Forget the Apple Store Black Friday gift card offer. Here’s where to get even better prices on Apple products – CNET

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The Apple Store's Black Friday deals are here, and they aren't much. 

Óscar Gutiérrez/CNET
This story is part of Holiday Gift Guide 2020, CNET's gift picks with expert advice, reviews and recommendations for the latest tech gifts for you and your family.

Black Friday sales are in full swing, and prices are fluctuating wildly. But if you're quick, at the time of this writing, you can score the AirPods Pro for $170, the new 2020 eighth-generation iPad for $280 or an Apple Watch Series 6 for $350 at Amazon or Best Buy. At the Apple Store, those same products will run you $50 to $79 more -- but you'll get a gift card for a future purchase. That, in a nutshell, is the problem with Apple's Black Friday "deal" offering: The company effectively never cuts prices and just dangles gift cards instead. The current promotion runs now through through Cyber Monday, Nov. 30, with gift cards up to $150, depending on the item purchased.

In fact, that $150 gift card is a rarity, and only available if you purchase either an Intel-equipped MacBook Pro 16-inch or 21.5-inch iMac. Other Macs, including the new 13-inch MacBook Pro that features Apple's M1 chip, are not eligible. Neither are the new MacBook Air, Mac Mini, larger 27-inch iMac or iMac Pro. If you can still find a 13-inch Intel-equipped MacBook Air or Intel-equipped 13-inch MacBook Pro with two Thunderbolt ports you could get a $50 Apple Store gift card. As Apple has discontinued both models, you'd have to find one of these in a physical Apple Store. 

Beyond the Macs, most new Apple gear is not eligible for the gift card promotion. You could get a $50 gift card with the iPhone 11, XR or SE (so, not the new iPhone 12 line). Gift cards for iPads are limited to $50 for the iPad Mini or $100 for either size of the iPad Pro with no offers available for the new iPad or iPad Air. 

Apple is also not offering double Apple Card cash back, which it did last year. This year the cash-back rate appears to be staying at its regular 3%. 

The promotions are yet another reminder that the best Apple deals are almost always found outside Apple's own physical or virtual stores. At the Apple Store, for instance, a new set of AirPods ($159) or AirPods Pro ($249) can get you a $25 Apple Store gift card but no discount off the regular price. By contrast, the the regular AirPods and the Pro models have dipped to $110 and $170, respectively, at Amazon. That's a savings of $49 to $79 -- both much more than a $25 gift card that can only be redeemed later.

All the major US carriers have promotions running for the latest iPhones while Amazon has been running deals on Apple Watches (including the latest Series 6), iPads (regular, new Air and Pros) and the Intel MacBook Air (currently $199 off at Amazon). 

Apple also doesn't make the full list of which products get which discount easily accessible on its promo page, but if you're interested in the full list you can find it here

The best deals appear to be on the full-size HomePod, which gets you a $100 gift card, and the Apple TV 4K, which gets you a $50 gift card. Neither product has seen the same level of discounting at other stores this season, though the HomePod has previously dipped to $200 at Best Buy.

All told, unless you want one of those two devices or to buy something directly from Apple, you're likely better off shopping elsewhere for deals on Apple products. 

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Forget the Apple Store Black Friday gift card offer. Here’s where to get even better prices on Apple products – CNET

apple-logo-green-store-mexico

The Apple Store's Black Friday deals are here, and they aren't much. 

Óscar Gutiérrez/CNET
This story is part of Holiday Gift Guide 2020, CNET's gift picks with expert advice, reviews and recommendations for the latest tech gifts for you and your family.

Black Friday sales are in full swing, and prices are fluctuating wildly. But if you're quick, at the time of this writing, you can score the AirPods Pro for $170, the new 2020 eighth-generation iPad for $280 or an Apple Watch Series 6 for $350 at Amazon or Best Buy. At the Apple Store, those same products will run you $50 to $79 more -- but you'll get a gift card for a future purchase. That, in a nutshell, is the problem with Apple's Black Friday "deal" offering: The company effectively never cuts prices and just dangles gift cards instead. The current promotion runs now through through Cyber Monday, Nov. 30, with gift cards up to $150, depending on the item purchased.

