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If you’re researching cord cutting, a few devices/platforms will keep popping up again and again—Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku are the most common.
Today, we’re going to pitch Android TV and Amazon Fire TV against one another. What are their similarities? What are their differences? And which platform is the best? Read on to find out.
Which of the two platforms—Android TV or Amazon Fire TV—is more expensive? As is so often the case in these types of comparisons, there’s no easy answer.
Of the two, the cost of the Amazon Fire TV is the more straightforward. Amazon offers three portable TV devices; the Fire TV Stick, the Fire TV Stick 4K, and the Fire TV Cube.
The cheapest device, the Fire TV Stick, costs $39.99. The 4K version will set you back $49.99, and the Cube is $119.99.
Android TV takes a slightly different approach. Much like the world of smartphones, several manufacturers run tweaked versions of the operating system on their own boxes.
As such, the quality and price vary dramatically. At one end of the scale, you can find cheap no-brand Chinese products for less than $20. At the other end, the best-in-class Nvidia Shield Pro costs $300.
You can also find televisions with Android TV or Fire TV built-in, but they will not form part of this comparison.
Android TV vs. Amazon Fire TV: Specs
As you can see in our comparison of Amazon’s Fire TV devices each have slightly different hardware specs.
Only the Fire TV Stick 4K and the Fire TV Cube support ultra HD and HDR 10 video output, while only the Cube has an internal speaker and far-field voice control for both the TV and your third-party devices.
From a storage standpoint, the Fire TV Stick and Fire TV Stick 4K offer 8GB of internal space. The Cube doubles that capacity to 16GB.
And if you want to connect the basic Stick or the 4K Stick to an ethernet port on your router, you’ll need to purchase a separate Amazon Ethernet Adapter. It’s one of many great items in the Amazon Basics product line. The Cube has its own ethernet port.
Once again, comparing the specs of Android TV is more difficult, but we’re going to look at the Nvidia Shield Pro ($300) and the Xiaomi Mi Box ($88). Despite the differing price points, both are among the best Android TV boxes you can buy.
The Shield has a 500 GB hard drive, 4K HDR playback at 60 FPS, Dolby Atmos audio, and an Nvidia Tegra X1 processor. It runs Android 8.0. The Shield also has Plex Media Server capabilities; if you don’t want to use a computer and don’t have a NAS drive, it is a great option.
In contrast, the Mi Box is not as powerful. Like the Shield, it can produce 4K video at 60 FPS. However, it only has 8 GB of storage, 2 GB of RAM, and a quad-core Cortex-A53 2.0GHz processor. There is no support for a Plex Media Server.
Again, remember, that these are just two models. You can find Android TV devices with a vast variety of specs if you do some digging.
Many people use Kodi for their video-watching needs. The home theater app is one of the best ways to watch movies in your local library and access (legal!) online content from your favorite TV networks and streaming providers.
If you’re a Kodi user, you should opt for Android TV. Kodi is available as a native Android TV app through the Google Play Store. The app isn’t available natively on Amazon’s products. If you want to install Kodi on Amazon Fire TV, you will need to use a fiddly workaround.
The big advantage of a native Kodi app is the update process. If you install Kodi through an official store, it will automatically update itself. If you install it manually using an APK file, you will need to redownload a new APK file for every update—it’s a time-consuming process.
Virtual Assistants and Smart Home Integration
It wasn’t always the case, but all the new generation of Fire TV Sticks ship with an Alexa-enabled remote control. You can use it to access the personal assistant and control third-party smart home devices around your home.
Because of the fragmented nature of Android TV, support for the Google Home smart assistant is a bit more hit-and-miss. Mid- and high-range devices mostly offer support through a remote and/or far-field voice control; cheaper models are less likely to offer the feature.
If you’re planning to purchase a budget Android TV device and Google Home integration is important to you, make sure you do your research before hitting the buy button.
When you’re choosing the right streaming box for your household, the most important thing to consider is app availability. If you can’t access the apps you need, the whole endeavor is a waste of time.
Both Android TV and Amazon Fire TV devices offer all the mainstream apps like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Spotify, and so on.
However, there’s a glaring omission from the Fire TV line-up: YouTube. An ongoing battle between the tech giants means Google’s video service is not available. The workaround is to use Amazon’s Silk Browser, but it’s not ideal.
The other major issue with Fire TV devices is the lack of the Google Play Store. Instead, Amazon offers its own store. That’s not a problem most of the time, but it does mean you can’t download or use apps like Gmail, Keep, or Maps. Because the missing store means you don’t have access to Google Play Services, the apps still won’t work even if you sideload them.
We prefer the interface on Android TV. The home screen on Fire TV devices has too much space dedicated to Amazon Prime Video and not enough real estate left over for other apps.
Android TV, on the other hand, is highly customizable. You can add apps (and their associated latest videos) to the home screen, curate your own “Watch Next” playlist, and integrate games and video content into a single frontend.
And the Winner Is…
A top-of-the-line Android TV device is better than a top-of-the-line Amazon Fire TV device. You’ll have better specs, a more extensive selection of apps, and more additional features.
However, if you’re shopping at the budget end of the scale, we’d recommend going for an Amazon Fire TV Stick over an equivalently priced Android TV device. You will enjoy faster speeds and a smoother viewing experience.