Roku vs. Firestick The Ultimate Guide Before You Buy

Subheading: Comparison of devices: Channels\Apps | Features | Costs | User interface | Ease of Installation | and more…
Roku vs Firestick
Published: 29th Jun 2020
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By Rohan Tandon

Rohan is a passionate tech journalist with a degree in English literature. He's worked as a commissi Read More..

Quick Roku vs. Amazon Fire TV comparison

Roku

Amazon Fire TV

Installation

HDMI Port + Power Outlet

HDMI Port + Power Outlet

Ultra HD

HDR

HDR10

HDR10 + Dolby Vision

Dolby Atmos Audio

Search

Manual + Voice

Manual + Voice

Smart Playback (X-Ray)

x

Custom Menu & Feed

x

Remote Microphone

Remote Shortcuts

x

Remote Finder

x

Voice Control

Remote + Amazon Alexa + Google Home

Remote + Amazon Alexa

Private Listening

Remote + App (Wired & Wireless)

Wireless Only

Free Headphones

x

Guest Mode

x

Screen Mirroring (App)

x

Cost

£29.99/ £39.99/ £49.99/ £79.99

$29.99/ $49.99/ $99.99

 

Roku and Amazon Firestick are currently the two most affordable and popular smart TV or streaming devices. Both Roku and Firestick have broad compatibility, and they provide access to Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, and most other popular streaming platforms and applications.

Furthermore, over the years, both Roku and Amazon have released a steady spate of new devices, each one-upping the competitor’s previous version. Currently, we have three generations of both Roku and Amazon Fire TV streaming devices.

Both Roku and Amazon Fire have a pretty brilliant range of devices suitable for all budget ranges, starting from as low as $29.99 and going as high as $99.99. Furthermore, all streaming devices provide easy access to all the most popular apps and channels.

Does that mean you can purchase any streaming device at all? Well, not exactly. Subtle as they may be, Roku and Amazon Fire TV do have certain differences that may influence your decision, such as their interactivity, simplicity, compatibility, etc.

At Smart Home News, we have thoroughly examined each of the Roku and Amazon Fire TV devices to determine which you should buy. In this article, we provide a detailed comparison for Roku and Amazon Fire TV devices.

 

Introduction to Streaming Devices

The last couple of years have seen an explosion of streaming devices, also known as smart TV devices or streaming media players. In the early 2010s, hardly anyone had heard of streaming devices or streaming platforms like Netflix.

However, midway through the decade, there was a sudden streaming media explosion, thanks to the stellar quality of content being released on streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime.

By the end of the decade, streaming devices had effectively overtaken traditional media players and cable TV as the primary source of media consumption. Some of the most popular streaming devices of recent years include Amazon Firestick, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, and Roku, to name a few.

You probably don’t need an introduction to streaming devices. If that’s the case, please skip this section and move on to the comparisons of Roku and Amazon Fire TV. However, if you don’t yet know what the big deal is, please continue reading for a discussion of the benefits of streaming devices.

 

What Are Streaming Devices?

Streaming media refers to compressed video and audio content transmitted over the internet and played immediately by streaming devices. Unlike traditional media players, you don’t need to save the content to a disc or hard drive because you play it directly from the internet. Since the media is sent in a continuous stream, there’s no need to download the data.

 

Why Should I Buy a Roku OR Firestick?

The following are some of the primary benefits of streaming content from streaming devices like Roku or Firestick:

  • Streaming devices and streaming videos don’t consume hard disk space.
  • Streaming platforms and devices have better safeguards against privacy.
  • Streaming content usually has far superior quality than traditionally downloaded formats, provided you have a strong internet connection and a TV that supports the video quality.
  • You can easily share streaming content without having to download it, burn it to discs, or perform other such complicated actions.
  • Roku and Firestick devices give you access to hundreds of thousands of applications and channels.
  • You have the liberty to access any content at any time, without reliance on network timings.
  • There’s no need to record your favorite programs because you can access them whenever you want.

The only potential downfall is that streaming media is incredibly addictive. For example, platforms like Netflix and Prime release entire seasons of shows at once, which has led to a culture of binge-watching, which means you may consume the entire season in one sitting. Furthermore, with the constant availability of content at your fingertips, you have to practice some self-discipline to wrest the remote away from your own hands.