In fact, that $150 gift card is a rarity, and only available if you purchase either an Intel-equipped MacBook Pro 16-inch or 21.5-inch iMac. Other Macs, including the new 13-inch MacBook Pro that features Apple's M1 chip, are not eligible. Neither are the new MacBook Air, Mac Mini, larger 27-inch iMac or iMac Pro. If you can still find a 13-inch Intel-equipped MacBook Air or Intel-equipped 13-inch MacBook Pro with two Thunderbolt ports you could get a $50 Apple Store gift card. As Apple has discontinued both models, you'd have to find one of these in a physical Apple Store. 

Beyond the Macs, most new Apple gear is not eligible for the gift card promotion. You could get a $50 gift card with the iPhone 11, XR or SE (so, not the new iPhone 12 line). Gift cards for iPads are limited to $50 for the iPad Mini or $100 for either size of the iPad Pro with no offers available for the new iPad or iPad Air. 

Apple is also not offering double Apple Card cash back, which it did last year. This year the cash-back rate appears to be staying at its regular 3%. 

The promotions are yet another reminder that the best Apple deals are almost always found outside Apple's own physical or virtual stores. At the Apple Store, for instance, a new set of AirPods ($159) or AirPods Pro ($249) can get you a $25 Apple Store gift card but no discount off the regular price. By contrast, the the regular AirPods and the Pro models have dipped to $110 and $170, respectively, at Amazon. That's a savings of $49 to $79 -- both much more than a $25 gift card that can only be redeemed later.

All the major US carriers have promotions running for the latest iPhones while Amazon has been running deals on Apple Watches (including the latest Series 6), iPads (regular, new Air and Pros) and the Intel MacBook Air (currently $199 off at Amazon). 

Apple also doesn't make the full list of which products get which discount easily accessible on its promo page, but if you're interested in the full list you can find it here

The best deals appear to be on the full-size HomePod, which gets you a $100 gift card, and the Apple TV 4K, which gets you a $50 gift card. Neither product has seen the same level of discounting at other stores this season, though the HomePod has previously dipped to $200 at Best Buy.

All told, unless you want one of those two devices or to buy something directly from Apple, you're likely better off shopping elsewhere for deals on Apple products. 

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Google Assistant can set times for controlling internet-connected devices – CNET

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Google Assistant, found in devices like the Nest Audio smart speaker, are getting smarter. 

Chris Monroe/CNET

Smart assistants like Google Assistant, Amazon's Alexa and Apple's Siri have been able to handle home automation tasks for years. In a new update, however, it now looks like at least Google's virtual helper has recently been learning a new trick. 

Spotted by Android Police and Reddit, Google appears to have added additional functionality to Assistant when controlling internet-connected lights. As opposed to only being able to have the lights go on or off immediately, you can now say "Hey Google, turn on the lights in 5 minutes" or "Hey Google, turn on the lights at 7 a.m."

A Google Developer page suggests that the functionality can handle more than just lights, with the site listing an option to ask the Assistant to "turn on my coffee maker at 8 a.m. tomorrow" and "run my sprinkler in a week at 5 p.m."

Read more: Best smart home gifts of 2020

Android Police notes that if you are asking for it to do something tomorrow you will still need to specify an exact time, with there also being no clear way to cancel upcoming requests. For the latter at least you can always just tell the Assistant to stop or turn off the lights as you would normally do. 

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Apple, Google, LG join industry group working on 6G – CNET

Camera setups on four phones

As 5G gets squared away, the industry's thoughts turn to 6G.

Angela Lang/CNET

The first 5G phones from Apple and Google may only just be hitting the market, but that hasn't stopped those companies from working with others on developing what 6G might look like

As spotted by Mobile World Live, tech giants Apple, Google and LG have joined the industry group "Next G Alliance," whose goals include advancing "North American global leadership over the 5G evolutionary path and 6G early development" and creating a "Next G development roadmap that will promote a vibrant marketplace for 6G introduction, adoption and commercialization with North American innovation in mind."

Other founding members of the group, which was created by the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions, include US carriers AT&T, Verizon, US Cellular and T-Mobile as well as Charter Communications and Canadian carriers Bell and Telus. Microsoft, Samsung, Facebook, Cisco, Ericsson, Intel, Nokia and Qualcomm are all also founding members.

Notably absent from the list is Huawei, the Chinese technology giant that was very involved in the networking side of early 5G deployments. Reports last year suggested Huawei has already begun doing 6G research of its own.

Now playing: Watch this: 5G: The next five years

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The founding members "shall be represented by senior business executives and are tasked with establishing the Alliance's strategy and direction," according to the NextG Alliance site. Membership as a founding member is $20,000 for 2021 with an inaugural meeting slated to take place this month to appoint a "Steering Group." 

