Apple TV 4K vs. Fire TV Cube (2nd Gen): What about Firestick?

apple tv vs fire tv cube

After extensive testing, I have determined that Apple TV 4K (Gen 2) to be the best streaming device due to its fast, ad-free interface that mimics the iOS experience. Fire TV Cube (Gen 2) is good, but the interface is bloated with ads.

Read on as I compare these two based on content, interface, smarts, ecosystem, remotes, and software. You’ll see how I reached my conclusion.

Content

It’s close, but Apple TV has somewhat more content than Fire TV.

Apple TV has an app store with lots of apps, shows, and movies to pick from. While some niche apps might be missing, you gain access to Prime Video, Vudu, Hulu, Netflix, Showtime, HBO Max, Disney+, Sling TV, AT&T TV, YouTube TV, Netflix, Prime Video, Epix, Vudu, FandangoNOW, Peacock, Spotify, Apple TV App, and much more.

Apple TV offers the most 4K HDR content with Netflix, Prime Video, Epix, Vudu, FandangoNOW, and Apple TV. It also supports Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos.

Fire TV Cube is similar and has most mainstream apps, but it lacks HBO Max, Peacock, and Vudu. However, Fire TV is based on Android, so you can sideload these apps.

Fire TV comes with Prime Video, Vudu, Hulu, Netflix, Showtime, HBO Go, HBO Now, Disney+, Sling TV, AT&T TV, YouTube TV, Netflix, Prime Video, Epix, Vudu, FandangoNOW, Spotify, and Apple TV App. As I mentioned before, you can sideload apps that aren’t available, but just be careful when doing this. Downloading an app from a malicious website may cause damage to your device.

Just like Apple TV, Fire TV Cube supports Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. The 4K HDR content comes from Prime Video, Netflix, and YouTube.

It’s close, but Apple offers just a little bit more.

Interface

This is a big win for Apple because you won’t be inundated with ads. Fire TV is OK, but the ads really pull it down.

Apple’s tvOS is incredibly polished and unified without a single ad. While iPhone users will immediately adapt to the interface, newcomers will find it easy to use as well. Apple TV is the most expensive of the streaming devices, but this is ultimately to remove ads, which I think is worth it.

Apple’s “Up Next” feature is unparalleled. It tracks all your shows and episodes better than any other streaming device and puts them in a unified list. You don’t even need to select the app as it will automatically play in whatever supported app you’re subscribed to.

Apple has a Single Sign-On feature, which is useful if you subscribed to services through your cable provider. Apple TV 4K has the same processing chip as the iPad Pro (A10X Fusion), which ensures fast speeds and good quality. You can also make user profiles for everyone, which ensures that their content doesn’t get mixed in with yours.

It even has 4K drone shots for screensavers going over huge cities and other beautiful scenery. You’ll spend more time than you think watching these. It’s a small feature, but one I enjoyed nonetheless.

Fire TV Cube is more affordable than Apple TV, but that’s because Amazon loads it with ads. The interface is pretty good within Amazon Channels and the Prime Video app, but the home screen is one of the worst I’ve seen.

The major problem is the large number of ads. The home screen has a large ad that takes up half the screen, and there are ads within the content listings (for other apps, services, Prime Video, products, and much more). If you don’t have Prime Video, then Amazon is going to jam it down your throat until you buy it.

The interface has five favorite apps and then recently used apps. This sounds useful, but the apps are often duplicated (like three versions of Hulu), which makes it look weird and reduces the functionality.

Another annoying feature about the Fire interface is that you’ll be shown exclusive content (like shows and movies) from services that you aren’t subscribed to. I’d like all my purchased apps and content to be curated into a nice list, not feel bad that I didn’t spend more money with Amazon.

However, I will say that the hardware is solid. Speeds are nearly identical to Apple TV 4K. Normally a low price means shoddy craftsmanship, but here it just means lots of ads.

Smarts

Fire TV is smarter than Apple TV.

Siri works great with the physical or iPhone remote, but it lacks hands-free controls. However, Siri on HomePod or iPhone can turn on the TV, pause, and fast-forward. While Siri gets flack on iPhones, it’s amazing on Apple TV as it does everything it’s supposed to. You can control playback or tell Siri to pull up a show. It will play the right episode with the right app nearly every time.

You can mirror your iPhone via AirPlay. You can run automations or control smart devices away from home as long as you have Apple TV or HomePod.

