Thinking of buying a streaming media stick? Streaming media sticks are a very portable inexpensive way to turn any dumb TV into a smart TV. Media sticks are portable versions of a media player. They have many of the features that set-top media players do with fewer options and limited memory. Let's have a closer look with our Roku streaming stick review vs Roku streaming stick review.
Streaming Sticks are ideal for students on the go or for a second portable streaming device to use in your home. Two major players on the market are the Amazon Fire Stick and the Roku Express + Stick. The old Amazon Fire TV Stick has been replaced by Amazon's latest version the Amazon Fire Stick with Ultra HD. It now has 4K Ultra HD up to 60 fps, HDR, and Dolby Atmos audio.
The new Amazon Stick also seamlessly works with any Alexa smart devices. If you want a smart device the Roku streaming media players only has voice commands and are not smart devices that can work with other smart products.
If you are a spec guy below is a full chart. You can look at the specs but this article will focus more on the actual user experience by comparing side by side performance experience and usability.
Amazon Fire Stick Vs Roku Sticks Streaming Devices
We set up two TVs side by side one with the Roku Stick and one with the Amazon Fire Stick. We went through different Apps and streaming providers and compared speed and user experience.
At first startup, the Roku Stick launches faster than the Amazon Fire Stick. But it can lag occasionally with certain Apps loading.
Amazon Fire Home Screen
Comparing Streaming Provider Apps at startup
Cold start: Amazon Fire Stick launches faster and starts programs slightly faster than the Roku Stick.
Cold start: Roku is faster, but overall once started up the Amazon Fire TV is slightly faster at launching programs and Apps.
Cold start: The Roku is faster-running programs and Apps.
Amazon Prime TV
Cold start: Amazon Fire is faster and navigation with the built-in amazon prime App makes the Amazon slightly faster than the Roku.
Both android streaming devices come with a smart remote for ease of navigation. Both are very different in style. Whereas the Amazon Fire remote is sleek and modern with a heavy Apple influenced style reminiscent of the first iPods. The Roku is more colorful and playful. I believe they did this for the gaming Apps. So the remote would have a more Wii feel.
Fire TV with 4K Ultra HD
Roku Express + Remote
The first impression is the Amazon remote has a better quality feel than the Roku. Voice command app needs to be downloaded for the Roku on your smartphone. The Amazon Firestick comes preinstalled with voice command and a remote that has a built-in microphone.
Note: the voice command on the Amazon Fire Stick only works in the Amazon Prime environment. The Roku app works with most media services. But you will have to use your smartphone as a controller.
Overall reviews and feedback are the Roku is a better remote with four quick-launch buttons for Netflix, Amazon, Blockbuster On Demand and M-Go and once voice command is loaded it works better than the Amazon Fire Stick.
Roku Stick vs Amazon Fire Stick 4K Ultra
Both sticks support about every major streaming provider. See chart below for listing Omitted from Amazon Fire Stick is HBO GO.
Roku has been in the business longer and supports just about everything. If there is not an official Roku support channel, chances are that an unofficial version is available and can be manually downloaded.
From feedback and reviews, the Amazon Fire Stick works better for games than the Roku. In the last year, Amazon has increased their game library to more than 200. If you are a serious gamer Amazon Fire TV Gaming Edition offers a gaming version complete with a game controller.
The Roku Stick has an extra feature that the Amazon Fire Stick does not have. The Roku will remember where you were on another an App. Whereas the Fire TV Stick does a cold start and exits out of the App.
The Roku navigates from one App to the next without having to reboot the App making the Roku better to navigate if you like to jump from one streaming provider to another. When using the Roku voice command App you can search through many Apps at once.
One thing that the Amazon Fire TV stick has that is a big bonus is basically you are getting a fully functional Alexa Voice Control that can do much more than just surfing channels. The same full system as on an Amazon Echo that sells for around $100 dollars.
Both Media Player support many streaming services
Both media players support Apps like Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Videos, and Spotify. See Chart below. You can install Kodi on Firestick and almost any android app as well. This makes the Firestick much more useful than Roku. Also, the Plex app works much better on Firestick than with the Roku.
If you subscribe to Amazon Prime TV and live in the States than the Amazon Fire Stick would be a good choice. Being that it costs $10 less than the Roku and has more features and memory the Amazon Fire Stick would be your best choice.
For Canadians, the Amazon Fire Stick is only available on the US Amazon site and will not deliver to Canada. Recently they have made the Amazon Fire TV Basic Edition available in Canada it is the only model that is now sold in Canada. Other purchases from Amazon.com can be done by signing up with a US mailbox site. This service would add additional fees to the product you order.
Here is a complete guide How to Buy Amazon Fire TV if you live in Canada if you are bound and determined to get Fire TV in Canada to make it worth it. I would move up to the Amazon Fire TV. Click to see our review.
Overall the two devices are pretty well equal in performance. If you are familiar with Roku and have Roku products now, a Roku stick would be a great second media device in your home. They can also be purchased in Canada, unlike the Amazon Fire TV.
- If speed is a major factor and you live in Canada the Roku Stick is your best choice.
- If you need internal storage to download files the Amazon Fire would be a better choice with 8 GB of storage versus 256MB on the Roku Stick.
- If you are an Amazon Prime subscriber and use it often then the Fire TV Stick will work better for you.
- Both models are ideal for a portable compact device for that second TV in your home.
- But if you need more features and memory then moving up to a set-top box for a few dollars more may be a better choice as your main player in the house.
If you like the idea of having voice commands to search for produces and other cool features like turning lights on and making grocery lists then the Amazon Fire TV with Alexa Voice Control is a great choice to start building your smart home.
As of November 2017, the Amazon Fire TV Stick Basic Edition See my full review. has been made available in Canada and is set to be released in 100 countries worldwide. Right now the Basic Edition is quite a bid cheap then the Roku but with no gaming or voice activation support.