Working groups are expected to begin in early 2021, though there is no timeline for when 6G might hit the market or what it might even look like or offer. New technologies often take years to develop, and these are just two of the questions that this group will, in time, try to answer.

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iPhone 12 Mini charges slower with MagSafe than other iPhone 12 models – CNET

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MagSafe, Apple's new charging system seen here on an iPhone 12 Pro, won't charge as quickly on the iPhone 12 Mini.

Scott Stein/CNET

The iPhone 12 Mini doesn't officially go on sale until Nov. 13, but we now have some additional details on its MagSafe charging capabilities, courtesy of a new Apple support document. According to the document, the smallest iPhone 12 will be limited to 12 watts of power delivery compared to the 15W that can be delivered to larger iPhone 12s by MagSafe. 

First spotted by MacRumors, the support page also notes that the "power delivered to the iPhone 12 at any moment will vary depending on various factors, including temperature and system activity." Apple also recommends having the MagSafe charger plugged into a compatible adapter and into the wall before placing your iPhone on it. 

Read more: iPhone 12 Mini review

While a drop from the 15W on larger iPhone models, wirelessly charging at 12W will still be noticeably faster than the 7.5W that Apple limits iPhones to when charging using regular Qi-based wireless accessories. Those looking for the fastest charge will still want to use a USB-C-to-Lightning cable and a 20W or higher wall adapter. 

Introduced alongside four new iPhone 12s last month, MagSafe is Apple's new wireless accessory system that takes advantage of magnets to provide the iPhone with easy connectivity to accessories like snap-on wallets or faster wireless charging. The new MagSafe charging cable, which is not included with the purchase of a new iPhone, runs $39 when purchased directly from Apple, though you will also need a compatible wall adapter to make full use of the faster wireless charging speeds.  

The iPhone 12 Mini, and the larger iPhone 12 Pro Max, is now available to preorder. Both devices are set to go on sale on Nov. 13. 

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iPhone 12 Mini charges slower with MagSafe than other iPhone 12 models – CNET

magsafe-iphone12

MagSafe, Apple's new charging system seen here on an iPhone 12 Pro, won't charge as quickly on the iPhone 12 Mini.

Scott Stein/CNET

The iPhone 12 Mini doesn't officially go on sale until Nov. 13, but we now have some additional details on its MagSafe charging capabilities, courtesy of a new Apple support document. According to the document, the smallest iPhone 12 will be limited to 12 watts of power delivery compared to the 15W that can be delivered to larger iPhone 12s by MagSafe. 

First spotted by MacRumors, the support page also notes that the "power delivered to the iPhone 12 at any moment will vary depending on various factors, including temperature and system activity." Apple also recommends having the MagSafe charger plugged into a compatible adapter and into the wall before placing your iPhone on it. 

Read more: iPhone 12 Mini review

While a drop from the 15W on larger iPhone models, wirelessly charging at 12W will still be noticeably faster than the 7.5W that Apple limits iPhones to when charging using regular Qi-based wireless accessories. Those looking for the fastest charge will still want to use a USB-C-to-Lightning cable and a 20W or higher wall adapter. 

Introduced alongside four new iPhone 12s last month, MagSafe is Apple's new wireless accessory system that takes advantage of magnets to provide the iPhone with easy connectivity to accessories like snap-on wallets or faster wireless charging. The new MagSafe charging cable, which is not included with the purchase of a new iPhone, runs $39 when purchased directly from Apple, though you will also need a compatible wall adapter to make full use of the faster wireless charging speeds.  

The iPhone 12 Mini, and the larger iPhone 12 Pro Max, is now available to preorder. Both devices are set to go on sale on Nov. 13. 

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Get 6 months of Netflix bundled with Chromecast with Google TV streamer for $90 – CNET

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Google has an enticing offer that bundles six months of Netflix with its latest Chromecast. 

David Katzmaier/CNET

Debating getting the new Chromecast with Google TV compared to a Roku, Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV? Google has a bundle that it hopes might sway you toward its new streamer.

The Google Store is offering a bundle of its new Chromecast with six months of Netflix's Standard plan for $90. Google's streamer costs $50 on its own while Netflix's Standard plan, which lets you stream in HD on up to two screens at once, runs $14 per month. Over the course of six months, the Netflix subscription on its own would cost roughly $84, so the savings works out to $44 -- basically the same as getting the new Chromecast for $6. 

