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Roku and Amazon Fire TV are neck in neck — how do they compare?

Better overall

Roku

roku-logo.png

From $25 at Amazon

Pros

  • Larger app library than Amazon
  • Easier to navigate interface
  • Works with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit
  • Built into more TV sets

Cons

  • Limited voice assistant controls

Roku’s series of streaming devices aims to serve those who want a smarter television, and does a great job with a non-intrusive interface and a plethora of options to choose from.

For a smarter home

Amazon Fire TV

amazon-fire-tv-logo.png

From $30 at Amazon

Pros

  • Can make use of Alexa Skills
  • Fantastic smart home integration
  • More exclusive content available
  • Can sideload some apps

Cons

  • Limited Google Assistant integration
  • More ad-intrusive interface

While the Fire TV does provide the smarts needed for your current TV, it works better as a gateway to creating a smarter home thanks to the power provided by Alexa.

When you’re looking at the big picture, it can be tough deciding whether you should go with Roku vs Amazon Fire TV Stick for your streaming needs. These are some of the best streaming devices, with both featuring pros and cons over one another. Let’s dive a bit deeper to determine which is right for you.

Roku vs. Amazon Fire TV Stick The battle for your streaming needs

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Before you even get into things like smart home integration or how the interfaces stack up between Roku vs. Amazon Fire TV, you’ll likely want to know what’s available. Amazon touts an app library of more than 500,000 different apps that can be downloaded and used on the various Fire TV Stick option. Comparatively, this dwarfs Roku, as the company lays claim to a little less than 21,000 apps.

With streaming services leading the way for more and more users to cut the cord, this is an important difference to note. However, almost all of the most popular streaming services are available on both platforms, including those who want to stream Live TV through the likes of YouTube TV, Sling TV, and more.

Amazon has more apps, including HBO Max, but Roku has NBC’s Peacock.

Even leading up to today, there are two newer streaming services that are not available on both platforms. Amazon has recently added HBO Max as an option, finally making it possible for you to ditch the out-dated HBO app and stream all seasons of Friends or Game of Thrones. But if you wanted to use the likes of Peacock to watch the old seasons of Parks and Recreation, or other NBC shows, you’re out of luck with Amazon. Conversely, Roku recently signed a partnership with NBC to bring Peacock to all of its streaming devices.

Roku vs Amazon Fire TV Stick The interface

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Another key reason to choose one streaming platform over another comes down to the interface. For the past decade, Roku has been the backbone for some of the best cheap 4K TVs on the market, while Amazon’s TV presence has been limited to brands like Insignia and Toshiba. With Roku’s lead on this front, coupled with how the company is not directly competing with Amazon, Apple, or Google in the same way that those companies are competing with one another, it actually benefits the user.

Amazon’s Fire TV Stick, for all of its ease-of-use and wonderful Alexa integrations, sorely lacks in the interface department. Amazon tries to push its Prime content on just about every page, and includes “sponsored” channels that clog up the home page. It’s understandable, but when you see a clean and simple interface like what Roku has to offer, it’s easy to see why the grass may be greener on the other side.

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To its credit, Amazon has heard the customer feedback and has promised a more stream-lined and redesigned interface for Fire TV Stick owners. However, as of this writing, that update has not been pushed just yet, leaving us with more ads for shows and movies that we could care less to see and that cannot be removed.

Roku vs Amazon Fire TV Stick Smart home integration

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Whether you’re just getting into the smart home world, or you are an experienced veteran, both Roku’s and Amazon’s streaming devices have different ways to integrate. Roku gets an easy nod in terms of compatibility, as you’ll be able to instruct Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant to play something on your Roku with ease. On the other hand, the Amazon Fire TV stick has limited integration with Google Assistant (you’ll need an Alexa skill), and there is no Apple HomeKit compatibility when it comes to Amazon’s Fire TV Stick.

But, that’s kind of where Amazon excels in trying to turn your home into an Alexa-powered smart home. If you own the Fire TV Stick, you can pick up a couple of Amazon Echo Dots and pair them, in stereo, to your Fire TV Stick. This immediately improves the sound quality for anything that you want to watch or listen to through the Fire TV Stick. Then, of course, you also can use Alexa to perform various commands.

