If you are like many Americans, then you probably stream most of your TV.  Who needs old-fashioned satellite and cable when you can stream thousands of movies or shows whenever you want? While some people opt to use on a Smart TV or gaming console, many people have discovered the magic of TV streaming sticks.

roku vs fire stick

Even if you already have a Smart TV, a streaming device is still worth getting. Streaming devices are very affordable and are often much more advanced and convenient for streaming than a Smart TV. Most streaming devices have access to far more streaming apps and channels than Smart TVs and come with interfaces that are easier to use so that accessing your favorite show is that much easier. They often are much faster at downloading and updating content and receive periodic hardware updates. They even often come with better remote controls that include cool features like voice control, private listening and shortcut keys.  

If you still haven’t purchased a streaming device for the optimal streaming experience, you should definitely consider getting one, but don’t just get any old streaming device. When it comes to streaming devices, there are two that often lead the market: the Roku Streaming Stick and the Amazon Fire TV Stick. Continue reading to learn about the battle of Roku vs. Fire Stick and see which one of these devices is the best.

Roku Streaming Stick and Amazon Fire TV Stick Specifications

Setup

The setup process for the Roku Streaming Stick and the Amazon Fire TV Stick is almost identical. Both devices are extremely easy to get going. When you first open the box of either of these products, you will find the streaming stick, a remote, batteries for the remote, a power cord and an AC adapter.

The only difference here is that the Amazon Fire TV Stick includes an HDMI extension adapter. The Roku does not come with an HDMI extension adapter. However, if you try inserting your Roku Streaming Stick and discover that your HDMI port is in an inconvenient spot that does not fit the streaming stick, Roku will give you a free HDMI extension cord by going to my.roku.com/hdmi.

The Roku’s HDMI extension cord is helpful because you simply need to attach the extension cord into your TV’s HDMI port, and then you plug your Roku Streaming Stick right in. It’s nice that an HDMI extension adapter comes with the Amazon Fire Stick in the box, but it still requires an extra HDMI cord that you will need to purchase separately to connect the adapter to the HDMI port on your TV.

The process for setting up these devices is straightforward. You plug the streaming stick into the HDMI port,  set your TV to the correct HDMI input, put in the batteries to the remote and power on the device by connecting it to either your TV’s USB cord or the included wall AC power adapter.  Once the device is running, you will be prompted to answer some basic questions, like your language preference. You will need to connect to your WiFi by finding your network and entering your password. Both devices automatically update the system.

The next part of the process is a bit different for the Roku Streaming Stick and the Fire Stick. You will need to connect your device to either a Roku or Amazon account. You can only set up your Roku by accessing the internet on a separate device. If you don’t already have a Roku account, which you probably don’t if you’ve never owned a Roku device, you will need to create one. Amazon makes things a little easier by allowing you to either finish the process on your TV or a different machine. If you already have an Amazon account, all you have to do is sign in, and you’re all set.

Content

Of the biggest perks of having a streaming device is the ability to access more content than you would be able to on just a smart TV. TV companies often make deals or have certain partnerships with different streaming companies, which affect what streams you have access to.

Roku is not affected by any of these deals and offers more channels than any other streaming device. You’ll be able to get every single one of the most popular streams, or “channels,” and a bunch of less popular, niche streams as well. With Roku, you can essentially get rid of your satellite and cable because you’ll have access to everything on the Roku, including sports channels, the Disney channel, the History channel, and just about every other random channel that appeals to you. You’ll also have access to Amazon Instant Video, which some streaming devices don’t offer.

Unlike Roku, which is rather unbiased, the Amazon Fire Stick focuses more on Amazon Instant Video and has fewer streaming channels than the Roku does. Amazon does not include as many of the niche streams that Roku is filled with, but has most of the major ones. However, if you stream VUDU or YouTube TV, you’ll be disappointed to know that the Amazon Fire Stick does not have those channels in its app store.

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Free Channels

Both the Roku Streaming Stick and the Amazon Fire Stick have some free channels for you to enjoy. It really comes down to a matter of preference of which of the free channels appeal to you most. Both devices come with some similar free channels like Crackle, Pluto, and Twitch.