Those who already have Netflix -- either the Standard plan or Netflix's cheaper Basic or pricier Premium options -- will have the value of six months of Standard credited onto their account. 

While the Google Store page lists the total value of $77.94, Google confirmed to CNET that it will be adjusted to reflect Netflix's recent price hike, which makes the total value of the six-month Netflix subscription $83.94.

The offer, which appeared first at launch and has moved in and out of stock since, is capped at "3 per customer/Google Account." You need to set up the Chromecast to redeem the offer.

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Google's new Chromecast with Google TV is an impressive streamer thanks to its updated software, handy remote and tight integration with Google Assistant and YouTube TV. It also has access to nearly all major apps including Netflix, HBO Max, Disney Plus, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video (with the notable exception being Apple TV Plus).

All three colors of the new Chromecast are available for purchase, with the promotion running until Dec. 31, 2021, or "while supplies last."

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Get 6 months of Netflix bundled with Chromecast with Google TV streamer for $90 – CNET

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Google has an enticing offer that bundles six months of Netflix with its latest Chromecast. 

David Katzmaier/CNET

Debating getting the new Chromecast with Google TV compared to a Roku, Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV? Google has a bundle that it hopes might sway you toward its new streamer.

The Google Store is offering a bundle of its new Chromecast with six months of Netflix's Standard plan for $90. Google's streamer costs $50 on its own while Netflix's Standard plan, which lets you stream in HD on up to two screens at once, runs $14 per month. Over the course of six months, the Netflix subscription on its own would cost roughly $84, so the savings works out to $44 -- basically the same as getting the new Chromecast for $6. 

Those who already have Netflix -- either the Standard plan or Netflix's cheaper Basic or pricier Premium options -- will have the value of six months of Standard credited onto their account. 

While the Google Store page lists the total value of $77.94, Google confirmed to CNET that it will be adjusted to reflect Netflix's recent price hike, which makes the total value of the six-month Netflix subscription $83.94.

The offer, which appeared first at launch and has moved in and out of stock since, is capped at "3 per customer/Google Account." You need to set up the Chromecast to redeem the offer.

Now playing: Watch this: Chromecast with Google TV wants to help you find what...

8:48

Google's new Chromecast with Google TV is an impressive streamer thanks to its updated software, handy remote and tight integration with Google Assistant and YouTube TV. It also has access to nearly all major apps including Netflix, HBO Max, Disney Plus, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video (with the notable exception being Apple TV Plus).

All three colors of the new Chromecast are available for purchase, with the promotion running until Dec. 31, 2021, or "while supplies last."

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T-Mobile ups its iPhone deals right before iPhone 12 Mini, 12 Pro Max go on preorder – CNET

apple-iphone-12-pro-1775

T-Mobile is upping its iPhone 12 deals ahead of the launch of Apple's new iPhone 12 Mini and 12 Pro Max. 

James Martin/CNET

The iPhone 12 Mini and iPhone 12 Pro Maxes will be available for preorder on Friday and to coincide with the new devices T-Mobile has upped its offers for Apple's entire portfolio of new phones

Starting Friday, the carrier is offering users who switch or add a new line the option of a free iPhone 12 Mini or iPhone 12 when also trading in an "eligible" phone and buying on a 30-month installment plan. Those switching and looking for the iPhone 12 Pro will be able to get it for as low as $50 for the base model with the proper trade-in and purchase on an installment plan, while 12 Pro Max shoppers will be able to get the base model for $150, a $950 savings in both scenarios. 

The iPhone 12 Mini starts at $700 while the iPhone 12 starts at $830.The base iPhone 12 Pro starts at $1,000 while the larger iPhone 12 Pro Max starts at $1,100. While the 12 and 12 Pro are available now, the 12 Mini and 12 Pro Max will go on sale on Nov. 13. 

As with its iPhone 12 and 12 Pro deal in October, the carrier is also offering switchers the ability to get two lines of its unlimited service, and either two iPhone 12 Pros or two iPhone 12 Pro Maxes for $100 per month. 

A trade-in of an "eligible" phone in good condition is similarly required, but to get the $950 off you will need to trade-in an iPhone 11 Pro Max or XS Max. Those with an iPhone 11 Pro, 11, XS, XR, X, 8 or 8 Plus can get $830 off while those with an iPhone 7, 7 Plus, or 2020 iPhone SE can get $530 off. 

