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Amazon Fire TV Stick vs Roku Streaming Stick

The Roku Box and the Amazon Fire TV are small and inexpensive enough. Yet both Roku and Amazon also offer a smaller and cheaper HDMI streaming device to compete with the wildly popular Google Chromecast HDMI streaming stick. We’ll pit the Amazon Fire TV Stick vs Roku Streaming Stick in this head-to-head comparison.

The Amazon Fire TV Stick and the Roku Streaming Stick connect to any TV via HDMI. They look like an oversized USB flash drive with a micro-USB port that connects to either the TV’s USB port or the AC-to-USB adapter for power. Each company ships their streaming stick with a small remote. The software looks almost identical to the user-interfaces on the larger set-top boxes. Each device runs apps or channels to deliver content, and each device offers simple games.

Fire TV Stick vs Roku Streaming Stick boxes

Fire TV Stick vs Roku Streaming Stick Hardware

The two sticks look similar. The Fire TV Stick ($39) comes in a stick with sharper corners and edges than the rounded Roku Streaming Stick ($49.99). The image below shows the Roku in its signature purple, while the Fire TV Stick from Amazon doesn’t stand out as much in black.

Fire-TV-Stick-vs-Roku-Streaming-Stick

The Fire TV Stick measures slightly longer and thinner than the Roku Streaming Stick. Neither stick will fit in a TV HDMI port if the ports sit too close together. That’s why Amazon also includes an extension cable. Roku doesn’t.

Fire TV Stick vs Roku Streaming Stick stacked

Notice the vents on the side of the purple Roku Streaming Stick? The Roku Streaming Stick can run hot and this affects the performance a bit. There’s also a reset button the side of the Roku, something we don’t get on the Fire TV Stick.

The micro-USB port on the Roku fits in a more convenient spot, on the end opposite the HDMI connector. The Fire TV Stick port comes out of the side, which might get in the way of other HDMI devices connected to a TV.

Fire TV Stick vs Roku Streaming Stick micro-usb ports

Neither stick stands out in terms of physical design. If a person prefers a dark color, they’ll like the Fire TV Stick.

The Fire TV Stick came out later and, as a result, offers better specs. Amazon includes a great comparison chart showing the details of each device. The chart also compares them with the Google Chromecast, which we already compared to the Fire TV Stick and to the Roku Streaming Stick.

Fire TV Stick vs Roku Streaming Stick comparison chart

The Fire TV Stick comes with double the memory (1GB vs 512MB) and more storage (8GB vs 256MB). The Fire TV app eats up more of the 8GB than Roku channels use of the 256MB on that device. The Fire TV Stick includes a dual-core processor compared to a single-core on the Roku. These specs result in a faster, smoother user-interface on the Fire TV Stick.

Both devices support Miracast, which lets people stream their  computer, phone or tablet screens to the Fire TV Stick wirelessly. This worked better on the Fire TV Stick since it took some effort to connect to the Roku Stick, but connections to the Fire TV worked smoothly.

Fire TV Stick

Amazon includes the stick, a micro-USB to AC adapter and micro-USB to full-sized USB cable, the remote, plus an HDMI extension cable for people who own a TV with HDMI ports too close together.

roku streaming stick

With the Roku Streaming Stick we also get the remote, AC adapter and a cable. There’s no HDMI extension cable.

Fire TV Stick vs Roku Streaming Stick Remotes

The Roku remote feels better in the hand, with a round back and bigger size. It also has bigger buttons, making it easy to use without looking at it. Four channel shortcut buttons on the bottom take the user quickly to M-GO (a video buying and rental service), Amazon Prime TV, Netflix and Blockbuster. The user can’t change the apps these buttons open.

Fire TV Stick vs Roku Streaming Stick remotes

The Roku battery compartment cover comes off easier than the Fire TV Stick remote’s.

Unlike the Roku 3, there’s no stereo jack on the side of the Roku Streaming Stick remote. The jack connects to stereo headsets so that late night viewing won’t disturb others in the room.

The Roku Streaming Stick remote feels better and has buttons that are easier to find without looking at the remote, but people who prefer a smaller remote will like the Amazon Fire TV Stick remote better.

roku ios app

Both companies make apps that control the sticks on a phone. Roku makes apps for Android and iOS. There is a Fire TV app for Android, Kindle Fire and iOS. The user can control the Fire TV Stick using voice commands, much like they can with the set-top box remote.

roku_andoid_app

Getting voice controls puts the Fire TV Stick apps ahead of the Roku apps.

