Roku vs. Amazon Fire TV: Which streamer is best in 2022?



Sarah Tew/CNET

Numerous folks need an inexpensive, simple strategy to get streaming video from Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus, HBO Max, Hulu, YouTube and Apple TV Plus on their TV, and two corporations make the preferred devices for doing simply that: Roku and Amazon. In a single nook is Roku, the preferred identify in streaming devices. Within the different nook sits Amazon Fire TV, the streamer made by one of the crucial highly effective corporations on this planet. Each supply quite a few units with comparable costs and options, however which must you decide?

At CNET we have spent numerous hours testing each over time, and usually, each work very well. A lot of the Roku and Hearth TV units we have reviewed obtained an 8.0 (wonderful) ranking or greater, so it is powerful to go fallacious. The Roku Streaming Stick 4K gives Dolby Imaginative and prescient and is typically on sale for lower than the older and Imaginative and prescient-less Roku Express 4K Plus. In the meantime, Amazon’s latest entry, the Fire TV Stick 4K Max, is without doubt one of the quickest streaming units in the marketplace. 

So how do you select between Roku and Hearth TV? To start out, understand they’ve extra similarities than variations. 

  • Each are super-affordable, beginning at $30 for his or her most cost-effective gamers, and so they typically go on sale for much less. 
  • Each have entry to 1000’s of TV apps, together with the entire main ones. Most apps look and behave mainly the identical on each.
  • The most recent fashions of Roku and Hearth TV are just about equally fast, responsive and dependable so long as you could have a solid internet connection.
  • Each (aside from the most cost effective Rokus) supply remotes with TV quantity and energy buttons to regulate most TVs, so you may ditch the distant that got here along with your TV in the event you aren’t bouncing round to different inputs. 
  • Each have a number of fashions, beginning with fundamental streamers as much as 4K-compatible variations with voice management constructed into the remotes.

So which one’s higher? 

Finest total: Roku

Our go-to advice is Roku over Hearth TV. There are actually simply two main causes.

Higher menus. Roku’s no-nonsense menu system locations the apps front-and-center and allows you to prepare them nonetheless you please, similar to in your telephone. It will get to the apps and reveals need shortly, with out filling the display with different junk. 

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Utilizing a Hearth TV machine means wading by a bunch of TV reveals and flicks along with the apps. That will be high-quality in the event that they have been the TV reveals and flicks you are in the midst of watching, or may truly need to watch — one thing Netflix’s menus do nicely. However most of the time, it’s arduous to care concerning the TV reveals and flicks on Hearth TV’s display. They only appear to be stuff Amazon or its companions need us to observe.

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Amazon

CNET’s Ty Pendlebury summed up the distinction in his review of the Fire TV Stick. “Should you wish to graze for content material, the Hearth TV could be extra interesting. If you realize what you need already, or at the very least what app you need to watch, a Roku might be a more sensible choice.”

In his evaluation of the Hearth TV Max, in the meantime, Eli Blumenthal additionally famous the prevalence of adverts in Hearth TV’s menus, together with on the screensaver. “It is one factor to throw in slightly advert right here or there like Roku; it is one other to show my complete 65-inch TV right into a billboard for iFit or Nancy Grace’s Fox Nation present.”

Higher search. Search outcomes on Roku are easy and price-centric. You are proven how a lot a film or TV present prices and may click on by to observe or purchase it — and if it is free since you’re a subscriber, you will see that, too. Hearth TV’s outcomes are rather more complicated, with a number of choices and false positives. And as soon as you discover what you need, you are proven only one major service, and it’s important to click on by to see “extra methods to observe.”


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Which Roku or Fire TV streaming device is right for you?

When you choose between Roku and Fire TV you’re buying a specific device, not just the platform. For that reason, our advice below gets a little more specific. We break down our favorite devices in a variety of areas: price, 4K capability, voice control and more.

Here are a couple more things to keep in mind as we get into the recommendations.

  • We’re talking only about streaming devices, not TVs. Both Roku and Amazon bake their platforms into TVs as well, which we also review. In general, we prefer Roku TVs to ones that use Amazon Fire TV. Check out our Best TVs list for more details.
  • Of course, we’ve reviewed streamers from other companies, too. Check out our list of best streaming devices for more options.

Best budget streamer: Fire TV Stick Lite

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The Fire TV Stick lite has voice control while the similarly-priced Roku Express does not.


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Roku is our favorite overall platform, but the Fire TV Stick Lite offers more features at the entry level than the similarly priced Roku Express. The Fire TV Stick Lite includes a voice remote, while the Roku doesn’t support voice commands via the remote. We found the Lite’s built-in access to Amazon’s Alexa particularly helpful when navigating through menus and searching for content.

The Roku Express is still a fine choice for a bare-bones streamer. It brings all of the advantages of Roku we mentioned above, and performs perfectly well, but the Fire TV Stick Lite ultimately offers more features for the price — making it a better option for those on a tight budget. 

Both the Roku Express and the Fire TV Stick Lite are regularly priced at $30, but can sometimes be found for less. 

Of course, there are a bunch of other more expensive Roku players and Fire TV streamers. Many of them are better choices than these basic versions because they don’t charge much more for additional very useful extras.

