Fire TV vs. Chromecast: It's an Amazon vs. Google Thing!
Comparison of Firestick and Chromecast: Channels\Apps | Features | Costs | User interface | Ease of Installation | and more…
Published: 21st Jul 2020
QuickFire TV vs. Chromecast Comparison Table
Google’s Chromecast and Amazon’s Fire TV are two of the most popular budget-friendly options for streaming devices. Both allow you to stream content from your favorite streaming platform and they’re both pretty easy to install and use.
However, Fire TV and Chromecast follow vastly different streaming philosophies — Fire TV is a traditional streaming device with an inbuilt interface and operating system, while Chromecast is a casting device reliant on your smartphone’s interface.
In this article, we give you an overview of Fire TV and Chromecast devices, and we compare them against the most crucial verticals of streaming. I hope this article helps you decide whether to purchase an Amazon Fire TV or a Google Chromecast.
What is the Fire TV? Overview of Fire TV Devices
Fire TV is Amazon’s line of budget-friendly streaming devices. Fire TV is a traditional streaming device that allows you to access an operating system and control your smart TV through a traditional remote control.
Please note that some people use the terms ‘Fire TV’ and ‘Firestick’ interchangeably. However, the term ‘Firestick’ refers to a particular design standard, i.e., the USB-shaped Fire TV devices.
Until recently, most Fire TV devices matched this standard, so one could use Fire TV interchangeably with Firestick. However, with the release of the new Fire TV Cube, using the term ‘Firestick’ may be confusing. As such, I will refer to the entire Amazon ecosystem of streaming devices as ‘Amazon Fire TV.’
Amazon has released several generations of Fire TV devices and there are currently three devices in the range — Fire TV Stick, Fire TV Stick 4K, and Fire TV Cube.
Fire TV Stick
Fire TV Stick is the most basic Amazon Firestick, a small USB-styled device with a maximum of 1080p video output and no advanced smart TV features.
Fire TV Stick 4K
Fire TV Stick 4K is an upgraded Amazon Firestick device. It doesn’t have advanced smart TV features, but it does have upgraded video output, compatible with 4K Ultra HD and HDR content.
Fire TV Cube
Fire TV Cube is the latest and most advanced Fire TV streaming device. This is a Firecube instead of a Firestick, it’s compatible with 4K Ultra HD and HDR content, and has Alexa built-in.
Pros & Cons of Fire TV Devices
What is Google Chromecast? Overview of Chromecast Devices
Google Chromecast is the most unique streaming device on the platform because it doesn’t have a built-in interface or operating system. This means that you can’t control the Chromecast through remote control as you would most TVs.
Instead, Chromecasts are controlled exclusively with smartphones. Google believes that remote controls are redundant in the modern age as you only need smartphones and voice assistants.
Google Chromecast is more than just a streaming device, it’s also a casting device. To that end, Chromecast has one of the most advanced casting capabilities among all streaming devices, allowing you to cast your phone’s screen to a TV seamlessly.
Google Chromecast has two active streaming devices — Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra.
Chromecast is the entry-level streaming device with a maximum video output of 1080p and no HDR support.
Chromecast Ultra is the advanced streaming device with a maximum video output of 4K Ultra HD and Dolby Vision HDR support. Additionally, Chromecast Ultra is compatible with Google’s Stadia gaming platform.
Pros & Cons of Chromecast Devices
Comparison of Fire TV and Chromecast Devices
In this section, we compare Google Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV across several verticals, such as design, installation, ease of use, smartphone integration, and more. Use this to assess the features you care most about.
Fire TV vs. Chromecast Design
The Amazon Firesticks (Fire TV and Fire TV 4K) are USB-shaped devices measuring 3.4” x 1.2” x 0.5”, and they slide discreetly into your TV’s HDMI port, out of sight. The Amazon Fire TV Cube is a small cube measuring 3.4” x 3.4” x 3.0”, and it sits next to your TV, in plain view.