Roku Stick VS Amazon Fire Stick
|Features Included||Roku Express + Stick||Amazon Fire Stick Ultra 4k|
|Memory Comes with remote Controller app Voice Search Cross-platform Search Bluetooth Wireless Networking Audio outputs Video sound outputs Online Streaming Video||Quad-Core 512/256 MB Yes Android, IOS, Windows Phone, BB10 Yes Yes No 802.11 (b/g/n) dual-band Up to 1080p DTS Digital Surround AOL On Break Dailymotion DISHWorld Livestream M-Go Plex Popcornflix Redbox Twonky Vimeo VUDU Yahoo Screen YouTube||Quad-core 1.5 GHz | ARM 4xCA53 Yes Android, IOS Yes, with Alexa Voice Remote Alexa Voice Control Bluetooth 4.2 + LE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi networks. Dolby Atmos compatibility, Dolby Digital Plus, and Dolby Digital Dolby Audio 5.1 Surround AOL On DailyBurn Frequency Plex Vimeo Yahoo Screen YouTube|
|Movies and TV||Amazon Instant Video Blockbuster on Demand CinemaNow Crackle Fixter Hulu Netflix Sling TV Snagfilms||Crackle Fixter Hulu Netflix Sling TV Snagfilms |
|Sports||CBSSports.com DishWorld Sports ESPN MLB.TV Golf MLS.LIVE NBA Game Time NHL GameCenter SEC Digital Network UFCTV WatchESPN WWE Network||ACC Golf MLB.TV NBA Game Time WatchESPN WWE Network|
See Roku Pricing
See Amazon Pricing
Compare All Five Roku Specs
|||Roku Stick||Roku 1||Roku 2||Roku 3||Roku Premiere+|
|See all Roku Reviews||See Review||See Review||See Review||See Review||See Review|
| Access to 300,000 movies and TV episodes for 3,000+ streaming channels||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|TV compatibility||HDMI||HDMI or A/V Cable||HDMI||HDMI||HDMI 94K Video Via HDCP 2.2 HDMI|
|1080p Full HD support||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|4K Ultra HD support||||||||||Yes|
|802.11 b/g/n dual-band wireless||||Yes|
|802.11ac MIMO wireless|||| Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Shortcut button to popular streaming channels||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Roku Search search across the top channel by tile actor, or director||Yes|
|Roku Feed get updates on content availability and price changes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Hotel & Dorm Connect for internet connections that require user login||||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Control with free Roku Mobile App||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Voice search via Roku Mobile App|
See all Roku Reviews
Update. It's finally here!
Amazon Fire TV Basic Edition is now available in Canada!
This is not the same Edition as in the above review. The Amazon Fire TV Basic Edition that is available in Canada and worldwide has very similar performance but is lacking voice control, gaming support, and 4K content.
The basic Edition Fire TV features a quad-core processor, built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi, plugs directly into a TV via HDMI and comes with a tiny Fire TV Remote for navigation. The same specs as the newer version of Amazon Fire Stick but without voice control or gaming support.
With the Fire TV Stick Basic Edition, you can access a number of Amazon apps over 4000 to choose from. Netflix, YouTube, and Spotify are all available but the main push is for Amazon Prime Membership to get the most out of Amazon Fire TV.
Priced at around $50 dollars it is in the price range of many competitors, the same price as Roku Stick. Keep in mind you do need an Amazon Prime Membership to access Amazon's Prime video content to get the most out of this device. If you don’t like that idea I would suggest the Roku.
Interesting enough Amazon prices are the same as in the US but with no exchange rate. Making them cheaper to buy in Canada. But I think this is an introductory price for a limited time.
Other articles that will help you learn more about streaming media
Chromecast, Fire TV Stick, or Roku: What’s the best streaming stick for ~$50?
In 2021, as we all continue to spend more time in front of screens than anyone anticipated, most of us have a short list of requirements for a modern streaming stick. We just want a device that's compatible with our favorite content and all the other devices in our living rooms.
One of the earlier entrants into this space, Google’s Chromecast streaming device underwent a significant transformation this generation with the addition of a remote control and a proper user interface. Previously, Chromecast relied entirely on streaming content from a separate device (phone, computer, tablet) to play content on your TV. But with the new features, Google’s latest Chromecast with Google TV finally competes with other popular, sub-$50 4K streaming sticks like the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K and Roku Streaming Stick+. It might even be an attractive alternative to the $179 Apple TV 4K.
So the 2020 Chromecast seems like it could be the perfect low-cost yet highly compatible cross between a streaming stick (to watch content from your phone) and a remote-controlled set-top box (to control apps like Netflix, Prime Video, and HBO Max via remote).The only way to know for sure, however, was to put in a little more screen time. Recently, we placed the latest Chromecast up against Amazon’s Fire TV Stick 4K and Roku’s Streaming Stick+ in some Orbital HQ testing to see which $50 streaming stick gives you the most value for your money—and which delivers the fewest headaches when you just want to kick back and watch something, maybe even something in 4K.
The short version
- Google's 2020 Chromecast with Google TV is the best streaming stick you can get for $50. It has wide-ranging compatibility across platforms and devices, speedy performance, a simple and sensibly laid-out remote, and Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos support. With a price tag a third the cost of an Apple TV, it also gives Apple's streaming box a run for its money. It excels beyond Roku and Fire TV devices with a more polished and effective user interface that does well to serve you up something you'll enjoy watching.
- Amazon's Fire TV Stick 4K has the benefit of being on the market longer and having more time to develop. As such, it was a top pick for under $50 streamers—but mainly by default. It's not hard to use the Fire TV Stick, but it's harder to find quality content in comparison to the latest Chromecast. The Fire TV Stick 4K can often come across primarily as a device on which to watch Prime Video. You can still hop over to Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, and the like to find a specific title you're looking for, but if you're just browsing through the UI looking for something to watch, you'll be hard pressed to find something not on Prime Video. While Prime Video does have a large library of movies, this leaves you with limited, sub-par options for finding new content. That said, the Fire TV Stick 4K is still fast, and it supports useful features like Dolby Vision HDR and more robust user profiles for children.
