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Roku vs. Fire Stick vs. Chromecast: Which Streaming Stick Is the Best?

Let’s admit it’s daunting to make the choice to buy only one product when there are so many options available in the market. Luckily, when it comes to deciding on a streaming device, the options are already narrowed down to these top three — Roku, Amazon Fire Stick, and Chromecast. Though these streaming sticks or devices possess similar functionalities, some beg to differ. While the interface of the Roku streaming stick might be in favor of the others, but you think otherwise. All in all, if portability and accessibility are your priority, a streaming stick is certainly your to-go device.

Here’s an in-depth analysis of Roku vs. Fire Stick vs. Chromecast to help you make the decision that gives the best bang for the buck.

 

Roku vs. Fire Stick vs. Chromecast: How Does It Work?

Roku vs Fire Stick vs Chromecast
© Photo by time.com

If you’re like most people, you’re probably a Netflix or Hulu subscriber. However, watching on a small phone screen or even a laptop screen isn’t enough sometimes. You’d want to make use of your smart TV but without all the hassle of connecting your laptop to the TV. So, if you find yourself wondering how it works, you’ve come to the right place.

Typically, a streaming stick is a small device that is usually compact and portable to be plugged into a port of your TV. Once it’s plugged in, you can stream a variety of TV shows, movies, and music from your subscribed movie streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, or DisneyPlus. While there are tons of streaming sticks available today, Roku, Amazon Firestick, and Chromecast are some of the most popular choices you should be looking into now. All it takes is a little setup to get you a long way. 

 

Roku Streaming Stick+

Let’s start with one of the most well-respected streaming devices in the industry. The Roku Streaming Stick+ is an all-around device that gives you access to your favorite streaming services. It keeps its edge over the others by offering smaller and niche services without compromising the selection of apps (but that may change as Amazon and Google catch up). Of course, subscriptions to services are sold separately, but it’s handy when you’re already subscribed to a few. 

The Roku is fairly easy to set up with a straightforward and simple user interface. Just connect it to your Wi-Fi and an on-screen interface will automatically be available for you to access streaming services. Using the Roku remote, you can easily browse through their wide selection of channels. You can also control your device’s power and volumes quite easily with the remote. It’s pretty handy since the remote doesn’t even require it to be in the stick’s line of sight to work. What’s more, if your hands are full, you can alternatively use voice control on Roku’s remote to search content. 

If you have more than one Roku device but want them to have universal settings, Roku’s user sharing setup is customizable. All you need is to sign in to the same Roku account on both devices so that they can share the same settings. However, the order of the content and some other minor settings may have to be modified per device.

 

Amazon Fire Stick

Amazon Fire Stick
© Photo by Amazon

Streaming sticks like these work in generally the same way. You plug it into your TV via HDMI and automatically connect to the device’s platform. However, Amazon’s Fire Stick differs in that it’s more centered around the Amazon ecosystem so it’s great for Prime users. While that may be annoying for non-members, if you love Prime Video, Amazon Music, and Amazon Cloud, this should be your go-to device. Moreover, it’s better than the Roku in terms of performance. If you’re asking which streaming stick is faster between the Roku vs Fire Stick, the Fire Stick wins hands down.

While Roku still does give access to Amazon Video, it’s not on center stage like it is with the Fire Stick. The moment you connect it to your TV, you’re greeted with Amazon’s available content. That includes movies, shows, and music that you can buy or rent. It’s also linked to Amazon Prime accounts by default. 

Being Amazon-centric doesn’t mean the Fire Stick is limited, though. The Fire Stick does offer competitor services on the platform like Netflix and Apple TV+. It’s also a plus that the Fire Stick has Alexa integrated into the remote so you can quickly use your voice to find your favorite content. Moreover, it works the same way an Amazon Echo does so you can even use it to control your smart home, ask for the weather, and news. It’s truly the best option for anyone who loves the Amazon ecosystem.

Lastly, as a bonus, Amazon also allows the Fire Stick to be portable. What does that mean? Well, it has added a way for people to log in with their room details to connect to hotel Wi-Fi connections. It’s perfect if you want to bring all the content with you when you go traveling! 