The Fire TV Cube is quite attractive, bearing a glossy black body with the signature blue light indicating Alexa integration at the top. The manual controls for Alexa sit on the top.
Both versions of Chromecast are black disc-like devices with a 0.5” width and 2” diameter. The older Chromecast devices had a matte black exterior, while the new Chromecast devices favor a glossy approach. However, the device’s design doesn’t matter much because it lies behind the TV.
Winner (Design): Tie
The two Chromecast devices and the Firesticks remain hidden from view, so their design elements don’t matter much beyond their functionality. The Fire TV Cube is the only device that remains visible, out of necessity. However, even the Fire TV Cube is unobtrusive, having been designed to blend into the background without drawing attention to itself.
Fire TV vs. Chromecast Installation
Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV 4K have extremely simple installation processes. You have to connect them to the TV’s HDMI port and a power outlet. You can use the TV’s USB port for power if it has 5V of power. If not, you can use the included power adapter to connect to an external power source.
Amazon Fire TV Cube has to be connected to the TV’s HDMI port via an HDMI cable. Like the Firesticks, you can use the TV’s USB port for power, but it’s better to use a separate power supply using the included USB cable and power adapter. Fire TV Cube needs greater internet speed as well, so you can connect it to your router through an ethernet cable.
Once the devices are connected, the installation process is pretty simple and intuitive. After turning on your TV, you have to follow the on-screen prompts to connect your TV to the wireless network, set up your account, and add the programs and apps you need.
Connecting Chromecast to your TV is pretty simple. You have to make two connections — to the TV’s HDMI port and to an external power supply. If your TV has enough power, you can use the TV’s USB port as a power source. If not, you can hook it up to an external power supply via the USB cable and adapter. Chromecast doesn’t have an ethernet port.
After connecting the devices, you have to pair your smartphone to the TV. There’s no TV-based installation because Chromecast doesn’t have an operating system. As such, you have to download the Google Home app on your phone, connect it to your WiFi network, and pair the phone with your Chromecast. You can then control Chromecast through your phone.
Winner (Installation): Tie
Both Fire TV and Chromecast are equally easy to connect and install. In fact, both of them follow the same setup process — you have to connect them to the TV’s HDMI port and a power supply.
However, once you’ve connected the devices, their installation process is vastly different. Amazon Fire TV has to be installed through the TV’s interface, while Chromecast can only be installed by setting up an app on your smartphone. Both methods are simple but too different to compare fairly.
Fire TV vs. Chromecast Content Quality
Winner (Content Quality): Tie
When it comes to video and audio quality, Fire TV and Chromecast go toe-to-toe.
The entry-level streaming devices from both platforms support a maximum of 1080p content with no HDR support. The higher-end streaming devices from both platforms support 4K Ultra HD content with Dolby Vision HDR support. However, to access the advanced video output, you’ll also need a TV compatible with Ultra HD and Dolby Vision HDR content, complete with an HDCP port.
Dolby Vision is currently the latest and most advanced HDR standard, capable of producing content with greater vividness, clarity, and color perception than ever before. You’ll be hard-pressed to find Dolby Vision content and Dolby Vision-compatible TVs at the moment. These devices are effectively future-proofed for a few years while Dolby Vision HDR becomes standardized.
All Chromecast and Fire TV devices support Dolby Atmos audio. Dolby Atmos is currently the gold-standard in audio outputs because it creates a theatrical experience with moving sound effects. However, you need Atmos-compatible speakers to access these audio capabilities.
Fire TV vs. Chromecast OS Interface
Amazon Fire TV runs on Amazon’s native operating system, Fire OS, which is a fork of the Android operating system.
Since Amazon has an operating system and user interface, you can control the smart TV through remote control. As such, you can interact with Amazon Fire TV in the same way you would a traditional TV, channel surfing with your remote.
