In this guide, we will discuss two of the most popular 4K streaming sticks available in the market today: the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K and the Roku Streaming Stick+. We will review them one by one, discuss the core differences, and by the end of this guide, you can make a better decision of which one should be a better pick for you.
What is the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K?
Quite recently Amazon has streamlined its video streaming dongles (or, sticks) into just two products: the standard Amazon Fire TV stick (might want to link affiliate) and our focus of discussion here: the new Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K.
For those of you that are already familiar with Amazon’s Fire TV streaming lineup, the Fire TV Stick 4K is essentially a dongle version of Amazon’s Fire TV streaming box from 2017, that can stream content from (obviously) Amazon Prime Videos and other streaming platforms like Netflix, Disney+, and various live TV streaming services like Sling TV, Hulu, Philo, and others.
As the name 4K suggests, you can stream 4K video quality (2160p) with the Fire TV Stick 4K.
A key highlight of the Fire TV Stick 4K, however, is the fact that it is very affordable for what it offers for only $50. Very few streaming dongles offer 4K streaming capabilities in this price range, with most affordable streaming sticks only offer 720p or 1080p video streaming quality.
However, a key consideration in purchasing the Fire TV Stick 4K is that it is mainly optimized for Amazon’s own streaming platform: Prime Videos. So, if you primarily stream on, for example, Netflix, the interface is not natively optimized. Also, with the competition between Google and Amazon, you can’t use it to stream YouTube TV.
Let us dig deeper into the specs and features of the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Specifications
- Resolution: Up to 4K
- HDR support: HDR10, HLG, HDR10+, Dolby Vision
- Connections: USB, HDMI
- Dimensions: 10.8 x 3 x 1.4cm
- Weight: 54g
What Is Roku Streaming Stick+
Roku has been the market leader in the streaming box and dongle market in recent years for two main reasons: first, their products are cheap, and second, they are openly neutral and don’t support any particular streaming platforms. That is, it supports almost all streaming services you can think of and doesn’t heavily promote any of them.
The Roku Streaming Stick+, is simply put a dongle that can plug into any TV setup and completely replaces the TV’s interface. The Streaming Stick+ can support video quality of up to 4K at 60FPS.
If you are already familiar with Roku’s previous streaming boxed and devices, there’s not much new about the Streaming Stick+: it’s basically a repackaged Premiere+ Box—which was quite popular a few years back— into a stick format.
Roku Streaming Stick+ Specifications
- Brilliant picture quality in HD, 4K, or HDR
- 4x the wireless range of older Roku devices
- Stronger signal for smoother streaming
- Roku Voice Remote
|Description||Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K||Roku Streaming Stick +|
|OS||Fire TV OS||Roku OS|
|SD Card Slot||No||No|
|Latest Pricing||Check Latest Pricing||Check Latest Pricing|
Both the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K and the Roku Streaming Stick+ are very affordable streaming dongles that can stream 4K video quality. The Roku Streaming Stick+, is currently also priced at $50 (it used to be $60), so they are priced the same.
Being the streaming sticks, they both are very compact and easy to use with plug-and-play setup. Both are capable of streaming various major streaming services including Netflix, Hulu (and +Live TV), Disney+, HBO Now, Amazon Prime Video, and various live TV streaming services like fuboTV, Sling TV, and so on.
A key difference, however, is that Amazon tends to (understandably) push its own Amazon Prime Video service, while Roku Streaming Stick+ and Roku, in general, take a neutral approach regarding streaming services.
In practice, if we search for a specific show or movie, on Roku Streaming Stick+, the interface will show us all the platforms where the specific show/movie title is available on stream. Let’s say we are searching for Fight Club and let’s say it’s available on Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime Videos, and Netflix, then the Roku app will tell us so.
On the other hand, doing the same search on the Fire TV Stick 4K will only show Amazon Prime Video. If we want to see more choices from other streaming platforms, we have to go to a separate screen. In short, if you want to use streaming services other than Prime Video with the Fire TV Stick 4K, you’d need a little more effort.
Let’s first deal with arguably the most important aspect in considering any product: the price.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K costs $50, which is $10 more expensive than Amazon’s basic Fire TV stick, which costs $40.
The Roku Streaming Stick+ also costs $50, and so is priced the same as the Fire TV Stick 4K, but if you are looking for affordability, keep in mind that the Roku Express (Roku’s entry-level streaming dongle) is only $30.
In short, both the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K and the Roku Streaming Stick+ are priced reasonably well, and there are often promotions here and there so they cost roughly the same to each other.
