Amazon Fire Stick vs. Roku: Which One Is Better?
The popularity of cord-cutting continues to gather pace. Collectively, cable TV companies are losing millions of subscribers every year, with no sign of that stopping.
If you have recently ditched your TV subscription, there’s a good chance you’re trying to decide between an Amazon Fire TV Stick and one of the many Roku devices.
In this article, we pit the Amazon Fire Stick vs. Roku devices, determining which is best in order to help you decide.
A Complicated Comparison
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to make a like-for-like comparison between all Amazon Fire TV devices and Roku devices.
Instead, we need to focus on two Amazon products: The Fire TV Stick and the Fire TV Stick 4K. On the Roku side, there are three devices that can be thought of as Fire TV Stick competitors: the Roku Express, Roku Premiere, and Roku Streaming Stick+.
NB: The Roku Ultra costs $100 and is more of an alternative to the Amazon Fire TV Cube, so we will not include it in this analysis of Fire Stick vs. Roku.
Amazon Fire Stick vs. Roku: Cost
Before we get into the features and the technical specifications, let’s deal with the elephant in the room—the cost of the devices.
Amazon’s entry-level Fire TV Stick costs $40. The 4K model will set you back a further $10, coming in at $50.
The cheapest Roku model is the Roku Express. At $30, it’s more affordable than the Fire TV Stick. At the other end of the scale, the top Roku model (Ultra excluded) is the Roku Streaming Stick+, which costs $50.
So, for the sake of simplicity we’re going to pit the Amazon Fire TV Stick and Fire TV Stick 4K vs. the Roku Express ($30), the Roku Premiere ($40), and the Roku Streaming Stick+ ($50)
Amazon Fire Stick vs. Roku: Specifications
This is where things get confusing. Let’s try and make sense of all the different models on offer from the two companies.
First, the Amazon devices. The basic Fire TV Stick has a Quad-core ARM 1.3 GHz processor, 8GB of internal memory, and support for Bluetooth 4.1. It plays videos in 720p or 1080p resolution at up to 60 frames-per-second (FPS).
The 4K model is a notable improvement. You’ll find a Quad-Core 1.7GHz processor, support for Bluetooth 5.0, and 2160p video resolution. The internal storage stays at 8GB and there’s 1.5GB of RAM.
The Roku Express only supports 1080p resolution. The other Roku options support 4K.
Amazon Fire Stick vs. Roku: Controls
All Roku and Amazon Fire TV devices ship with a dedicated remote control.
Both Amazon controllers support Alexa. If you want to control your Roku with your voice, you will need to buy a Streaming Stick+.
Roku and Amazon have both developed an accompanying remote control smartphone app.
And remember, if you have an Amazon Echo speaker, you can sync it with your Fire TV Stick and use it to control your content.
Amazon Fire Stick vs. Roku: Interface
Visually, the Amazon platform is more modern and feels more polished. However, critics have argued that it pushes Amazon’s own content too aggressively.
It’s a valid viewpoint. You’ll only see one row of your own apps at the top of the screen.
The rest of the homescreen is taken up by content from Amazon Prime Video. Even if you don’t subscribe to the service, you will still see it.
Roku’s interface is more customizable. All of your channels are displayed in a scrollable list and you can create shortcuts for your most-used channels. If you install third-party add-ons, you can even place your channels into groups for easier navigation.
Amazon Fire Stick vs. Roku: TV Shows and Movies
If you’re looking for a provider-agnostic device, Roku offers the best streaming sticks on the market. They’re not only better than Amazon Fire TV sticks; they’re also better than Android TV, Apple TV, and Chromecasts.
You’ll find apps for just about every on-demand video and music streaming app, including Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Google Play Movies, Spotify, and TuneIn Radio. Roku also offers its own ad-supported streaming channel providing access to a large number of free movies and TV shows.
Roku also offers a vast library of private channels . You need to enter a code in the Roku web portal to install them on your device. Be warned—many of the private channels reside in a gray area of legality.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick run a highly modified version of Android. Which means you can sideload any app as long as you have its APK file. There are several safe and secure APK download sites you can use. Just remember that most Google Play Store apps are not designed for Fire Sticks, meaning you will also need to install a mouse app.
Amazon Fire Stick vs. Roku: Web Browsing
Only the Amazon products let you easily surf the web. Two Fire TV browsers are available—Amazon’s own Silk Browser and Firefox. You can control them both easily using the Fire TV remote. We’ve compared Silk and Firefox to find the best browser for the Amazon Fire TV Stick if you’d like to learn more.
There are web browsers that work on Roku devices , but they are not suitable for regular browsing.
Amazon Fire Stick vs. Roku: Gaming
Roku devices and Amazon Fire TV Sticks both offer games on their platform.
However, hardcore gamers might find Fire TV devices are more suitable for their needs. Generally speaking, Roku games are a bit “cutesy”. Sure, they’ll keep you entertained for half an hour, but they don’t offer longevity.
The games on Amazon’s devices are beefier. You’ll find titles such as Minecraft, Badland, and Star Wars.
Of course, if the ability to game on your streaming device is high on your list of priorities, neither a Roku or a Fire TV Stick can hold a candle to the Nvidia Shield. You can stream titles from your PC using Nvidia GameStream, download a host of local games from Nvidia and Google Play, and install emulators for classic consoles.
Amazon Fire Stick vs. Roku: Screen Mirroring
Roku devices have Miracast technology built-in. If you’re not aware, Miracast is like a wireless version of an HDMI cable. Most Android and Windows devices are Miracast-compatible. Apple devices are not.
Some older Amazon Fire TV models also support screen mirroring. Oddly, it’s not available on the Amazon Fire Stick or Fire Stick 4K.
Roku vs. Fire TV Stick: Which Is Best?
It’s really difficult to choose a clear winner between the Roku and Fire Stick. Much depends on how you plan to use your device, which gadgets you already own, and which streaming service you subscribe to.
All else being equal, we’d recommend either the Amazon Fire Stick 4K or the Roku Streaming Stick+. And remember, you could even buy a Chromecast or Android TV.
Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.