Best for 4K TVs and best overall: Roku Express 4K Plus or the Roku Streaming Stick 4K — whichever is cheapest

Roku’s $40 Express 4K Plus remains our favorite media streamer available right now. It offers the easy-to-use Roku interface, the voice remote that the cheaper Express lacks, 4K HDR streaming, wired Ethernet support with an optional adapter and typically costs $40. However, the Streaming Stick 4K offers support for Dolby Vision, while the Express 4K Plus does not. We’re usually not sold on the Dolby Vision upgrade — mostly because we generally don’t think that it provides a major image quality improvement over standard HDR — but if the Streaming Stick 4K costs less than Express 4K Plus, it seems like a no-brainer to pay less for a device that has it, than more for one that doesn’t.

Not to be outdone, Amazon’s new Fire TV Stick 4K Max also features an upgraded processor, along with Wi-Fi 6 connectivity. It costs $55 — $5 more than the Roku Streaming Stick 4K. The Max loads apps almost immediately, and navigating around the system is swift and smooth. The Fire TV Stick 4K Max is the best Fire Stick on the market today, and it’s worth the extra money over the standard Fire TV Stick 4K.

But even those who opt for the older Fire TV Stick 4K will find that it offers the Dolby Vision HDR format, while the Roku Express 4K Plus does not. That may make a difference for some people, but we generally think that neither streaming device from Amazon offers enough to overcome Roku’s strengths.

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Want to watch TV hands-free, commanding the TV with just your voice? Fire TV + Alexa speaker, like this Echo Dot, works better than Roku + Google Assistant/Alexa.


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Best for voice: Fire TV with Alexa

If you care about using voice control to find TV shows and movies, Fire TV wins.

Every Fire TV device from the Lite on up has Alexa voice capability built into the remote. Most Roku players also offer voice remotes using Roku’s own voice system, but the cheapest models lack that feature. 

Both voice systems let you easily search, launch apps and control playback (fast-forward, pause, etc.) via voice, but Fire TV also lets you do everything Alexa does, including control smart-home devices, get a weather report and answer questions, complete with on-screen results. Alexa’s voice also talks back through the TV’s speakers.

If you have an Alexa speaker like an Echo Dot, you can do pretty much everything hands-free on Fire TV (no remote required) with standard Alexa commands. Say “Alexa, watch Roma” and Fire TV launches Netflix and starts playing the movie, for example. 

Roku players work in the same way with Alexa and Google Home/Google Nest speakers but not as well — you have to remember to say “Roku” at the end of every command (“OK, Google, launch Hulu on Roku”). Still, if you own a Google speaker already and want to use it for TV control, Fire TV isn’t an option.

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You can use the Roku app on your phone for private headphone listening with any Roku player


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Best for private listening via headphones: Roku

Roku has long had a really cool feature on its higher-end players: A headphone jack built into the remote control itself. You just plug your headphones into the clicker and the audio on the TV or soundbar mutes automatically, and sound comes through the headphones instead, complete with volume control on the ‘phones.

In addition, every Roku device offers private listening via the free Roku app on your phone — just fire up the app and attach headphones to your phone. Roku rolled out its OS 10.5 system upgrade last year which attempts to fix the audio lags that can occur when listening through Bluetooth headphones. Roku claims that up to four people can listen privately at the same time with audio that is automatically adjusted to work with each individual’s headphones. 

Fire TV’s only option for private listening is to pair Bluetooth headphones, but it’s not nearly as effective. Amazon lacks a way to handle the audio lag (lip sync error) and you’ll need to have a volume control built into the headphones.

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With a mute key and the ability to command sound bars and receivers in addition to your TV, Fire TV’s remote is better for device control.


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Best for TV and device control: Fire TV (especially Fire TV Cube)

Both Roku and Fire TV offer devices with buttons on the remote designed to control your TV. It’s a great feature because it allows you to ditch your TV’s own remote and use the streamer’s clicker for everything. In both cases setup is dead-simple — the streamer automatically recognizes your TV and programs the remote wirelessly, without you having to do anything besides confirming it works — but Fire TV is cheaper and more capable.

The cheapest Roku streamers that come with TV control remotes are the $40 Express 4K Plus and the $50 Roku Streaming Stick 4K. The Fire TV Stick has a TV control remote for $40. These remotes have buttons for TV power and TV volume up/down and mute. 

Roku’s remotes can only control televisions, but with Fire TV you can also control soundbars and even AV receivers. Yes, if your TV supports HDMI CEC and you have an HDMI soundbar, the Roku’s volume and power buttons can probably control it, but Fire TV’s remote can control pretty much any bar.

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The unique Fire TV Cube can control your TV and a bunch of gear using Alexa voice commands.


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And Roku doesn’t have anything like the $120 Fire TV Cube. A little box designed to sit near your TV, it combines all the capabilities of the Fire TV Stick 4K and all the capabilities of an Echo Dot, plus the unique ability to control a full-on entertainment system via voice. Using it can sometimes feel like magic, but it’s not for everyone. Check out the video below if you’re curious.


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Amazon’s Fire TV Cube gives you and Alexa hands-free…



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By this point, you hopefully have enough info to decide for yourself which of the two most popular streamers works best for you. For our full reviews of Roku and Fire TV devices, as well as their competitors like Google’s Chromecast with Google TV, the Apple TV 4K and the Nvidia Shield, check out our list of best streaming devices



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Roku vs. Amazon Fire TV: Which streamer is best in 2022?

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