Home / Mobile / Battle of the streaming sticks: Chromecast vs. Roku vs. Fire TV Stick

Battle of the streaming sticks: Chromecast vs. Roku vs. Fire TV Stick






Streaming sticks and compact dongles used to exist solely as low-budget alternatives to bigger, better, and more powerful set-top boxes. Nowadays, though, these tiny little tech marvels can often perform the same tasks as their larger brethren, but at more manageable prices (and sizes).

Google, Roku, and Amazon are the biggest players in this market, with each touting signature streamers at reasonable rates that are packed full of desirable features. But which one is best? Google’s hockey-puck-shaped Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra are monsters of their respective domains. Amazon’s Fire TV Stick 4K isn’t too shabby either, and both Roku options — the Streaming Stick+ and the Roku Premiere — have plenty of streaming muscle.

We decided to pit them all against one another in the categories that matter most, from ease of use to price and features. Take a look to see which streamer should win your heart (and your wallet).

Film buff? Once you’ve officially opted for a streaming device, take a look at our guides to the best Netflix movies, the best movies on Hulu, and the best movies on Amazon Prime.

chromecast-hardware-115

Google Chromecast (2nd generation)

chromecast vs roku streaming stick amazon fire tv version 1475601994 ultra transp

Google Chromecast Ultra

roku-stick-grey-bg

Roku Streaming Stick+

chromecast vs roku streaming stick amazon fire tv premiere small

Roku Premiere

chromecast vs roku streaming stick amazon fire tv 4k small

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

Price $30 $69 $70 $40 $50
Video 1080p 4K UHD 4K UHD 4K UHD 4K UHD
Dedicated remote No No Yes Yes Yes
Controller app Android, iOS, MacOS, Windows, Chrome OS Android, iOS, MacOS, Windows, Chrome OS Android, iOS, Windows Phone, BB10 Android, iOS, Windows Phone, BB10 Android, iOS
Voice search Yes, via Home app Yes, via Home app Yes Yes Yes, via app or remote
Cross-platform search Limited Limited Yes Yes Limited
DT Review Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Available here Best Buy, Various retailers Best Buy, Various retailers
Amazon, Roku Amazon, Roku Amazon

Ease of use

best tech under 0

Even though they let you access the same content, the Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra function quite differently than the other devices. Since Chromecasts use your mobile device or computer to “cast” content to your TV, they’re devoid of a traditional menu-based user interface, a remote control, and onboard storage. In fact, 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 very good thing. Chromecast devices leave all the smarts to your device, simply acting as a conduit through which your TV can access content. Find what you want to watch or listen to on your personal device, “cast” it at the Chromecast with the tap of a button and, voilà, it’s on your TV. That includes any content you can put on a Chrome browser window, i.e., anything on the web. It’s not that the other options here are complex — in fact, they’re all quite manageable — but the Chromecast takes the top spot here.

Winner: Chromecast, Chromecast Ultra

Processing power

Amazon tech deals Fire TV with 4K Ultra HD and Alexa Voice Remote

Well, technology moves fast, so the winner in this category is generally the most recently released product. As of our most recent update, that would be the Roku Premiere and the Fire TV Stick 4K, but as the Fire TV Stick 4K packs a bit more punch, that’s our pick. Moving on!

Winner: Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

Games

amazon fire tv stick 4k new alexa voice remote 1

Sure, the Roku devices will let you play Angry Birds and a handful of other cute games, but the Fire TV Stick 4K has access to a huge library of more advanced titles (like Machinarium and Minecraft). These games are highly appealing to casual gamers and represent more than just a novelty. Chromecast’s games are fine, but you won’t find much to please the console crowd. Most are multiplayer party titles such as Risk, Scrabble, and Monopoly. Amazon recently dropped support for its own game controller in newer models, but you’ll find third-party solutions if you really want to get your game on with your Fire TV Stick 4K.

Winner: Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

App library

roku streaming stick+ screen home
Caleb Denison/Digital Trends

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

Chromecast apps (“Cast Enabled” apps) also number in the thousands now, but support for the casting platform between PC, Android, and iOS devices varies, 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, making for an ever-growing selection. But Chromecast still can’t natively play Amazon Prime Instant Video due to the ongoing war between the two megacorps. All of this to say, Roku is still king of app mountain.

Winner: Roku Premiere, Roku Streaming Stick+

User interface

We’ve owned one Roku device or another for the last several years but also have put some serious time into testing Fire TV set-top boxes and streaming sticks. As we’ve now come to use both the Roku and Fire TV interfaces regularly, this has become a tough call to make. The Roku interface is extremely user-friendly — some might even call it “bubbly” — whereas the Amazon Fire TV interface has a little more techno-flash, yet is still very able to take care of business. We enjoy using both for different reasons, and neither is significantly better than the other by any objective measurement, so we’re calling this one a draw.

While Chromecast does have a lot of functionality via the Home app, it doesn’t really have a traditional user interface, per se. Instead, you’ll be navigating apps and content libraries through your phone, tablet, or PC. While that does technically put it behind the other devices, as long as you’re comfortable with your casting device of choice, Chromecast is incredibly simple.

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



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