Amazon Fire TV has a menu that heavy-handedly pushes Amazon content. The banner on top features auto-play selections of Amazon’s content, you get recommendations for Amazon movies and TV shows, and the advertisements feature products from the Amazon store. As such, Amazon clearly pushes you deeper into the Amazon interface.
Amazon Fire OS also includes a search tab, from which you can search for content across the platform. However, most of your search results are pulled from Amazon’s content library rather than other apps, such as Netflix.
One of the highlights of Amazon’s user interface is the X-Ray feature during video playback. When you play Amazon Prime videos, you can tap the Up button on your remote to get quick information on any given scene within a movie or show. You find out the names of all the cast members in the scene, including extras, and the name of background music. You can also tap the names of any of those cast members to learn more about their biography and navigate to other related content on Amazon.
Amazon also has a pretty rudimentary screen mirroring feature, with which it can mirror the contents of your phone. As such, your TV screen can display whatever you're doing on your phone.
Chromecast doesn’t have an operating system. The Chromecast device merely acts as a conduit between your smartphone and your TV. You play the content on your smartphone and your Chromecast plays it on your TV, pulling it from the web. As such, Chromecast’s interface is your smartphone’s interface.
Winner (OS Interface): Tie
Fire TV and Chromecast follow opposing philosophies when it comes to operating systems. Amazon has an OS, Chromecast doesn’t and is entirely reliant on a smartphone.
Personally speaking, I prefer Amazon Fire TV because I like the traditional TV experience, not being reliant on a smartphone for everything. However, there are plenty who would argue that the traditional TV-viewing experience is altogether redundant in the age of smartphones.
Fire OS is by no means a great operating system. In fact, it’s one of the weaker operating systems compared to Roku and Apple TV. However, when you compare Fire TV’s operating system to Chromecast’s operating system (or lack thereof), you mostly compare their streaming philosophies.
So, you have to ask yourself which style of streaming you prefer.
Do you want to surf through your TV channels and apps using a traditional remote control? Or do you want to simply use your smartphone and cast the content to your TV screen?
Fire TV vs. Chromecast Remote Control
Fire TV comes with a traditional remote control. It’s a minimalist and functional remote control with volume functions, a microphone button to control Alexa, and other essential buttons.
Some of the older Fire TV remote controls didn’t have a power on/off button. However, all newer Fire TV remote controls double as controls for your TV. As such, you can use the power button or volume buttons to control your both TV and your Fire TV, allowing you to use one remote control rather than two.
Chromecast doesn’t have a traditional remote control because it treats your smartphone like an advanced remote control.
If you must use a traditional remote control, your TV may allow you to pair your Chromecast with the TV’s remote. You may have to go to the external device section of your TV’s settings to pair them. But that will only give you access to basic features like volume and power, and not all TVs have that feature.
Winner (Remote Control): Tie
Comparing Fire TV’s remote control to Chromecast’s remote control is just as useless as comparing their operating systems because one has a remote control and one doesn’t. And the lack of a remote control isn’t an oversight, it’s a calculated action.
As such, you must determine how much you need a traditional remote control. Do you need a traditional remote control for your TV? Or are you happy using your smartphone as a universal remote control?
Fire TV vs. Chromecast App
Fire TV has a pretty basic and rudimentary smartphone app. The smartphone app allows you to browse content, use the trackpad for navigation, and use the phone’s keypad, rather than that on the TV, to search. You can also use the microphone button to access voice commands through your phone.
The Fire TV app is also pretty buggy and inefficient because it often gets disconnected and it’s a hassle to reconnect the app to your Fire TV. All things considered, Fire TV has terrible smartphone integration.
Chromecast has the most advanced and brilliant smartphone integration. After all, its entire streaming philosophy centers on the smartphone’s supremacy in acting as the Chromecast’s user interface and remote control in one.
You have to download and install the Google Home app on your phone, after which you can easily control your Chromecast through your Android or iOS device. The Google Home app acts as both a remote control and a mirroring app.