Fire TV Stick vs Roku Streaming Stick User Interface

The Roku Streaming Stick user-interface looks simpler than the Amazon Fire TV Stick. On the Roku we get a grid of channel icons with links along the left for the Store, Settings, Search and more. See the user-interface on the Roku TV below. It’s the same as we get on the stick.

roku streaming stick user interface

The Amazon Fire TV Stick user-interface seems a little more complicated, but it also offers a better variety of app types. With the Roku you get video, audio and image streaming apps with some simple games. The Fire TV Stick can run more than just media apps and it offers far better gaming thanks to the great Fire Game Controller ($39.99).

amazon fire tv stick user interface

Roku offers more options for media streaming than the Fire TV Stick. For example, the Roku includes HBO Go. The Fire TV Stick doesn’t. Roku also offers Vudu, Starz, Rdio, Rhapsody, Google Play video, or Google Music while Fire TV doesn’t.

Fire TV Stick vs Roku Streaming Stick Value and Recommendation

Get the Fire TV Stick for a better user experience with better performance and gaming. Get the Roku Streaming Stick only if HBO Go or the other apps not available on the Amazon Fire TV Stick matter more than a smooth user-interface. The Fire TV Stick costs less, includes the HDMI extension and offers a great gaming remote option.

The remote on the Roku feels better in the hand, but that’s not a big enough reason to choose it over the Fire TV Stick if buyers don’t care about the missing apps.

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9 Comments

  1. ctitanic

    02/08/2015 at 2:02 pm

    Enabling ADB Debugging in the Amazon fire stick allows you to install android apps including XBMC or HBO go. This feature alone makes the Amazon stick a more desirable option.

    Reply

  2. Harry Musgrave

    02/13/2015 at 9:18 pm

    I don’t agree with the writer’s assessment of the Roku. In my opinion, the Roku has the best user interface in this category and the largest variety of content. The Roku remote is pretty small already so I don’t understand how the reviewer can suggest that people who prefer a smaller remote would prefer the fire remote. People who prefer a smaller remote will probably like the Roku remote. Any smaller would be too small. Then the reviewer says the Amazon stick is better for gaming IF you get the $39 gaming controller. At this point he should be comparing the Amazon device to the $99 Roku 3, which has a remote that acts as a game controller, and the Roku 3 is the flagship so it has a very fast interface AND the remote has a headphone jack for late night viewing. Regardless of the Roku model, Roku has the best interface and the most variety of content. Roku can also stream content like movies from your home network…

    Reply

  3. D jeanis

    06/27/2015 at 1:47 pm

    This review was obviously a shill advertisement for a specific product, not a comparison of the best of each and their downsides.
    as has been pointed out the Roku can stream directly from your wireless router, no need to have another device to stream to it. This makes the firestorm the instant loser. The fact that the firestorm is overloaded with Amazon based applications just makes it that much less desirable.

    Reply

  4. anita

    07/25/2015 at 8:27 am

    we have had two firesticks…. and returned them both….. although our home has strong wifi throughout, the firestick could not perform…when we spoke to Amazon, they said they you should have your router within 20 feet of the firestick….. crazy……… returned them both…. now going to try the Roku

    Reply

  5. Lena

    03/15/2016 at 3:29 pm

    I have the fire stick and had no problem with Wi fi streaming it says you need at least 10-15 mbps to get good results, and I have 50 mbps cable wi fi. The stick has side load of content from KODI I enjoy wonderful movies, live tv, tv show by season eposides and I am not using my Prime account, although I have one. Hands down right now the Amazon Firestick is the best because its dual core is allowing the side content to be loaded and is not rooted or illegal. Both of the sticks allow you to cut the cable cord, but a lot of the Roku content you have to pay for and the only way to get the live tv on the Roku is going through 1Channel through Playon.tv.

    Reply

    • Mashekia Roseboro

      07/23/2016 at 2:09 pm

      So what apps did you download to the firestick to watch live tv

      Reply

  6. Cathy Short

    06/13/2016 at 6:20 pm

    So trying to figure out firestick or rokuo,3 Whigh is better

    Reply

  7. Random

    03/05/2017 at 4:30 pm

    Outdated. New streaming sticks from Roku have quad core with slimmer design. Also a extender only cost two bucks. Also he should compare it with premier on games since he added 30 to fire stick.

    Reply

  8. Sheila

    03/10/2017 at 11:08 am

    Can I get CBS All Access on both and can I take it with me out of town

    Reply

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