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Roku vs Fire Stick: Which one is best for your streaming needs in 2024?

The Roku Streaming Stick and the Amazon Fire TV Stick are two of the best devices for streaming. Here are the key reasons to buy one over the other.
Written by Maria Diaz, Staff Writer
Reviewed by Alyson Windsor
Roku vs Fire Stick
Maria Diaz/ZDNET

If, like many of us, you want to cut the cord and enhance your streaming TV experience, you may be wondering which device is the best fit for you. Two of the most popular options are the Amazon Fire TV Stick and the Roku Streaming Stick. However, there are some key differences to consider before making a purchase.

Also: Roku TVs are getting one of Samsung's best features via a free update

Amazon and Roku strive to provide the best streaming experience possible through their plug-in sticks, branded televisions, and streaming boxes. Choosing the right device, however, involves more than just comparing price tags.

In this article, we'll delve into Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K and the Roku Streaming Stick 4K -- with additional information on each company's other streaming devices -- to help you determine which one aligns with your needs and preferences.


FeaturesFire TV Stick 4KRoku Streaming Stick 4K
Retail price$40$50
Picture qualityFire TV Stick 4KRoku TV stick 4K
Frame rate60fps60fps
Audio qualityDolby AtmosDolby Atmos
PortsHDMI output, Micro-USB for powerHDMI 2.0b, USB for power
Remote batteriesTwo AAA batteriesTwo AAA batteries

You should buy a Fire TV Stick 4K if...

Fire TV Stick 4K Max
Maria Diaz/ZDNET

1. You want the most features for less money

When you compare the tech specifications of a Fire TV Stick 4K against the Roku Streaming Stick 4K, you'll find that both devices are very similar, even down to the price. One thing is certain, however: Amazon offers bigger discounts more often on its Fire Stick than Roku does. This means you can typically find the Fire TV Stick 4K for a lower price than the Roku. 

For example, last holiday season brought many sales on both Roku and Fire TV devices, and you could get a Fire TV Stick 4K for $30, while the Roku Stick 4K was $34. Both were discounted, but the former is a better deal.

Also: The best Fire TV players: Fire TV Stick, Cube, Lite, and more compared

Amazon also features other Fire TV Stick models that range between $30 and $140 at regular price, while the Roku lineup ranges from $30 to $130. In a head-to-head match between the two higher-end sticks, the Roku Express 4K Pro and Fire TV Stick 4K Max, the two are similar in features, although the Amazon player is $15 cheaper. Plus, the Fire Stick is Wi-Fi 6-compatible, while Roku isn't yet, for extra value

2. You use Alexa in your smart home

Alexa, Amazon's voice assistant, seems to be a must in every Amazon device. The Fire TV Stick 4K is no exception. The Alexa-enabled remote included with this streaming device has a button to press and hold to ask Alexa questions. Though the Roku also comes with a voice remote that you can use for navigation within the Roku platform, the Alexa remote can go beyond searching for your favorite TV show.

Also: Amazon Fire TV Stick: What it is and how to use it

If you have Alexa-enabled devices as part of your smart home setup, you can tell Alexa via your Fire TV Stick remote to turn on a smart light or change the room temperature on your smart thermostat. You can even ask the voice assistant to show you compatible security cameras on your TV. 

Roku has a line of smart home products that can integrate its camera feeds with Roku TVs or streaming devices, but the feature is still pretty new and limited to its own Roku Home devices.

Update: Please note that the Roku Express 4K with Voice Remote Pro is now compatible with an Alexa device, and both are available on Amazon.

3. You watch Prime Video and YouTube Kids (and don't mind ads)

Unsurprisingly, the Fire TV platform is more focused on Prime Video, as it is, after all, an Amazon device. Being an Amazon product, it's also not surprising that you'll find many ads while navigating the system. Personally, I don't mind the ads so much; I ignore most of them. But if you're an avid watcher of Prime Video content, you'll find the ads to be geared to users like you. 

Also: Why I chose YouTube TV out of the sea of streaming options

Keep in mind that some apps are available on Fire TV that are not available for Roku and vice versa, as is the case for YouTube Kids, though YouTube recently announced a way to access it on Roku. I'm not a fan of YouTube Kids, so if my kids ever watch it, I only allow it on the TV, where I can see or at least hear what they're watching. If you have little ones who like watching YouTube Kids, know it's not available as a standalone app on Roku devices now. YouTube and YouTube TV are available on Roku.

To access YouTube Kids on Roku, you must download the YouTube app on your Roku device and go into the Accounts tab to switch to a child's profile. This will give you access to YouTube Kids' content and parental controls within the YouTube app.