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And that doesn’t even include what’s possible if you start adding more Alexa-powered speakers or smart displays around your home. Then, you can dive deeper into the Alexa-powered accessories and control everything, from anywhere with the help of Alexa.

Roku can’t say the same thing for many of its streaming devices, at least not until you get into something like the Roku Streambar. Sure, you can pick up some of Roku’s wireless speakers, but these are both more expensive, and larger than that of the Amazon Echo Dots. Plus, you can’t only just get one of the Roku Speakers, as they come in a pair from Roku.

Make your TV smart

Roku

roku-logo.png

From $25 at Amazon
From $25 at Best Buy
From $24 at Walmart

These are a great addition to any home

Roku provides an array of fantastic streaming devices that aren’t intrusive, have simple to use interfaces, and work with your existing smart home system.

Create a smarter home

Amazon Fire TV

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From $30 at Amazon
From $25 at Best Buy
From $25 at B&H Photo

Making life easier, one TV at a time

With the power of Amazon’s vast library and Alexa acting as the backbone, the Amazon Fire TV is the entryway for you to get entrenched in the company’s ecosystem, leading to a smarter home.

Roku Streaming Stick+ vs. Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K: Which should you buy?

A great, cheap streamer

Roku Streaming Stick+

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$48 at Amazon

Pros

  • 4K UHD Video playback
  • Remote features shortcuts for streaming apps
  • Works with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit
  • Compatible with Dolby Audio and Dolby Atmos

Cons

  • No “Lost Remote Finder”
  • Unable to connect via Ethernet
  • Lacking usable onboard storage

Roku’s Streaming Stick+ gains the upper hand because it’s compatible with the likes of Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit, and Amazon Alexa for your smart home needs.

Awesome if you love Alexa

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

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$50 at Amazon

Pros

  • 4K UHD Video playback
  • Compatible with Dolby Audio and Dolby Atmos
  • Remote provides quick access to Alexa
  • Ethernet connection possible
  • 8GB onboard storage

Cons

  • Limited smart home integration outside of Alexa
  • Ethernet adapter sold separately

With 4K UHD streaming, the included Alexa Voice Remote, and access to all of Alexa’s smarts, the Fire Stick TV 4K is the best Fire TV option available.

When looking at the capabilities of the Streaming Stick+ vs Fire TV Stick 4K, there really isn’t much that differs between thmem. Both support 4K HDR playback, are equipped with a remote featuring a microphone, and simply plug into the HDMI port on your TV. Which choice you make will come down to compatibility and if you need onboard storage.

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The Streaming Stick+ takes a bit of a win in the design department, as it is just slightly shorter in length and not as wide when compared to the Fire TV Stick 4K. Regardless of which path you choose, both remotes are capable of much more than just controlling the streaming device, as they can both be programmed to control your entire TV set, which is just a simple convenience so you can cut down on the number of remotes you have lying around.

Both Roku and Amazon make it easy to control your streaming device and TV from a single remote.

Keeping with the remotes, Roku has also included several shortcuts for some of the most popular streaming services. There are four dedicated buttons at the bottom of the remote for the likes of Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, and Sling. While these can’t be re-programmed for another service, it’s still convenient to have Netflix just a button away. This is just one of the reasons why the Streaming Stick+ offers the best value when looking at the best Roku devices overall.

Dimensions 3.7 x 0.8 x 0.47-in. 4.7 x 1.6 x 0.5-in.
Supports 4K Yes Yes
Supports HDR Yes Yes
Remote with microphone Yes Yes
Works with Alexa Yes Yes
Works with Google Assistant Yes No
Private Listening Yes Yes

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Although Roku gets an upper-hand when it comes to being compatible with multiple smart voice assistants, the Fire TV Stick 4K is no slouch. Amazon Alexa has caught up to Google Assistant, with a lot of help coming via Alexa Skills. These can be enabled via the Alexa app on your smartphone, and then you can have Alexa perform even more tasks than you thought would be possible.

For those nights where you want to watch TV but don’t want to disturb others, both the Streaming Stick+ and Fire TV Stick 4K have “Private Listening” modes. With Roku’s device, you can download the Roku app on your smartphone, and then use whichever headphones you have laying around to listen in peace. With Amazon’s option, you can pair your favorite Bluetooth headphones directly to your Fire TV Stick.

