Firestick Vs Roku – The Ultimate Comparison

by
Frederik Lipfert
Dr. Frederik Lipfert Founder, vpncheck
Updated on 27 Nov 2021

Firestick Vs Roku – The Ultimate Comparison

Amazon Firestick

Is Roku or Firestick better for streaming? This question draws a neat line between the users of both devices. Roku enthusiasts point to its user-friendly interface, straightforward search option, and more device options to prove that it is the better choice of the two.

Amazon Fire TV Stick’s users, meanwhile, refer to their device’s low price tag, built-in Alexa and the sheer number of connected smart home devices to (try to) gain an upper hand in this debate. However, as you can guess for yourself, neither of the two sets of users are unbiased.

That is something you cannot say about our Firestick Vs Roku comparison. We have objectively analyzed both these streaming devices on various counts to help you decide which one deserves a space in your living room. Read on to know more.

Roku – An Overview

Roku

Although Roku has been around since 2002, its’ streaming box was only released in 2008.  Since then, it has emerged as one of the top streaming devices. An estimate puts the number of active Roku users in 2021 at an eye-watering 55 million.

In this article, we’re going to discuss the Roku Streaming Stick Plus. A wireless receiver that offers 4K HDR video streaming, it’s one of the most popular models released by Roku till date. Here’s what you need to get the most out of your Roku Streaming Stick Plus:

  1. High-Resolution TV: A modern television that supports HDR, is 4K compatible, and comes with an open HDMI port.
  2.   High-Speed Internet: Fast internet is a must-have for 4K HDR streaming. That’s not all. You’ll also need an unlimited data plan.
  3. Roku Account: Create your Roku account beforehand and save yourself the trouble of making one while setting up the device.

Once you have all these three things set up, you will just need to plug in your Roku wireless receiver and connect it to the internet. The rest of the things could be managed via a remote control that is included with the device. More on the remote control in the upcoming sections.

Amazon Fire TV Stick – An Overview

Amazon Fire TV Stick

Amazon started its streaming journey in 2014 with the introduction of Fire TV. Since then, it has introduced several streaming devices, but in this article, we will only focus on the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, whose latest version, Fire TV Stick 4K max, was released in October 2021.

To get the most out of your Fire TV Stick 4K, you will require the following:

  1. 4K Television: One that supports Ultra HD, 4K and HDR.
  2. High-Speed Internet Connection: Your internet connection should have high speed so that you can enjoy the highest quality streaming without buffering.
  3. Amazon Account: You can only use the Amazon Fire TV Stick after logging into your Amazon account.

Features Comparison – Roku vs Firestick

Let’s discuss the features of both these streaming devices:

Roku Streaming Stick Plus Features

Roku Streaming Stick Plus

Roku Streaming Stick Plus is compatible with different smart home devices including Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Nest and Amazon AirPlay. You can use any of these virtual assistants to change channels, control volume and launch an app on this streaming device.  

Roku Streaming Stick Plus’s wireless receiver boasts an extremely long range. Even if the router is placed far away, the receiver will catch signals. That’s precisely the reason why Roku is able to stream high-quality content on any TV across your home.

This device also comes with a remote control app. One that you can download on any smartphone (Android or IOS). If your smartphone has a jack, you can plug your headphones in it and play audio straight from Roku, a handy feature if you don’t want to disturb others around you.

This streaming device also supports DTS surround sound (via HDMI) as well as digital stereo. It can stream your favorite content from Netflix, Disney+, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video. You can also watch free and live channels as well as stream your favorite tracks from Spotify and Pandora.

Roku has a Guest Mode, too. If you want to give a friend or family access to your Roku account, but don’t want them to mess up your settings or have their watch history affect your recommendations, enable guest mode before giving them access to your Roku account.  

Besides streaming your favorite content, you can also do gaming on your Roku account. It has a built-in gaming feature to play family-oriented, simple games, with Roku remote doubling as a controller. In this feature, you can find simpler games like Chess, Tic Tac Toe, Snake and Solitaire, among others.

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Features

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

Unlike Roku, Fire TV Stick 4K is a by-product of the Amazon empire, and Amazon has a lot of content of its own. So, it is no surprise that when you use Fire TV Stick 4k, it tends to prioritize Amazon’s own content and services and recommends you use it. 

Amazon Fire TV Stick also supports Voice commands, just like Roku. The only downside of this is that only Alexa works on Fire TV Stick, and other voice assistants are not supported by this device. Still, if you’re an Alexa user, this shortcoming may not bother you. 

Yet another similarity that Fire Stick shares with Roku is the private listening mode. While Roku lets you attach a wired headphone to the smartphone with the Roku remote app, Firestick only works with wireless headphones. Unfortunately, this function isn’t very efficient, and you may experience audio lag.

Just like Roku, Fire TV Stick comes with a mobile application of its own. One that you can use to search for your favorite content on this device. Unlike Roku’s app, though, it doesn’t support the private listening feature. The Amazon mobile app also requires repeated resyncing to stay connected to your phone.

Fire TV Stick also supports gaming. The number of games available on Amazon Fire TV Stick is almost the same as Roku. Since you only have the Amazon TV Remote to play these games, there is limited interactivity, but then again, it is not a gaming console. 

All in all, Amazon Fire TV Stick is a great streaming device. However, when compared to Roku, it lacks various features such as a remote finder, smooth private listening, and guest mode. That’s one of the reasons why a lot of users prefer Roku over Amazon Fire TV Stick.

