Astrocytes are resident glia cells of the central nervous system (CNS) that play complex and heterogeneous roles in brain development, homeostasis and disease. Since their vast involvement in health and disease is becoming increasingly recognized, suitable and reliable tools for studying these cells in vivo and in vitro are of utmost importance. One of the key challenges hereby is to adequately mimic their context-dependent in vivo phenotypes and functions in vitro . To better understand the spectrum of astrocytic variations in defined settings we performed a side-by-side-comparison of embryonic stem cell (ESC)-derived astrocytes as well as primary neonatal and adult astrocytes, revealing major differences on a functional and transcriptomic level, specifically on proliferation, migration, calcium signaling and cilium activity. Our results highlight the need to carefully consider the choice of astrocyte origin and phenotype with respect to age, isolation and culture protocols based on the respective biological question.