One more feature that gives Amazon the upper-hand is the onboard storage. The Fire TV Stick 4K features 8GB of storage, which is really not enough to do much more than install apps and games, but that’s all that you really need it for. This also makes it possible for you to sideload apps (like Peacock) to the Fire TV so you won’t miss out on any of the major streaming services. Even with missing Peacock as a downloadable app, it’s easy to see why the Fire TV Stick 4K is the best Fire TV Stick that Amazon has to offer.

King of Roku

Roku Streaming Stick+

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$48 at Amazon
$50 at Best Buy
$50 at Walmart

The best that Roku has to offer in a streaming stick

Outside of the Ultra, the Roku Streaming Stick+ is the best option for those who want 4K HDR support, along with Dolby Atmos, all from a device that plugs right into your TV.

All the power

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

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$50 at Amazon
$50 at Best Buy
$50 at B&H Photo

This is Amazon’s best streaming stick

The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K may be a couple of years old, but it’s still the best streaming stick the company offers.

Roku Premiere vs. Amazon Fire TV Stick: Which should you buy?

4K for cheaper

Roku Premiere

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$38 at Amazon

Pros

  • Works with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit
  • Adhesive included to mount anywhere
  • Remote features shortcuts to certain apps
  • 4K HDR Streaming

Cons

  • Remote can’t control TV set
  • Can’t use remote for voice commands
  • Chunky design that doesn’t fit behind a TV

While the design may be cumbersome, the Roku Premiere is compatible with all smart voice assistants while still being able to stream 4K HDR content.

Kind of lost

Amazon Fire TV Stick

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$40 at Amazon

Pros

  • Plugs in and hides behind TV
  • 8GB of onboard storage
  • Native Dolby Atmos Audio
  • Remote provides voice controls

Cons

  • Limited to 1080p video playback
  • Limited smart home integration outside of Alexa

You’ll miss out on 4K playback, but the Fire TV Stick (2020) features native Dolby Atmos Audio, along with 8GB of onboard storage and the Alexa Voice Remote.

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In our review of the 2020 Fire TV Stick, we found it didn’t make much sense in the grand scheme of Amazon’s Fire TV lineup. It’s wedged between the budget-friendly Fire TV Stick Lite and the 4K-enabled Fire TV Stick 4K. Although the built-in processor has been upgraded to match that of the Fire TV Stick 4K, there’s really not much about this streaming stick to write home about.

The Roku Premiere, on the other hand, features the same price tag as the Fire TV Stick (2020), while enabling 4K HDR video playback. This may not matter to some, but it can be used with your current 1080p TV and a 4K TV without skipping a beat, making it a versatile choice.

Dimensions 3.3 x 1.4 x 1-in. 3.4 x 1.2 x 0.5-in.
Supports 4K Yes No
Supports HDR Yes Yes
Remote with microphone No Yes
Works with Alexa Yes Yes
Works with Google Assistant Yes No

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The key difference between the Roku Premiere vs Fire TV Stick outside of 4K HDR playback comes down to the remote. Amazon included the amazing Alexa Voice Remote, which is a must-have for any Amazon Fire TV ecosystem. Meanwhile, Roku ditched the microphone-enabled remote for the Premiere version, leaving you to have to press buttons like it’s 2010 all over again. On the bright side, if you have an Assistant or Alexa-enabled speaker in the home, you can still use it to send content to your Roku Premiere.

Roku’s Premiere brings 4K HDR playback at the same cost for Amazon’s new Fire TV Stick that is limited to 1080p.

Both the Premiere and Fire TV Stick are small from a design standpoint, but Roku opts for a different approach for connecting to your TV. Instead of the plug-and-play design from the Streaming Stick+, this is a tiny box that sits on your TV stand. Roku did provide a 3M adhesive strip in the box if you would rather attach it to the back of your TV or the stand, but that may not be the most ideal scenario.

Amazon stuck with the same design throughout its TV Stick lineup, including the Fire TV Stick (2020). Either using the included HDMI extender or not, just plug the Fire TV Stick into an open HDMI port, plug it into the power source, and enjoy your Amazon content without any wires or distractions.

