I have been using the Roku Streaming Stick and Amazon Firestick in my home for a few months now. Though they essentially perform the same functions and run similar apps, there are small features that set them way apart.
When my family started using the Roku Streaming Stick, there were a few glitches. The system would freeze constantly, requiring a restart. Software updates seem to have fixed these issues. Moving between menus and apps is very speedy with the Roku. It responds to commands on the remote very quickly. Video streams flawlessly in most apps.
The Firestick is also very speedy, though there are often times where it gets bogged down by displaying fancy images and preview video on the Home screen. Video quality is sometimes choppy when you first start watching, then gets better after a minute or two.
Winner: Roku with a slight edge
Ease of Use
The Roku interface is very simple. You have a few options for settings on the left pane, then you have the apps you can select. It’s an UI that is very simple for Grandma to figure out.
The Fire TV is very cluttered, mashing dozens of options and ads for shows and movies on the Home screen. You often can’t tell what’s an app or a movie, and it’s often takes longer than it should to find what you’re looking for.
App Library Selection
Roku will likely support any app you wish to use. HBO Max wasn’t originally supported when we first started using the Roku, but it is now. The thing that lacks in the Roku app library is the ability to download and use apps outside of what the Roku Channel Store has available. Roku used to support a wonderful homebrew app environment, but have started locking things down the past few years.
Like the Roku, almost any major app is compatible with the Firestick. At the moment, the big app that’s not available is the Peacock app. But Amazon’s Firestick runs Android. Which means you can customize it and run Android apps on it. You can download apps from the Appstore or install an Android app downloaded from anywhere on the web. This opens up access to an endless amount of apps.
Mobile App Features
This is where Roku really has an edge. Their app is well designed, providing a remote control and a keyboard via your device. You can search and select movies and shows right in the app. It also has a feature for casting content like personal videos and photos on your device to the Roku. My favorite feature is where you can stream audio from the Roku to your device. This allows me to can walk all over my home and listen to whatever my Roku is playing.
The Amazon Fire TV app is underwhelming to say the least. Like the Roku app, it has a remote control and keyboard, but no other features beyond that.
Winner: Roku by a longshot
The Roku has themes and wallpaper you can download. Much of it costs money these days. That’s about the limit of customization for the Roku.
Since the Firestick runs Android, there are quite a few options for customization. There are wallpapers, screensavers, and app launchers. Many of these customizations require a bit of technical know-how to configure though.
The Roku Stick allows you to connect a smartphone, tablet, or computer to it via Bluetooth. But speakers and headphones are not supported unless they are Roku branded. USB keyboards aren’t supported either. You can use your Roku with Google Home and Amazon Echo appliances. But that’s about it as far as hardware support.
The Firestick allows you to connect almost anything that uses Bluetooth technology. Bluetooth hardware like keyboards, speakers, smartphones, and headphones connect to the Firestick with ease. USB keyboards and mice work well too. You can even connect a video game controller to the Firestick and it will work.
The Roku Streaming Stick is the choice if you have basic needs and just want the ability to stream video easily. It’s reliable, and easy for non-tech-savvy users to use. I’d recommend the Firestick for people who are serious about their video streaming needs. Firestick users that want their streaming hardware to work a certain way can most likely make it happen. The Firestick is a bit difficult to navigate, but it gets easier to use after using it for a few months.
Personally, I prefer the Roku Streaming Stick for my family. My 4 year old understands the simple interface and can use the remote to select what she wants. She’s often lost when using the Firestick TV, as is my wife.
I hope this review has helped you make the best decision when comparing Roku Stick vs. Firestick.