The iPhone 6S, 6S Plus, 6, 6 Plus, and original SE can net $380 off for new users taking part in the promotion while those trading in an iPhone 5S, 5, 5C, 4S, 4, 3GS, 3G or original iPhone  can save $230. 

Similar to that prior October deal, you would be using T-Mobile's Essentials plan that currently runs $90 per month for two lines without any iPhones included. Unlimited talk, text and data are included (as is 5G data), but you don't have perks like free Netflix or international data roaming outside of Canada and Mexico and the unlimited hotspot is capped at "3G speeds." Taxes and fees are also not bundled into the sticker price. 

An improved deal for upgraders

Those who already have T-Mobile will be able to upgrade and get up to half off an iPhone 12 Pro or 12 Pro Max, with the exact value varying on the device you are trading in and which iPhone you are purchasing. For the 12 Pro Max, the deal would be a maximum of $550 off. 

Existing T-Mobile and Sprint users who have been with either T-Mobile or Sprint for at least five years can take another $200 off. The loyalty offer can be stacked on top of the trade-in deal to give existing users up to $750 off. T-Mobile did not immediately specify what the trade-in values would be for current users. 

The new deals are a surprise improvement from T-Mobile's first offers for the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro which maxed out at $850 off either device when switching and $700 off for existing users who were upgrading. Those who took advantage of those earlier deals would need to head back to a T-Mobile store and return their phone and repurchase it if they wanted to save the extra money, though it is unclear if there would be a restocking fee and what exactly that process would look like. 

CNET has reached out to T-Mobile for additional details. 

T-Mobile joins AT&T in releasing details on its new offers for the iPhone 12 Mini and Pro Max, with both carriers looking at the new iPhones as a way to not only lure people to their respective networks but to keep them locked in. Taking advantage of T-Mobile's deals will require purchasing the device on a 30-month installment plan, with the discounts for both new and existing users being credited back to you on your monthly bill over the term of the installment. 

If you decide to leave T-Mobile before the 30 months are up the remaining balances on the phones will become due. 

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Roku Streaming Stick Plus vs. Chromecast with Google TV: Battle of the best $50 streamers – CNET

As the holidays approach everybody is starting to look for deals on gifts. One category of gadgets that's more popular than ever are streaming sticks, the small dongles that bring TV shows and movies from Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus and Hulu to any TV.

CNET has reviewed nearly all of the major streaming devices and our two favorites are Roku's Streaming Stick Plus and Google's new Chromecast with Google TV. Both devices, as well as Amazon's Fire TV Stick 4K, cost $50 and deliver most of the major apps you'll want to stream in 4K resolution and high dynamic range. In our book the Roku and Chromecast outshine Fire TV on either functionality or ease of use, which is why we're focusing on those two here. 

To see how they stack up against one another, let's take a look at a few key areas: Interface, features and remote. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Roku's Streaming Stick Plus has long been our Editors' Choice pick in the category for some pretty good reasons: it's super simple to use, has a robust selection of apps and streaming services, supports 4K HDR and does a great job keeping its platform updated. The latest major update is support for Apple's AirPlay 2, a notable feature for iOS and Mac users to cast photos, video and more from their phones and computers to their TVs. Voice support, however, lags behind rivals and Roku is still missing HBO Max. Read our Roku Streaming Stick Plus review.

Juan Garzon/CNET

Google has tried various efforts to win the battle of the living room for years, but it finally has a worthy contender in the Chromecast with Google TV. The search giant's latest offering packs in Dolby Vision, an improved interface as well as excellent integration with its Google Assistant for voice control and search. Unlike Amazon and Roku, it has support for HBO Max, but unlike those platforms it lacks the Apple TV app and Apple TV Plus. Google's track record with TV, however, isn't as strong as Roku's and the interface, while fine, isn't as simple as its rival. Read our Chromecast with Google TV review.

Best interface: Roku Streaming Stick Plus

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The Roku interface is clean and simple, with large tiles for apps arranged in a grid. 

David Katzmaier/CNET

Roku's interface is as easy to use as it gets. A colorful array of app tiles are arranged in a grid that you can arrange to taste. Responses on the Streaming Stick Plus are super-quick, and within seconds I was inside services like Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu or Sling TV. There are no big recommendation tabs of what to watch, or posters of shows or movies cluttering the tiles (though there are some ads on the right side when scrolling through the grid). The app store, found in the left-hand section labeled Streaming Channels, is just as quick and easy to navigate as the main menu.