Interface – Firestick vs Roku

The features comparison has us leaning towards Roku. But we are not going to end the discussion before taking a look at the interfaces of both devices.

Roku Streaming Stick Plus

Roku Streaming Stick Interface

Roku’s interface is simple and easy to use. Once you’ve logged in, you’ll be taken to the streaming homepage. Here you’ll come across multiple streaming apps, featured content, stored pages, and various customization settings using which you can modify Roku’s interface per your choice.

Roku is not a streaming device sold by some giant company. It stands alone, and that is the nice thing about it. When you use Roku, the homepage isn’t trying to sell you its various services and apps. Amazon Fire TV Stick is always trying to lure you into watching Prime content. It does that by auto-playing things, consuming your data in the process. Roku does no such gimmicks.

Even though some might say Roku has no content of its own and acts more like a jack of all trades, we find Roku to be more user friendly. It is made up of the apps and services you’ve added to it, and it will adapt itself according to your preference. This makes Roku’s interface more personalized. You can even change themes and customize your Roku interface, something you can also do with Fire TV Stick.

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Interface

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Interface

When you log in to your Prime account, you can see different streaming platforms on Firestick’s home screen. Amazon also sneakily slips in the highlight reel of Amazon Prime content on your home screen. This is done to nudge you towards viewing content on Prime.

Free content, movies, live content, applications, and shows can be found by swiping right on the navigation bar. While these are a lot of features, they can be overwhelming if you are not technically inclined and can easily put you in choice paralysis.

All in all, if you are looking for an aesthetically pleasing interface, Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K has you covered. Keep in mind, though, that the user interface is designed to favor Amazon Prime’s content.

App Selection – Roku vs Firestick

Both Roku and Fire TV Stick are customizable, and you can add apps to make your experience more personal. In this section, we will discuss the different apps available on both devices.

App Selection on Roku Streaming Stick Plus

Netflix

Roku has a wide list of applications that can be installed to enhance your experience. The ‘Roku Channel’ lets you find free television. It offers a never-ending supply of shows, movies, TV serials, dramas and much more. And the best thing about the Roku Channel? It’s completely free!

You can also add popular streaming apps like Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, HBO Max and Disney+ to Roku’s homepage. Plus, if you’ve some free time, you can devote it towards searching for both local as well as international channels. And lots of games are on offer, too, to help you kill free time.

App Selection on Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

hulu

Amazon Fire TV stick offers all kinds of apps. They include live TV (like Hulu+ Live TV, YouTube TV and Sling TV), on-demand streaming apps (Netflix, HBO Max, and Disney+) and, of course, Prime Video. That’s not where the good news ends.

This streaming device also offers a plethora of entertainment. They include Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, Tidal, TikTok, Twitch, among others. Plenty of games apps (like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, SEGA Classics, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic) are on offer, too.

Keep in mind that Fire TV Stick, unlike Roku, doesn’t place the apps you’ve recently used front-and-center. Instead, it buries them between a plethora of other apps it wants you to use. This is good if you like to graze for content. However, it can make things frustrating if you already know the apps you want to watch.

Device Options: Roku vs Firestick

In this section, we are going to compare the available devices for both Roku and Firestick. Different models and versions are available, and which one you want to buy depends on your price range.

Roku Devices

Besides Roku Streaming Stick Plus, there are three other Roku models with unique features and prices.

  • Roku Express: At $29.99, it is the cheapest Roku device. The Roku Express is a plug-and-play box with simple remote control. It has the same streaming apps as Roku Streaming Stick Plus but does not stream 4K HDR.
  • Roku Premiere: At 34.99$, Roku Premiere is a killer deal. You get 4K HDR streaming, and it comes with a 4K channel to check it for free.
  • Roku Ultra: At $99.99, it might seem expensive.  However, when it comes to quality, the power of its wireless adapter and the utility offered by the remote finder feature, this device comfortably justifies its asking price.  

Firestick Devices

Other than Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, there are three other Amazon Firestick devices. They include:

  • Fire TV Stick Lite: For $29.99, this basic Amazon Fire TV Stick device is good for streaming full HD content, but not 4K. You will also get Alexa Voice control, but the remote doesn’t have much functionality and lacks volume control.
  • Fire TV Stick: At $39.99, Fire TV Stick is a bit expensive, but you get a better remote than what you get with the Lite version. The remote has multiple exciting features such as volume control, tweaking TV features and switching inputs.
  • Fire TV Cube: At $119.99, Fire TV Cube is the most expensive Streaming device of Amazon. You get 4K Ultra HD streaming, HDR and HDR10+.

Final Verdict – Roku or Firestick?

In the battle between Roku and Fire TV, Roku offers better menus, has a more user-friendly interface and lets you get to the apps you want to use quickly, without flooding the screen with stuff you’d never use. For standard streaming, Roku offers a better search experience. When you click on a movie or TV series you want to stream, it will immediately tell you the cost – and if the content is free because you’re a subscriber, Roku will show that too. 

HOWEVER, the Firestick is our preferred streaming device simply because it is more convenient when you already have Amazon devices around the home and want to upgrade your Amazon ecosystem. And, honestly, using Alexa to access Amazon’s services, and of course the ability to sideload apps on Firestick, really makes the Firestick worth it.