Last Updated on January 13, 2022
Two of the most popular streaming devices stacked up head to head in a brutally honest review. These streaming all-stars have run a tight race for several years— and each brings their own set of strengths to the table.
Roku has been around far longer than the Firestick, but does older necessarily mean better? Feisty fans of both devices will defend their champion to the death, but you may be surprised by what this article reveals.
It’s time to finally get to the bottom of which one reigns supreme. Will it be Roku or Amazon? Read on to find out.
Roku vs. Amazon Firestick at a Glance
Both of these streaming sticks are incredibly similar, but small differences in functionality and design ultimately reveal a clear winner.
- More apps available than Amazon Firestick
- More intuitive interface
- Ads are less annoying
- Voice assistant controls are more limited than Amazon Firestick
- Physical design of the stick doesn’t fit easily into some HDMI ports
- No remote voice controls
Amazon Firestick Advantages:
- Can use voice controls and Alexa
- Excellent smart home integration
- More content exclusives than Roku
Amazon Firestick Disadvantages:
- Advertisements are more dominant on the display and more annoying
- Some users experience feedback lag after extended use
- Interface is less intuitive than Roku’s
Winner: Roku. Although the Firestick has a lot of bells and whistles and great features, Roku has more streaming options and the simpler interface ultimately puts it above the competition.
What’s the Difference Between Them?
These two streaming sticks are similar in essence, but quite different when you get down to it. Roku, the first generation of which was first released in 2008, has been on the market for a lot longer than the Amazon Firestick, which debuted in 2014.
While it may not seem like that would make much of a difference, in this case, it seems that it has. Some might argue that newer technology would be able to improve upon an existing technology by adding different features that the original version lacked.
While this is true, it’s also important to remember that Roku had the benefit of direct user feedback for six years before the Firestick came onto the scene. The company was able to refine their product exactly to the specifications required by their users, as well as glean valuable insight about which features worked and why.
This has allowed them to develop a highly functional— yet still quite simple— product that continually delivers a superb experience to all users.
Both streaming sticks offer a lot of great app options, including all of the super-popular streaming platforms like Netflix, HBO max, and Hulu. Roku, however, has significantly more niche app options available for download.
Both of the sticks can be purchased in a variety of options and models, with some more high-tech than others. Both have a 4KHD option, and both also have a very basic option that is highly affordable.
You can also download awesome and highly functional remote control apps for both streaming sticks, and these allow users to essentially replace their remote controls with the apps. These have the added bonus of providing users with a keyboard to use during searches and microphone and voice control access.
Microphones and voice control are both standard features for all Amazon Firestick remotes regardless of model, but Roku only offers these features on higher-end models.
Therefore the free app allows users to purchase the lower-end Roku model while essentially receiving some of the top-tier features for free with the mobile app.
Roku vs. Firestick Features Compared
The visual interface for each of these streaming sticks is distinct, and the one you like best may come down to your personal preference. Roku’s is more streamlined and intuitive to navigate, while Amazon’s is a bit more busy and flashy. Roku’s also offers a lot more personalization options than Amazon’s, which users are unable to modify.
– Roku’s Interface:
Roku’s interface is incredibly simple and straightforward. All of your apps and channels are laid out in a grid on the right-hand side of the screen. The grid features rows of three, and each app icon is large and easy to identify.
The app icons are all large enough that the interface never feels too crowded or overwhelming. To find apps that aren’t visible on the screen, you scroll down, rather than to the right.
On the left-hand side of the screen, you can find a vertical list of menu options. These include Home, Featured Free, My Feed, Search, Settings, and a few other items that vary depending on your model.
One of the best things about the Roku interface is that it gives users the ability to organize their apps to their liking. Whether you want to arrange them according to color, alphabet, or frequency of use, the choice is yours.
Additionally, users can change the background of their Roku interface. There are many different image and theme options— some of them interactive— which enable you to choose a background that you like (or maybe just one that fits your home decor).
The app store is also prominently featured on the Roku Interface, which makes it easy to find and download new apps that you love without having to search too hard.
Additionally, the My Feed section on the menu shows users their favorite shows and allows them to keep up to date with new episodes and releases relevant to their interests.
– Amazon Firestick’s Interface:
Amazon Firestick’s interface is laid out quite differently to the Roku’s. This interface is more advertisement-heavy and is visually more complex. At times this can feel a bit overwhelming and has been known to frustrate some users who want to find something quickly.
This interface has the menu displayed horizontally across the very top of the screen. It features items like Search, Home, Live, Your Videos, Free, Movies, TV Shows, Apps, and Settings. Directly below this menu is a massive — half of the screen at least— advertisement for a show, movie, or other product.
There are generally several of these ads present at once, and they are cycled through after a given number of seconds. Some people really enjoy this feature because it enables them to find new shows or movies to watch, but many users find it frustrating and gimmicky.
Below this giant advertisement are the apps downloaded to your Firestick. Unlike Roku, users are not able to organize their apps according to their preference. Instead, the apps are displayed in the order that they were downloaded.
There are several rows of apps, but the rows are scrolled through horizontally rather than vertically like Roku. The top row is, typically, the most recent apps opened by the user. Below that is a row of apps that are owned/downloaded by the user. You can also find a row of suggested or popular apps for download.
All that being said, Amazon did apparently take note of the common feedback regarding its interface, and has recently released an interface update that is available on all Firestick models except the first generation.
This interface update is less ad-heavy and also has a whole section devoted to your favorite shows and new viewing suggestions, similar to the My Feed feature on Roku’s interface. While users have responded positively to this update, the new interface is still more complex and flashy than Roku’s.