- The Roku Streaming Stick+ doesn't suffer as much from a biased user interface as the Fire TV Stick 4K, but that's still partly due to a lackluster user interface. It's not built to browse—or at least not very well. You ought to know what you want to watch before turning on a Roku device, as you're best served going directly into the app that has it to watch it there. Roku's UI is simple to read, has all the major streaming services, and does have useful tricks like AirPlay 2 support and Windows and Android screen mirroring. But its everyday usability falls flat, which makes it worse than the Chromecast at solving the ever-threatening existential crisis of what to watch next. Plus, it lacks Dolby Vision HDR.
Google Chromecast with Google TV
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As far as setting up your services on the Fire TV Stick and Roku Streaming Stick+, it’s the same rigmarole you’d expect—typing in emails and passwords with a directional pad, an onerous task which the Chromecast circumvents. With the help of the Google Home app and Face ID on my iPhone, I was logged into my appropriate accounts quickly on the Chromecast, and I didn’t even have to type a thing on my phone (Wi-Fi passwords, account logins, or otherwise). All of my relevant information was pulled from the Google Home app, a feature we missed sorely while Ouija-boarding in our passwords with the Roku and Amazon remotes.
Roku attempts to emulate a similar in-app setup process as Google’s (after you’ve already typed in at least two logins) by emailing you a link to a setup webpage, unlike Amazon’s which is done solely through the Fire TV Stick. Here is where you choose the apps and services to be downloaded, though the Roku process throws a ton more garbage at you in the form of numerous free trials, compared to Amazon and Google.
With both the Roku and Fire TV Stick, this initial setup is just step one. After all the apps are downloaded, you have to open them and login all over again—another cumbersome task the Chromecast largely avoids with its use of the Google Home app and passwords saved to your Google account. Some logins will still be required after the fact with Chromecast, but not nearly as many.
Of note: Amazon does give you the option for child profiles, though, which is a missing feature on both the Chromecast and Roku sticks.
Whether discussing form or function, Google’s Chromecast leaves both of our other options behind quite easily. Chromecast's aesthetics are the most refined, and its functionality is the most useful of the three. While Amazon’s Fire TV experience does have a similar setup—a top row of tabbed sections and tiles of content or apps on each page laid out underneath—Amazon tries to cram in more by neglecting to space out the tiles.
In practice, it's just a bit busier than the Chromecast interface, which is also a bit more visually intuitive. but this flaw could be overlooked if the Fire TV’s wall of media tiles weren’t just row after row of Prime Video content and ads. If a page has 10 rows of tiles, eight out of the 10 are either ads or directly tied to Prime Video. This isn’t a problem you’ll find with the Chromecast and Google’s services, nor with Roku.
Amazon puts a heavy emphasis on its Prime Video service in terms of how it offers content. It’s not the worst thing, since Prime does have an expansive library, but so does most any streaming stick. They all have access to most of the same things, save for some notable exceptions we’ll touch on later. Amazon’s obsession with feeding you Prime content, original or otherwise, is a serious hindrance to this device's usefulness and fun factor. The Fire TV Stick gives you rather low-quality content recommendations given the myriad of streaming platforms housed within, and you can tell. It favors recommending an F-list movie from Prime Video over a decent film you might actually enjoy from another platform.Advertisement
Roku is the simplest UI on offer here. It's basic to the point of being dated in the looks department. Still, in comparison, it's nice to browse titles in peace. While testing Roku, it did not live in constant fear of autoplay trailers threatening to interrupt my thoughts every second (looking at you, Fire TV). I know you can just mute your TV, but I could feel my anxiety levels lower scrolling through Roku’s interface.
At the same time, I was also underwhelmed using the Roku and unable to explore much about a piece of content without having to open the app that houses it. In this sense, Roku’s interface feels more like a smart TV in that it simply gives you access to apps so you can watch what you want there. In contrast, both the Fire TV and Chromecast serve as mediums for aggregating and presenting content for you to explore. And in that regard, Google’s new Chromecast handily leads the pack.
Amazon’s recently announced a significant update to the Fire TV user interface, which will include a more streamlined main screen, user profiles, and a “Find” tab to discover content more easily. This should start rolling out to the Fire TV Stick 4K in the coming weeks, as well as on the 1080p Fire TV Stick and Fire TV Stick Lite. We’ll update this section when it hits our Fire TV Stick 4K.
Finding what you’re looking for
All three of these streaming sticks have a voice control button on their remotes. These can be used for searching up content and opening apps. Though none of these implementations are perfect, voice is the best way to search on each device in most cases. Much like we saw in navigating each UI, Google’s Chromecast search, run by Google Assistant, is more accurate and often more useful with its results than the other two.
Say you’re in the mood to watch a good documentary. If you say “documentaries” to the respective voice controls, Amazon’s Alexa will bring back about five rows of various categories, mostly comprised of what’s available on Amazon’s Prime Video service. Categories include a selection from your subscriptions, free with ads, trending, latest, and movies and TV. The combination of some random, off-base recommendations and the majority of results coming from Amazon Prime make you feel like you’re not being presented with the highest quality or most expansive options.
It’s not nearly as bad as Roku’s handling, though. Search here brought a handful of documentaries, a ton of reality TV shows, and a good amount of neither within the results.
Google Assistant, on the other hand, pulls up a rather comprehensive, thoughtfully organized and wholly on-target set of lists in the same carousel fashion as the Fire TV. Unlike Amazon’s results, options found here are effective at producing picks you might like. Categories include popular, Oscar-winning, war documentaries, religious docs, and politics, among others. Generally, Chromecast returns a mélange of results from different platforms, so Google’s clearly prioritized offering quality picks over forcing you onto Google’s services... in contrast to Amazon’s reverse approach.
The same tendencies surface when searching for a specific performer. Searching “Dave Chappelle,” for instance, Google spits back a simple two carousels of results–one comprised of titles featuring Dave Chappelle, and a “people also search for” carousel of related people, whose pictures you can click to explore more of their works.