There are a few free channels like Terannium TV and FreeFlix HQ that are only on the Amazon Fire Stick. Plus, if you already have Amazon Prime, you’ll have access to all of the Prime shows and movies on Amazon Instant Video. Roku has PBS Kids and the CW App for free, so you can find shows for your children to watch, including all of the DC Comics TV shows. Also, you will have the new Roku Channel, which has a wide variety of free content available only to Roku users.

Games

In addition to streaming TV, the Roku Streaming Stick and the Amazon Fire Stick both have a collection of games that are either free or purchased, if that’s something you’re interested in. The games you’ll find on these devices are like the games you would find on your smartphone, so don’t expect to start playing Call of Duty off your Roku. Roku only has a few simple games, but Amazon has a much larger library full of more advanced games. You can even purchase an Amazon Fire Game Controller, which looks and functions like an Xbox controller, to enhance your gaming experience.

Interface

Both the Roku Streaming Stick and the Amazon Fire Stick have very convenient, nice-looking user interfaces compared to what smart TVs usually have. Roku’s interface is a bit simpler to navigate and makes it easy to search for channels or quickly access your favorite ones. Plus, you’ll find that Roku is essentially ad-free.

The Amazon Fire Stick’s interface isn’t too difficult to navigate, but it is a bit littered with Amazon Instant Video content. While some people might appreciate the appearance of Amazon’s interface, it can be difficult to find what you’re looking for. Also, you’ll see ads for a lot of Amazon content, which can be distracting and annoying.

Remote Control

One big difference between the Roku Streaming Stick and the Amazon Fire Stick is the included remote control. A remote may not normally seem like a big deal, but when you are doing a lot of navigating on a streaming device, the remote you use can make a big difference.

Both remotes have basic functions, like pause and play, and a D-pad and navigation controls. Amazon’s controller has a sleeker look. While the circular control pad on the Amazon Fire Stick may look better, the directional pad on the Roku remote is easier to use.

The bottom half of the Fire Stick’s remote is blank except for the Amazon logo, but the Roku Streaming Stick’s remote includes shortcut buttons that can take you straight to Netflix, Hulu, Sling or HBO Now. You can also control your TV’s power and volume using your Roku remote. This is convenient, so you won’t have to reach for another remote whenever you want to adjust the volume or turn off the TV. The Amazon Fire Stick doesn’t have this feature.

The Amazon Fire Stick’s remote comes equipped with Alexa,  a convenient extra feature. There is a microphone button that allows you to use Alexa to control your streaming device and your other Alexa devices. You can manage your entire streaming experience using your voice. You can ask Alexa to turn on Netflix, to pause or to search for a specific TV show. Additionally, you can tell Alexa to play music, add to your shopping list or even order a pizza. If you already have an Amazon Echo, you control this device by connecting your remote to it.

Roku doesn’t have all the cool features the Amazon remote control has, like being to connect to other devices, but the remote that comes with the Roku Streaming Stick does have voice search. By pressing the microphone button on the remote, you can search for all your favorite streams, shows and more with just your voice.

Remote App

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Both the Roku Streaming Stick and the Amazon Fire Stick allow you to control your streaming device using an app. This is super useful because you can sift through shows and streams with your finger and use your voice or phone’s keyboard to search. While both of these apps are very similar and equally useful, you won’t be able to use the Amazon Fire Stick app if you have a phone that runs off Windows or BB10. However, Roku is compatible with both of these operating systems along with Android and iOS.

Performance

When it comes to performance, it’s hard to compare the specifications of these two streaming devices because Roku does not release the CPU speed for the streaming stick. However, it does state that it is a quad-core processor. The Amazon Fire Stick also has a quad-core processor with a CPU speed of 1.3 GHz. Neither device supports 4K viewing and they only support at most a 1080p resolution at up to 60 fps. They both are compatible with Dolby Audio and use a dual-band WiFi what supports MIMO 802.11.

