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Roku vs. Amazon devices: What to know

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Oct 1, 2020 — 8 min read

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Roku and Amazon are two of the biggest providers of streaming devices

Both Roku and Amazon provide a wide range of streaming boxes, hubs and sticks that offer streamers a variety of options on features, price, sound and video quality. For more information on the devices, read our Roku review. Keep reading for more information about Roku vs. Amazon. 

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Roku vs. Amazon devices at a glance


Amazon vs. Roku devices

  • Roku offers a broader selection of devices than Amazon, with seven Roku devices to Amazon’s four
  • Amazon devices come armed with more storage than Roku devices, offering up to 16GB compared to Roku’s maximum of 2GB
  • All Roku devices offer Dolby Atmos audio, while Amazon’s most affordable offering only has Dolby Audio
  • Roku offers a more basic interface than Amazon, which makes it ideal for new streamers

Roku devices 


Roku Express ($29.99)

Comparable to: Amazon Fire TV Stick

Roku’s entry-level streaming player is a set-top box that connects to a TV via an HDMI cable and is powered by a USB cable. The device supports streaming in up to 1080p high definition (HD). It is controlled by a simple remote control.

Roku Express+ ($39.99)

Comparable to: Amazon Fire TV Stick

In addition to the same capabilities as the Express, the Roku Express+ works with voice-enabled devices like Alexa and Google Assistant. It also provides composite video that supports legacy standard-definition (SD) video.

Roku Premiere ($39.99)

Comparable to: Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

The Roku Premiere is also a set-top box but offers a more powerful performance than the Express devices. This includes high-dynamic-range imaging (HDR) and 4K resolution. The Premiere comes with an infrared remote control that doesn’t support voice capabilities.

Roku Premiere+ ($49.99)

Comparable to: Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

The Roku Premiere+ adds voice capability to the same features as the Premiere, including HDR and 4K streaming. It also features a voice-powered remote control.

Roku Streaming Stick ($49.99)

Comparable to: Amazon Fire TV Stick

The Roku Streaming Stick plugs directly into the user’s TV and can be powered using a USB cable. The device supports up to 1080p HD video and voice control capabilities. It also features 802.11ac dual-band MIMO wireless connectivity that offers four times the range of the Express and Premiere devices. 

Roku Streaming Stick+ ($59.99)

Comparable to: Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

The Roku Streaming Stick+ works in the same way as the Streaming Stick but offers enhanced video quality of 4K and HDR10. The device also provides advanced wireless connectivity with an extended range and a more reliable signal.

Roku Ultra ($99.99)

Comparable to: Amazon Fire TV Cube 

Roku Ultra connects to the TV through an HDMI cable. It offers 4K video streaming and more powerful video processing. It can also be connected via an Ethernet cable, which guarantees the reliability required for 4K streaming. The Roku Ultra also features a more advanced remote control that has A and B buttons for people to play games.

Roku TV

Comparable to: Amazon Fire TV

Roku doesn’t build or sell its own TVs but provides its operating system (OS) to manufacturers, such as HiSense, Philips, Sharp and TCL, to power their smart TVs. Roku TVs use the same platform and provide access to the same channels as its streaming players. However, rather than plugging a device into the TV, the streaming capability is built into the TV itself. Most Roku TV devices now support 4K, and some enable Dolby Vision HDR.

Amazon devices 


Amazon Fire TV Stick ($39.99)

Comparable to: Roku Streaming Stick

Amazon’s budget friendly streaming device plugs directly into a TV’s HDMI port. The device offers streaming in up to 1080p HD. It can be used to control the power and volume on the user’s TV and offers voice capability through the built-in microphone on its remote. The Amazon Fire TV Stick is also compatible with Alexa, which enables it to be used as part of a Smart Home setup.

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K ($49.99)

Comparable to: Roku Streaming Stick+

The 4K version of the Amazon Fire TV Stick enables users to watch their favorite content in the highest video quality. It enables viewers who have a 4K ready TV to watch compatible programming in 4K Ultra HD, Dolby Vision, HDR and HDR10+. The device comes with Alexa on Fire TV, which provides comprehensive voice control and enables users to take control of their TV and other connected devices.

Amazon Fire TV Cube ($119.99)

Comparable to: Roku Ultra

Amazon’s high-end streaming device is a media hub that plugs into the HDMI port of a TV. The Amazon Fire TV Cube enables users to enjoy their favorite movies and TV shows in 4K Ultra HD, Dolby Vision, HDR and HDR10+. It also features powerful hands-free Alexa capability and can take control of other connected devices using infra-red emitters.

Amazon Fire TV 

Comparable to: Roku TV

Like Roku, Amazon provides its OS to manufacturers, such as Insignia and Toshiba, to power their TV sets. Amazon-powered smart TVs enable viewers to watch content in up to 4K HDR. They also feature the same Alexa voice capability as Amazon Fire TV streaming devices and provide USB and HDMI ports for users to connect external devices.