 

Overview of Roku Devices and Costs

Roku is one of the pioneering companies in the world of streaming media players. Roku devices are currently some of the most affordable and convenient means of streaming content on your TV. You simply have to connect the small USB-shaped device into your TV, connect to the internet, create a Roku account, and start binging!

So far, Roku has released eight generations of its streaming devices. As of writing, however, Roku has three active streaming devices — Roku Express, Roku Premiere, and Roku® Streaming Stick™+. Before we jump into an overall comparison of Roku and Fire TV, let's briefly discuss the active Roku streaming devices.

 

Roku Express

Roku Express

Roku Express is currently the most affordable and basic streaming device on the market. Roku Express is a highly functional — albeit bare-bones — device that provides HD videos with the core streaming features. It doesn’t have advanced smart features, 4K compatibility, or voice control.

Cost: £29.99

 

Roku Premiere

Roku Premiere

Roku Premiere is slightly more expensive than Express. Roku Premiere is an improvement on Express’ smart features and video quality. The greatest advantage of Roku Premiere is the availability of 4K and HDR videos. However, Roku Premiere also lacks some of the most advanced smart TV features and voice control.

Cost: £39.99

 

Roku® Streaming Stick™+

Roku Streaming Stick+

Roku Streaming Stick+ is an advanced Roku streaming device. In addition to 4K and HDR video output, Streaming Stick+ has some of the latest smart TV features, such as voice search and voice control.

Cost: £49.99

 

Roku Ultra

Roku Ultra

Roku Ultra is currently the best and most advanced Roku streaming device, though it may not be necessary for everyone. Roku Ultra has most of the same functional features as the Streaming Stick+, but it comes with an advanced remote with personal shortcut buttons and a premium JBL headphone for private listening.

Cost: £79.99

 

Overview of Fire TV Devices and Costs

Amazon Fire TV, often called Amazon Firestick, is one of the most popular streaming devices. Fire TV gains its popularity because it’s a part of the Amazon ecosystem, linked to Amazon Prime and Amazon Prime Video. As such, buying an Amazon Fire TV device automatically gives you a membership to Amazon Prime and Prime Video — the former makes you eligible for Prime benefits related to the Amazon store, and the latter gives you access to Amazon’s content streaming platform.

It is also worth noting that Amazon Firestick refers to specific Amazon Fire TV devices designed like a USB. However, they aren’t the only Fire TV streaming devices — the latest Amazon Fire TV device is actually a cube rather than a stick. However, the term ‘firestick’ is often used as a popular shorthand when referring to Amazon Fire TV streaming devices in general.

Furthermore, you must also note that several Smart TVs come with an inbuilt Amazon Fire TV, such as Toshiba Smart LED TV and Insignia Fire TV Edition. If you have a smart TV with inbuilt Amazon Fire TV, you don’t need to purchase a separate Amazon Fire TV device. Having said that, as of writing, there are three active Amazon Fire TV devices for you to choose from — Fire TV Stick, Fire TV Stick 4K, and Fire TV Cube. The following is a brief overview of the three devices.

 

Fire TV Stick

Fire TV Stick

Fire TV Stick is the most basic and bare-bones version of Amazon Fire TV. This Amazon Firestick provides access to core smart TV functionalities, but there’s no 4K or HDR compatibility, and you don’t get some of the advanced smart TV features.

Cost: $29.99

 

Fire TV Stick 4K

Fire TV Stick 4K

Fire TV Stick 4K is the same as Fire TV Stick in all functions and features. However, as the name suggests, Fire TV Stick 4K is compatible with 4K Ultra HD and HDR content.

Cost: $49.99

 

Fire TV Cube

Fire TV Cube

Fire TV Cube is the most advanced Fire TV streaming device. While the other Fire TV devices are like USBs to be attached to the TV, Fire TV Cube is a wireless device with inbuilt Alexa, which allows you to control it through voice command without a remote. Fire TV Cube is also compatible with 4K Ultra HD and HDR content.

Cost: $99.99

 

Comparison of Roku and Firestick

Now that we’ve gone through a brief overview of the Roku and Firestick devices, let’s discuss how they stack up against each other in various aspects. Please note that we’re comparing the Roku streaming ecosystem, in general, with the Amazon Fire TV streaming ecosystem. As such, we’ll make references to each of the individual streaming devices without comparing any two devices specifically.

Roku vs. Firestick Ease of Installation

Roku

Installing a Roku is a piece of cake. You have to simply connect the Roku streaming device to your TV, connect the TV to the internet, set up your Roku account, and get started!