It’s plainly powered by the same algorithms used in Google search, offering results that include spouses and children (who are noted as such) as well as related performers, complete with biographical blurbs sourced straight from Wikipedia. The only thing we can fault Google for here is the omission of certain results, in this instance, a taped award ceremony for Chappelle receiving the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor (which is available on Netflix). If you’re a Chappelle fan, that might be something you’d like to see in your search results.
Amazon’s Fire TV did offer this result in its top picks, right along with the other works Google displayed, but somehow Google missed it. In fact, the search race was much tighter here between Amazon and Google, as they offered just about the same pieces of content, save for Google’s one omission. Roku also didn’t lag too far behind as it found much of the same while missing more obscure results than either of the two (including the same award ceremony Google missed).
Between the three, voice searches for specific movies or shows work as well as intended. Press the button, say the words, and in a second you’re ready to click play. The only slip ups to speak of come from the Roku, which has a tough time recognizing some words, especially those with alternate spellings. “Inglourious Basterds,” for instance, is a movie you’re just going to have to type out to find on Roku—it won’t come up at all from a voice search. That isn’t the case for Amazon and Google.
Roku, again feeling more like a virtual Redbox than anything else, doesn’t offer much in the content descriptions when search results are pulled up, either. The plot summary is usually one sentence, the star ratings don’t tell you where they’re coming from, and you can’t watch the trailer.
The same screen on the Chromecast has all of these missing items from the Roku, and it even lets you explore the Rotten Tomatoes ratings and critiques in a little pop-up browser. Plus, once you’ve watched it, you can give a title a thumbs up or thumbs down to help fine tune your recommendations. The Fire TV Stick doesn’t go quite as far, but it still offers trailers and a more in-depth description than Roku. The low-quality, sometimes useless related content recommendations below the result are another aspect that keep Amazon lagging a good bit behind Google.
Whether you know exactly what you want to watch, or you’re not sure and want to do some perusing, watch some trailers, check some ratings, and then decide, the Google Chromecast is the most effective, most capable, and most fun to browse on.
Finding new things to watch
The same key differences between the three make Google’s Chromecast the most adept at quickly and easily helping you discover new or related content that you’re genuinely likely to enjoy. As mentioned earlier, browsing for quality content on the main screens of the Chromecast is a more fine-tuned and fruitful endeavor, and the same is also true when you’ve just finished a movie or show you loved but don’t know where to go from there.Advertisement
Let’s say, for instance, you just finished Kill Bill and are now on a Kung Fu kick, feeling über Uma Thurman, or are particularly enjoying the quirky Tarantino movies. With Chromecast, on the main page of the movie, simply scroll down and either click one of the stars to see more of their work (as well as a little biographical blurb) or scroll down one more row to find recommendations based on various aspects of the movie, genre, or the creators and stars themselves. Among the options for this particular title were action movies, Oscar-winning titles, and an “if you like X” option that actually seems accurate. Different movies will elicit different categories based on their own unique aspects.
In stark contrast, the Fire TV Stick gives you an entirely useless “customers also watched” row offering completely unrelated and often wildly off-target suggestions which, you guessed it, are largely from Prime Video. Below that you have as many as 50 rows of content, each one based exclusively off each of the starring actors—no matter how big or small their role. It’s truly unnecessary and wholly ineffective in helping you find content you’ll love.
Finding meaningful suggestions on the Chromecast is intuitive and useful—the direct opposite of the experience offered on the Fire TV Stick. Roku, on the other hand, simply doesn’t offer such a feature to find related content.
One last thing to note here is the implementation of watchlists, another feature which the Roku lacks. Both the Fire TV and Chromecast offer it, but for some reason Amazon’s isn’t always available as a save option for content you come across. We’d say about seven out of 10 times it is available, but we couldn’t find a rhyme or reason to the absences.
Google’s watchlist doesn’t just edge out Amazon for its consistently available saving options, but it also reigns supreme for having the benefit of integration into your Google searches. If you Google a show or movie, you can easily add it to your watchlist right from the top of the results when you’re logged into your Google account. It’ll show up on your Chromecast watchlist immediately—a feature I’m fond of now and I’m sure I’ll love even more when I can leave the house again.
Each of these streaming sticks, for the most part, do the same basic things. As we just discussed, of course, some do it better. But there are a couple features that set these apart, and these could potentially define their usefulness to you.
Google Chromecast extra features
The standout feature for Google’s Chromecast is without a doubt the ability to stream content from a phone, tablet, or computer through a myriad of compatible apps, directly to your TV. In fact, it used to be the only feature of the Chromecast and, after more than seven years of development, it’s amassed a formidable list of compatible apps. Essentially, most any app you use to listen to music or watch videos can stream from your phone to the Chromecast. And on computers, Google’s Chrome browser takes over any such duties. This is a feature neither the Fire TV Stick nor the Roku Streaming Stick+ can emulate in its seamlessness and wide-ranging compatibility, though Roku does come close.
You can also use a Nest or Google Home device to turn on your TV and control basic functions with your voice (though, of course, Alexa can do the same on the Fire TV Stick).
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K extra features
The Fire TV Stick doesn’t have much of anything that the other two don’t. As mentioned, you can use an Echo device to turn the TV on and off, but otherwise there’s no other built-in standout features.
It is worth noting, though, that jailbreaking these devices or otherwise finding ways to install free media services, like Kodi, is a popular pastime among Fire Stick owners. Such tweaks can and often do affect reliability of the Fire Sticks and, although generally easy enough to fix (by resetting it to stock), it’s a bit of a pain having a boot-looping Fire Stick if problems do arise.
Roku Streaming Stick+ extra features
Roku’s trick up its sleeve, like the Chromecast’s, has to do with streaming from mobile devices. It’s Airplay-enabled, so you can stream music and video to it or use it as a secondary display for an Apple device. Furthermore, you can mirror an Android or Windows computer through Roku, emulating in large part what the Chromecast can do with your devices. In essence, it has all the same bases covered as the Chromecast, albeit in a slightly less streamlined way.
You didn’t think we could talk streaming sticks during the still ongoing streaming wars and not talk missing services, did you?
