Amazon Fire TV vs. Roku vs. Apple TV vs. Chromecast [Chart]

FireTV chart

click to enlarge

A new entry into the crowded set-top box market has just been announced, and it’s from one of the biggest internet companies on the face of the Earth. Amazon has just shown off their new Fire TV box in an attempt to take over the living room. The Fire TV is based on Android and HTML, so it’s apparently pretty easy to get existing apps on the box. Of course, whenever a new device is announced we have to compare it to the competition.

The Fire TV matches up nicely with many of the top existing set-top boxes. At $99 it falls right in line with the Roku 3 and Apple TV, but of course it can’t compete with the $35 Chromecast. That’s because the Fire TV can do much more than Google’s affordable dongle, and you don’t need your phone to operate it. While the Fire TV may line up in price with the Roku and Apple TV, it has better specs than both.

Specs, man

amazon_fire_tv

The Fire TV is powered by a quad-core processor and 2GB of memory. The Roku 3 is slightly behind with a dual-core processor and 512MB of memory, while the Apple TV and Chromecast have single-sore processors with 512MB of memory. You should have no problem loading apps and navigating the UI smoothly and quickly on the Fire TV.

What about the apps?

amazon fire tv

The big determining feature for many people when deciding on a set-top box is apps. All four of the devices listed above have plenty of app support, but some have more than others. The Fire TV and Roku 3 both have 10 out of 11 popular streaming services. The Apple TV has 9, and the Chromecast has 7. Games is another area of apps. If you’re interested in those your only option is Fire TV or Roku 3. The Fire TV, however, has an optional dedicated gaming controller.

Who wins?

As of this moment it looks like the Fire TV and Roku 3 are the best options for streaming media set-top boxes. Amazon is a much larger company who will most likely make deals to get even more content on their device. When you combine the Fire TV with Amazon’s Fire tablets this is a very compelling device in a loaded ecosystem. For some the Chromecast will be all they need, but if you’re serious about cutting the cord the Fire TV is a great choice.

Buy the Amazon Fire TV right now for $99. Talk about the Amazon Fire TV at AndroidForums.com!

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  • Lauren Berns

    Guys, how can this chart fail to address whether the device supports Google Play Movies and/or Music?

    • Mike Kister

      Great question. As someone who already has two roku boxes, chromecast and logitech google tv I need some compelling reasons to even consider another similar device. Fire is looking good but I want to know more.

      • WhoaManWtF

        Well it is faster than all your other boxes combined, I am sure that would warrant a much better user experience. Also running Android means it will likely be modded.

        • Hermann Andrason

          This. If the speed of this thing is truly as fast as it claims, it’s a nobrainer for me to get rid of the GTV I have now, it’s so painfully sluggish.

          • WhoaManWtF

            It is a Krait 300 clocked at 1.7 with Adreno 320.. Thats the basic chipset that is in a Galaxy Note 3 or a G2 and those are beastly phones. I ran my G2 UCed at 1.7 and played some games to test the speed, ran great… I ordered one of these this morning so we shall see.

            My only real question is will my Moga Pro work on this…

    • http://winsource.com/ Joe Fedewa

      Good point. Here’s your answer: Chromecast does, the others do not.

      • Lauren Berns

        And, of course, Google TV does. But, Google TV might be dead?

        • Hermann Andrason

          Hopefully not, I´m still hoping we’ll see a new Nexus AndroidTV device this summer.

      • Dominic Powell

        Apple TV may at some point in the near future as well.

      • http://www.DavidPat.com David Pat

        Chromecast is slow

        • nofearofimaginarymen

          ? It literally takes about 12 seconds for it to turn on my TV and then have the video play. If my TV is already on, it takes about 6 seconds to get the video to play. If I am already in the app, about 3 seconds to play. Are you being sarcastic or do you find 6 second load up time unacceptable?

        • Henri Weich Conradie

          It’s wireless and it’s a dongle. Of course it’ll be slow at times.

    • Timothy Anderson

      Great point. I totally agree. For me, this is a show stopper, if it does not support Google Play Movies, Music, etc. I have invested in this ecosystem and would not buy a $100 system that does not support it.

    • jnt

      Between Amazon and iTunes, honestly the percentage of people that really use GP Movies and Music is likely small (edit: maybe moreso with Movies than Music). That’s completely anecdotal, but I think there’s some truth to it.

      • Henri Weich Conradie

        Paying for music? Pfff. I’d rather buy food and other necessities with that money.

  • King_James_The_Wicked

    Why do all of these articles read like a sales pitch? Why are these being promoted so heavily here? I have not seen anything that my PS3 will not already do. I would like some data and not just a sales pitch.