Firestick

The installation process for the Amazon Firestick devices is a little different from the installation process for the Amazon Fire Cube. However, both the Firestick and Fire Cube have an extremely straightforward installation process.

Winner (Installation): Roku

When it comes to ease of installation, both Roku and Amazon Fire TV are pretty similar.

All of the Roku streaming sticks and Amazon Firesticks are USB-type devices that you can connect to your TV. For better performance, you can also connect the streaming device to a power outlet via a USB cable.

However, Roku comes ahead when it comes to installing their high-end 4K versions. Roku Streaming Stick+ is the most advanced Roku streaming device, and it has a similar installation process as all the other Roku devices.

The most advanced 4K HDR Amazon Fire device — the Fire TV Cube — may need one additional step in the form of the Ethernet cable and Ethernet adapter. However, the Ethernet cable and adapter are only necessary for some situations.

As such, in most cases, both Roku and Amazon Fire TV have an equally straightforward and simple installation process. But Roku pulls slightly ahead of Fire TV when it comes to installing the advanced 4K HDR devices.

 

Roku vs. Firestick Content Quality

Roku HD

The lower end Roku streaming device supports HD content up to 1080p. The advanced Roku devices support Ultra HD 4K content.

Roku HDR

HDR support is only available in the two advanced Roku devices. However, Roku only supports HDR10, not Dolby Vision, which is currently the most advanced HDR format.

Roku Audio

Roku includes Dolby Atmos audio support.

Firestick HD

The lower end Amazon Firestick supports HD content up to 1080p. The advanced Amazon Fire TV devices support Ultra HD 4K content.

Firestick HDR

Both Fire TV Stick 4K and Fire TV Cube support both HDR10 and Dolby Vision content.

Firestick Audio

Amazon Firestick devices include Dolby Atmos audio support.

Winner (Content Quality): Firestick

Based on the specifications highlighted above, it’s clear that Amazon Fire TV has superior visual and audio capabilities.

Both Roku and Amazon Fire TV have similar specifications in their entry-level devices. However, the advanced Firestick devices include Ultra HD with Dolby Vision HDR, while the best Roku device only goes as far as HDR10.

But how significant is this difference?

Well, Dolby Vision HDR is currently the best standard in HDR video support. HDR10 supports 4,000 nits peak brightness, with a target of 1,000 nits, and 10-bit color depth. Compared to that, Dolby Vision supports 10,000 nits peak brightness, with a target of 4,000 nits, and 12-bit color depth.

As such, Dolby Vision HDR is far superior in color integrity, sharpness, and general brilliance than HDR10. However, whether Dolby Vision or HDR10, you can only access these advanced visual capabilities if your TV also supports these capabilities. As such, if your TV doesn’t include Dolby Vision support as well, the Roku and Firestick devices will perform the same.

Both Amazon Fire TV and Roku feature Dolby Atmos audio support, which is currently the best standard in audio. Dolby Atmos produces three-dimensional moving audio that generates a theatrical experience unlike any other. However, just like Dolby Vision, you can only enjoy these advanced benefits if your current speakers also support Dolby Atmos.

As such, if you have the latest TV and speaker sets with inbuilt Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos support, you should go for the Amazon Fire TV devices.

 

Roku vs. Firestick Interface (Ease of Use)

Roku Menu

Roku has an extremely clean and minimalist interface — there are no frills or unnecessary design elements. While you can modify the theme, the focus stays on the apps and functionality. Roku gives primacy to the apps, allowing you to arrange them according to your preference. As such, you can place your favorite apps on the front, significantly improving the user interface.

Furthermore, since the menus are light-weight, they load instantly. The Roku streaming device comes with a USB cable and power adapter, which can improve the speed. However, in most cases, you don’t need to connect to the power outlet because the Roku interface is extremely minimal. The Roku streaming service also has one large ad on the right-hand side of the screen. The advertisement isn’t disruptive, and you forget it even exists after a while.

Roku Feed

The Roku Feed is yet another useful feature. It allows you to follow movies, shows, and content, and receive updates when new content is available. You can follow movies, shows, or even actors and directors. As such, you’ll receive notifications whenever new content related to that movie, show, actor, or director is uploaded anywhere on the Roku platform. If you no longer want updates, you can unfollow them from the menu.

