After testing for over a year, I’ve determined that Roku Streaming Stick+ is the better of the two due to more content options and fewer advertisements. Fire TV Stick 4K works well if you have Alexa or use Amazon Channels, but the interface is bloated with ads.
Read on to see if Roku is the best for you. I’ll break these two streaming sticks down based on user-friendliness, advanced features, and remote. You’ll see exactly how I reached this conclusion.
Content is good on both, but Roku offers far more options. Not only that, but Roku tends to be unbiased while Fire TV Stick pushes the Amazon agenda, which often works against the consumer.
Starting with Roku Stick Plus, you gain access to 4,000+ streaming apps and significantly more 4K options than Fire TV. You’ll find most mainstream apps along with tons of niche apps.
You gain access to Prime Video, Google Play Video, Vudu, Hulu, Netflix, Showtime, HBO, Disney+, Sling TV, AT&T TV, Philo, fuboTV, YouTube TV, Apple TV, Peacock, Spotify, Pandora, and much more. Plus, you can use the interface to search for over 500,000 different shows and movies.
Want free content? Roku has much more than Fire TV (or any other option for that matter). The Roku Channel has many shows and movies for free. There’s even a Live TV guide with free channels that you can watch. While the channels aren’t always the best, getting more free content is a nice bonus.
There’s also ad-supported free content through Pluto TV, Tubi, and Crackle. The selection is somewhat small, but these apps are always growing and adding more content. Those with a cable subscription can also view CBS, CNN, FOX, ESPN, and other channels through Roku.
The 4K options include Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube, Vudu, Apple TV, FandangoNOW, CuriosityStream, Smithsonian Earth, Disney+, and others. There’s a special section just for 4K content. Roku only supports HDR10, not Dolby Vision. For audio, you get Dolby Atmos.
Fire TV Stick 4K has a good content selection, but not as much as Roku. It’s missing Vudu and Peacock. However, since it’s an Android system, you can sideload these apps.
The apps you can easily access include Prime Video, Hulu, Netflix, Showtime, HBO Max, Disney+, Sling TV, AT&T TV, Philo, fuboTV, YouTube TV, Apple TV, Spotify, Pandora, and Twitch.
As we mentioned before, you can sideload lots of Android apps if you know how to. You can do this by using the Downloader app and entering the APK file’s URL. Make sure the APK file is legitimate as there is a chance that hackers can take over if you download from a bad source.
Free content includes some network apps from your cable provider. There are 20,000 free shows and movies you can access through IMDb TV, Pluto TV, TUBI. Fire TV.
For 4K options, you get Prime Video, Netflix, Apple TV, Disney+, and YouTube. You do gain access to both Dolby Vision and HDR10. Dolby Vision is currently the highest 4K standard. You also get Dolby Atmos for audio support.
Fire TV is fine, but Roku is superior here.
Ease of Use
While Fire TV tries to implement newer features, it’s so bloated with ads that we have a hard time saying it’s user-friendly. Roku’s interface is boring, but it gets the job done with far fewer ads.
Roku’s interface isn’t the best I’ve seen and it takes an old-school approach without being ambitious, but it gets the job done. Plus, it only has one large ad on the right side of the home screen (remember this when we’re talking about Fire TV).
The interface has gotten better over the years, but there can be a problematic menu setup and design inconsistencies between the apps. Design updates are rare, but they have cleaned up the interface to make it look better.
Speed is nearly identical to Fire TV Stick 4K.
Roku Feed allows you to follow shows and movies, which ensures you’re updated when new episodes are available. The execution is poor though as they aren’t organized in one easy area. Also, it’s hard to unfollow a show. You also can’t choose a default app to play the content. You instead need to always pick from a huge list of options.
Fire TV tries to be more modern, but it’s so loaded with ads and duplicate apps that it makes the system tedious to use. Plus, it’ll display content from apps you’re not subscribed to, which isn’t helpful.
You get a row of five favorite apps, above that there’s a row called “Recent” that fills with apps that you’ve used or shows you’ve watched recently. However, the shows that you’re watching don’t appear unless they’re Amazon’s content. Plus, you’ll often have duplicate apps on your recent and favorites row. There were times when I had three sets of duplicates on my home screen.
Amazon makes money with ads, so they’ve plastered them everywhere. Half of the home screen is dedicated to Prime Video ads. There’s even a sponsored section at the bottom for ads for content and products. You’ll even get ads for other streaming services you need to pay for. After that is another ad section for products. It feels like you have to keep deflecting ads just to watch content you paid for through Netflix, Hulu, and other services.