Again, generally, these three streaming sticks cover the same ground in terms of the major streaming platforms. But there are some notable exceptions which, sadly, could make or break a particular device for you.
Google Chromecast missing services
The never-ending war of attrition between Apple and Google still slogs onward as new devices and new services come about. In this instance, Apple TV+ is the service you can’t get on a Google Chromecast, but you can stream it from your computers Chrome browser. This may not be a huge deal for anyone who’s uninterested in the original movies, shows, and documentaries Apple’s been producing, but the fact that it’s available on the Fire TV Stick and Roku does make this all the more frustrating. Like Apple TV+, most any other smaller omissions can also be made up for by streaming it from a compatible mobile device.
Amazon Fire Stick TV missing services
The Fire Stick is currently missing NBCUniversal’s Peacock TV free streaming service, and that excludes it from free access to all of NBC’s shows and many of Universal Studios’ films. Being one of the few free services that offers some major titles, this is a pretty tough omission. It’s expected that a deal will be made eventually, but there’s been little in the way of clues as to the timeline.
Furthermore, the brute force with which Prime content is shoved down your throat, in practice, makes you feel like you’re only browsing one platform—Prime Video. Of course, you can go directly into the apps you know house the content you’re looking for, but as we explained earlier, this essentially defeats the purpose of a streaming stick (versus a smart TV) by severely hampering how effectively you can find quality content that you’ll actually enjoy.
Roku Streaming Stick+ missing services
Roku just gained access to HBO Max, which was a pretty big omission for both companies during a span of several months. With this addition, though, Roku has all the big names you’re looking for. And like the Chromecast, it can make up for smaller omissions via Airplay and Android or Windows screen mirroring.
Live TV and Premium Channels
Through various TV network apps and league partnerships (Comedy Central, TBS, ABC, the NBA, MLB, and ESPN for example), you can watch live news, shows, and sports events across all three of these devices.
The Fire TV has a “Live” page—it’s one the Roku and Chromecast don’t have—which even includes a channel guide. It’s a bit misleading though since the page consists mostly of offering the aforementioned apps, and the channel guide is exclusively sourced from IMDbTV, a free streaming platform offering movies and shows. While IMDbTV isn’t available on the Chromecast or Roku devices, you can always stream it from a compatible mobile device to either one. (Regardless, it’s not really live TV, anyway.)
Winner: Google Chromecast with Google TV
In the end, a competition between similar devices with nearly identical features and similarly inexpensive price tags wasn’t all that close. In nearly every aspect of use, the Chromecast with Google TV proved to be more effective, easier to use, and looked better doing it than either the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K or Roku’s Streaming Stick+.
Google does an excellent job of surfacing quality content that piques your interest. Its algorithms seem to account for quality and relation, picking up on more nuanced themes which ultimately offer better results. “Dysfunctional family comedies,” for instance, is a category Google offers, and that zeroes in on a narrower aspect than “comedies” alone could. Again and again, Google’s related recommendations, in any category, carry a high success rate.
Coupled with nearly universal device compatibility, the Chromecast is hard to beat. And at $50, it blows past the Fire TV Stick and Roku devices found at the same price (though the Amazon and Roku devices are often on sale). In fact, the new Chromecast seems to be offering one of the best streaming experiences at any price. It certainly has me wondering what I still need my Apple TV for.
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Roku vs. Amazon Fire TV Stick: Which is best for you?
Picking a new streaming device often brings you to debate Roku vs. Amazon Fire TV Stick. And while Amazon is eager to discount its Firesticks, price is not the only factor to take into consideration when you make your purchase.
While Roku and Fire TV both have a ton of apps, there are some notable differences between the two platforms. Which one is the best streaming device for your household will depend on a few different decisions
After reading our in-depth Roku vs. Amazon Fire TV Stick faceoff, you'll have a pretty good idea about which family of streaming devices you should buy into.
Here's everything you need to know to decide between Roku vs. Amazon Fire TV.
Roku vs. Amazon Fire TV Stick: Streaming devices
Both Fire TV Sticks and Roku devices start at $29. For that money you get the Roku Express or the Fire TV Stick Lite, and each has its own set of drawbacks and perks. The Fire TV Stick Lite's comparative win comes with its Alexa-enabled remote, but its excessive promotion of Prime Video may rub people the wrong way. As for the Roku Express, it's got fairly snappy performance for its price, but its remote signal quality isn't perfect and required some extra intent in our testing.
Going slightly more expensive, you see that Roku has Amazon beat when it comes to UHD streaming. Amazon's $40 Fire TV Stick maxes out at 1080p, while the cheaper $35 Roku Premiere streams in 4K. While the Premiere has the same remote issue as the Express, it's still a better buy than the normal Fire TV Stick.
All of Amazon's Fire Sticks just hide behind your TV, and that's a great design feature — they exist without reminding you that they're there. Your experience with the Roku Express and Premiere might not be as effortless, as they're so light that they may have a hard time sitting on a surface evenly.
Today's best Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K deals
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Those who can spend $50 will get the best streaming device either company makes: the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K and the Roku Streaming Stick Plus (the best streaming device in our book). Both stream in beautiful 4K HDR and offer speedy navigation and voice-enabled remote controls, and hide behind your TV, like all of Amazon's Firesticks.
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So, to help us decide this close fight, we took an average of the ratings we gave the Roku and Fire TV devices. Roku's Streaming Stick Plus (4.5 stars), Premiere and Express (3.5 stars each) averaged out to 3.8 stars, beating the 3.3-star average from Amazon's 3 Firesticks: Fire TV Stick Lite and Fire TV Stick (3 stars each) and Fire TV Stick 4K (4 stars).
Roku vs. Amazon Fire TV Stick: Home screen and interface
The Roku is the out and out winner when it comes to streaming device home screens. Folks who like their Fire Stick may find it as a convenient way to watch a lot of video from Amazon — the home screen promotes a lot of Prime Video and Amazon Channels content — but it lacks in customization.
This is a problem for anyone who bought their Fire TV Stick because of its affordability but discovers they don't want to watch what Prime Video is offering. Because now you're getting a face full of Prime Video content.