While the Roku Feed is a great idea, its execution leaves a little to be desired. My greatest concern with the Roku Feed is that unfollowing any content can be challenging. You don’t get a separate menu with followed items. Instead, you have to manually search for a specific personality or show you may have followed, go to that menu, and unfollow them. Furthermore, when you receive updates regarding followed items, you can only access the new content without immediate access to the show’s complete folder.

Roku Up Next List

Roku also has an Up Next list in which upcoming episodes from ongoing shows are automatically added. However, the Up Next list can be inconsistent, new episodes may not always get added automatically, and you can’t mark watched episodes. In fact, Roku can’t distinguish between watched and unwatched shows and movies.

Roku Search

Roku’s search feature is quite intuitive. From the remote, you have to select Search and then look for content based on the following categories — movie, show, actor, director, genre, or channel. Roku also gives great recommendations, suggesting content that may be related to your search input. As such, Roku has extremely smart search navigation.

 

Firestick Menu

Amazon Fire TV has long been flagged for its complicated interface, one that vigorously pushes Amazon’s native content at you. The moment you launch Amazon Fire TV, you’re bombarded with a wide selection of Amazon Prime content.

The banner menu features the latest and most popular Amazon Prime movies and tv shows. If you hover over these menu items, the show’s trailer automatically starts playing. If you scroll lower, you can find a selection of your ongoing shows and movies. Beyond that, the menus are overwhelmed by Amazon Prime content recommendations. Furthermore, Amazon’s recommendations aren’t really even based on an analysis of your viewership, but are basically a collection of Amazon’s popular content.

Furthermore, even the apps default to Amazon’s ecosystem, such as Amazon Prime Video and Amazon Music. As such, when you search for content, be it visual or audio, you’ll get recommendations from the Amazon ecosystem. If you want content from other sources, such as Netflix, Spotify, etc., you’ll have to access their app separately. If you’re comfortable with the Amazon ecosystem, you won’t have an issue. But the constant Amazon promotion can get on your nerves.

Amazon Fire TV also pays great emphasis on style. As mentioned previously, when you hover on the banner menus, HD trailers automatically start playing, encouraging you to view that content. This form of promotion, however, increases the load time, slowing down the Amazon Fire TV interface. You won’t have any issues if your Firestick is connected to the power outlet via the USB cable. However, if you’ve only connected the device to the TV’s port, the interface may feel a bit slow.

Amazon Fire TV also has ads interspersed through the content menus. Instead of pushing the ad to one side of the screen, the advertisements are front and center, impossible to ignore. The sponsored section of the menu will feature advertisements for cars, travel, computers, cats, and so much more. In addition to the sponsored content, you’ll also see ads for streaming services Amazon wants you to join.

Amazon also doesn’t let you curate your own menus. You can’t select which apps and shows you want to display, and which you want to ignore. There are no functions for features, preferred, or followed shows and apps. At most, you’ll get a single menu of your show and app history, but that’s it.

Firestick Search

Amazon Fire TV’s search also veers toward Amazon Prime promotion. When you search for any content, either through voice control or manual search, you’ll get recommendations of Amazon Prime content and apps. New versions have started diversifying the selection, providing relevant content from other services as well. But it still clearly favors Amazon content, which can sacrifice relevancy. If you want to search for specific content, you’ll have to enter the relevant streaming platform’s app, and then search for the item.

Firestick Playback & Navigation

Having said that, it’s not all bad. Amazon Fire TV’s interface has one redeeming feature — video playback and navigation. Amazon Fire TV arguably has the most advanced and unique playback and navigation features. When you pause content on Fire TV, you get a display of the actors in that particular scene. You can also tap the Up button for the scene’s X-Ray, which offers a detailed overview of the actor’s history. It’s like having immediate access to everyone’s IMDB page with the tap of a single button.

As such, if you see an actor (even an extremely insignificant actor who only appears for one scene), you can pause the video, tap the Up button, select their name, and see their entire acting history and brief biography. You’ll also get recommendations of other movies the actor appears in, and you can navigate to those selections from the app. In addition to the actor’s information, the X-Ray feature also reveals which music is playing in the background.

Winner (User Interface): Roku

Roku undoubtedly has a far more intuitive, faster, and cleaner interface than Amazon Fire TV. Roku’s interface is streamlined and minimal, which also makes it faster. Furthermore, Roku allows you to create your own menu, based on your preferences, rather than pushing its agenda or content at you.