 

Google Chromecast

Google Chromecast
© Photo by The Indian Express

Between the Roku vs Fire Stick, they work pretty similarly apart from the Fire Stick’s Amazon-focused features. In contrast, the Chromecast works in an entirely different way. 

With the Chromecast, you don’t get an interface right on your TV the way you do with the other two. Instead, you can use it to connect to your phone, tablet, or laptop to play their content on your TV. It’s essentially “broadcasting” your phone’s music and video content to your TV as long as your app’s compatible. There are even compatible games, although they are few. With this setup, your mobile phone becomes sort of your remote control. 

What’s great about the Chromecast is that you can broadcast things from your computer. With Chromecast’s Plex support, you should be able to broadcast your laptop’s media content. Moreover, you can also broadcast almost anything on your Chrome browser making the Chromecast multi-functional.

In terms of processing power, the Chromecast is pretty responsive. However, overall performance when consuming media content will depend on your connected device. If your device is slow, your Chromecast experience will be affected.

 

What Are The Available Channels and Apps?

It’s easy to think there’s no difference between Roku vs Fire Stick vs Chromecast. While they are similar in many ways, they’re all different in the content they offer. This is often the make-or-break factor in people’s decisions because the content is what you’re after. 

 

Channel & Apps Supported
Roku Streaming Stick+ Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, CinemaNow, HBO Now, and Google Play
Amazon Fire Stick Sky News, YouTube, Apple TV+, Netflix, and more
Google Chromecast BBC iPlayer, Now TV, Youtube, BT Sport, Deezer, and Spotify

 

Roku Streaming Stick+

  • Roku Apps Store: 18,599
  • Available Channels: 3,000

If you’re looking for the sheer bulk of apps between the Roku vs Fire Stick vs Chromecast, then Roku takes the cake. It even has smaller services available on the platform, which is a big plus.

Roku has thousands of apps built-in and they can easily be selected on your smartphone’s Roku app. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, CinemaNow, HBO Now, and Google Play are just some of the channels available on Roku. There’s even Disney Plus Roku if you’re already subscribed to the megacorporation’s streaming service. No doubt you won’t get tired of streaming shows and movies on Roku.

When it comes to games, however, Roku is a bit lacking compared to its alternatives. You can play a few games like Angry Birds and a few others but that’s about it. It’s probably not the best solution if you’re looking for an all-in-one solution for both movies and games. 

 

Amazon Fire Stick

  • Apps and Games: 15,000++
  • Available Channels: 60++

Being an Amazon product, the Fire Stick is unsurprisingly well-catered to Amazon’s services, whether that’s Prime Video, Music, or Alexa’s voice controls. However, don’t think that Amazon only offers Amazon Prime Video to satisfy your thirst for streaming. It would be an extremely limited product if that were the case. The Fire Stick also offers content from major rivals such as Sky News, YouTube, Apple TV+, Netflix, and more. 

If you’re pitting the Roku vs Fire Stick vs Chromecast, the Fire Stick wins by a landslide games-wise. That’s because Amazon’s streaming device has a large library of games and well-known titles like Minecraft and Machinarium. You can play casual games after a movie session to add some variety to your rest and recreation. It’s a great deal if you’re looking to unwind with not just movies at the end of the day. 

 

Google Chromecast

  • Apps and Games: 143
  • Available Channels: 100

The Chromecast is a little different compared to the Roku vs Fire Stick. You don’t get a remote to navigate any interface because there is none. All you do is connect your Android / iOS / PC to the Chromecast to “broadcast” content. There isn’t even an interface you have to fiddle with nor an account you have to sign into. Just connect the device to your TV and then your network, and viola! You have your Chromecast ready.

The Chromecast can broadcast content to your TV, but that doesn’t mean everything can be broadcasted. Of course, it’ll only work with supported apps but there are thousands of those nowadays so you shouldn’t worry. BBC iPlayer, Now TV, YouTube, BT Sport, Deezer, and Spotify are just some of the supported apps. The problem arises when you’re using different platforms since app support for Chromecast varies between PC, Android, and iOS.

