When it comes to deciding between a Roku and an Amazon Fire Stick, you might think there’s not much of a difference. Both streaming devices are affordable ways to access Netflix, YouTube, Spotify, and more without needing to pay for cable. However, if you take a closer look, you’ll find that there are some major differences. Here’s everything you need to know about Roku vs Fire Stick, so you can make an informed decision.
Best for Home Screen Navigation: Roku
If being organized is a priority for you, then a Roku might be a better choice for you. This is because Roku lets you arrange all the apps on the home screen, just like you can on your smartphone. For example, if you use Netflix more than any other app, you can place Netflix in the top row, so you don’t have to spend time searching for it.
Aside from your apps, the Roku home screen also has all the tabs on the left side of the screen. You can easily browse the Featured Free tab for free movies and TV shows, or head down to Search to find movies and TV shows. If you don’t remember the title of a movie, you can even search by actor or director.
Amazon Fire TV also offers convenient home screen navigation, but in a different way. Instead of allowing you to arrange your apps, The Fire Stick shows you a list of your frequent and recent apps. You can also hold down the home button to access a list of master apps.
Below your favorite apps, Fire Stick shows you recommendations based on your previously viewed movies and TV shows. It also shows you new films from Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Hulu, or whatever channels you’re subscribed to. So, if you want to stay updated on new films or discover movies from any genre, the Fire Stick might be a better option for you.
Best Remote Control: Amazon Fire Stick
Both Roku and Fire TV include remote controls for your TV, so you don’t have to switch between the TV remote and the streaming device remote.
The Roku remote has a microphone button that lets you search for movies and play them using voice commands. Roku also features shortcut buttons for popular channels, such as Netflix and Disney. While these shortcut buttons can be really helpful, they cannot be reprogrammed for other channels. So, if you don’t use the channels on your Roku remote, these buttons will be more than useless to you.
The Fire Stick remote does not have the shortcut buttons that come with the Roku remote, but it does have a mute button. More than that, the Fire Stick remote can control any sound bar, compared to Roku, which can only control HDMI-supported soundbars.
The Amazon Fire Stick remote is very sleek, and it feels better in your hand. The Roku remote is clunky with big, old-school buttons that can be hard to push. Plus, the Fire Stick remote seems to connect easier, meaning that you can be further away, and you don’t even have to point the remote at the screen.
Best Voice Control: Amazon Fire Stick
Reaching for the remote can be such a hassle, especially when you’re already comfortable on the couch or your bed. Fortunately, both Roku and Fire TV Stick allow you to control your TV with voice commands. However, when it comes to Roku vs the Amazon Fire Stick, it all depends on which voice assistant you have at home.
Roku works with both Google and Alexa, but Google doesn’t work with the Amazon Fire Stick. So, if you have Google Home smart home speakers, Roku is the better choice for you.
However, you have to say “Roku” each time you ask Google to launch apps or play movies on a Roku device. For example, you could say, “Google, open Hulu on Roku,” or “Google, pause Roku.”
If you don’t have Google or Alexa, you can still launch apps and search for content using the microphone button on your Roku remote or by using the Roku mobile app. You can explore different genres, actors, or play TV shows on a specific channel. Just say, “Play Happy Feet on The Roku Channel,” and Roku will play the movie for you.
If you already have an Amazon Alexa smart home speaker, then Fire Stick is the best streaming device for you. Just connect Alexa to your Fire TV Stick, and you can watch whatever you like without ever reaching for the remote.
All you have to do is say, “Alexa, watch Friends,” and the Fire Stick will automatically play Friends. The Fire Stick even has a neat feature that rewinds the movie when you say “Rewind 20 seconds.”
You can also command Alexa to do other things via your Fire Stick. You can even use your remote to control your other smart home devices, such as your smart light bulbs. Or you can ask Alexa questions about the weather, and you will see the results on your TV. Alexa can also respond to you through your TV speakers. So, when it comes to Roku vs Fire Stick, it all depends on what smart speaker you have installed. However, the Fire Stick does have better voice controls.
Best Apps: Roku
Aside from streaming movies and TV shows, Roku and Fire Stick let you play games as well. Roku allows you to play with your games with your friends and family or by yourself. You can check out the Games page on their website and find hundreds of games available.
Likewise, you can switch to the Apps tab on the same site and browse through thousands of different apps. There you can find movie guides, movie and TV show channels, and even virtual sceneries to play on your TV.
While Roku doesn’t support as many games and apps as the Fire Stick does, you do get access to The Roku Channel. This free app has a wide selection of ad-supported movies and series. You can also find a lot of videos for children and other free live channels, such as ABC News, WealthNation, and more. So, if you’re into movies and shows more than games, you might want to go with Roku.
You can watch cable channels on a Fire Stick, such as Cinemax and HBO, and you also have access to movies from Amazon Originals. But you’ll have to be an Amazon Prime member to enjoy those perks.
Fire Stick also has a website for games and apps you can download into your TV. And, unlike Roku, you can play more games with Fire Stick, some of which are more popular than the ones found on Roku. So, if one primary reason why you want a streaming device is to play games, you might want to choose a Fire Stick.
If you like watching late-night shows or play games without disturbing others, Roku offers remote controls with a built-in headphone jack. You just have to insert your headphones into the jack on the remote, and then you can adjust the volume with the buttons on the remote.
If you don’t want to be bothered with the remote, you can use the Roku mobile app. All you have to do is plug in your headphones into your smartphone. Then your soundbar will be muted, and the audio will come out of your headphones.
You can also do private listening with Fire Stick, but you will need Bluetooth headphones because the Fire Stick remote doesn’t have a headphone jack. That means you can’t control the volume with the remote while wearing headphones. And using Bluetooth headphones can cause some audio delays.
Which Stick to Buy?
When it comes to the Roku vs Fire Stick debate, the better streaming device for you all boils down to your personal preferences. If you’re new to streaming, Roku is much easier to use than a Fire Stick. If you also want a vast range of movies and TV options for free, Roku is your better option.
On the other hand, if you have an Amazon Prime membership and you have Amazon smart home speaker, you might want to buy the Fire Stick.
If you’re still undecided on which streaming device to get, there are lots of other options you can choose from. Take our short quiz to find out which streaming device is best for you.