Android TV vs. Amazon Fire TV: Which Is Best?
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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.

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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.

Cost

amazon fire tv devices cost comparison

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 Which Fire TV Device Should You Buy? Stick vs. TV vs. Cube, Compared Which Fire TV Device Should You Buy? Stick vs. TV vs. Cube, Compared Amazon now has four different options for people looking to buy a Fire TV device. But which one is right for you? Read More 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 The Best Android TV Box for All Budgets The Best Android TV Box for All Budgets Android TV boxes are a great way to add smart features and streaming to any television. Here are the best Android TV boxes. Read More 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.

Kodi

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 How to Install Kodi Media Center on an Amazon Fire Stick How to Install Kodi Media Center on an Amazon Fire Stick In this article we explain how to install Kodi on an Amazon Fire TV Stick. Which, when you've finished, will leave you with the best media center for anyone on a budget. Read More , 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.

App Availability

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.

Interface

android tv home screen layout

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.

If you still can’t decide, check out our comparisons of the Amazon Fire Stick vs. Roku Amazon Fire Stick vs. Roku: Which One Is Better? Amazon Fire Stick vs. Roku: Which One Is Better? Amazon Fire Stick or Roku? This question unites all cord-cutters. We help you decide whether to buy the Roku or the Fire Stick. Read More and Android TV vs. the Chromecast Android TV vs. Google Chromecast: Which Is Better? Android TV vs. Google Chromecast: Which Is Better? In this article we pitch the Google Chromecast vs. Android TV to help you determine which is better. Read More before making up your mind.

Explore more about: Amazon Fire Stick, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Media Streaming.

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  1. likefunbutnot
    February 7, 2019 at 5:21 pm

    I have a Shield TV and a 4k MiBox and at least one of every FireTV device. I also occasionally pick up no-name TV boxes.

    Android TV boxes that cost less than about US$50 are probably terrible. They usually can handle 4k and decode HEVC, but they tend to lack the DRM authentication to run Netflix in 4k. They often only have 1GB RAM, which means they're very sluggish. On the other hand, pretty much all of them CAN be used 100% offline with just a USB drive full of movies, which is the main reason I've bought them.

    Here's what I'm going to say about Amazon: The Gen 2 FireTV performs very well. Close enough to the performance of the Shield that it's subjectively the same experience for movie watching, absent HDR support. The newer models, including the Cube, do not. My Cube has problems with audio sync for even 1080p content, let alone 4k. I have to engage workarounds on my receiver to make it tolerable. I did not have to do that on the older model. They're also incapable of good 4k/HEVC playback from Kodi, something the Gen2 FireTV can managed acceptably.

    The Sticks are mostly fine for 1080p, but I suspect most of the people using them could set the display quality to 720p and never even know. The new Fire Sticks are definitely nicer than the old ones and I think they're best off for spare bedrooms or something. My favorite thing about them is the quality remote. Amazon's remote is ALWAYS RESPONSIVE (until the battery dies, anyway). nVidia's remote is a crime against nature in comparison. The MiBox also has problems with remote control response, but it slightly better for not having nVidia's god-awful volume control implementation. The current Amazon remote (which started shipping AFTER the initial launch of the Cube) includes power and volume control buttons so it can turn on a TV or receiver now.

    Also new FireTV products don't support the Amazon Gamepad any longer. You can still pair a bluetooth gamepad, but I suspect Amazon has decided it would rather sell underpowered hardware (the Fire HD tablets are similarly lacking, with the more expensive units still only offering 1.5GB RAM) and I'd expect the game content to disappear in a FireOS refresh sooner or later.

    FireTVs have kind of a poor Youtube Experience. The Author mentioned having to install Kodi through outside means. Running Youtube through Firefox or Silk on FireOS is also pretty bad. I use a third-party Android application called Smart Youtube TV instead. It does not display ads, so it's not available on the Play Store and has to be loaded externally on AndroidTV as well. I'll take it every single time over Google-official Youtube. Still, Amazon and Google need to find a way to get on the same page.

    I used to enthusiastically recommend the FireTV when the gen2 product was the top end model. Now I'm hesitant to do so. The Cube's voice control isn't worth the loss of performance.

    The MiBox? I already mentioned the remote. The model I have is a generation old and is distinctly lacking an Ethernet port. This keeps me from taking it seriously as a primary device, though it does OK with 4k content. The price is right (~$60something) and it has USB ports for drives, an ethernet adapter or additional sorts of controllers. Not a bad deal overall.

    The Shield? I think it costs too much for what offers. Yes, it's fast. Yes, it can do all kinds of cool stuff if you're already a PC gamer with an nVidia graphics card or willing to buy in to its online services. It can do both Google Play and Amazon Music and Video. It handles 4k well. It supports (almost) every sound format in Kodi. But the remote is hot garbage. Total trashfire. Sometimes it just doesn't connect. The volume control is a weird touch-sensitive element that runs the length of the remote, so you'll forever be accidentally increasing and decreasing volume. You'll wind up buying a third party model. It also costs twice what the Gen2 FireTV did, which offered about 90% of the performance for video playback. It's very hard for me to say the last 10% is worth paying twice as much.

  2. Murray
    February 5, 2019 at 6:27 pm

    Actually the following is completely wrong: "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."

    The cheap Chinese boxes run a tablet version of the standard mobile version of Android, which is greatly lacking when it comes to using it with a remote, etc.
    The only devices running the official version of android TV are on the following site: https://www.android.com/tv
    The cheapest being the Xiaomi Mi Box at $59.99.

  3. riz
    February 4, 2019 at 5:16 pm

    Fire TV has minecraft.
    Android TV does not! (I have no idea why...)
    This was a sticking point when I went to upgrade my firetv gen1 box.
    In the end I went with a Shield TV, but I have to sideload minecraft and everytime it gets an update, I have to reupload it.
    PITA

    • likefunbutnot
      February 11, 2019 at 4:27 pm

      One of the original promises of the FireTV over the FireStick was a gaming experience, which included support for Android games, plus the option to get a gamepad rather than a remote with the box. The FireTV Gaming Edition included a few gamepad titles and offered support for premium Android games, which are typically cheaper from Amazon than Google (usually $8 instead of $10).
      The Gaming Edition FireTVs were a great deal for the console-free household, where something like a cheap copy of Minecraft or one of the Grand Theft Auto titles might be enough to keep young people happy for a few days, but it appears that Amazon is in the process of dropping support, since the current FireTV products don't support the Amazon Gamepad and don't have as powerful CPUs as the FireTV gen 2 did.