Verdict: Roku. Both of these interfaces are more than sufficient for a positive and efficient viewing experience, but the simplicity and customizability of Roku’s interface are, in our opinion, far superior to Amazon’s.
Remote Control and Voice Control Features
Each streaming stick comes in different models, and each of the models has a different remote control with varying buttons and functionality options.
– Roku’s Remote Control
The most basic model of the Roku remote has the following buttons: Back, Home, Instant Replay (rewind 10 sec), Options, play control buttons (play/pause, fast forward, rewind), and four built-in channel buttons for Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, and Sling (older versions may have different featured channels).
As you move away from the basic version of the Roku stick, the remotes get correspondingly more advanced. All of the remotes after the base model feature controls for the television, including volume, mute, and power buttons.
You can also plug in headphones to many of the Roku remotes, allowing you to listen privately while watching on the family TV. More advanced models allow you to program two personal shortcut buttons on your remote, essentially creating your own channel button like the pre-installed Netflix and Hulu buttons.
– Roku Remote Control App
Roku also offers users a free and very well-designed remote control app— available on iOS and Android— that can pair with and control any Roku device. The app features a list of your Roku devices, allowing you to control several Roku devices at once.
The remote itself has all of the same buttons as the physical remote that comes with your Roku stick, including power and volume controls.
You can also search for movies or shows using your phone’s keyboard, which can greatly expedite the search process that would otherwise be done letter by letter with the remote. The Home page on the app also has a lot of recommendations for shows, movies, and other content that are easy to access.
The remote control app also has a microphone feature, which allows you to use voice controls regardless of whether your Roku remote has voice control functions. The app also offers users the option for private listening by connecting their headphones to their phone with a wire or Bluetooth.
This feature is present on more advanced Roku models, but the app allows anyone to enjoy this feature regardless of the model they own.
The app is great for times when you lose your remote (which is quite small) or need to pause a show from another room.
– Amazon Firestick’s Remote Control
The basic model of Amazon’s Firestick is similar to Roku’s basic model in that it only features a pared-down assortment of buttons. Once you upgrade models, however, you also get TV controls on your remote, allowing you to adjust the volume and turn your television on and off with your Firestick remote alone.
None of the Firestick models have remotes with shortcut buttons, however, but that doesn’t make too much of a difference unless you’re really keen to save a few extra seconds when switching between apps.
– Amazon Firestick Remote Control App
Amazon Firestick also has a remote control app that you can download for free to your phone. Android and iOS users can download and enjoy this app. Similar to the Roku app, users can control the Firestick using their phones. Unlike the Roku app, however, they can’t control volume or TV power with the app.
The app also has a microphone and voice features, as well as private listening by connecting headphones to the phone being used. Additionally, this app also has suggested content and other features that make it easy to use.
That being said, a recent update for the app has caused a lot of problems for users, and as of the writing of this article, they had not been resolved.
– Roku’s Voice Control Features
Roku’s voice assistant is very basic. It can only be used to control a limited number of features and settings. You can, however, use it to search for shows and apps by name, as well as perform a few other functions.
The most basic model of the Roku remote does not come equipped with a microphone or voice control capabilities, however, but the more advanced models do.
Additionally, you can also use your Roku with both Alexa and Google Assistant, which you cannot do for Amazon’s Firestick.
– Amazon Firestick’s Voice Control Features
All models of Amazon’s Firestick remotes come with a microphone and voice control capabilities. They are also all connected with Amazon’s smart virtual assistant, Alexa, and you can perform a whole host of functions with her help.
Alexa is well designed and is capable of offering viewing suggestions and movie ideas if you’re stumped on what to watch. You can also ask Alexa to look up facts for you, find you a killer banana bread recipe (or any other recipe), or even tell you a joke. Alexa also can search for apps or shows for you.
Verdict: Tie. This one was tough! Roku’s remotes have more buttons and features than Amazon’s, and they are compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant. Amazon’s remotes are sleeker in appearance and all come equipped with a microphone and Alexa, which makes voice controls simpler than on Roku’s.
Streaming Channels and Apps
When selecting a streaming stick, what could be more important than the number of apps available to download? Roku has significantly more options available for its users, although both Amazon and Roku offer all the basic and popular streaming platforms.
– Roku’s Streaming Channels and Apps
As stated a few times in this article, Roku has a ton of niche streaming apps available that simply can’t be found on Amazon’s platform.
It’s difficult to compare the channels tit for tat for each service. But at the end of the day, you can’t argue with the numbers available on Roku. Roku features channels and apps that are very niche indeed, such as a horror channel, educational programming for kids, apps with all shows and movies completely dubbed in Spanish, and much more.
– Amazon Firestick’s Channels and Apps
Amazon does offer a great variety of channels and apps, but the number of apps available is significantly less than for Roku. If you typically only watch shows on platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO max, and the like, you’ll be totally fine with Firestick.
Both streaming sticks also have games available for download as well.
Verdict: Roku. The sheer number of apps and channels available for download help earn Roku the winning slot here. Both of them allow you to download and use popular apps, but Roku has much more variety.
While both streaming sticks have a lot of cool features and both are great choices, overall, Roku scored a lot better than Amazon Firestick. When comparing user interface, remote control and voice features, and channel and app selection, Roku scored better across the board.
Roku generally offers its users a streamlined and well-designed interface and user experience, while Amazon Firestick’s is a lot more flashy and features more— arguably unnecessary— bells and whistles.
In general, Amazon Firestick receives a lot more user complaints than Roku’s, and the developers are constantly updating and fixing small issues that are already functioning seamlessly for Roku users.