There's no need to buy a brand-new Smart TV just so you can watch Netflix in bed, when it's so easy to give your old television a smart overhaul.
Bedroom televisions have gone out of fashion with the rise of smartphones and tablets, but there are still times when it's handy to have a screen in the corner. A television is more convenient than a handheld gadget when you want to snuggle in bed with your significant other and watch something together.
Google's new $99 Chromecast with Google TV makes it even easier to give your old bedroom telly a smart overhaul. It brings a full Android-TV-style experience to the screen and comes with a little remote control, making the Chromecast finally feel like a true set-top box competitor.
With a remote at hand you're not completely reliant on flinging video from your handheld devices, or barking commands at a smart speaker, when you want to watch your favourite show in bed.
Meanwhile Amazon has brought its $59 Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite to Australia, which also comes with a little remote control.
Unfortunately Amazon's player only offers 1080p Full HD resolution. You might not care about 4K Ultra HD in the bedroom, but the fact Amazon refuses to bring its 4K Fire TV players to Australia even when Amazon Prime Video originals stream in 4K is rather insulting; the tech giant often treats Australia as a bit of an afterthought.
At first glance little else separates these two HDMI video dongles, both offering access to the usual streaming suspects — including Amazon Prime Video — along with the five free-to-air catch up services. One key difference is that only Amazon has the Apple TV+ video app, making it a cheaper option for Apple fans than shelling out for an Apple TV set-top box.
On the flip side, Google's player supports Chromecast streaming from computers, smartphones and tablets. Chromecast streaming is built into a vast range of mobile apps with the notable exception of — you guessed it — the Apple TV app.
While stuck at home throughout this year, most of us have signed up to a few streaming services to keep us entertained. If that sounds like you, you'll find the Chromecast's slick Google TV menus do a better job of helping you discover new shows and search across streaming services than the Amazon-centric Fire TV.
Google's little remote also comes out ahead, controlling your television's power, volume and input so you don't need to keep two remotes on the bedside table.
These little stream devices are also smart gadgets, with buttons on the remote to summon Google Assistant or Amazon's Alexa. You can search for shows by voice or ask it for anything else you can ask of a smart speaker, such as checking the weather forecast or controlling your other smart home gear. They don't start listening until you press the button, which is great if you're concerned about privacy.
Of course one benefit of holding a physical remote is that you don’t need to mess around with spoken commands; if your smart assistant misunderstands you, it often would have been easier to just press a few buttons. That said, the fact the microphone is built into the remote tends to improve the accuracy compared to shouting at a smart speaker across the room.
If your bedroom TV needs a smart overhaul, it’s hard to see why Australians would choose Amazon's latest Fire TV over Google's Chromecast; unless you’re deeply invested in Amazon's smart home ecosystem, or you're looking for a dirt cheap way to watch Apple TV+ on your television.