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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.