    • Lauren Berns

      And, I hate to say it, but the PS3 apps are always substantially ahead in usability/features/stability over Google TV and Chromecast. If Google Play movies and Music were ported to PS3, I might just stick with it.

    • h4rr4r

      Not warm the room, is what these devices will do that a PS3 won’t. They are also much quieter.

      I have a PS3 and use it for all of this, but for the reasons mentioned will soon be buying another device for this task.

    • RealityCheck131

      Because people looking for a streaming boxes aren’t people with game consoles? Why would you buy a PS3 just for this? You’re not making sense.

      • King_James_The_Wicked

        I am not trying to sell a PS3 or sell anything for that matter. I am here to read information and decide for myself if I would like one or not. I have plenty of streaming devices that seem to do everything that this device does, the PS3 is just one of many. My comment is just based on the article reading like a sales pitch and not a tech article.

    • Henri Weich Conradie

      Good point. Netflix and a music streaming service on PS3 (if you enjoy music a lot) and you’re good. Chromecast would be great to have, though, considering how nifty and affordable it is.

      • Scotsman of Loch Ness

        I’m not gaming much these days, so 35 bucks vs 200 plus for the ps3… And Amazon and with my BluRay player supporting Amazon prime, I don’t see reason for me to get the Amazon box…. And they forgot to include VuDu in this comparison.. Probably because Amazon doesn’t support it yet.

    • Stanley Opar

      that’s because it IS A SALES PITCH. I loaded the extension DISCONNECT on my web browser and one of the pages that shows up in the web when you visit phandroid is =>> http://www.viglink.com.

      Now visit: http://www.viglink.com/how-it-works = they get paid commission for links of products they ask you to buy in articles (like buying the Fire TV for $99 link)

      No wonder Phandroid is always posting links where you can buy the product they “review”. For Shame. I had a feeling just like you did, I knew the Fire TV articles sounded a bit bias. Even someone on the Samsung Fingers April Fools link said that phandroid has possibly sold out. Now hear me out here, I can see going through other providers maybe to boost some revenue for a pretty much “free access” website I understand bills need to be paid, But They should at least say that they will get a commission from your purchase to help the site instead of being silent about it. Plus how can you trust a “review” for a product that they receive commission on? You Can’t.

      Also another one of the links has the word amazon in it: http://phandroid.s3.amazonaws.com/ can’t draw any conclusions but it’s kinda strange that amazon is relating to phandroid when you visit their homepage. I expect more transparency from this site in the future or I’ll go elsewhere for my Android and technology news. Somewhere where I won’t have a sales pitch shoved down my throat.

  • Lauren Berns

    Any word, by the way, as to whether an Amazon Instant Video app is in the works for handhelds? I’ve more or less given up on buying content from them (opting for Google Movies instead) because it’s just easier to use my phone as my (netflix and Google Play movie) controller in connection with my Chromecast. When something I want to see is ONLY available on Amazon, I fire up my PS3 for it. By the way, PS3/4 should be on your chart as well if you really want to serve your users. There are an AWFUL lot of those boxes out there (undoubtedly many in the hands of Android fans).

  • Blane Stroud

    Outside of the games aspect, I can’t imagine needing more than a chromecast, especially since it can do local stuff now.

    That being said, if Amazon makes compelling gaming software, I wouldn’t mind shelling out $99 for it.

  • http://www.DavidPat.com David Pat

    I would still rather have my Home theater PC. This is still a very niche category and you might as well go with a PC since you have more available content.

  • Jesus Alvarez

    They missed the part where Chromecast has at least 1 game — Cards against humanity! (‘Dehumanize your friends’ on the Play Store)

    • Henri Weich Conradie

      Chromecast – Proudly continuing to dehumanising your friends using the Internet since ’95.

    • fussguest

      Cast Store has 20 games listed. Not much, but they are being made even when the capability isn’t being pushed. Chromecast was put out as a media loading device. Now that this whole other category of devices is evolving more, the purpose of them will change some. Best thing on their games though is they become group interactive – it isn’t meant to compete with console style or single player. Bet the 2nd edition will beef up the processor some and push this capability more.

  • DannyB2

    Prediction: AT&T will come along to Amazon with it’s hat out just like it did to Netflix.

    AT&T: We should not have to bear the burden of building our infrastructure to support Amazon’s internet video streaming. If Amazon’s business model is causing customers to need so much bandwidth, then Amazon should have to pay AT&T to increase its network capacity.

    Next, AT&T will go to Hulu.

    Then, AT&T will go to Roku. Showtime. HBO. YouTube (owned by Google). Then Google because people do searches on Google and Google should have to pay AT&T. Then Facebook. Then Yahoo. Then Twitter. Etc.

    Next, AT&T will offer tiered service. For only $39 / month, you can access Yahoo and Facebook. For only $59 / month you can also access Google (but not YouTube) and Twitter. For only $79 / month you can add YouTube access. For only $99 / month you can access video streaming services.

