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If you haven't bought a new TV in the past several years, streaming sticks are the best way to add streaming services to your TV, monitor, or laptop. These compact devices plug into any available HDMI port and allow you to quickly access a variety of streaming services, as well as access to plenty of helpful apps and games.
Even if you already have a smart TV, the interface provided by these devices makes them invaluable, allowing you to easily swap between streaming services and search for media without being forced to fumble through an on-screen keyboard.
Here, we're comparing a couple of the most popular 4K models from Amazon and Roku to see who comes out on top.Amazon Fire TV Stick 4KRoku Streaming Stick+More GamesMore Free AppsDolby VisionHDR10Voice-Centric AppMore Versatile AppAlexa IntegrationVoice Searching / No Assistant
The quality of the stream being delivered is the most important aspect when weighing these two models. Thankfully both of these options support 4K video playback but have some slight discrepancies in terms of HDR support. The Roku doesn't include Dolby Vision, but still includes HDR10 just like the Amazon Fire TV Stick.
Neither of these devices has Ethernet connectivity, but come equipped with MIMO 802.11 Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, providing them with all the necessary bandwidth for seamlessly streaming at 4K.Sorting out the Confusion Over HDR TV
Unlike Google's Chromecast devices, the Roku and Fire TV Stick both adhere to a straightforward stick adapter design, allowing them to easily tuck themselves away behind just about any screen you plug them into. One small consideration, however, is while the Roku Stick is marginally smaller than Amazon's option, it doesn't come packaged with an extender dongle, meaning that if you have limited clearance around your TVs HDMI port, you may have some issues with the Roku out of the box.
The remotes for both models are similar in their shape with the Fire stick remote being a little slimmer and more modern in its aesthetic. They each feature dedicated volume and playback controls as well as multi-function directional buttons and they each run on a pair of AA batteries. The most glaring difference, however, is the addition of quick access buttons to the Roku remote that allows you to quickly switch between Hulu, Netflix, Sling, and PS Vue.
Each streaming stick uses a separate micro-USB adapter for power and can be connected to either a wall outlet or directly to your TV for power.Cable vs. Streaming: Which Do You Need?
Both options include built-in Wi-Fi, meaning that they don't need to be hard-wired to anything in order to work, just an active wireless connection in your home. And while they both include voice search, the Fire TV Stick 4K is slightly more responsive and has Alexa support baked in, making it just a dash of added functionality, especially if you're already an owner of any of Amazon's smart hubs.
Both remotes can also serve as substitutes for your TV remote which is handy, and the baked-in Bluetooth connectivity for each device effectively replaces the 3.5mm audio jack that was present in some previous versions of the device, allowing you to wirelessly pair headphones and listen to the TV without disturbing others.
There are mobile apps available for both devices but are drastically different in their approach. The Roku app is easily the more impressive of the two, serving as an ad-hoc remote if your original happens to go missing, as well as allowing you to quickly search for apps and media using your phone's keyboard. The Fires TV Stick app offers the basic home, menu, and back buttons, as well as allowing you to perform a quick voice search, but lacks the private listening feature offered on the Roku.
The Fire TV Stick does have an additional barrier to set up, requiring an Amazon account before you're up and running, and while it isn't required, the Fire Stick does its very best to nudge you towards an Amazon Prime subscription if you don't already have one.The 9 Best Devices for Streaming TV in 2021
Channels / Apps
While all of the most popular streaming services are available on both Roku and Amazon's streaming platforms, there are some differences in what's offered. While the Fire TV Stick does have access to many of the same channels and apps, there are some glaring omissions, such as YouTube, which currently doesn't have a native Fire TV app. The Fire TV Stick also currently doesn't have access to any Google Play apps.Streaming TV & Movies
A small library of games are offered by both services, including classics like Pac-Man, and while the Roku library does have access to Jackbox classics like Quiplash, the Fire TV Stick includes a variety of Sega classics like Sonic the Hedgehog and Golden Axe.
The bottom line here is unless you're looking for a very particular game or app, it's most likely available with your Roku device.
Both of these players are effectively the same price, coming in at around $50, so choosing one should really come down to what you're expecting to get out of your streaming device in terms of available apps and channels.Final Verdict
If you're already living in the Amazon ecosystem, the answer is pretty obvious. However, the Roku platform is host to a more extensive library of apps and channels, as well as having a more versatile companion app making it the clear winner in our matchup unless you absolutely need Alexa functionality built into your remote.