Justin Duino / How-To Geek

With internet-connected devices scattered around our homes, it’s handy to send content from device to device. Apple AirPlay and Google Chromecast are the two most popular standards for casting music and video. Which one is right for you?

What Is AirPlay?

Works with Apple AirPlay label.

Apple AirPlay is a protocol for streaming music and videos, and screen mirroring wirelessly between devices on the same network. It’s a proprietary standard made by Apple, first introduced in 2004 as “AirTunes,” and later renamed to “AirPlay” in 2010.

AirPlay typically works by pressing the icon—rectangle with an up arrow for video, circles with an up arrow for audio—in an app, and choosing a device to play the content on. When the content is streaming on the “Receiver” device, you can control it from the “Sender” device.

AirPlay was relatively limited until it received a big update in 2018, referred to as “AirPlay 2.” The update improved performance, added streaming audio to stereo speakers, and streaming to multiple devices at the same time. It also made AirPlay control available through Siri and the Control Center on iPhone and Mac.

RELATED: What Is AirPlay, and How Does It Work?

What Is Chromecast?

The “Chromecast” branding is used by Google for two different things. There are Chromecast devices—such as the Chromecast with Google TV and Chromecast dongles—and the “Chromecast Built-in” protocol, which we’ll be talking about in this article.

Chromecast Built-in is a protocol for screen mirroring, streaming music, videos, photos, and other content wirelessly between devices on the same network. The protocol’s official name is “Google Cast,” but products that support the protocol are branded as “Chromecast Built-in.”

To “cast” content through the Google Cast protocol, you simply press the Chromecast icon in an app and select a device to receive it. There’s an enormous number of apps that support Chromecast.

RELATED: What's the Difference Between Chromecast and Google TV?

Device Compatibility

Joe Fedewa / How-To Geek

As is typical with Apple products, AirPlay is essentially only available on Apple devices. “Sender” devices include the iPhone, iPad, macOS computers, and iTunes (even on Windows).

There’s more variety when it comes to “Receiver” devices. The Apple TV an HomePod support AirPlay, of course, but so do Roku devices and a long list of speakers and TVs from brands such as Samsung, Sony, and Amazon.

Chromecast, on the other hand, is supported by a much larger pool of devices, both on the sending and receiving end. iPhones, iPads, Android devices, and any computer with Chrome or Chromium-based web browsers can cast content.

For receivers, Chromecast Built-in is available on a huge number of TVs and speakers. It’s available on devices from Samsung, Sony, Sharp, LG, Sonos, and many more. Chromecast Built-in also obviously works with the Chromecast with Google TV, and Google’s Nest-branded smart speakers and displays.

While AirPlay and Chromecast Built-in support is pretty even on the receiving end, Chromecast has the clear advantage in sending. You don’t have to choose between iPhone or Android to be able to cast content.

Winner: Chromecast

App Compatibility

Cast button in YouTube app.
Joe Fedewa / How-To Geek

AirPlay and Chromecast both primarily work through apps. The idea is you’re watching a video on YouTube or listening to music on Spotify, and you want to watch or listen to it somewhere else. So, you tap the AirPlay or Chromecast button and choose a TV or speaker to stream it on.

Both protocols are really only as useful as the number of apps that support it. Thankfully, AirPlay and Chromecast Built-in are both supported by many major streaming apps. YouTube, Spotify, Hulu, Disney+, and others support both, but there are some big omissions for AirPlay.

Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, for example, are two big services that do not support AirPlay. In general, you can safely assume a media app will have Chromecast support, but not so much for AirPlay. Not to mention there are hundreds of thousands of apps from third parties that support Chromecast as well.

Oh, and two other apps support Chromecast: Apple TV+ and Apple Music.

Winner: Chromecast

Audio & Video Quality

Let’s talk about the quality of the content that’s being shared wirelessly from device to device. AirPlay 2 improved audio quality, and it now supports lossless, 16-bit/44.1kHz CD-quality audio streams. Chromecast, on the other hand, gets the edge with support up to 24-bit/96Hz audio.

Video quality is more dependent on your TV and internet connection. Both AirPlay and Chromecast Built-in are capable of streaming 4K video, but that very often doesn’t happen. AirPlay, especially, receives a lot of complaints about poor video quality. And for screen mirroring, both are capped at 1080p 60fps.

Winner: Chromecast

AirPlay vs. Chromecast: Which Should You Choose?

Apple AirPlay and Chromecast labels

For those of you keeping score, the choice is probably already pretty clear—go with Chromecast. The only real reason to go with AirPlay is if your house is full of Apple TVs and HomePods. Otherwise, you’re going to have a much better experience with Chromecast.

Chromecast works with more devices, plus it’s supported by a lot more apps. You don’t have to give up your iPhone or Apple Music subscription to use Chromecast. It’s the best of both worlds, and you can take advantage of more affordable devices.

A Chromecast with Google TV 4K is only $50, whereas the Apple TV 4K is $129. You can get two Google Nest Minis for the price of one HomePod Mini, or six for the price of a full-size HomePod. Among the wireless display standards available today, Chromecast is a great choice.

Profile Photo for Joe Fedewa Joe Fedewa
Joe Fedewa is a Staff Writer at How-To Geek. He has been covering consumer technology for over a decade and previously worked as Managing Editor at XDA-Developers. Joe loves all things technology and is also an avid DIYer at heart. He has written thousands of articles, hundreds of tutorials, and dozens of reviews.
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