So you decided to take the plunge and buy a casting stick. With so many tech companies investing in casting services, it’s challenging to figure out which one is best. In this article, we’re going to compare the most popular casting services; Anycast, Chromecast, Miracast, and Ezcast.
While most of these wireless streaming devices work the same and accomplish the same goal, there are some key differences you need to know about, such as supported apps, protocols, resolutions, software, framerate, and whatnot. Let’s do a quick run through these devices and see how they work.
People often assume Miracast is another casting dongle similar to Chromecast, but that’s not exactly accurate. Miracast is actually a wireless standard that allows peer to peer screen-mirroring connections from mobile devices using Wi-fi direct. The idea was to make a wireless standard for audio and visual to replace HDMI, and some people call it “Wireless HDMI”.
Bear in mind, Miracast is more like software, or a protocol, and it only works with Android and Windows devices. Apple uses its own version, called AirPlay. The Miracast protocol is a bit rough around the edges, it’s not very reliable, and that’s why most people prefer to use Chromecast or an HDMI cable to watch movies on a TV.
Most devices already support Miracast. It was added to Android phones back in Android 4.2 and it’s also built-in to Windows. While most devices support Miracast, you still need a Miracast receiver, which could be a streaming stick or even a smart TV. Microsoft sells a few of these receivers, but most of them only support screen mirroring which is not the best.
Miracast also goes by other names, such as:
- Screen Mirroring
- Cast Screen
- Smart View
- Screen Sharing
- Wireless Mirroring
- And others.
The main downside to this technology is it was mainly designed to mirror screens, fullscreen streaming is still not entirely supported. That’s why Miracast-based streaming sticks aren’t the best choice.
Speaking of Miracast-supported streaming sticks, Anycast fully supports the protocol. The idea was to make a small casting stick that’s cheap and flexible, hence the name “Anycast”.
What’s great about this device is it is very flexible and you don’t need any special apps or a specific operating system. It works on Windows, IOS, Android, and MAC.
The main issue with Anycast is it requires your phone or tablet to remain active. Basically, what it’s good at is screen mirroring your phone to TV. This can be a problem because phones quickly run out of battery. Or if the screen turns off, then the TV will lose the connection.
Overall, though, if you want a quick, budget-friendly, casting option, then Anycast is worth a look. It’s the cheapest of the bunch. But it’s not our best choice.
Ezcast is quite similar to Anycast, it allows wireless screen mirroring from any device, also using the Miracast technology. The Ezcast dongles usually have powerful CPUs and support 5GHZ Wi-fi. The downside here is they’re not very flexible, and they can be much more expensive than the other options. For example, the EZCast Pro II costs $140 at the moment.
These devices are mainly designed for presentations where speed is important, not so much for media streaming like the other devices. I wouldn’t recommend these for the average consumer because they’re expensive and don’t’ really offer any unique features.
Chromecast is the most popular casting stick at the moment, and our recommended casting device, for reasons we’ll get into in a second. It doesn’t use the Miracast protocol, but rather it’s own protocol.
Here’s the difference between Chromecast and other casting sticks: Chromecast requires an internet connection because it doesn’t just mirror media from your phone. What it does is take the media’s online link from your phone and then buffer it on it’s on the platform. Think of it as fetching a link for you.
For example, let’s say that you want to cast a video from YouTube from your phone to Chromecast. Once you hit the cast button, the Chromecast will receive the YouTube link and then start playing the video from its end. Then, you simply control the media from your phone (volume, pause, play, etc), as if your phone was TV remote for the Chromecast. Very convenient.
Of course, Chromecast works perfectly with other Google products and apps, such as Google Chrome, Google Photos, Google Home, Google Nest Mini, etc. Not to mention thousands of other apps, including Netflix, Hulu, and many others.
The Winner: Chromecast
In my opinion, Chromecast out of all these casting devices, Chromecast is the winner. Chromecast can play content independently from your phone, it’s cheap, and compatible with all of Google’s apps, so it’s the best casting stick at the moment. The setup steps are very simple too. The original version of Chromecast is powered by a USB cable, while the ULTRA requires a power outlet.
Another point is Chromecast has multiple versions, the latest model (Chromecast Ultra) can support 4K media, 60 frames at 1080p, and HDR. Overall, Chromecast is our favorite casting device. The other casting sticks don’t provide nearly as many features as Chromecast.
Fun Chromecast Tips:
Chromecast has plenty of uses: you can easily watch YouTube videos, play music, watch Netflix, share Google Photos on the big screen, and much more. But besides the usual features, there are some hidden ones you might not know about.
Mirror Google Chrome Tabs
One cool trick that you can do with Chromecast is to mirror any tab on Google Chrome browser, whether from your laptop, tablet, or phone. Want to show someone an article on the big screen? Hit the cast button and watch as your Chromecast loads the content for you.
Play Mobile Games on Your TV
If the game supports Chromecast, you can beam the game over to your TV and use your phone as a controller. There might be a slight input delay, but for mobile games, it’s usually not that important.
Everyone Can Control the Chromecast
If multiple people are connected to the same Wi-fi network, they can control the media on the Chromecast. For example, if a YouTube video is too loud, anyone can grab their phone, open the YouTube app, and either pause the video or lower the volume.
Beam Videos with VLC
Have a movie on your computer that you want to watch on your TV? VLC, an open-source free media player, allows you to cast videos to Chromecast, even if they’re not online. The feature is a little unstable, and highly dependant on your Wi-fi speed, but most of the time it should work.