles Amazon’s. It has few buttons and has two streaming: one from Netflix and the other from Amazon Prime Video. The Roku controller with its tape also has few keys and, as it is focused on streaming, there are four shortcuts for different platforms: Netflix, Globoplay, HBO and Google Play.
As mentioned earlier, it only works via infrared. The good news is that the company offers an app that allows you to open the services, browse the system and has a function called private listening, which allows you to listen to what is shown on TV through the company’s own app with a headset connected to the cell phone.
Only the Chromecast and Xiaomi Mi TV Stick offer microphone on the control to trigger personal assistant; both have Google Assistant.
In the connection part, the three devices must be connected to the TV or monitor via HDMI. To power up, Roku Express and Xiaomi Mi TV Stick have a microUSB connection; the Chromecast, even for being newer, received USB type C. The user can power the dongle through the TV’s conventional USB port or the socket, using a power adapter. But there’s a catch: of the three, Chromecast is the only one that doesn’t accept being powered by the TV’s USB port and you need to plug it in.
Bluetooth, which allows you to connect headphones, speakers, joysticks and other devices to the dongles, is only available on Chromecast and Mi TV Stick. Roku is the only one without the technology, but it allows you to use the app to connect the phone, as I mentioned in the remote control topic. Still, this technology is needed here.
They all depend on the Wi-Fi network to function. Roku Express is the only one that only works on the 2.4GHz frequency; it’s not a serious limitation because it doesn’t play in 4K. Chromecast and Mi TV Stick support the 5 GHz network.
Software e apps
In software, we have other significant differences. Chromecast received Google TV, a custom Android TV interface; Roku Express has its own platform, dubbed Roku OS; Mi TV Stick uses Android TV, owned by Google. The purpose of this topic is not to define the best system, but to delve into the features, experiences and apps they offer.
Starting from Google TV, Chromecast gained a much more fluid and easy-to-navigate system, concentrating several suggestions of movies and series for you to watch on the home screen. It has round icons and well-separated elements that facilitate usability. Roku OS is a clean and fluid interface. Some points catch our attention: it has an advanced search that allows you to find movies on various streaming platforms. The other detail is that it displays some advertisements and this may annoy some users.
Android TV is the most popular and is available on many televisions. It’s customizable software, which also highlights a lot of cross-platform content in the center, while apps are on the right-hand side.
In the app store of the three you can find Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, Disney+, Globoplay, YouTube, DirecTV Go, Spotify, Tidal, Deezer and some games. Unlike the Amazon Fire TV Stick, these three dongles might suit you who subscribe to many streaming platforms, as they have a complete list.
In performance, Chromecast 4 tends to deliver superior performance over rivals. It has a quad-core processor that works together with 2GB of RAM and 8GB of internal space. In the tests of the Techblog, the model did very well and did not crash or ended an app unexpectedly. Roku does not provide information about Express hardware, but during our evaluation, the product also operated smoothly and without bottlenecks.
The Mi TV Stick, however, is what chokes the most and many users already confirm this problem. In our review, we showed that Xiaomi’s device sometimes took a while to open some apps and screens. The device received a quad-core processor, has 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage.
image and sound
In picture and sound, Chromecast with Google TV is the best. It not only stands out for being the only one to play in 4K at 60 fps, but also because it supports Dolby Vision, HDR10 and HDR10+, for more vivid and contrasted images. In sound, it is compatible with Dolby Atmos, which delivers an immersive three-dimensional sound.
The Roku and Mi TV Stick, which display in Full HD (1080p) at 60 fps, don’t deliver any picture differential, but have audio highlights: both offer DTS Digital Surround and Dolby Atmos.
Which one to buy?
Chromecast with Google TV, Roku Express, and Mi TV Stick are great devices for older TVs and models that have limited software. Although it is not officially sold in Brazil, until the closing of this comparison, the Google dongle is the best option for many people. It stands out for its design and remote control, software and the app store that offers various services.
Mi TV Stick and Roku Express are cheaper products and are suitable for people on a limited budget and who don’t have TVs with 4K resolution. They don’t promise to deliver the same rich experience as Chromecast, but they will work well on limited TVs. Roku even more, given that it has a fluid and intuitive interface.