The Chromecast with Google TV makes nice progress compared to both earlier Android TV devices and Google's prior Chromecasts, which lacked any navigation at all. Although the menus look clear, and the main For You tab is fine, it is more cluttered than the "stick to basics" approach Roku takes, with no quick way to see a grid of all your installed apps. I also had moments where it lagged a bit. 

Google also needs more power than the Roku, so you likely won't be able to power it right off your TV's USB port (both include cables and adapters) and will need to find an open wall outlet.  

When it comes to ease of use, Roku wins. 

Best features: Chromecast with Google TV

01-google-tv-chromecast-launch-2020.png

The Google TV interface. 

screenshot/Google

Google wins the best features category, but it's a bit closer than the interface battle.

With support for Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos out of the box, support for gaming platforms like Google's own Stadia coming in 2021, and close integration with YouTube TV for streaming live television, Google does a really nice job creating a powerful streaming stick. Throw in the excellent use of its Google Assistant for voice search and control, which is miles ahead of Roku's voice assistant, and there is a lot to love.

Google also supports HBO Max, something Roku and Amazon's Fire TV platform both lack. On the other hand Apple TV Plus is absent from Google TV. Here's a chart comparing the four major platforms' support for big new apps.

Major new apps by platform support

Device HBO Max Peacock Apple TV Plus
Roku No Yes Yes
Fire TV No No Yes
Chromecast with Google TV Yes Yes No
Apple TV Yes Yes Yes

As it does with menus, Roku's device isn't as flashy but it still has 4K HDR and new features like AirPlay support could be really useful for the millions of Apple users. Google's device supports casting from Android devices as well as casting from apps on iOS or other platforms that support Chromecast. 

Another reason why this is close is in the track record. Google has a notably checkered past when it comes to supporting devices past the first year or two (both TV and in general). It has gotten a lot better lately but still has a ways to go. Roku, by contrast, has shown support for older devices for a number of years, something that is evidenced by how many of its products are slated to get that AirPlay update. 

While the flashy features are impressive, unlike the menus -- a core component of both devices that everyone will need to use -- they are, for the most part, much more niche. Dolby Vision and Atmos only work if you have the right equipment, while Stadia and YouTube TV integration are only game-changers if you pay for either service. That said they all do add value, and that integration with Google Assistant is excellent and makes using the Chromecast feel a lot more modern. 

Putting it all together and Google gets the edge here.

Best remote: Tie

Google finally includes a remote with a Chromecast, and it's a perfectly solid one. The size is compact but still comfortable to hold. It can handle input, power and volume control for your TV and all the plastic buttons are clicky and responsive with dedicated keys for Netflix and YouTube. A mic is present, as is a color shifted button for summoning Google Assistant. 

Chromecast with Google TV

The Chromecast with Google TV's remote is a very welcome addition. 

Juan Garzon/CNET

Roku's remote, well, looks like a Roku remote. The company hasn't done much to change up what admittedly already was a good thing. Volume and TV power control are both here (though there isn't any input control), with rubberized buttons for navigation, media playback, and quick control to Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu and Sling. A microphone and dedicated mic button are also here. 

roku-voice-remote-in-hand

The remote for the Streaming Stick Plus is similar to most other Roku remotes. 

Roku

Whereas Google wins on getting input control, I do appreciate that Roku has dedicated buttons for popular streaming services like Disney Plus and Hulu as well as a button to quickly jump back a few seconds (10 seconds on Netflix, for example, or 20 seconds on Disney Plus). 

Neither, sadly, have headphone jacks for private listening (though this could always be added later for Roku) or support for quickly finding the remote like Roku's pricier Ultra box. Ultimately, it's a toss-up. 

Best overall streamer: Roku Streaming Stick Plus

Roku Streaming Stick Plus

This year it's closer than ever, but the Roku Streaming Stick Plus is still our winner. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Both devices are excellent options and do a fantastic job covering all the bases of what you would want from a $50 streaming stick in 2020. A strong argument can be made that Google is the more feature-packed device, and if you subscribe to other Google services like Stadia or YouTube TV (or really want HBO Max now), it is almost assuredly the better option for you. 

But when it comes to the basics, Roku's interface is cleaner, easier and faster. The company's strong reputation for supporting older devices is worth taking into account as you probably will hold on to whichever streamer you buy for at least the next couple of years. For the purposes of this heads-up, those factors are enough to give Roku the win. 

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