Amazon Fire TV shamelessly pushes Amazon’s content at you, be it videos, products, apps, streaming services, or even Amazon shopping menus. Instead of personalizing the menu to your interests, Amazon personalizes it to their bottom line, which results in a chaotic, haphazard, and confusing interface. Amazon’s drive to promote its ecosystem also results in weaker search navigation because the results aren’t as accurate as they should be.

Roku isn’t perfect, of course, and it could do with making a few tweaks to its Roku Feed and Up Next selections. However, Amazon Fire TV doesn’t even have such options because it’s solely interested in pushing Amazon content.

The only saving grace for Amazon Fire TV is its intuitive navigation and playback settings. Amazon’s X-Ray feature is insanely intuitive, providing second-by-second information on all the actors and background music in every scene in Amazon content. Roku doesn’t have such intelligent navigation features.

However, the playback intelligence is small recompense for the pain of navigating the menus. As such, Roku clearly has a far superior menu and interface overall.

 

Roku vs. Firestick Remote Control

Roku Design

The Roku remote is an old-fashioned remote with clunky buttons and a pretty ugly aesthetic. It looks very dated.

Roku Dual Remote

Roku’s remote control doubles as a remote control for your TV as well. As such, you can turn your TV on/off or control the volume settings from the same remote.

Roku Microphone

The Roku remote also includes a microphone button that allows you to navigate the search menu through voice commands.

Roku Shortcuts

Roku features shortcut buttons for Netflix, Hulu, and other popular streaming platforms. As such, you can easily access those channels with a single tap. In most Roku streaming devices, you can’t repurpose those buttons or create custom shortcut buttons. As such, the shortcut buttons will only be useful to you if you subscribe to these streaming services. However, Roku Ultra’s remote control also features two personalized shortcut buttons that you can program according to your needs. As such, you can program those shortcut keys to search for a particular director’s work, choose a genre, etc.

Roku Remote Finder

The latest Roku Ultra remote control includes a remote finder button. Simply tap a button on your Roku device and the remote control will play a loud sound for you to find it. You’ll never have to go scrambling to find your remote again.

 

Firestick Design

The Firestick remote is extremely sleek, streamlined, and modern. It feels great in your hands, and it features unique minimalist buttons.

Firestick Dual Remote

Firestick’s remote control also doubles as a remote control for your TV. As such, you can control your TV and your Amazon Firestick from the same remote.

Firestick Microphone

The Firestick includes a microphone with which you can ask Alexa to perform various actions, like playing specific content, changing apps, etc.

Firestick Shortcuts

Firestick doesn’t have any shortcut buttons. I can potentially attribute that to two reasons. First, Amazon would never promote a streaming platform other than Prime Video. Second, Amazon’s remote is sleek and minimalist, so they’ve steered clear of buttons that aren’t crucial.

Winner (Remote Control): Tie

Roku vs. Firestick for remote control basically boils down to functionality vs. aesthetics.

If you want a remote that has great functionality because of the additional shortcut buttons, you should go for Roku. However, please note that these shortcut buttons will only work for you if you subscribe to the relevant streaming services.

If you want a remote that looks and feels better, Firestick is ahead. Furthermore, Firestick is also better for those who don’t subscribe to the popular platforms advertised on the Roku remote.

 

Roku vs. Firestick Smart Features

Roku Voice Control

With Roku, you can use voice control both with and without additional voice assistants. If you don’t have voice assistants, tap the microphone button to search for content. You can use voice commands to search for specific apps, shows, movies, channels, genres, or actors.

If you have a voice assistant, you can also use voice control without a remote control. Roku is compatible with Google Home and Amazon Alexa devices. However, if you use third-party voice assistants for voice control, you’ll have to mention Roku every time. For example, you’ll have to say “Google, open Netflix on Roku” instead of “Google, open Netflix.”

Roku Private Listening

The Roku remote also comes with an inbuilt headphone jack. If you’re watching TV late into the night and don’t want to disturb others in your household, you can connect the remote control to your earphones or headphones.

In lieu of the remote control, you can also perform private listening through your smartphone. You can access the Roku app on your smartphone and connect your headphones to the smartphone, either through Bluetooth or the headphone jack.

As such, you can watch TV privately through your headphones, controlling the volume through the remote, smartphone, or your headphone’s inbuilt voice control. The TV’s soundbar will be muted.

Roku Ultra also provides a pair of premium JBL headphones for your private listening experience.