Amazon has rolled out a slightly updated interface to its non-4K Firesticks, but it's not enough to change our mind. Sure, the interface looks slightly prettier, but it's still heavy on Amazon content and light on the ability to customize and control what you see.
Roku has a much cleaner and simpler home screen: a grid of icons that you can rearrange and a list of menu options. This is all we really need, and it allows you to see more apps at once than you would on the Fire TV, where you scroll through a carousel.
Roku vs. Amazon Fire TV Stick: Apps and channels
Amazon Fire Sticks and Roku devices can access a lot of content. 42Matters claims that Fire TV has 11,101 apps, but Roku has 21,011 apps. But most people don't need that many apps, much less a small fraction of those large amounts. The story of apps on streaming devices is more about what's missing.
Long-time streaming device owners have often spent some time dealing with the lack of a new streaming service here and there. This is often because it takes time for companies to iron out contracts, as we the consumers lose. For example, YouTube TV took a lot longer to land on Fire TV than other platforms — finally arriving in 2019.
2020 saw both Peacock and HBO Max launch, and both took their sweet time to land on Roku. And while HBO Max made it to Fire TV Sticks, Peacock is still not on Fire TV. The Walmart-owned movie streaming service Vudu is not on Fire TV either.
When the Tom's Guide staff collected a list of 33 popular apps (and 3 niche apps) that we need on our streaming devices, we found that Roku had all but one of the niche apps (NJPW World, a Japanese pro wrestling app that's only on Fire TV). The Fire TV lacks Peacock, Vudu and the built-in media player (with DLNA) that you get on Roku. That media player is also categorized as a niche app that many could live without, instead using Plex (available on both platforms).
Peacock's absence on Firesticks could be a big deal for you, but it's not a big problem (yet). Maybe that changes when the WWE Network is only available on Peacock in mid-march.
Roku vs. Amazon Fire TV: Special features
The Fire TV devices benefit from Amazon's Alexa skills and connected smart home devices. That means you can check your smart home-connected live cameras around the house, view the weather forecast and even order a pizza, all with your voice. These features work on all Fire Sticks.
Roku has third party options such as IP Camera Viewer - Pro, but it's still much more of a device meant for streaming than being a part of your smart home. That being said, the Roku platform supports both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa for commands.
Winner: Amazon Fire TV
Roku vs. Amazon Fire TV Stick: Scorecard
|Roku||Amazon Fire TV|
|Apps and channels||✓||✓|
Roku vs. Amazon Fire TV Stick: Verdict
And there you have it, our battle of the Roku devices and Amazon Fire Sticks has a winner. When it's time to stream, you want to go with Roku.
This Roku vs Amazon Fire TV Stick face-off has clearly explained how the former wins. It's got the cheaper 4K device, better hardware overall and an interface that you control (and not one that just spams you with Prime Video content).
On top of that, Roku is not lacking anything in the apps section (thanks HBO Max), not that Fire TV's missing Peacock is a huge flaw. Sure, folks plugged into the smart home lifestyle may prefer the connectivity of the Firesticks and the Amazon ecosystem, but in our book you buy a streaming device to stream content — and that's why Roku gets the win.
Henry is an editor writer at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and Apple. Prior to joining Tom's Guide — where he's the self-described Rare Oreo Expert — he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. You can find him at your local pro wrestling events, and looking for the headphone adapter that he unplugged from his iPhone.
The Roku Channel, Roku’s free streaming service that offers thousands of ad-supported titles and 115 live TV channels, is now available to Amazon Fire TV users, the company announced today. And while it may seem odd that The Roku Channel would live on Fire TV devices — Amazon and Roku are direct competitors in set-top-box hardware — it might actually make a lot of sense.
Neither Amazon nor Roku truly rely on hardware sales to boost their TV brands. Amazon’s gadgets have always been a gateway to Amazon’s services, and the company may just need more content to offer its Fire TV on top of its existing channels. Meanwhile, Roku makes the majority of its revenue through advertising and subscriptions, which is a big part of why it took so long for NBCUniversal’s Peacock to roll out on Roku. It makes sense that the company would want to make the Roku Channel accessible to as many people as possible.
Roku executives announced at the end of the company’s second quarter this year that its brand reaches an estimated 43 million people across the US. If a decent portion of those customers spend time watching The Roku Channel, Roku can make a bigger play for even more advertising revenue.
Roku launched The Roku Channel in 2017, and has steadily invested in growing it since. Bringing the channel to Amazon is just one of many steps Roku is taking to get the service in front of as many eyeballs as possible; Roku is also developing an app for Apple and Android devices, set to roll out this year, to make it easier for people to watch on their phones. But while Amazon Fire TV owners can now watch Roku Channel content, they still can’t subscribe to premium channels or services through the Channel on Amazon — those have to be done on Roku devices. Roku already hosts Amazon Prime Video and Amazon Music on its devices, too.
Roku is rolling out the Roku Channel to Amazon Fire TV devices, Fire TV smart television sets, and Fire TV Edition sound bars.
Correction: This story originally stated that Roku offered more than 100,000 ad-supported titles based on information from Roku’s blog. Roku has since changed that statistic to “thousands,” and we have changed it in this article.
Roku firestick 2017 vs
Fire TV vs. Roku: Which streaming platform should today's cord-cutter pick?
On the surface, Roku and Amazon Fire TV have a lot in common. Both offer affordable streaming players that you that you can plug into practically any flat-panel TV, and both will let you access a wide range of popular streaming services, from Netflix and Hulu to YouTube TV and Disney+.
Digging a bit deeper reveals some big philosophical differences between the two streaming platforms: Roku’s software emphasizes simplicity over flashy features, while its expansive hardware lineup tries to hit every conceivable budget. Amazon takes the opposite approach, pairing a small number of simple-yet-effective hardware options with a sprawling software interface.
There is no clear winner between these two approaches. Instead, choosing between Roku and Fire TV as your streaming platform of choice will be a matter of personal preference. To make the decision a bit easier, let’s walk through how the two most popular streaming platforms compare.
