When Amazon bought Twitch—the popular service for gamers to stream themselves playing video games—for $970 million in September of 2014, a lot of people had never heard of the company. The popularity of Twitch has continued to grow since then, though, and games like League of Legends and DOTA 2 draw hundreds of thousands of live viewers to the service. While the Apple TV lacks an official Twitch app (so far), there are still multiple apps available to watch Twitch streams. In this article we will review and compare the two free Apple TV apps that let you watch Twitch on your television.
As of this article’s writing, there are four apps for the Apple TV that allow for watching Twitch streams. Today I’ll be discussing the two free options: StreamCenter and Game Theater.
Right off the bat it’s worth noting that neither app currently supports logging in to your Twitch account. This means you won’t be able to see which of the streamers you follow are currently streaming and you won’t be able to participate in the chat. If this is a deal breaker for you, I recommend using the iOS official Twitch app and then using AirPlay to watch on your television.
Game Theater provides an uncluttered interface when first launched. You are able to view a list of games or a list of streams. In either case, the list is ordered by the number of viewers to make it easy to find the most popular games and streams.
There is a substantial limitation to Game Theater, though: no search functionality. While you can easily find popular games or streamers, there’s seemingly no good way to find an obscure game that only one or two people are playing and that have small audiences. There also doesn’t appear to be a way to access recordings of streams (something that can be done via the web or the official Twitch app) or view a streamer’s chat room to follow the conversation.
All this said, Game Theater did perform well when it came to the essential streaming functions. The video and audio was high quality, there was zero buffering, and pause and resume worked instantaneously.
StreamCenter has some of the same strengths and weaknesses, with one important difference. The app performed admirably at its core competencies: video looked terrific, the audio sounded good, and I didn’t experience any buffering. Streams are organized by game first (in order by number of viewers), then by number of viewers of the individual streams. Not having a list of the most popular streams, regardless of game, can make it hard to find certain popular personalities who play a variety of games.
Where StreamCenter really sets itself apart, though, is in having search functionality. You can search by game or stream–though searching by stream never produced any results for me–even when searching for streams that I knew were currently active. Searching by game, on the other hand, worked perfectly. Search for Zelda, for instance, and you’ll see several different games in the franchise that you can select to find individual streams.
For those wanting to see the chatroom during a stream, StreamCenter shows this as being an option in some of the screenshots on its GitHub site, but I was unable to get it to work myself. In any case, it would appear that they’re at least working on the feature, and they’ve also announced they are working on allowing people to login with their Twitch accounts via the app.
Which app do I recommend? Both apps provided crystal clear video and audio and have room for improvement, but StreamCenter has to get the edge with its search functionality to make it possible to find a wider range of games. While both are missing features that an official Twitch app would likely have, StreamCenter provides a more complete substitute.