These inexpensive streaming devices are a great way for friends, family, and acquaintances to watch their favorite television shows and movies.
In these COVID times, when many are leaving the house as little as possible, what better gift is there for someone than one of Amazon or Roku’s streaming sticks? They’re a great way for people to catch up on TV shows and movies from their favorite streaming services. While Amazon and Roku aren’t the only two makers of this type of product, here’s why their devices stand out from others.
Both Roku and Amazon have been in the streaming game for a long time, with the former releasing its first device back in 2008 and the latter releasing one in 2014. While both started with set-top box media devices, they expanded their markets with HDMI streaming sticks and smart TVs, alongside popular TV brands. Between them, there are also a variety of options from which to choose depending on what’s required.
Currently, Amazon offers three different HDMI streaming sticks: Fire TV Stick, Fire TV Stick Lite (seen in the above photo) and the 2018 Fire TV Stick 4K. They all come with Alexa-enabled remotes and 8GB of storage. The main difference is that the Lite version doesn’t let you use the remote to control the TV. And, while both the current Fire TV Stick model and Lite version are 2020 devices, they can only stream in 1080p whereas the older Fire TV Stick 4K streams in, well, 4K, where available. Meanwhile, Roku only now offers its Roku Streaming Stick+ in that form factor, which is a 4K streaming device it released in 2019. Both companies provide easy-to-use interfaces for the devices. Roku OS offers a home screen layout akin to a smartphone with icons in rows. Fire OS looking more like a streaming service, with it being heavily built around Prime Video. Both operating systems, though, have access to a wide variety of apps, from streaming services to games to tools. These help give the viewer more a PC-like experience. Granted, there’s only so much one can do with a remote. And they’re quite inexpensive too. The entry-level Fire TV Stick Lite is only $29.99 at Amazon.com (C$49.99 at Amazon.ca), the standard model is $39.99 (C$59.99) and the 4K version is $49.99 (C$69.99). The Roku Streaming Stick+ is priced the same as the Fire TV Stick 4K on its U.S. and Canadian sites.
Chromecast With Google TV & Other Alternatives
A good alternative is the Chromecast with Google TV, which launched this year. It’s the first version of the search giant’s popular casting device to supports apps. Running on a modified Android TV interface, it provides an experience similar to Fire OS, which is a fork of Android. However, while Fire OS builds itself around Prime Video, the new Chromecast device highlights films and TV series on Google Play. And its similar-looking voice remote uses the Google Assistant instead of Alexa. Priced the same as its 4K counterparts, it has 8GB of storage like the Fire TV Stick line. It also has more RAM than both Amazon and Roku’s streaming sticks, although that likely won’t make too much difference as, generally, only one app runs at a time.
But where the Fire TV Stick line and Roku Streaming Stick+ stand out is versatility. Fire OS has access to around 9,000 apps, including browsers, such as Amazon’s own Silk browser and Firefox. With these, most users should be able to easily access any site to stream content if even there isn’t a corresponding app. At launch, Google TV had access to more than 6,500 of the 7,000 or so Android TV apps, but there is no good all-round browser available. And, while Roku OS also doesn’t have a decent browser, it has access to around 20,000 apps so most users are bound to find what they’re looking for.
There are other alternatives. There are many Android and Windows set-top boxes on the market, but they can often be hard to configure. There are smart TVs too, but, depending on the operating system and strength of the Wi-Fi card, buyers may end up paying a premium for a feature that has limited streaming capabilities. Amazon and Roku sell higher-end set-top media boxes for a bit more money too, though, for gift-givers who want to amp up their present further.
Next: Chromecast With Google TV Vs. Fire TV Stick 4K: Which Should You Buy?
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