Installation and Set-Up
Fire TV Stick 4K
The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, again, is very easy to set up if you are an Amazon Prime Member (this link takes you to our comprehensive article on prime memberships).
If you order the Fire TV Stick 4K via your Prime membership, then the stick ships with your Prime login information already set on the Fire TV Stick 4K. A simple, but useful convenience so you are instantly logged in without needing to punch in your username and passwords.
So, you simply plug it in your TV, turn it on, and you are ready to go.
The first time you boot up the Fire TV Stick 4K, you will be given a step-by-step tutorial on how you can use the stick, and how to search for content and apps. This tutorial is pretty intuitive and helpful.
As we have mentioned, Amazon is actively pushing for Amazon Prime Videos with the Fire TV Stick 4K (or any of their Fire TV products). Amazon Prime Video is the background for the home screen, so it’s always there, and you’ll always get ads for Prime Video shows and movies.
In our opinion, however, these ads are manageable and shouldn’t annoy you too much.
Roku Streaming Stick+
Setting up the Roku Streaming Stick+ is also pretty easy. Simply plug it in your TV and you will be taken to the Roku app’s main menu. By default, you should have several different streaming services installed as Roku ‘channels’ on the app including Netflix, Roku Channel itself, Hulu, and others.
Depending on your preference, you can arrange these channels in a grid view on the main menu, just like arranging apps on your smartphone’s home screen. So, if you only use one streaming service, for example, you can let it become the only one on your home app.
You still need to set up your Wi-Fi connection, configure your TV’s settings to accommodate the Roku’s interface, and download channels, if necessary. This can be time-consuming, but still fairly easy to do.
A great thing about the Roku Streaming Stick+ is that the included Roku remote can also control your TV’s power and volume, so you can control both your TV and the Roku Streaming Stick+ with just one remote.
The remote also features quick keys so you can access streaming services (like Netflix) without scrolling on the menu. Also, you can control the Roku Streaming Stick+ with the Roku App from your smartphone.
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K
While Roku offers more apps (and at the moment, more 4K content), a lot of them are super niche and most of us won’t use them. Fire TV offers all the streaming apps most people use.
Due to the competition between Google and Amazon, however, you don’t get Google Play Video, Vudu, and YouTube TV. However, you can access HD content from platforms like Sling TV, Hulu+Live TV, Netflix, Showtime, HBO, Apple TV, and More. Most of the 4K shows and movies are primarily offered by Amazon Prime Video and Netflix.
As an Amazon device, however, and as we have repeatedly mentioned, the search functionality of the Fire TV app (and the whole interface in general) is biased towards Amazon’s Prime Video streaming service. While you can still search for content on other platforms and services, you’d have to open another window.
In general, the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K offers a better, more modern interface, but it’s biased towards Prime Video and you’ll get a lot of ads for Prime shows and movies on the home screen.
Roku Streaming Stick+
Roku now offers more than 4,000 different streaming services, a lot of them offer 4K content selections.
Roku, in a lot of sense, is better than Amazon Fire TV when it comes to overall content selections and finding shows/movies.
At the moment, the Roku Streaming Stick+ only can support HDR10 and can’t support Dolby Vision (another popular 4K standard). It does, however, offer support on Dolby Atmos audio. The Roku app’s interface is a little clunky and old-school (as we will discuss below), but it does offer a really intuitive search feature.
Most other streaming devices restrict your search to promote a particular streaming service (like Amazon Prime Videos with the Fire TV Stick 4K).
Roku, however, takes a neutral stance and so shows the content from all the installed apps based on price. The free show or movie is shown first in the search list, so it’s a very intuitive and useful feature to have.
Also, you can search specifically for 4K content, and as mentioned, at the moment Roku offers more 4K content than the Fire TV Stick 4K. You can get 4K content from (besides Prime Video and Netflix) Apple TV, Fudu, YouTube and YouTube TV, Smithsonian Earth, CuriosityStream, and FandangoNOW among others.
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K
Fire TV’s home screen is ad-heavy and might confuse people that are not familiar with the interface. However, if you use primarily Amazon Prime Videos, all of the content is intuitively curated in the natively-optimized Prime Video App.
In short, if you primarily use Amazon Prime Video, the Fire TV Stick 4K is the best, interface-wise. Yet, if you are using other streaming services, the interface might be too cluttered.
Amazon’s Fire TV interface is generally better at suggesting what to watch without you needing to jump between different streaming services. You just need to keep scrolling past the app list and you’ll find a lot of suggested shows and movies to watch. As expected, most will come from Amazon Prime Video, but you will also get suggestions from other popular apps like HBO Now or Netflix.