Ease of use
If you’re used to the idea of launching apps on your phone, you’ll be pretty comfortable using a Roku device. Its main menu presents a grid of icons, letting you quickly launch streaming apps such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video. And when you’re getting set up, it’s easy to find the most popular apps through the “Channel Store” section of the home screen.
The Fire TV menu is much more cluttered. Instead of a single app launcher, there are separate rows for favorite and recent apps, along with a master app list you can access by holding down the home button. The home screen is also surrounded by extra menus for movies, TV shows, and apps, each with its own layers of recommended videos. There’s some merit to this approach, which I’ll describe in the next section; but compared to Roku, it’s harder to navigate.
The flip side is that Amazon’s Fire TV interface is better at suggesting what to watch without making you jump in and out of different apps. Keep scrolling past the app list, and you’ll find row upon row of suggested movies and shows to watch. Most come from Amazon’s own Prime Video service, but you might also get recommendations from other apps, such as Netflix or HBO Now. While this approach can feel inscrutable—mostly because Amazon doesn’t let you customize the recommendations that appear—it is helpful for those times when you’re feeling indecisive.
Roku’s attempts at content discovery are much more conservative. There’s a “Featured Free” section on the home screen that spotlights free movies and TV shows to watch, but that doesn’t help if you want to know what’s new on Netflix or Hulu. And while Roku offers editorially-curated “zones” for different genres, you have to search and drill though several menu layers to access them. As a result you’ll probably spend more time in the apps you know best instead of discovering what else is out there.
Advantage: Fire TV
Apps and content selection
Mentioned in this article
Both Roku and Fire TV support every major streaming service and a long list of niche ones, so this shouldn’t be a major area of concern. (The Fire TV’s biggest omission was an official YouTube app and YouTube TV support, but both of those arrived on the platform earlier this year.)
Still, Roku gets a slight edge for offering The Roku Channel, a free app with a growing selection of ad-supported movies and TV shows. Roku recently added children’s videos to the apps, and it’s been expanding its lineup of free live “channels,” such as ABC News, Filmrise, WeatherNation, and MGM Sci-Fi.
There’s no contest on this one. While both platforms allow you to search by voice, Fire TV lets you launch videos and music directly through its voice remote in more services than Roku does, including Netflix and Amazon Prime. It also supports tuning to live channels in some streaming services, and if you have an Echo speaker, you can launch movies and shows without even touching your remote. (Roku does support hands-free controls with Echo and Google Home speakers, but the syntax is clunky and the controls are limited.) Amazon’s Alexa assistant also allows you to control smart home devices, ask general questions, or view security camera feeds using the Fire TV remote, which isn’t an option on Roku players.
Advantage: Fire TV
Hardware: Streaming players
Amazon’s Fire TV device lineup is pretty simple. If you want the cheapest streaming device and can tolerate sluggish performance, get the $40 Fire TV Stick (though I’d advise against it). For much faster performance and 4K HDR video support, you can spend a little more on the $50 Fire TV Stick 4K. If you want the best performance and hands-free Alexa voice control built-in, get the $120 Fire TV Cube.
Roku, meanwhile, currently offers six streaming players. I’d suggest staying away from the $30 Roku Express and $40 Roku Premiere, as they both use infrared remotes that can feel unresponsive and don’t have TV volume or power controls built-in. The Walmart-exclusive Roku Express+ is a better option for 1080p playback, while the $50 Roku Streaming Stick+ hits the sweet spot for 4K HDR. Best Buy also sells a variant of the Streaming Stick+ with a headphone jack on its remote for $60, and if you want USB and ethernet ports along with programmable remote buttons, the Roku Ultra will set you back $100.
Despite all those options, Roku doesn’t offer a single model with Dolby Vision, HDR10+, or Dolby Atmos decode (which is required to get Atmos support in Netflix). Amazon’s Fire TV Stick 4K and Fire TV Cube support all off those things. Fire TV devices are also better at remembering your place in recent apps, whereas apps on Roku always restart after you exit them. As long as you avoid the budget Fire TV Stick, Amazon’s platform delivers a better hardware value.
Advantage: Fire TV
Hardware: Smart TVs
If you’d rather buy a TV with built-in streaming features instead of a separate player, Roku gains the advantage. You’ll find Roku TVs with a wide range of features, sizes, and prices from a long list of vendors, including TCL, Sharp, Hisense, RCA, and Walmart’s Onn brand. And unlike with Roku’s standalone players, some of these TVs do support Dolby Vision HDR.
By comparison, TVs that run Amazon’s Fire TV software only come from Best Buy’s Insignia brand and Toshiba in the United States, with a narrower range of screen sizes and features. Want a 75-inch TV with 4K HDR and quantum dots? You can get one with Roku software, but not with Amazon’s Fire TV operating system on board.
If you’re the type of person who likes to tinker with their tech, you’ll find more to appreciate in the Fire TV platform. Because it’s based on Android, you can sideload apps that aren’t available in Amazon’s store, such as Kodi, and you can hook up a Bluetooth controller for gaming. Roku is more of a closed system, and while you can install private channels that come from outside Roku’s own store, the options are much more limited.
Fire TV also offers more options for integrating with an over-the-air antenna: Amazon’s Fire TV Recast hardware, for instance, while a Channels DVR setup can play live or recorded channels at native broadcast quality. Neither of those options are available on Roku players, though you can still use Tablo, Emby, or Plex DVR instead.
Verdict: Fire TV
Mentioned in this article
Over the years, Roku has established a strong track record for supporting older hardware, as streaming players and smart TVs from 2014 onward continue to receive new apps and features. Amazon’s Fire TV platform hasn’t been around for as long, but it’s already left a slew of streaming devices behind on older versions of Android. While this hasn’t made a major difference in terms of features, it doesn’t bode as well for long-term app support.
In both cases, however, app makers could still opt not to support older hardware, regardless of Roku’s or Amazon’s own support. YouTube TV, for instance, doesn’t work with the original Fire TV or Fire TV Stick, nor does it support certain older Roku models.