Roku Streaming Stick vs. Amazon Fire TV Stick

The Roku Streaming Stick and Amazon Fire TV Stick are similar products offering comparable features, and both plug directly into a TV set. The Roku and Amazon sticks both enable users to watch content in up to 1080p HD video, while upgrading to the Streaming Stick+ and Fire TV Stick 4K unlocks the highest video resolution.

Both also feature Wi-Fi connectivity and remote controls that enable users to search for channels, movies and TV shows using their voice. However, the Amazon stick comes in $10 cheaper than Roku’s.

Best device lineup?

Winner: Roku

Roku provides a wider product range than Amazon, giving streamers a choice of eight different Roku devices. This includes several set-top boxes, two streaming sticks, a media hub and Roku-powered smart TV sets. Amazon, on the other hand, offers four styles of streaming devices for users to choose from, with its two streaming sticks, a media hub and Amazon-powered smart TVs. 

Roku vs. Amazon affordability

Winner: Roku

Roku’s devices are available from as little as $29.99, compared to Amazon’s cheapest product starting at $39.99. Roku’s high-end device, the Roku Ultra, costs $99.99, which is cheaper than Amazon’s high-end Amazon Fire TV Cube, which is $119.99. 

Roku vs Amazon Fire user experience

Winner: Amazon

Roku and Amazon both enable users to access thousands of channels, games and streaming services through their various devices, from Disney+, Hulu and Netflix to fuboTV, Hulu + Live TV, Sling TV and STARZ. However, Amazon takes the edge on user experience as it provides simple access to the company’s wealth of content, music and video streaming services, as well as its Alexa capabilities. 

Pros and cons of using Amazon devices

Pros

  • Alexa compatibility
  • Compatible with 4K and HD video and offers quality audio
  • Quick access to Amazon Prime Video and Amazon Music Unlimited content
  • Streaming sticks are cheaper than Roku products

Cons

  • Content choice is strongly favored towards Amazon’s own programming
  • Entry device offers lower audio quality
  • Offers fewer devices than Roku
  • User interface can be clunky for streaming newcomers 

Pros and cons of using Roku devices

Pros

  • Affordable access to thousands of streaming services
  • Compatible with 4K programming and strong audio options
  • Simple user interface
  • Wide range of device choice

Cons

  • Lack of storage space compared to Amazon
  • Lacks content recommendation features
  • No Roku original programming
  • Only Roku Ultra features a headphone jack

Who are Roku devices for?

Roku devices are ideal for streamers who love to watch their favorite movies and TV shows from the comfort of their own home. The company provides smart TV technology and streaming devices that plug straight into a TV set, which enables viewers to stream music and video content. Roku devices are simple to use and provide an easy to navigate interface that make them ideal for people who are new to online streaming.

However, you should know that Roku devices don’t enable people to watch their favorite content on-the-go as they only enable users to stream to a TV. And the simple nature of Roku’s user interface means it could put off experienced streaming device users.

Who are Amazon devices for?

Amazon devices are particularly well-suited to people who are invested in Amazon’s own content and use its various streaming services, such as Amazon Prime Video or Amazon Music Unlimited. They are also ideal for people who have other Amazon devices in their home. 

However, you should know that Amazon devices aren’t for people who don’t like Amazon’s own programming or don’t want to have its content recommended to them. They also aren’t for people who want an entry into the streaming marketplace with the cheapest possible device.

FAQs

What streaming stick should you buy?

Amazon and Roku fire stick alternatives enable users to watch all their favorite movies and TV shows in up to 4K video quality. Users on a budget should buy the Amazon Fire TV Stick, which costs $39.99 and is $10 cheaper than the Roku Streaming Stick. 

Which Roku device is better?

The best Roku device is its high-end Roku Ultra. The device offers high-performance streaming in addition to being a media hub that enables users to take control of their entire home-entertainment system. However, it is the most expensive Roku streaming device at $99.99.

Roku vs. Fire Stick? Which is better?

Roku stick and Amazon Fire Stick both offer high-quality devices for people to stream movies, music and TV shows. Roku devices are typically more affordable and offer a simple interface — while Amazon’s are more intuitive and are geared towards people who enjoy the company’s own programming and streaming services.

Roku vs. Chromecast? Which is better?

Roku provides devices that users control with a remote. They can use Roku devices to download apps from their favorite streaming services. Chromecast devices also plug into a TV but only enable users to cast content from their mobile phone. They essentially act as a mirror of a user’s phone onto their TV. Roku devices are better for users who want a standalone streaming device, and Chromecast is better for mobile users who want to cast to their TV.

Fire TV vs. Roku TV? Which is better?

Both Fire TV and Roku TV provide technology to TV manufacturers to enable them to create affordable smart TVs. Amazon’s Fire TV technology is used by two providers, while Roku TV works with up to nine manufacturers.

The bottom line

Roku and Amazon are two of the leading providers of streaming devices, providing people with a solid range of affordable but powerful technology. Roku offers a choice of more devices that tend to be more affordable and geared towards people who are new to streaming. While Amazon’s Fire TV range is geared towards fans of the company’s own content and streaming apps, as well as people who already use Amazon and Alexa devices.

By Rob Latham

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