Great value

Roku Premiere

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$38 at Amazon
$40 at Best Buy
$38 at Walmart

Simply a fantastic value for a streaming device

Despite missing out on an Ethernet jack, the Roku Premiere provides 4K streaming and Dolby Atmos support for less than $50.

Great minus 4K

Amazon Fire TV Stick

amazon-fire-tv-stick-2020_1.jpg

$40 at Amazon
$40 at Best Buy
$40 at B&H Photo

All it’s missing is 4K playback

With a faster processor and the Alexa Voice Remote, the Fire TV Stick is a great option for those who don’t care about 4K streaming.

Roku Express HD vs. Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite: Which should you buy?

Get started with Roku

Roku Express HD

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$25 at Amazon

Pros

  • Works with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit
  • Adhesive included to mount anywhere
  • Remote features shortcuts to certain apps

Cons

  • Remote cannot control TV set
  • Limited to 1080p video playback
  • Does not feature “behind the TV” design

This is the perfect way for someone to determine whether they are ready to start using Roku’s streaming platform, although it’s the same price as the Premiere, which offers 4K playback.

Best Fire TV Stick for most

Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite

amazon-fire-tv-stick-lite-202-.png

$30 at Amazon

Pros

  • Least-expensive Fire TV Stick
  • Includes Alexa Voice Remote
  • Features 8GB of onboard storage

Cons

  • Doesn’t support 4K, UHD, or Dolby Vision
  • Dolby Atmos Audio only accessed via HDMI pass-through cable
  • Remote can’t control TV sets

Getting started with the Amazon Fire TV platform has never been easier, provided you’re willing to give up 4K video playback and a remote that won’t control your television.

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As one might expect, both Roku and Amazon have entry-level offerings that can either add some smarts to an older TV, or help you decide which ecosystem to use around the home. On one hand, we have Roku’s Express HD, while Amazon’s lineup features the new Fire TV Stick Lite.

The Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite is arguably the best entry-level streaming device on the market.

Neither of these are capable of playing back 4K HDR content, although the Fire TV Stick Lite is still capable of showing off HDR content in 1080p. To keep with the cohesiveness of the entire family, the design remains unchanged, and it’s rather difficult to tell the Fire TV Stick Lite apart from its more robust (and more expensive) counterparts.

This means that you’ll get the same design that just plugs into the back of your television, freeing up space on your TV stand. Roku, on the other hand, opted for a design that can either be mounted via 3M adhesive or just sit on your TV stand and then connects to your TV via an included HDMI cable.

Dimensions 1.5 x 0.8 x 2.8-in. 3.4 x 1.2 x 0.5-in.
Supports 4K No No
Supports HDR No Yes
Remote with microphone No Yes
Works with Alexa Yes Yes
Works with Google Assistant Yes No

roku-express-lifestyle.jpg

Deciding between the Express HD and Fire TV Stick Lite comes down to whether you want the dongle to be hidden. This is all a matter of personal preference, but we still prefer the “plug it in and hide it” design of the Fire TV Stick Lite. Plus, Amazon includes an HDMI extender in the box if you need a little bit more wiggle room when connecting it to your TV.

Amazon also gets the upper hand when it comes to the remote. While the Alexa Voice Remote Lite misses out on being able to control your television, it makes up for that with the ability to get Alexa to control everything for you. Press the microphone button at the top, submit your query or request, and let Alexa do the rest. Roku’s budget-friendly option does not include a microphone at all, so you’ll have to either use an Alexa, Assistant, or Apple HomeKit-connected spekar if you want to control the content.

Smallest of the pack

Roku Express HD

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$25 at Amazon
$25 at Best Buy
$25 at Walmart

Despite limitations, this is a great option

The Roku Express HD is limited to 1080p and doesn’t have a “plug and play” design. But this is the smallest Roku of the bunch and still works fantastically.

Best for Amazon Beginners

Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite

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$30 at Amazon
$30 at Best Buy
$30 at B&H Photo

Get started on the right foot with this TV Stick

The Amazon Fire TV Stick is the way to go for those wanting to turn a dumb TV, smart. Enjoy having Alexa built right into the remote to find a movie or control the lights.

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