Amazon Fire TV Stick vs Roku: Which should rule your living room TV?

Rudie Obias
Amazon Fire TV Stick vs Roku: Which should rule your living room TV?
Amazon Fire TV Stick vs Roku: Which should rule your living room TV?

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If you still haven’t landed on the best way to stream shows and movies at home, don’t despair. We’re going to help you figure out the best solution for your TV viewing needs. Right now there are great sales on the two major streaming devices—Roku Streaming Stick+ and Amazon’s Fire TV Stick 4K. Below, we help you compare, so you know which one is right for you—and are ready to take advantage of the amazing holiday pricing available right now.

The basics

Both Roku Streaming Stick+ and Amazon’s Fire TV Stick 4K are inexpensive, on sale for $49 and $35, respectively. Both are small and compact. Both are easy to use, with plug-and-play functionality. And both deliver a wide selection of streaming channels, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Now, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, and much more.

One difference is that Roku take a neutral approach to delivering content, where Amazon’s Fire TV Stick 4K is very much pushing Amazon Prime Video content. How does this play out? Well, with the Roku Streaming Stick+ if you want to watch, say, Love Actually, you’ll search the title and see all the places Love Actually is available to stream (say, Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime Video). The same search with Amazon’s Fire TV Stick 4K will take you to one place: Amazon Prime Video. So even though it has all the major streaming platforms Roku has, it doesn’t show you options without a little effort.

Set up

When you first boot up the Roku Streaming Stick+, you’ll be taken to the main menu with a few streaming channels already installed, including Netflix, Roku Channel, Hulu Plus and others. You can arrange channel tiles in a grid on the main menu any way you want with as few or as many as you please. The downside is it takes a bit of time to set up the Roku Streaming Stick+. It’s just a bit time-consuming to set up WiFi, configure to your own TV, and download channels.

But once it’s set up, it can work with one remote (the Roku remote can control your home TV). And the remote has quick keys to get to services like Netflix and Hulu Plus faster without scrolling and clicking through a grid on the main menu. In addition, you can control the Roku Streaming Stick+ with your smartphone via the Roku app. This comes in handy if you misplace the remote.

The Fire TV Stick 4K is very easy to set up if you’re an Amazon Prime member. If you order it using your Prime membership, it ships with your login information already preset on the streaming device. This means you’re instantly logged into the streaming device without punching in long, tedious usernames and passwords. You turn it on and you’re ready to go!

Once booted up, Amazon gives you an easy tutorial on how to use the Fire TV Stick 4K and how to find what you’re looking for, in terms of apps and content. It’s super-helpful. With the Fire TV Stick 4K, Amazon Prime Video is always in view (it’s the home screen background), as are ads for Amazon movies and shows. This might be annoying, but you may not even notice it.

Experience

Roku features more streaming options than any other platform, with thousands of popular and obscure channels for just about any taste. But don’t just take our word for it. Here are just a few of the more than 3,900 positive reviews at Walmart.

“I bought this about a month ago after seeing the reviews and such I decided I wanted to try it and see the difference between the competition and the Roku,” wrote a delighted shopper. “I have to say I love the Roku hands down over the competition. Much easier to set up and start using. I think it took me all of 2 minutes from package to use... If you subscribe to any of the paid services..THIS IS A MUST!”

Another satisfied five-star reviewer added, “As I do not have cable or satellite TV, I purchased this product a few weeks ago and can only say how delighted I am with it. It is faster than my previous products and I only need one remote. Can't get better than that. Roku streaming is terrific and this product is wonderful!”

The big advantage of the Fire TV Stick 4K over the Roku Streaming Stick+ is the Alexa voice assistant built into the remote. You can just hold down the Alexa button, speak into the remote and say “Hey Alexa, show me The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and, voila, your wish is granted. You can also use Alexa to order more things from Amazon. It works just like it does on any other Alexa-enabled device! The Fire TV Stick 4K has fewer technical hiccups too.

For more about user experience, take a look the more than 62,000 rave reviews on Amazon: “Amazingly good at streaming performance…” wrote an enthusiastic reviewer.

“I love how easy setup is on the Amazon Fire stick,” said another happy shopper. “The best setup feature, in my opinion, is how the unit integrates with both my TV and audio system. The power button on the Fire TV Stick powers the TV and the audio system on simultaneously. This is a great feature and now I rarely use either of the other remotes for the TV or the sound bar with subwoofer... The setup is super easy!”

Bottom line

Both the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K and the Roku Streaming Stick+ are great. Each platform offers speed and reliability, with a wide range of video streaming content. The best pick for you depends on priorities.

If you’re a Prime member, the better option is the Fire TV Stick 4K, for its ease of use and full integration with Alexa and Echo devices. The streaming device slips seamlessly into the full Amazon experience.

If approach to content and breadth of choice matters more to you, and you’re not a Prime member, Roku Streaming Stick+ edges out the Fire TV Stick 4K. Roku makes it easy to find what you want without putting any brand-driven barriers in your way. You pay more for that freedom of choice—and for not having ads pushed at you—but we think it’s worth it.

The reviews quoted above reflect the most recent versions at the time of publication.

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