Fire TV Stick 4K has pretty good specs, such as 1.5GB of RAM and a 1.7GHz quad-core CPU. There are three versions of Showtime and HBO (depending on how you paid for them), and this can get overwhelming.
The interface is more ambitious than Roku, but Roku is the winner because there is far less bloat.
Roku lacks smarts whereas Fire TV Stick does have some advanced features, though the implementation could be better.
Roku has voice search through the remote. While the mic could be better, shows and movies should come up easily. You’ll see free apps first along with every app that has the content.
Roku works with Alexa and Google speakers, but the setup is difficult. There’s a long lag between issuing a command and smart assistant acting. Plus, the commands can be very long.
Private Listening allows you to hear the content with headphones by plugging them into the remote or using the Roku phone app. Fire TV has this too, but it takes a lot of effort to connect Bluetooth headphones. Roku makes this easy. Guest Mode allows guests to sign in with their own credentials that will expire when they leave.
You can play music and videos from your phone through Roku Play-On, or AirPlay content through Roku. The Apple Home App also works with Roku.
Fire TV Stick is more advanced than Roku, but it doesn’t always work as intended.
The remote works with Alexa for voice searches. When searching for content, the interface is cluttered with multiple apps and versions of the same movie. The Alexa remote does allow you to perform other smart home tasks.
You can go hands-free by pairing Fire TV with Echo, but Alexa works best with the remote. It’s best to be specific about the show, episode, and app you want to use. However, just searching with the buttons on the remote is almost always easier.
While you can’t natively mirror iOS devices, there are third-party apps that provide this service.
The Roku Channel is pretty good, but Amazon has some good features if you subscribe through Amazon Channels.
The Roku Channel is an app made by Roku that has free movies and shows that are ad-supported. You can subscribe to HBO, Showtime, Starz, Cinemax, and Epix and keep all of your content inside one app. It’s similar to Amazon Channels. If you opt for this, you’ll pay via Roku rather than a cable company.
The “Up Next” list adds shows and movies once you start watching, but it’s limited. New episodes don’t always show up and you can’t mark already watched episodes.
While Roku Channel is fine, subscribing here locks you into Roku. It’s best to bring your subscriptions over to Roku.
Fire TV Stick 4K’s ecosystem is pretty good. You get unique features by subscribing through Amazon Channels (and this keeps you away from the ad-filled home screen), but you’ll still need the home screen for Netflix, Hulu, and live TV.
Amazon Channels takes content from Prime, HBO, Showtime, Starz, CBS, and other services and curates them through the Prime Video app. You’ll pay Amazon rather than your cable provider. All the services will be in one app, which is easier to organize. This also reduces your exposure to ads.
This also applies to Prime Video on your phone as everything will appear there. Plus, Amazon hosts all the Amazon Channels content through their powerful servers for better video quality and speeds. When you pause content, you’ll get information about the actors on screen. X-Ray shows information about the actors, music, the scene, and much more.
You’re not locked into Amazon Channels, so you can see the content from the dedicated apps. However, the biggest problem is that you can get Netflix, Hulu, or live TV through Amazon Channels. If Amazon could get more services on board, Amazon Channels would make Fire TV a device that I recommend.
While both offer a remote, Roku’s remote stands as one of the best, while Fire TV’s is just OK.
The Roku’s physical remote forms to your hand and it’s simple to use. It has big, colored buttons with lots of give. You also get four dedicated buttons for streaming services. It’s great if you have the service, but useless if you don’t.
Amazon’s physical remote feels cheap, thin, and too light. The buttons have little feedback. You’ll find yourself looking down to make sure you pressed a button. However, the mic is better for voice search.
On the software side, the Roku phone app is a great remote as well. It has a directional touchpad that vibrates when tapped. It also comes with a digital keyboard, volume controls, and the ability to launch apps.
The Fire TV app remote is similar to the physical one. It has a digital keyboard, app launcher, and Alexa access. However, it can’t control your TV’s volume.
Fire TV Stick 4K puts up a good fight and it has a lot of great features, especially with Amazon Channels. It’s definitely a more ambitious approach because the interface tries to curate and organize content rather than just focus on apps. However, it’s dragged down by all the ads. If not for that, then it might have won with its better interface.
Roku is better for its easy interface, significantly fewer ads, better remote, and extra content options. If you subscribe to a lot of streaming services and you just want to watch them with no frills, Roku is a great bet.