Because Roku is easier to use, it tends to be my default recommendation for anyone who’s new to the streaming space, doesn’t have any existing affinity for Amazon products, and just wants a solid streaming player for cheap. If you don’t mind more of a learning curve, however, you can accomplish a lot more with a Fire TV device, and the Fire TV Stick 4K in particular remains the best value in the streaming player business.
Just don’t overthink it too much, as you’ll probably be happy cutting the cable TV cord with either one.
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Jared Newman covers personal technology from his remote Cincinnati outpost. He also publishes two newsletters, Advisorator for tech advice and Cord Cutter Weekly for help with ditching cable or satellite TV.
Amazon Fire TV Stick review: TV control is nice, but Roku (and Lite) are better sticks
Like some of its competitors the $40 Fire Stick's remote has buttons for volume, mute and power, allowing you to control those functions on your TV -- and maybe ditch your TV remote. Those remote buttons are the only real difference between the $30 Stick Lite and the $40 Stick, so you're basically paying $10 for TV control.
The $40 Stick (2020) is the HD-only middle child between the cheaper Lite and the more capable Fire TV Stick 4K , and both of those are better choices overall. Yes, that TV control is nice, and the Fire Stick does offers a lot for your $40, including integration with existing Echo devices; a fine selection of apps (it now has both HBO Max and Peacock); and a slick interface. But Fire TV still pushes its Prime Video store in search results, and the home screen can be a little too busy for people who know what they want to watch. At the same price the Roku Express 4K Plus offers better features and value, and for $10 less the Lite is an unbeatable deal.
What is it?
Fire TV Sticks are USB stick-sized devices that plug into a spare HDMI port on your TV. They stream audio and video content from dozens of different apps over your Wi-Fi connection. While anyone can use one of these devices, being an Amazon Prime subscriber allows you to watch added programming.
The remote itself hasn't physically changed much since the first Fire TV was introduced, and it lacks the premium feel of the Roku remote or Google's new remote. The new Fire Stick remote does add the ability to control your TV volume, though it lacks the shortcuts to Netflix or other often-used services. Setting the remote up with a TV takes about 30 seconds and it can even control a receiver (I used it with a Sony TV and an Onkyo receiver without issue).
Alongside the Fire TV Lite, these are the first devices we've seen to offer HDR but not 4K resolution, and it raises the question of what kind of TV it's designed for. There are hundreds of 4K HDR TVs out there but I tried doing a search for 1080p TVs that can do HDR on Best Buy's site and found only four. For most people with 4K HDR TVs, we'd recommend getting a streamer that can actually do 4K instead of a 1080p streamer like the Stick.
The stick comes with a power adapter and Amazon strongly recommends you use this. While you could use the USB ports on your TV to power the device, it means the unit could behave unusually. For example, Dolby Atmos content wouldn't work at all when the unit was plugged into a TV USB port, despite the device declaring it was outputting "Dolby Atmos" -- the sound came out as 5.1.
Lots of streaming apps
Like other streaming devices the number of services that Amazon Fire TV supports is improving all the time. It can access almost all of the major streaming apps, including Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Hulu, Sling TV, Crackle, Pluto TV, Tubi TV, Amazon Music, Pandora, Spotify and many, many more. The Fire TV platform now offers both HBO Max and Peacock bringing it in line with Roku and Chromecast with Google TV.
What it's like to use
With only a couple of tiny features to separate them -- and the sticks even have the same S3L46N model number -- the Fire TV and Fire TV Lite behaved almost identically in my tests. Both offer a healthy complement of features, tightly integrated voice commands and relative speedy response times.
Using the Fire TV Stick remote is easy, and Alexa searches with the microphone button were more responsive and relevant than using the Echo as a go-between. In contrast, Roku may not have the same robust voice capabilities, but text searches via the Roku remote are generally more targeted toward free or included programs rather than simply "buy now" links.
When it comes to user interfaces there are two different schools of thought: App-centric menus like the Roku and Apple TV ones just show you a grid of apps, so you can't actually browse for something to watch without clicking through to each app. Amazon Fire TV and Google TV take a more content-focused approach, surfacing lots of titles on the home page itself.
If you like to graze for content, the Fire TV might be more appealing, If you know what you want already, or at least what app you want to watch, a Roku is probably a better choice, in part because Amazon's search results skews heavily toward its own (often user-pays-extra) content.
Picture and sound quality were very similar between the Lite and the Fire Stick, and image quality was as good as I'd expect. On paper there's a difference in Atmos audio support: The Stick offers Dolby Atmos audio decoding while the Lite has Dolby Atmos pass-through. The practical difference between them is negligible, however, because an Atmos-capable receiver or soundbar is needed in both cases to hear Atmos audio. Whether the stick or the receiver does the decoding doesn't really matter.
Also, in my testing I've found many services -- including Prime Video and Disney Plus -- require a 4K TV for Atmos to work anyway. In short, I don't consider this feature difference a big deal because most people with decent Atmos setups should (once again) be using a bona fide 4K streamer.
Should you buy it?
If you're in the market for a new $30 or $40 streamer it comes down to a choice between Fire TV's content-first approach versus Roku app-first one. If you're familiar with Roku's simple menu design the number of tiles and options on the Fire TV Stick's home page can be overwhelming.
If you already have a Fire Stick, there's absolutely no reason for you to buy the 2020 version. Dolby Atmos and HDR are weird add-ons for 1080p devices, and if Amazon wanted to offer something unique at the price it should have included full 4K support. As it is, if you have a decent 4K TV then you should get a real 4K streamer like the Roku Express 4K Plus. And if you want to save money, go with the Fire TV Lite.
First published Oct. 8 2020, updated June 2021 with addition of Peacock.
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Then, letting him out of his mouth a little, Dimka began to lick and suck him, tickle him with his tongue and caress him with his lips, so he was. Not particularly surprised when Vanya, with a short cry, abundantly finished his mouth and face. Vanya closed his eyes and leaned back on his back breathing heavily.