    That is what Net Neutrality is all about. If AT&T is having to build out its network because of MY network usage, then charge ME DIRECTLY for building it. After all, I’m going to have to pay to build AT&T’s network either way. Either directly, or through Netflix. But by AT&T charging ONLY AT&T”s customers, it is a lot more transparent and less subject to behind the scenes unfairness.

    Oh, and then after AT&T, along will come Verizon. And if I use Netflix, I’m now also paying Verizon to build out their network, even if I don’t use Verizon. Then Comcast. Etc.

    Network neutrality: every endpoint pays their own freight.

    • Henri Weich Conradie

      Anyone not in favour of keeping Net Neutrality is either grossly misinformed/mistaken or insane.

    • mcl630

      I already pay Comcast a ridiculous amount of money for a 50Mbps connection. I shouldn’t have to pay even more to actually be able to use it.

      • CerealFTW

        Same boat here, I also have the 50mbps plan. Comcast is the only good ip here so I’m stuck with them. Maybe Google fiber will come along to shake things up but it’ll be a while

  • Mirad77

    Not a big gamer so chromecast win for me as it does what I want of it and very well I might add. With time chromecast will just get better.

  • jpio906

    Am I the only one that cares how each box plays local content from a NAS? I don’t want a dedicated media serving computer when a $99 box will work, with a NAS full of my own movies and tv shows. I have an Apple TV now which is clunky at best for local content since I have to keep iTunes running somewhere on the network. How do the other boxes compare?

    • Captain Obvious

      I agree completely. The single most important feature for me is being able to play off of my network. Currently I use this: WD TV Live Media Player

      Works rather well considering its only 85$. Only thing its missing for me is Amazon Instant video.

      • Candi Daitch

        Is there any way possible now (or potentially coming) for the FireTV to stream directly from my NAS? On my Kindle FireHDX I use Skifta to stream from my NAS, on my TV I was streaming via my NAS with my PS3… I bought the FireTV in hopes I could stop using the PS3 for this but the only reference I can find is to use Plex, however that would require my laptop to be on all the time to act as the middleman between my NAS (which can’t install Plex on it’s own) and my FireTV… fail. Can I sideload Skifta and have that work directly? I can’t believe they didn’t build in the ability to easily connect to an NAS.

  • steveb944

    Why aren’t Google TV devices on this list? I kid, I kid.

    • Ryan Wick

      As much as people hate (and I’m about to get flamed), I really enjoy my Sony Google TV box. The Prime Time (TV Overlay) app and Chrome browser are what’s kept me from replacing it.

      I also didn’t see a mention of Vudu (where my Ultraviolet Library is stored) for the Amazon Fire…

      • steveb944

        I’m with you. I love my Vizio Co-Star. It has Amazon streaming, Play Store, and a great browser. I’ve since moved to my console for my streaming needs but I’ll soon reconnect it when I set up a new TV.

  • jnt

    Not a big gamer here, and also have cut the cord. Also like being able to cast stuff from my devices to the TV. For now, Roku 3 is more than sufficient to cover all of that.

    • Henri Weich Conradie

      HDMI + laptop + local content + hdtv = problem solved. All your arguments are invalid.

      • bluedemon

        The point is using a dedicated box. So the argument is still valid.

  • Meletaeus

    I just opened up and set up a new Roku 3 last night. Damn! If I would have just been a little more lazy setting it up.

    • http://winsource.com/ Joe Fedewa

      I just got a Roku 3 recently as well. I’m not seeing much reason to think the Fire TV is any better, unless you really want games.

      • Meletaeus

        Voice search and extra memory for video buffering are my two reasons. I might actually use prime, if I could search it easier. Since Amazon approved my exchange request (even after I told them I had already opened and set up my Roku), I guess I’ll find out soon enough. I’ll still have my Roku 2 to fall back on if the Fire sucks.

  • egern

    Ugh I just want my Chromecast to get Amazon Prime Instant Video. I’d be complete.

    Also keep in mind that Chromecast can do games in a pretty innovative way using Android phones as the remote. The Casts Against Civility game (now called Dehumanize Your Friends due to infringement issues), is a prime example. In fact it’s the only example I can think of :/

  • http://ENERDROID.COM IAN

    Love my Roku but I’m considering just hooking up a chromebox to my living room TV and moving my Roku to my room. I have to hook my chromebook up to my TV at least 3 or 4 times a week anyways.

  • http://www.ExoticaTropicals.com/ Tropical Flowers

    You forgot the most important feature of all on the chart- CAN YOU PLUG HEADPHONES INTO THE REMOTE and watch in silence late at night (while wife/gf sleeps)
    Answer: ROKU- Yes. Everyone else, no.