Roku Guest Mode

Guest Mode is the ideal feature for those running hotels, Airbnbs, and guest rooms. You can create a guest account with a specific sign in and sign out date. As such, guests can access those guest accounts, importing their own accounts if necessary. This allows guests to access Roku without messing up your accounts and recommendations.

 

Firestick Voice Control

Amazon Firestick remote controls also come with a microphone button. As such, you can tap the microphone button to search for shows, actors, apps, channels, or other features. However, you’ll need to tap and hold the microphone button to use that voice control.

If you have the Amazon Fire TV Cube, you don’t need to hold the remote control to access voice control. The Amazon Fire TV Cube has an inbuilt Alexa speaker, which allows you to activate it from a distance. Say, “Alexa, turn on Netflix,” and it will do as it’s asked; you don’t need a remote control. Furthermore, the Amazon Fire TV Cube also acts like an Alexa device, allowing you to control other smart home devices, like lights, smart locks, etc.

If you have an Amazon Firestick instead of a Fire Cube, you’ll need to get another voice assistant to achieve voice control without the remote. However, Amazon Fire TV is only compatible with Amazon Alexa devices — not Google Home or any other smart assistant. If you connect your Amazon Firestick to your Alexa speaker, you can control it to navigate your Amazon Fire TV or other smart home devices.

Firestick Private Listening

The Amazon Fire TV remote control doesn’t have a headphone jack. As such, you can only use the private listening feature if you have wireless headphones. Furthermore, there have been reports of audio delay with Bluetooth headphones connected to Fire TV.

As such, while you can technically use Fire TV’s private listening feature, it’s not very effective, and it needs significant improvements before it becomes usable.

Winner (Smart Features): Roku

Roku has superior smart features on most counts — voice control, private listening, and guest mode.

When it comes to voice control, Roku is compatible with both Google Home and Amazon Alexa, while Firestick is only compatible with Amazon Alexa. If you choose to use voice control through the remote’s microphone, Roku allows you to search all streaming services for content, while Amazon’s microphone restricts you to Amazon Prime Video content.

You may prefer Firestick for voice control if you already have an Amazon Alexa device, or if you purchase the advanced Fire TV Cube. However, among all the streaming sticks, Roku has better voice control with greater compatibility.

Roku’s private listening is also far superior to Firestick for several reasons. First, you can access private listening through the remote control’s headphone jack or smartphone. Second, you can use wired or wireless headphones. Third, connecting your headphones through Bluetooth is simple. Fourth, there’s no audio lag.

Compared to that, Amazon Firestick provides a barely functional private listening. You can only access it through the remote. But since the remote doesn’t have a headphone jack, you must have Bluetooth headphones. Furthermore, you can only connect to Bluetooth through settings, which is difficult. Even after all that, you may still experience audio delay.

Amazon Fire TV also lacks a guest mode or guest feature. As such, when guests access your Amazon Fire TV, they’ll have complete access to your viewing history.

 

Roku vs. Firestick Mobile Apps

Roku

roku remote app

Roku’s smartphone app functions as a secondary advanced remote control. The Roku app seamlessly connects to your Roku device. In addition to all the features available in the remote control, the Roku app allows you to access private listening, search for content using the keyboard, and browse channels. The Roku app also includes a trackpad.

The Roku app also acts like a mirroring tool. You can play any video or photos from your smartphone or tablet and send it to your TV. As such, you can mirror your phone’s screen to your TV easily. You can also use this for video calling purposes, casting the screen to your TV instead of your phone.

You can download the Roku app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store.

Firestick

Amazon FireStick remote app

Amazon’s Fire TV smartphone app is extremely rudimentary. The smartphone app allows you to search for content using the keyboard, browse content, or use the trackpad as a remote control. However, the Fire TV app doesn’t allow you to mirror or cast the phone or tablet’s screen to the TV, nor does it allow you to access private listening.

Furthermore, the Amazon Fire TV app is also buggy and ineffective. You’re often disconnected from the Amazon Fire device, so you have to re-establish the connection, which can often be time-consuming. Most people eventually abandon the smartphone app because it is so ineffective.

You can download the Fire TV app from the Google Play Store, Apple Store, or Amazon.

Winner (Mobile App): Roku

Roku has a far more robust and effective smartphone app than Firestick. The Roku app isn’t just another remote control, but an extension of the Roku device itself, connecting your phone to your TV. Compared to that, the Fire TV app is buggy, frustrating, and lacks features like screen mirroring.