First, Chromecast uses your smartphone as an advanced remote control. You don’t even need to access the Google Home app. You can simply access your favorite apps, be it Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, or any other, as you would normally. Once you access the app, you can play any content and tap the casting button to transfer the video to your Chromecast TV. Once you cast the screen, the content will start streaming from your Chromecast device, so it won’t consume your phone’s battery. You can still use your phone to navigate the content.
Second, Chromecast has the most advanced casting and mirroring capabilities. In addition to casting and streaming content from traditional streaming platforms, you can also mirror your phone’s screen or cast content from your photo libraries and home videos. For example, you can cast your Google photo library or Google Chrome web browser, thus surfing the internet on your TV. This also opens up the possibility of watching any video on the internet on your TV via the Google Chrome web browser.
Winner (App): Chromecast
Chromecast’s entire ecosystem and philosophy are founded on the smartphone’s supremacy as a streaming device, casting device, and remote control. And considering Chromecast’s brilliant integration with your smartphone, that philosophy is entirely justified. Compared to Chromecast’s Google Home app and smartphone integration, Amazon Fire TV has terrible smartphone integration with an infuriating app.
Fire TV vs. Chromecast Voice Control
Amazon Fire TV allows you to access voice control through multiple sources — remote control, smartphone app, external Alexa device, and Fire TV Cube’s internal Alexa.
The Fire TV remote control has a microphone button. You have to tap and hold this to access Fire TV’s Alexa. The smartphone app also has a microphone button that works similarly — you have to tap and hold the microphone button to search for content by voice.
All Fire TV devices are compatible with Alexa speakers and other Alexa-compatible devices, such as Echo Dot. If you have an Alexa device, you don’t need to tap and hold a microphone button. You can simply say “Alexa” to activate it and use your voice commands.
If you have Fire TV Cube, you don’t even need an external Alexa speaker because Fire TV Cube has an inbuilt Alexa speaker. As such, you can simply say, “Alexa, turn on Netflix,” or give other commands. In addition to your Fire TV, you can also use Alexa to control other smart home devices, such as light bulbs, speakers, locks, etc.
Fire TVs are only compatible with Alexa devices — not Siri, Google Home, or any other.
Google Chromecast allows you to access voice control through two sources — smartphones or external Google Assistant devices.
You can tap and hold the microphone icon in your Google Home app to access voice commands, instructing Chromecast to perform specific actions.
If you have a Google Assistant device, such as a Google Home Mini speaker or Google Home, you can access Google Assistant without tapping a button. Say “Hey Google” to activate it so you can provide commands.
Chromecasts are only compatible with Google Assistant devices — not Alexa, Siri, or any other.
Winner (voice control): Fire TV
Both Amazon Fire TV and Google Chromecast and faithful to their native voice assistants — Alexa and Google Assistant, respectively. As such, all Fire TV devices can be controlled through Alexa devices, and all Chromecasts can be controlled through Google Home devices.
However, Fire TV Cube comes with an internal Alexa speaker, so you don’t need an external Alexa device. None of the Chromecast devices double as a Google Home speaker. As such, Fire TV Cube is far more versatile than any of the Chromecast devices.
Fire TV also comes ahead in its range of options. You can access voice control through a traditional remote control, smartphone app, Fire TV Cube, or an external Alexa device. Meanwhile, Chromecast’s voice assistant can only function through an external speaker or a smartphone.
Fire TV vs. Chromecast Ease of Use
Fire TV can be controlled via the Fire TV remote control, smartphone app, external Alexa speakers, or directly through Fire TV Cube’s internal voice assistant. Fire TV’s user interface can be annoying at times, but it’s easy to use and navigate. The remote control also has all the essential features and buttons. The only aspect of the Fire TV ecosystem that’s truly awful is the smartphone app.
Chromecast can be controlled via Google Home speakers or your smartphone through Google Home integration. Chromecast’s smartphone controls are incredibly advanced and feature-heavy.