Both streaming devices seem to perform very similarly. When tested, most users claim that both the Roku Streaming Stick and the Amazon Fire Stick perform well and seem to be equally fast. There are reviews that claim the Amazon Fire TV Stick performs much better than the Roku Streaming Stick, while other reports state that the Amazon Fire Stick is so slow it is unusable. Overall, it seems safe to say these streaming devices are about even when it comes to performance.

Cost and Warranty

Both of these devices are easy to find and purchase online. Although Amazon does sell both the Roku Streaming Stick and the Amazon Fire TV Stick online, it is actually cheaper to buy the Roku Streaming Stick through Roku’s website. Through Amazon, the Roku Streaming Stick costs $52.48 but is only $39.99 on Roku’s website. This is the exact same price that Amazon charges for the Amazon Fire Stick. Both Amazon and Roku offer a 90-day warranty for their streaming devices.

Both of these devices have the same affordable price. They both have the same unexceptional 90-day warranty as well. Since price is not a factor in comparing these devices, it all comes down to which is a better product.

Should You Get the Roku Streaming Stick or the Amazon Fire TV Stick?

As you can see, there are many similarities between the Roku Streaming Stick and the Amazon Fire TV Stick, but some key differences set these two streaming devices apart from each other. So which one should you get? Well, the answer partly depends on what you’re looking for in a streaming device.

Benefits and Drawbacks

You should be aware of a few pros and cons to both the Roku Streaming Stick and the Amazon Fire TV Stick.

The Pros and Cons of Roku Streaming Stick

Pros

  • Easy to set up
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    HDMI extension cord available for free 
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    Offers the most streaming channels
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    Great free content like PBS Kids
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    Interface is extremely easy to use
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    Access to all the popular No adsapps
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    Easy-to-use remote
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    Shortcut buttons and TV controls on remote
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    Voice search on remote
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    works with Android, iOS, Windows and BB10
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    Fast performance
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    Only costs $39.99

Cons

  • Does not have a big selection of games or very advanced games
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    Not compatible with a gaming controller
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    Simplistic interface and remote that may not appeal to more tech-savvy people
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    Remote does not come with Alexa
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    Not compatible with a 4K resolution
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    Only a 90-day warranty
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    Alexa voice control is a great special feature
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    Fast performance
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    Only costs $39.99

The Pros and Cons of Amazon Fire TV Stick

Pros

  • Super easy setup if you already have an Amazon account
  • Comes with an HDMI extender in the package
  • Comes with a large library of quality games
  • Compatible with an Amazon gaming controller
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    Attractive looking interface
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    Sleek looking remote
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    Alexa voice control is a great special feature
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    Fast performance
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    Only costs $39.99

Cons

  • Does not come with an extension HDMI cord
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    Offers fewer streaming channels; doesn’t have VUDU or YouTube TV
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    Interface is more cluttered and hard to use
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    Interface includes a lot of Amazon featured content and ads
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    Remote is more difficult to use and doesn’t have any shortcut buttons
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    Amazon app only works with Android and iOS
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    Not compatible with a 4K resolution
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    Only a 90-day warranty

The Verdict: The Roku Streaming Stick Wins

It was a close call, but overall, the Roku Streaming Stick is a better device.  The Roku has the most content, a super easy-to-use interface, a convenient remote with the ability to control your TV’s volume and power, and it performs well. The average user will appreciate the simplicity of the Roku Streaming Stick.

However, there are a few demographics that might enjoy the Amazon Fire TV Stick more. Users who are more tech-savvy might opt for Amazon’s flashier interface and remote. While the circular control pad might be a bit less convenient to navigate with, it gives the remote a unique look that has definite aesthetic value.

Also, while most people likely wouldn’t choose their streaming device as their gaming console of choice, people who are a fan of smartphone games might enjoy playing them on a larger screen. Families and kids might enjoy the games Amazon offers, and it will be fun showing your guests what your streaming device can do. Also, people who already have a large assortment of Amazon products, including smart home features, will enjoy how Alexa connects all their devices together.

 

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