    This is the best feature I’ve seen on any TV device since the flatscreen. I’m suprised its not standard on everything now.

    • New_Guy777

      Yes, with the Chromecast, you can. That’s because the remote is the phone, so just do what you were doing on the phone! :-)

      • http://www.ExoticaTropicals.com/ Tropical Flowers

        hmm thas interesting- can you watch your cable TV through the chromecast and then listen via headphones from the phone? Thats what I want to do know- listen to all my TV with headphones off the remote- not just Roku content.. because now Im hooked

        • Aooga

          No the chromecast can’t do that. He meant since the chromecast can only stream things that you had on your phone anyway, just use your phone.

    • CerealFTW

      This is really useful, I watch content from my phone through a slim port cable to my TV so I’m able to connect to headphones into my phone and it is definitely underrated

  • Matt Milsap

    Roku indeed has Bloomberg TV. Please fix your inaccurate diagram.

  • Konrad Salomon

    What would also be interesting in the chart is
    Mirroring, Extending Desktop
    Showing Cloud Content
    Showing Phone/Tablet Content
    Multiple Accounts
    Supported Formats

    A correction to the Apple TV
    Doesn’t need a Remote with line of sight. You can use your phone as a remote.

    • mortree

      Unfortunately multiple accounts is semi-stupid when using pre-paid services. (Everyone paying for their own subscription to Netflix would be bad in my opinion.)

      But yeah it might be nice to have a multiple account subsection for on-demand purchases, saved games and any private files – Amazon show purchases being a good example.

      On the other hand this isn’t supposed to quite a full computer either so there is a need to cut off the features at some point to keep things cheap and slick. And yet $99 is quick a chunk of the price for a generic laptop or tablet. I suspect Amazon expects this devices to be discount and maybe even lower the MSRP after a critical minimum customer base is reached. So I except $79 street prices in a month or two if there is no manufacturing bottleneck.

    • mortree

      You read the Remote column wrong. The point being Remote control of those devices are NOT controlled by IR beams which REQUIRE LINE OF SIGHT (e.g. certain cell phones emit IR).

      The bragging is that you can sit behind desk way off to the side and still control the video. I assume that both Amazon and Roku allow control via wireless networking apps. Amazon also allows voice. I don’t voice control works very well at TV parties though. Might not even work well with the TV audio unless it successfully noise-cancels based on the audio content (thus probably consuming 1 of those cores from the quad-core processor).

  • AtomicCEO

    My requirement isn’t listed: Antenna TV support, preferably with DVR function. So much good free content can’t be ignored in a media center. Sports, shows, live news, all in crisp 1080p.

    • Canon User

      I think this requirement is only left for you, me, and one other guy. But amen!

      • AtomicCEO

        3 likes! So it’s me, you, one other guy… AND someone else! W00t!

  • Adobo King

    This is a stupid comparison. Chromecast should not be in there. In fact, it is on a league of its own. What people fail to realize is how truly amazing this tiny piece of hardware is. It does not limit you to a box or confines of whoever made it. Depending on what app you are using, you can use Chromecast to play anything from your computer, smartphone or tablet onto your TV. Seriously, can it get any better than that?

  • Erstam

    I’m not sure why XBMC/plex aren’t on this list. Along with google music. I use xbmc/plex 75% of the time and you tube like 20% of the time. then other 5% are misc usage on my boxes. I know I am not the typical user, but still these should be in the list.

  • max

    dat specs! mmmm

  • Dan

    Roku just released a streaming stick with most of the same features as the Roku 3 but at a $50 price point. If a person just wanted to add Netflix/Amazon/etc. that would be a compelling option for less money.

  • fredphoesh

    Buy a generic android box… you dont have this suffocating Amazon or uptight Apple to deal with, all the great google apps, open, free… and can do all of those things.

  • mortree

    Yup! Just like the Reviewer said Amazon Fire TV is the best device…if you want to pay a ton for all the services (DirecTV sized bill). But isn’t this all about bragging rights? :)

    And with Amazon Prime you only have to pay 1.99-3.99 PER EPISODE for current over-the-air shows (all sorts of FREE copyright expired shows available from 30+ years ago though). Way to stick it to those cable and satellite TV companies. One thing about Amazon offerings is that its current shows selections are comprehensive – unlike say Hulu.

  • Nick Davies

    Say it! Watch it! With your Amazon Fire TV! Get it here now! http://amzn.to/PluT0R

  • Temi Luna

    What about the ability to mirror from a device? That’s a huge plus for Chromecast and Apple TV. Can the others do this?

  • Todd Christ

    where’s the xbmc comparison? can make it Core i3 comparable – sure it may cost more but you’ll more than likely have 100% coverage of all services :)