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Streaming has made it easier to watch movies and TV on-demand, but deciding how to access the ever-growing catalog of streaming services on your TV can be a bit tricky. One of the best solutions is a dedicated streaming device such as a Roku or an Amazon Fire TV device (a.k.a. the Fire TV Stick or Firestick).
These two best-selling brands — Roku and Fire TV — are very similar, allowing you to access major streaming services through any TV (I.e. not just a smart TV). Just plug a small box into your TV’s HDMI port and use an included remote to navigate services like Netflix, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu, all in one place.
The two brands offer a similar lineup of multiple devices which are all priced about the same, offer similar streaming speeds, and let you control TV’s volume with the included remote. Plus, even though they’re competitors, you can use Alexa voice controls with certain Roku devices as well as the Fire TV Stick.
But there are some differences between the Roku vs. Fire TV Stick, leading to the debate that’s been going on since Amazon launched the Fire Stick back in 2014: which is better, Roku or Firestick?
Roku vs. Firestick: Which Streaming Stick Is Best?
Whether you’re setting up a new TV or looking to upgrade your streaming system, read on. We’ve reviewed both streaming devices and compared the Roku Streaming Stick vs. Amazon Firestick to find out which is best.
1. Roku Express 4K+
The original streaming stick, Roku’s devices offer streamlined, easy means of making any TV smarter. The brand’s most popular devices include the affordable, bare-bones Roku Express, the upgraded Roku 4K+ and the top-of-the-line Roku Ultra. We think the Roku Express 4K+ is best for most needs, delivering Ultra HD image quality, fast WiFi streaming and AirPlay for mirroring your iPhone, iPad or Macbook.
The Roku 4K+ also nails ease-of-use, ensuring a smooth experience no matter your technological chops. The remote is uncrowded, and, better still, it can control your TV’s power button and volume level. Once the device is booted up, you’ll be greeted by a straightforward, customizable menu. This menu makes it easy to quickly access your favorite platforms and shows.
Searching for specific movies and shows is made easier with voice controls on the remote. You can also connect an Alexa, Siri or Google Home device to the Roku for more voice control abilities.
2. Fire TV Stick 4K Max
Fire TV levels worthy competition at Roku with a line of smart streaming devices for all TVs. The Fire TV lineup of streaming devices includes a budget-friendly Fire TV Stick Lite, an upgraded Fire TV Stick 4K Max, a more robust Fire TV Cube and even an over-the-air DVR box, the Fire TV Recast. Again, we like the middle-of-the-line Fire TV Stick 4K Max for most streamers.
In terms of features, the Fire TV Stick 4K Max is almost identical to the Roku 4K+. You get smooth WiFi streaming, voice controls (via onboard Alexa) and access to every major streaming platform. Where the Fire TV Stick differs is smart home connectivity and user interface. The device can be integrated into a smart home system, allowing you to do things like view security camera feeds from your TV or dim the lights (say, before starting a movie). This can be nice, although only if you already have a built-out smart home system in place.
Then there’s the user interface. When you turn on the Fire TV device, you’ll immediately see a cornucopia of streaming platforms, shows and movies (many of which come from Amazon Prime Video). This can be nice for browsing, although a bit over-crowded — especially if you already know what you want to watch.
Note: Amazon also recently launched the all-in-one Fire TV 4-Series 4K UHD TV. The 55-inch TV supports 4K Ultra HD, HDR 10, HLG, and Dolby Digital Plus technology for sharp, vivid picture quality, with support for all your favorite streaming sites and apps. An included Fire TV voice remote lets you ask Alexa to find shows, change settings and more. Get the Amazon Fire TV 4K TV right now for $379.99 on Amazon.com.
Roku vs. Firestick: Which Is Better for TV?
When it comes to Roku vs. Firestick, the race is close, but we think Roku edges out Fire TV.
While both streaming devices are simple and intuitive, Roku’s straightforward menu and search results make it easy to find what you’re looking for, and the device’s specs ensure smooth streaming with crisp image quality. Plus, anyone without an Amazon Prime membership may find Fire TV a bit annoying, as you’ll be recommended content that’s only available through Prime Video.
Athough Firestick’s broad smart home integration can be great, it’s lost on those of us who don’t have other smart devices.