You should buy a Roku Streaming Stick 4K if...

Roku Streaming Stick
Artie Beaty/ZDNET

1. You prefer a more user-friendly platform

The Fire TV menu is visually attractive, but it's simply not as straightforward and user-friendly as the Roku platform. It's a sleek design, but you often have to take extra steps to do something compared with doing it on a Roku.

Another noteworthy feature of the Roku platform is the universal search, which the Fire TV platform executes poorly. Universal search lets you search for a title and have your Roku show you all the different apps you can watch it on, along with how much it costs to rent or buy, if applicable. 

Also: I cut my video streaming bill in half, and so can you

Universal search is underrated, but it's extremely useful. Unfortunately, I've fallen victim to its poor performance on the Fire TV platform -- when I had paid to rent a movie, only to find that it was included in my Netflix subscription the next day. 

Fire TV's search results require more work to sift through, too. You're given one primary channel and must select "more ways to watch" to see all the other options. Multiple options are often available, but clicking on them may lead to a paywall or a dead end. 

2. You want an easier-to-use remote control

Admittedly, Fire TV remotes have come a long way in becoming more user-friendly and, in the process, more like the Roku remote. However, I still find the Roku remote easier to use than its competitor. 

Also: Cable déjà vu? Looks who's bundling streaming services (and what it's going to cost you)

It's the buttons for me; give me good old arrows, and I know where to go. I don't want to sound like a dinosaur here, but I'd choose the Roku remote if I had to choose between my Fire TV, Roku, or even Apple TV 4K remotes.

Hand holding both Roku Stick & Fire Stick remotes

My Roku remote (left) doesn't get lost in my couch cushions nearly as often as the Fire TV Stick remote (right).

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

The Roku remote is rounded and thicker than the Fire TV remote, which is thin and easy to lose between the couch cushions. The Roku remote also has old-school arrows and an "OK" button, whereas the Fire TV remote has a circle with a round "OK" button in the middle and, you guessed it, no letters or arrows in this navigation wheel, which makes it a little less intuitive for someone getting familiar with it.

Aside from this, both remotes are pretty similar: Both have mute and volume buttons to control compatible televisions, your regular navigation buttons, and four-channel shortcut buttons that are not reprogrammable on either remote. Also, both devices have a mobile app that enables your phone to double as a remote should you lose your physical remote control.

3. You need the long-range Wi-Fi feature

If you have a bigger home or want to put your streaming device on any TV around your house, then you may be interested in Roku's long-range Wi-Fi feature.

The Roku Stick 4K has a larger antenna than previous devices, allowing four times the wireless range. This is thanks, in part, to the included USB power cable with a Wi-Fi receiver, which holds the Wi-Fi hardware on the line farther away from the device for less wireless interference.

Are there alternatives worth considering?

A streaming stick may not be the perfect solution for all applications, but it's a small, portable, and inexpensive solution to turn a standard TV into a smart one. 

There's also the option of a more expensive alternative, such as buying a smart TV that's already Wi-Fi-integrated and equipped with the most popular streaming apps. However, the investment is far more than the cost of a $50 TV stick.


What apps do the Fire Stick and Roku Stick have?

All the Fire Sticks support the following apps: Netflix, HBO Max, Prime Video, Youtube Kids, Apple TV, Sling TV, Disney+, Peacock, Starz, Showtime, Paramount+, YouTube TV, IMDb TV, Tubi, Pluto TV, Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and many more.

Similarly, all of Roku's offerings support the following apps: Netflix, HBO Max, Prime Video, Apple TV, Sling TV, Disney+, Peacock, Starz, Showtime, Paramount+, YouTube TV, IMDb TV, Tubi, Pluto TV, Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and more.

Do Amazon or Roku streaming sticks have a monthly streaming fee?

Neither stick charges you to stream your favorite apps. You could save money by only watching the free TV and movie channels such as Vudu, Roku TV, Peacock, or Tubi TV. And if you have an Amazon Prime account, Amazon Video is included. While more recent movies and shows may come with a fee, Amazon Video has plenty of free programming available through your Roku or Amazon Fire player. 

Do I need to pay for subscriptions if I have a streaming TV stick?

Streaming players broadcast what's available from the apps. While many streaming apps offer free content, some of the most popular such as HBO Max, Disney Plus, ESPN+, and Netflix come with a monthly subscription fee. If you'd like to access Netflix from your Roku Streaming Stick, for example, you would need to pay for a monthly Netflix subscription and log in to your account through Roku's interface.

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