Winner (Ease of Use): Tie
Both Fire TV and Chromecast can be controlled well through their native voice assistants and speakers. Chromecast doesn’t have an operating system, while Fire TV has terrible smartphone integration.
As such, comparing ease of use between Fire TV and Chromecast really comes down to personal preference. Do you prefer using a smartphone or a traditional TV remote control? Fire TV is suitable for those who want a traditional TV experience while Chromecast is suitable for those who want a smartphone experience.
Fire TV vs. Chromecast Apps & Channels
Winner (Apps & Channels): Chromecast
Chromecast can be said to have a greater content library than Fire TV because of its casting feature. Fire TV has a brilliant content library with thousands of apps, but it’s still limited to the Fire OS ecosystem. Chromecast, meanwhile, has no such limitations. You can cast content from all streaming platforms on your phone. If a particular channel or platform doesn’t have an app, you can cast its content from the Google Chrome browser.
Chromecast also comes ahead in terms of gaming. Amazon Fire TV is limited to low-capacity video games available in the Fire OS. However, Chromecast allows you to play all the games available on your smartphone, and you can also pair it with Stadia for advanced high-definition gaming.
Fire TV vs. Chromecast Support
You can access Amazon’s knowledge base for informational articles, guides, and troubleshooting articles. You can also contact their customer support.
You can access Chromecast’s knowledge base with instructional articles and guides. There’s no live chat support.
Winner (Support): Fire TV
Both Fire TV and Chromecast have a well-developed knowledge base. But it’s easier to get live support from Amazon than from Google.
Fire TV vs. Chromecast Cost
Winner (Costs): Tie
The entry-level streaming devices from both Fire TV and Chromecast cost the same. Chromecast Ultra’s price, however, falls somewhere between the Fire TV Stick 4K and Fire TV Cube. That pricing makes sense because Chromecast Ultra has the same video output as Fire TV Stick 4K plus Stadia support, but it doesn’t have a built-in voice assistant speaker like the Cube. As such, pricing isn’t much of a factor when comparing the two devices.
Verdict: Fire TV or Chromecast?
I often come across two devices that are so similar that I have to split hairs finding their minute differences. That’s not an issue here, at all. There’s a gulf of difference between Fire TV and Chromecast. Both Fire TV and Chromecast are budget-friendly streaming devices, but they’re based on completely different streaming philosophies. As such, deciding which streaming device you want is less about the minute differences and more about structural differences between the two devices.
You should get a Fire TV device if you:
You should get a Chromecast device if you:
Now that I’ve listed all the structural differences between Fire TV and Chromecast, the rest falls squarely on your shoulders. Which ecosystem do you prefer? What’s your TV-viewing style? How comfortable are you with your smartphone? Once you answer these questions, you’ll figure out whether you’re an Amazon or a Google guy.
Winner (overall): Chromecast
FAQs About Fire TV and Chromecast Devices
What's the difference between Chromecast and Amazon Fire Stick?
The primary difference between Chromecast and Amazon Fire Stick is in how they function. Firestick has an inbuilt operating system with menus and apps that you can access and navigate through voice commands or remote controls. Chromecast acts as a conduit between your smartphone and TV, casting the content from the apps on your phone to your TV.
Which is better, Chromecast or Fire TV?
It’s futile to argue whether Chromecast or Fire TV is better because they have core structural differences. Personally speaking, I prefer Fire TV because I like to access my TV independent of other devices, as I do a traditional TV. However, I also know people who prefer Chromecast because it turns the smartphone into a comprehensive remote control.
Do I need Chromecast if I have a Smart TV?
Whether you need Chromecast depends on your goals. Your smart TV will probably have all the apps you need for traditional streaming platforms, but it won’t necessarily have smartphone integration. As such, you should get a Chromecast only if you need to cast content from your phone that you can’t already access on your smart TVs, such as your photo galleries, home videos, and Google Chrome web browser.