While Amazon does not allow you to customize the recommendations that will appear, it still works very well most of the time.
Roku Streaming Stick+
Roku utilizes a pretty basic (but working) interface, it includes various apps (called channels) on the home screen and there are not too many ads on the home screen. It’s a little bit old-school, but it works really well.
Regarding content discovery and suggestions, however, Roku is much more conservative than Amazon. There’s a section on the home screen called “Featured Free” that will show your free movies and TV shows to watch. However, there are no suggestions for, for example, new shows showing on Netflix today.
Roku does offer curated suggestions for different genres, but it’s not available on the home screen and so you’d need to navigate several pages to access them. So, with Roku Streaming Stick+, you’ll probably spend more time in the familiar apps you use often instead of discovering new content you haven’t heard before.
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K
As an Amazon device, the Fire TV Stick 4K can integrate with Alexa, and so you can search for content or streaming apps via Alexa on the included remote. You can command Alexa or ask a question by holding the dedicated Alexa button on the app.
If you have an Amazon smart speaker in your home, you can say something like, “Alexa, open Altered Carbon on Netflix in the bedroom TV”.
Overall, the Alexa integration is a huge plus point of the Fire TV Stick 4K.
Roku Streaming Stick+
Roku (at the moment) can’t integrate with other smart assistants to do hands-free tasks. However, you can search with your voice via the remote’s microphone. When you do a voice search for content, it will show you the results from every compatible app.
Yet, while Roku’s voice search is pretty decent for finding TVs and shows, it can’t answer complex questions or tasks like Alexa. While Roku does offer Alexa integration, it’s relatively difficult to set up, and even then the integration is laggy. So it’s not ideal.
A unique feature from the Roku Streaming Stick+ remote is the Private Listening mode, so you can plug in your headphones to the remote and watch the show/movie without disrupting anyone else. While this feature is also there in the Fire TV remote, it’s not as easy to use.
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K
Voice-enabled (and Alexa-enabled), and you can control your TV’s power and volume. However, it’s not very ergonomics and doesn’t offer too many functionalities. As a remote, however, it does its core functions really well.
Although the Fire TV Stick 4K remote is pretty good and a significant upgrade from previous Amazon remotes, in our opinion it’s still not better than Roku’s. The mic, however, is better for voice search and obviously there’s the Alexa integration which is a good plus point.
Roku Streaming Stick+
Ergonomically designed with better button placements and quick keys. It can also control your TV and volume. Voice-enabled, but can’t integrate with other smart assistants.
The Roku remote, in our opinion, is the clear winner here except for the Alexa integration. The Roku remote is more intuitive, and you can easily use it without looking at it due to the large buttons and good feedback. The remote offers four preset buttons for different streaming services (commonly configured to Hulu, Netflix, Sling TV, and DirecTVNow). Unfortunately, you can’t map these buttons to other services.
Pros and Cons
First, let us discuss the Pros and Cons of the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K:
- Supports 4K with HDR 10 and Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos as standard audio quality
- Native integration with Amazon Alexa
- Optimized for Amazon Prime Video, so it should be your choice if you often and primarily watch from Prime Video
- Great menu navigation and reliable WiFi Streaming
- Intuitive and great interface overall
- No Google Play apps and can’t use a lot of apps from Google (including YouTubeTV)
- Doesn’t include Ethernet adapter
- Biased towards Amazon Prime Video
And here they are for the Roku Streaming Stick+:
- Great remote and now with voice search
- Neutral stance towards all streaming services
- Private Listening mode on the remote
- Great search functions
- The app is a bit old-school and clunky
- No support for Dolby Vision and HDR 10+
- Suggestions/recommendations are not very intuitive
Both the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K and the Roku Streaming Stick+ are great streaming sticks/dongles if you want to stream video content of up to 4K/60FPS quality. Both are similarly priced and they do share a lot of similarities in features and functions.
There are, however, three main factors to consider when deciding between the two:
- Whether you often use Amazon Prime Video as your streaming service. If the answer is yes, then the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K is the better pick. If you often use other streaming services, you might want to consider Roku Streaming Stick+ instead.
- Whether you have Alexa-enabled smart speaker of if you want Alexa functionalities in general. Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K offers native integration with Alexa.
- Whether you prefer to find new shows/movies through suggestions. Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K offers better suggestions, but if you prefer to stick with the apps and shows you are familiar with, the Roku Streaming Stick+ offers a better old-school approach.
So, to summarize, they both are really great choices if you want 4K streaming. Choosing between the two will come down between the three factors we just discussed, and of course, personal preferences.