Fire TV allows you to search for content and control the TV with Alexa. Siri requires the remote, but Alexa goes hands-free. At the same time, the remote is usually easier as long phrases are often fraught with errors.

Access Alexa by holding down a button on the remote, or use the “Alexa” wake word. Fire TV Cube has eight far-field microphones, so it’ll hear what you’re saying. Common commands work well, such as turning on the TV, changing the volume, or bringing up a show. While it’s more advanced than Siri, it doesn’t work consistently enough to give you a huge advantage.

Alexa misunderstands you half the time, and the voice commands may not work with each app. For example, “Alexa, pause” may not work with certain apps. There are even times when Alexa hears you, repeats the command, and doesn’t do it. I’ve found the remote is much more consistent.

Fire TV Cube is similar to Echo as it handles questions and smart home commands. You can even use it to switch HDMI inputs to turn on gaming consoles or other devices.

Fire TV is a listening device, and many people are worried about those. However, if you put it in a cabinet, then it won’t hear you correctly. If you like the Fire system, then Fire TV Stick 4K might be better as it’s more affordable with similar performance.

Ecosystem

Both ecosystems are good, especially Fire TV with Amazon Channels. It’s basically a tie as they have an equal amount of pros and cons.

The TV app with Apple TV is like a TV guide for all your streaming services, but it falls short in some ways. The interface could be better and it lacks Netflix integration. You’re supposed to use this app the most instead of opening streaming apps separately. It even pulls up your Up Next list.

One major issue is that Netflix doesn’t appear here. Also, you’ll see content from apps that you aren’t subscribed to. You’ll also see promotions for the Apple TV+ service, which can be annoying.

You can subscribe to HBO, Showtime, Starz, Epix, and 18 others with Apple TV Channels instead of your cable provider. This lets you see all the content from the Apple TV app. Apple hosts this content themselves, so the quality is amazing. Plus, the Apple TV app is on Roku, Fire TV, iPhones, iPads, and Macs, so you’ll have no problem watching shows and movies even if you’re away from your Apple TV device.

Fire TV is actually quite good within the Amazon Channels interface. Content streams at high qualities within the Prime Video app, and you don’t need to visit all the ads on the home screen. However, Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, and live TV services aren’t available via Amazon Channels.

Plus, you can watch Amazon Channel subscriptions through your phone with the Prime Video app. There is a “Recently Used” section that’s similar to Apple’s “Watch Next”, but it doesn’t work with services outside of Amazon’s ecosystem.

You get great features with Amazon Channels such as X-Ray, which gives you information about the actors or scene, and Amazon hosts the content themselves for top quality streams.

Remotes

Apple’s new Siri Remote is made with a premium aluminum material. Finally, it comes with clicky directional trackpad buttons, but the trackpad is also touch sensitive so you can use swipes and gestures if that’s how you prefer to operate. It comes with a rechargeable battery. It has volume buttons, mute, back, power and a Siri button on the side.

By contrast, the Alexa remote feels cheap, but the directional buttons and thicker design make it fit better in your hand. It has volume and power buttons, and a button to activate Alexa. However, it feels very light.

Software Remote

You can access the software remote for Apple TV via the iOS control center. It has directional buttons and a digital keyboard. It also has playback controls, such as rewinding or fast-forwarding 15 seconds with a tap. You can switch between directional buttons and a touchpad.

Your iPhone’s lock screen will show content being viewed on Apple TV, plus you’ll get playback controls. This feature is good, but sometimes buggy.

You can reduce logins by placing your iPhone next to Apple TV during setup. It will take passwords via iCloud, which is convenient. If there are passwords stored in your phone, then you can auto-fill them on Apple TV via Touch ID or Face ID.

The Fire TV phone app is also great. You can choose between trackpad or directional buttons, and there’s a digital keyboard. You’ll feel a slight vibration when you touch the digital buttons.

Final Thoughts

Fire TV Cube has some good features here and there, such as being quite smart and X-Ray through Amazon Channels, but Apple TV is the clear winner. If Fire TV didn’t have so many ads, then it would be much better, but it’s so bloated that you’ll be annoyed whenever you head to the home screen. Apple on the other hand is fast, responsive, has no ads, and is the best streaming device on the market.

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I’ve been obsessed with gadgets since I was eight years old. I buy each device reviewed with MY money and don’t have insider access. I’m just like you, the everyman.