When it comes to games, however, don’t expect the Chromecast to have a good selection of them. They may be alright for some, but it’s doubtful you’d want to play its games. You might get by if you broadcast your PC’s browser to the Chromecast, though. 

 

What About the Viewing Experience?

It’s fun to have many shows and movies to watch. However, it may be irritating for some people to have to watch in low quality. Whether it’s the video or audio quality, both should influence your purchasing decision between Roku vs Fire Stick vs Chromecast.

 

Viewing Experience More Details
Roku Streaming Stick+ 4K Ultra HD and HDR10 supported Plus Dolby Atmos and 802.11ac wireless
Amazon Fire Stick 1080p Full HD Plus 7.1 Dolby Digital Audio
Google Chromecast 4K resolution Plus HDR and Dolby Vision for high-quality sound

 

Roku Streaming Stick+

With the Roku Streaming Stick Plus, you get to experience some of the highest-end resolutions with its HDMI connection. Both 4K Ultra HD and HDR10 are supported by the device allowing you to stream in the best possible quality. Moreover, you get Dolby Atmos and 802.11ac wireless, too. Just make sure to have a compatible TV and a great Wi-Fi connection to get the most out of it. 

 

Amazon Fire Stick & Amazon Fire Stick 4K

With the Amazon Fire Stick, the quality depends on which Fire Stick you get. If you’re getting the regular Fire Stick, you can get up to 1080p Full HD support for viewing content. Moreover, it has 7.1 Dolby Digital Audio, which offers you surround sound for a quality viewing experience. 

If your main question is, “does it support 4K?”, then no, it does not—when it comes to the regular Fire Stick, at least. The Amazon Fire Stick 4K, as the name suggests, does support 4K resolution although it’s pricier than the regular version. Not only does it support 4K but it also supports HDR and sports Dobly Vision for high-quality sound. Again, you’ll need to use a TV that supports these features if you want to get your money’s worth. Otherwise, the regular Amazon Fire Stick should be enough for your needs.

 

Google Chromecast & Google Chromecast Ultra

Just like with the Fire Stick, the Google Chromecast has two versions: the Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra. For the Chromecast, the maximum resolution is 1080p, which is great for most people. However, if you’re really into viewing at the highest-end 4K resolution, the Chromecast Ultra is your best bet. It also supports HDR and Dolby Vision. 

If you’re looking for the absolute best experience, the Chromecast Ultra should be what you look into. That’s because the Ultra has an Ethernet connection meaning you can use hard wiring to connect to the internet. With this setup, you can officially say goodbye to unreliable Wi-Fi connections and stream directly from the source! You can enjoy streaming without worrying about the stability of your Wi-Fi connection.

 

How Much Are They? 

How much is Fire Stick, Roku, or Chromecast subscription? First of all, they aren’t things you subscribe to since subscriptions to streaming services are sold separately. These streaming sticks are more mediums than they are the source of the content. With that said, the cost of each one does differ and will certainly affect your purchasing decision. So, the Roku vs Fire Stick vs Chromecast, which is cheaper and offers the best value? Let’s find out.

1

Roku Streaming Stick+

Our Verdict

Roku streaming stick features an intuitive yet simple interface that’s perfect for those who want more without paying a premium price for it. The design is sleek though some users flagged that it looks outdated for some Roku’s model. Generally, we think this product is ultra-value for money without compromising its streaming quality.

Adore

  • – Value for money
    – Clean and easy to use interface
    – Comes with voice control remote (Not available for other models)
    – Lightning-fast responses
    – Delivers 4K and HDR video playback

Against

  • – Dated menu display
    – Voice support can be better

If you’re looking for streaming sticks with 4K and HDR support, it’s unsurprising that you’ll get a price to match. The Roku Streaming Stick+ costs $50 and is on a par with Amazon’s Fire Stick 4K. Therefore, what will make or break your decision between the Roku vs Fire Stick 4K isn’t the price.

