Chromecast versus Roku versus Amazon Fire TV: Battle of the Streaming Sticks

Chromecast versus Roku versus Amazon Fire TV: Battle of the Streaming Sticks

Streaming sticks and dongles used to only exist as low-budget alternatives for larger, more powerful set-top boxes. Nowadays, however, these small technical wonders can almost all perform the same tasks as their larger brothers, but at more manageable prices (and sizes). Which is the best with options from Google, Roku and Amazon? We’ve placed them all opposite each other and discovered that the Roku Premiere + and Roku Streaming Stick + are the best cheap streaming devices.

Movies to stream

Although Roku is our well-deserved winner, Amazon and Google are filling in their own niche options. We have been using these streaming devices for years and watch how they have evolved into highly capable media devices. Read on for our full analysis to see which of these streaming studs is right for you.

Easy to use

Although they give you access to the same content, the Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra work very differently from the other devices in this list. Because Chromecasts use your mobile device or computer to & # 39; cast & # 39; s content to your TV, they do not have a traditional menu-based user interface, remote control, and built-in storage. In a world of smart devices, the Chromecast is perhaps the dumbest of them all.

But when it comes to simplicity and ease of use, that’s a good thing. Chromecast devices leave all smarts to your mobile device and simply act as a channel through which your TV can access content. Find what you want to watch or listen to on your personal device, & # 39; cast & # 39; it to the Chromecast with a tap of a button and, voila, it’s on your TV. That includes all content that you can place in a Chrome browser window, i.e. everything on the internet. It’s not that the other options here are complex – in fact they are all pretty manageable, and some of you might get along better with the traditional external user interfaces that you’re probably already used to – but the Chromecast takes the top here for overall intuitiveness .

Winner: Chromecast, Chromecast Ultra

Processing capacity

Well, technology is fast, so the winner in this category is generally the most recently released product. From our most recent update that would be the Roku Premiere + and the Fire TV Stick 4K, but since the Fire TV Stick 4K packs a little more powerfully, that’s our choice. Continue!

Winner: Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

Spell

Then Baker / Digital Trends

Of course, with the Roku devices you can play Angry Birds and a handful of other fun games, but the Fire TV Stick 4K has access to a huge library with more advanced titles (such as Machinarium and Minecraft). These games are very attractive for casual gamers and represent more than just news. The games from Chromecast are great, but you won’t find much to please the console crowd. Most are party titles for multiple players such as Risk, Scrabble and Monopoly. Amazon recently discontinued support for its own game controller in newer models, but you’ll find third-party solutions if you really want to start your game with your Fire TV Stick 4K.

Winner: Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

App library

Caleb Denison / digital trends

When it comes to the huge number of available apps (not including games), the Roku devices win, with access to thousands of apps (or channels, as Roku calls them), by a landslide. You can also use the official Roku app to select content on your smartphone.

Chromecast apps (apps with & # 39; Cast enabled & # 39;) now count in thousands, but support for the casting platform varies between PC, Android, and iOS devices, which can be frustrating. The good news is that, unlike Roku and Amazon Fire TV, any Android or iOS app can be Cast-enabled if the developer chooses, which ensures an ever-growing selection.

Speaking of that choice, Amazon and Google have recently ended their feud on video services and the latest update of the Amazon Prime Video app now supports Chromecast native. Conversely, and perhaps more importantly, you can now download the YouTube app on Amazon Fire TV. Despite this announcement, Roku is still the king of the app mountain.

Winner: Roku Premiere +, Roku Streaming Stick +

User environment

Riley Young / Digital Trends

We have owned some Roku device in recent years, but have also spent a lot of time testing Fire TV set-top boxes and streaming sticks. Because we now use the Roku and Fire TV interfaces regularly, this has become a difficult decision. The Roku interface is extremely user-friendly – some even call it & # 39; bubbles & # 39; or & # 39; boring & # 39; – while the Amazon Fire TV interface has a bit more techno flash, but is still able to arrange things. While we generally prefer the service-agnostic Roku interface, Amazon Alexa uses a variety of voice control features that Roku cannot compete with, although Roku does support rudimentary voice-driven requests through individual Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant devices that you may use . to have.

Chromecast, for its part, does have functionality via the Home app, but it does not have a traditional user interface in itself. Instead, you navigate through apps and content libraries via your phone, tablet or PC. Although this is technically behind the other devices, Chromecast is incredibly simple, as long as you are familiar with your favorite casting device.

Winner: Roku Premiere +, Roku Streaming Stick + and Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K (tie)

Search

Caleb Denison / digital trends

When it comes to finding what to look at, where to look at it, and how much (or something) it will cost you, the Roku devices win. They can search via text or voice, whether you use the remote control or the mobile app, in an extensive channel library.