 

Roku vs. Firestick Apps & Channels

Roku Streaming Apps

Roku has a massive library of streaming apps, including some of the most popular streaming platforms like Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Spotify, Pandora, Sling TV, Google Play TV, PlayStation Vue, YouTube, and many more. You can also search for other streaming apps and download them. Most of these streaming apps have their own subscription services.

Roku Cable TV Apps

Roku also has apps for catch-up TV or cable channels, such as BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, Demand 5, Showtime, HGTV, Comedy Central, HISTORY, DisneyNOW, Discover GO, Cartoon Network, HBO GO, ESPN, NBC, ABC, and many more.

Roku 4K Content Apps

Roku’s 4K content apps include Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube, CuriosityStream, Smithsonian Earth, Vudu, Apple TV, FandangoNOW, and many more. There’s also a special section for you to access only 4K content.

Roku and Games

Roku also allows you to play video games on your TV. There are thousands of popular video games, such as Escape, Jeopardy, Checkers, and many more.

Roku and Kodi

Kodi is an open-source media center in which you can upload content from your own personal library. As such, if you have home videos, recordings, and movies that you want to access in your streaming device, you can upload them to Kodi, and then access them through the streaming device.

Unfortunately, Roku doesn’t support the Kodi player. However, you can use third-party apps and screen mirroring methods to play Kodi videos on your phone, tablet, or laptop, and then mirror the screen to your TV.

The Roku Channel

Roku also has a completely free channel supported by pop-up ads, called the Roku Channel. If you don’t want to pay for any of the subscription services, you can watch free TV shows, movies, and kids entertainment series on the Roku Channel.

Roku channels

 

Firestick Streaming Apps

Amazon Fire TV also has a massive library of streaming apps, including popular streaming services like Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Apple TV, Spotify, etc. You can also download additional streaming platforms and apps from the search menu.

Firestick Cable TV Apps

Amazon Fire TV also has thousands of applications for cable TV channels, such as ABC, ABC News, BET+, Atmosphere, Bloomberg, CBS All Access, CBS Sports, CW Seed, DisneyNOW, Disney Junior, HBO Go, HBO Now, and many more. Whatever channel you want, you can find it on Amazon Fire TV.

Firestick 4K Content Apps

Amazon Fire TV’s 4K content apps include Prime Video, Netflix, and YouTube. There’s no special menu for 4K content, and you don’t get Google Play or Vudu.

Firestick and Games

Amazon Fire TV has some of the most popular video games among streaming devices, such as Hill Climb Racing, Highway Races 3D, Red Ball 4, and many more. Furthermore, Amazon Fire TV’s video game graphics are also pretty impressive.

Firestick and Kodi

As mentioned previously, Kodi is an open-source media center in which you can add videos and photos from your personal library. While you can’t simply download the Kodi app to your Amazon Fire TV, there is a slight workaround that gives you access to your personal media library.

The following is a brief overview of how you can activate Kodi on your Amazon Fire TV:

  • Go to Settings > Device > Developer Options > Apps from Unknown Sources.
  • Download the Downloader app to your Fire TV.
  • Download Kodi from the Downloader app by entering http://www.kodi.tv/download into the URL section.
  • Select Android OS.
  • Select the 32-Bit installation.
  • Tap Install.
  • Now, you can access Kodi from your Amazon Fire TV menu just like any other app.

Firestick Free Channels

Amazon Fire TV also has some free channels and apps, such as YouTube, Pluto TV, TED TV, PBS, PBS Kids, etc. However, there’s no central channel or menu from which you can find free content and free apps.

Fire Stick TV channels

Winner (Apps & Channels): Tie

Both Roku and Firestick have massive libraries with hundreds of thousands of content. And both of them feature all of the most popular streaming platforms, apps, and channels, such as Disney+, HBO GO, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, etc.

Roku has the upper hand when it comes to free channels because of the Roku Channel. You can access all of the free content and services from a single menu, but Firestick doesn’t have any such option.

When it comes to Ultra HD content, Roku has a few more channels than Firestick. However, as we mentioned previously, Firestick supports Dolby Vision HDR, while Roku doesn’t. Amazon Fire TV also allows you to download open-source media centers like Kodi, even though you need to use a workaround method.