They both offer similar video and audio quality. Hence, your decision may be swayed by the aforementioned qualities of each. Do you want the widest variety of content available? If so, the Roku is probably your best bet with a $50 budget. However, if you’re looking for sub-$50 devices, we suggest you look elsewhere. 

2

Amazon Fire Stick & Amazon Fire Stick 4K

Our Verdict

With over 35 million active users, Amazon Fire Stick has made it on top of the list for a reason. First up, the design is elegant and it’s ultra-compact to be transported. The interface is straightforward and the set up is super convenient. The responses is quick and price to quality is excellent. Though, if you don’t mind accessing a little lesser apps and channels on FireStick, you’re all good to go.

Adore

  • – One time cost without a service fee
    – Quick set up
    – Inexpensive

Against

  • – Only have 8GB internal storage and 1 GB memory
    – There is a limitation of how much content you can download

People on a budget should check out the Amazon Fire Stick that’s only $40. It already offers FHD with great sound quality, albeit not the best. However, it should be a good option for people who prefer Amazon’s selection of content and its ecosystem. If you’re not picky about getting the best audio or video quality, this should be one of our final picks along with the Chromecast.

If you can spare $10 more on your purchase, you can easily upgrade to Amazon’s Fire Stick 4K. At $50, it’s on a par with the Roku Streaming Stick+, offering similar resolution and sound quality. However, if you’re deep into Amazon’s ecosystem and find Roku’s selection of niche services unnecessary, then this should be it. Plus, there’s no doubt that it has better games if we’re talking about the Roku vs Fire Stick. 

3

Google Chromecast & Google Chromecast Ultra

Our Verdict

Google Chromecast Ultra in general is a more powerful and upgraded version of its predecessor. It allows 4K and HDR streaming unlike the other generations of the Chromecast. It comes with faster load and start-up time and it’s compatible with Google Stadia. If you’re considering Roku Plus, Google Chromecast Ultra is a good contender.

Adore

  • – Easy to set up
    – Comes with ethernet adapter
    – It supports 4K and HDR streaming
    – No setup cost required

Against

  • – Chromecast Ultra is doubled the price of Chromecast Gen 3
    – Limited features on Ultra as compared to Chromecast Gen 3

People who want to spend the least should go for Google Chromecast. At $35, it beats the baseline Fire Stick and it can do many of the same things. However, it won’t act as a voice assistant the way the Fire Stick does. Still, it’s a great pick if you’re content with the compatible apps on your phone. Plus, app developers of unsupported apps may develop Chromecast support moving forward.

If you want the higher-end version of the Chromecast Ultra, you might need to have a big budget. That’s because the Ultra is the most expensive of the bunch, coming in at $70. Yes, that’s right, it’s a lot to pay for 4K resolution. If the resolution and sound quality are all you’re after, then it’s the Roku vs Fire Stick fight that you should be interested in. However, the Ultra does come with a bonus feature that the other two don’t have. That is its ethernet connection. If you want unhindered streaming by any sort of wonky Wi-Fi connection, the Ultra is the way to go. That, or if you want the experience of broadcasting via phone, tablet, or laptop to your TV with 4K resolution, this is also the best choice. However, at a $20 premium, it’s certainly a tough bargain.

Final Word

Cutting the cord has certainly been made easier by the numerous streaming services that have popped up. While most people will miss watching their favorite shows and movies on the big screen, streaming sticks like the Roku vs Fire Stick vs Chromecast are heaven-sent products for many people. They’ve made the transition from the cinemas and cable TV to streaming services much easier. 

However, choosing between the Roku vs Fire Stick vs Chromecast can be a difficult decision. Nonetheless, it isn’t impossible. The Roku is the best for a wide variety of content with a simple-to-navigate interface. Alternatively, the Fire Stick is great for Amazon Prime members and Amazon Alexa lovers. Lastly, the Chromecast is great if you want a no-brainer broadcasting system from your other devices. Depending on your preferences and budget, you can certainly choose the best streaming stick for your needs.

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