Consistent updates have made Fire TV a serious contender, with Amazon bragging about the “widest cross-provider search of any streaming media player.” It will show you where the video you are looking for can be found in the middle of your streaming service options. Yet Roku is more transparent in its search for costs, and Amazon’s broader searches leave something to be desired.

Google Chromecast devices offer both text and voice search, but are still far behind. Just like the Fire TV, Chromecast searches prefer the content of certain apps and services, especially your own apps. So, unless you’re really in the Google Play Store, finding the best place to see what you’re looking for can be a bit more hassle here.

It’s pretty close no matter how you cut it, but we still feel that Roku is at the top here.

Winner: Roku Premiere +, Roku Streaming Stick +

Remote control

Caleb Denison / digital trends

When it comes to the supplied remote controls, both the Roku devices and the Fire TV offer a lot of functionality, including power and volume keys for your TV. However, Roku & # 39; s is a bit easier to use, including shortcuts to some of the most popular apps for Netflix, Hulu and others. Both platforms offer free remote apps for iOS and Android, but here too Roku has the upper hand thanks to slightly better usability, as well as the ability to listen to your headphones directly from your phone or tablet for private listening. As mentioned, Chromecast devices do not use a special remote control, so they are not in the photo. Fire TV gets an honorable mention here, if only because of the cool voice functions such as “rewind 20 seconds” for those moments when you miss a bit of critical dialogue.

Winner: Roku Premiere +, Roku Streaming Stick +

Casting, mirroring, sharing

When it comes to playing content that does not come from a streaming service, the Google Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra win the day. Although it is just as easy to stream Netflix, YouTube or Hulu to a Roku device, sharing personal video & # 39; s or photos & # 39; s on the Android platform is just a little easier with Chromecast. For iOS users, the process of casting personal photos & videos to a Chromecast requires the use of a third-party app, while Roku users with iOS devices must share from the Roku app on distance.

When it comes to mirroring, it’s pretty close between all four streamers, but Chromecast is the easiest – at least for Android. Thanks to Miracast, screen mirroring is not that difficult for users of Android and Fire devices (although iOS users must use a third-party app). Chromecast users can easily and quickly mirror their desktop to put anything and everything you can find online (legally of course!) On your TV screen from a PC or an Android device. Although mirroring is not available on iOS devices, Chromecast streamers are still winning here.

Winner: Chromecast, Chromecast Ultra

Video and audio quality

Bill Roberson / Digital Trends

The only device on this list that does not support 4K UHD or HDR video is the Chromecast of the third generation, so it seems that we are largely starting with a level playing field. When it comes to the quality of streaming content, the biggest factor is often the quality of the connection, not the claimed device specifications. Unless your home network has the latest and best standards, this will probably make little difference.

Like the Chromecast Ultra, the Roku Streaming Stick + and the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K also support dual-band a / b / g / n / ac Wi-Fi, making them well equipped to handle 4K streaming, provided your home network is in use is to the task. This omits the Roku Premiere +, which is limited to b / g / n connections. The fact that Chromecast supports Dolby Vision (in addition to HDR10) and the Fire Stick 4K supports every HDR format (HDR10, HDRO10 +, HLG and Dolby Vision) gives them a (very) small lead (for Dolby Vision support) TV owners , that is).

Winner: Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, Chromecast Ultra (draw)

Value

Riley Young / Digital Trends

The Roku Premiere + connects the Fire TV Stick 4K when it comes to price, and while the Fire TV Stick 4K offers the listeners of Alexa voice search and numerous other Alexa functions, the Roku Premiere + was just a smoother ride in our testing, with less hiccups and more intuitive operation. On the other hand, the Roku Streaming Stick + adds potentially faster dual-band WiFi that is likely to perform better in homes with multiple heavy users, and it only costs $ 10 more. When everything has been said and done, both Rokus offer a low price, better app selection and a more intuitive interface for victory in this category.

Winner: Roku Premiere +, Roku Streaming Stick +

And the winner is …

Roku Premiere + and Roku Streaming Stick +

As far as we are concerned, the Roku Premiere + and Roku Streaming Stick + are simply the best streamers you can buy now. For $ 50 and $ 60 each, they both offer simple streaming with everything you need and nothing you don’t need. Although Alexa makes it easy to use speech for control over multiple devices, the Rokus does just about everything you need while offering a better search function, more apps and, for our money, a better overall interface. That said, if you have a TV with Dolby Vision support, we recommend using the Fire TV Stick 4K instead, which in itself is a very good streamer and full of features.

Moreover, you really can’t go wrong with one of the selections on our list. If you regularly use your phone, tablet or computer to stream, you might as well grab a Chromecast and streamline your viewing experience (and again, if you want a 4K-compatible version and don’t mind paying extra, there’s also the Chromecast Ultra). Once everything has been said and done, the decision is yours and yours alone. Choose wisely.

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