When it comes to games, Amazon Fire TV has a better selection of games with better graphics. However, all things considered, it’s impossible to determine which of them has objectivity better channels and apps. You’ll have to assess your needs and determine that for yourself.

 

Roku vs. Firestick Support

Roku

Roku has an effective support system. They have a great repository and knowledge base, including information on installing and setting up your device, account and billing issues, and troubleshooting issues. If you can’t find the information you need, you can also opt for live chat.

Firestick

Amazon also has a repository and knowledge base with instructional guides and articles. However, if that doesn’t work for you, it’s hard to get hold of their customer support.

Winner (Support): Roku

Both Roku and Amazon have a strong knowledge base. However, since Amazon juggles so many different things, it’s hard to find customer support for a specific issue. Compared to that, Roku provides a dedicated live chat for their streaming devices.

 

Verdict: Roku or Firestick?

Both Roku and Firestick are incredibly popular streaming devices with huge libraries. They provide access to all of the popular streaming platforms and apps, allow you to navigate through voice control, and let you play games.

However, based on all of the criteria we’ve mentioned above, Roku comes ahead on almost every single count. One of the primary reasons Roku is superior to Amazon Fire TV is that it’s a neutral device without an entire connected ecosystem. As such, Roku provides recommendations based on personal preferences rather than in an attempt to push its agenda.

Amazon Fire TV, meanwhile, constantly tries to push you toward Amazon’s products, streaming services, content, music platforms, and more. Consequently, its menu can be cluttered, its recommendations can be inaccurate, and its search option can be limiting.

However, Amazon Fire TV has the best video quality among all streaming devices because it supports HDR Dolby Vision. As such, if you have a Dolby Vision-compatible TV, you will enjoy the latest Amazon Fire devices. But if you don’t have a Dolby Vision TV, Roku provides far better functionality than Fire TV.

Having said that, please go through all the Firestick and Roku devices to decide for yourself.

 

FAQs About Roku and Firestick Smart TVs

Do you need a VPN with your streaming devices?

You don’t need a VPN for your streaming devices. In fact, most streaming platforms discourage VPNs because they allow you to get past geographic content restrictions and licensing issues. However, some powerful VPNs allow you to hoodwink certain streaming devices and platforms, allowing you to access content from other countries.

Can you jailbreak Roku or Firestick?

Jailbreaking is the process of modifying a device, such as a smartphone, tablet, etc., to bypass certain inbuilt restrictions. Roku streaming devices are jailbreak-proof because they use closed operating systems. However, you can play content from outside the Roku network on your streaming device by using the screen mirroring feature through the Roku app.

Amazon Firestick can be jailbroken to get past certain content restrictions and install apps that you may not have been able to install earlier. However, jailbreaking Amazon Firestick isn’t a cakewalk and includes several important steps.

  • Go to Settings > My Fire TV > Developer Options > ADB Debugging > Apps from Unknown Sources > Turn On.
  • Next, go back to the main menu and go to Settings > Preferences > Privacy Settings.
  • Turn OFF Device Usage Data and Collect App Usage Data.
  • Go back to Settings > Preferences > Data Monitoring.
  • Turn OFF Data Monitoring.
  • From the Search option, search, download, and install an app called Downloader.
  • Now, you can download any app you want.

How much does Roku cost per month?

There are no monthly subscription costs to use the Roku streaming device. You can also watch free content from the Roku Channel. However, if you want to access content from streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, you’ll have to pay for their individual subscriptions.

Can you use Roku and Firestick on the same TV?

You can connect multiple streaming devices to the same TV if you have multiple HDMI inputs. However, you can’t access them together. At any given point, you’ll have to access either the Roku or the Firestick inputs.

How do I connect Amazon Fire Stick to Roku?

You can’t connect Amazon Firestick to your Roku because both of them are sources of input. You can, however, install the Amazon Prime Video app in your Roku, and access Amazon video content.

How do I download the Roku app on my Firestick?

There is no such thing as the Roku app. Roku is a streaming device, and so is Firestick — you can’t combine the two. However, you can access the Roku Channel with Amazon Fire TV to access Roku’s free ad-supported movies and content.

To access the Roku Channel on your Fire TV, enter therokuchannel.roku.com/ in the Silk Browser. You’ll have to enter your account details and log in. Once you’ve logged in, you’ll get access to all of the Roku Channel’s free content. However, navigating the Roku Channel won’t be as convenient on a Firestick as on your Roku device.

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