We say Apple TV and here's why
The battle of the streaming services rages on, and no one can quite decide whether the Apple TV 4K or the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K is the better pick. Both can turn a regular TV into a smart TV, and both give some measure of control over the smart home. That said, the best streaming device relies on more than a few features.
Both the Apple TV 4K and Amazon Fire Stick can stream some of your favorite content, but the right choice for you depends on the ecosystem you’re most involved in and your own personal preferences.
Price And Affordability
The Apple TV 4K starts at $179 for the 32GB model, or $199 for the 64GB model. If you want the Apple TV HD 32 GB option, you’re looking at $150. A more affordable option is to look for a previous-generation Apple TV for sale from a second-hand retailer.
The Amazon Fire Stick is $50 for the 4K version, or $40 for the HD version.
Right off the bat, the Amazon Fire Stick is the far more affordable option, but it also lacks features and capabilities that the Apple TV 4K does not. If you’re looking for a more on-par equivalent, the Amazon Fire TV Cube is a more powerful streaming device with a lot more options, but it costs $120 – still more affordable than the Apple TV 4K.
Winner Price: Amazon Fire Stick
The true point of comparison between these two devices lies in the features. Though the Apple TV is the more expensive option, there’s a reason for that beyond bearing the Apple logo.
The Apple TV supports HDR 10 and Dolby Vision. On the audio front, it supports Dolby 5.1, 7.1, Dolby Atmos, and Spatial Audio. The Apple TV 4K is a box that sits beside your display; though small in shape, you will need a place to set it down. It doesn’t stick into an HDMI port like other streaming devices.
The Apple TV 4K has a touch-enabled Siri Remote that gives you precise control over the on-screen cursor. You can also use voice control to request exclusive content found only on the Apple TV, like Apple Fitness+ or Apple Arcade.
If you’re heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem, the Apple TV is a great pick. You can use your iPhone as a remote for the Apple TV. There is an app for Android phones, but it’s from a third-party company and not well-reviewed – the only official support comes from Apple. One major benefit the Apple TV offers is an Ethernet port for more consistent quality.
Amazon Fire Stick
The Amazon Fire Stick 4K supports HDR10, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision. It also supports Dolby Atmos, Dolby 7.1 surround, HDMI audio pass-through, and 2-channel stereo. The Fire Stick 4K fits into an HDMI slot on your TV, but comes with an HDMI cable extender that can be used to improve signal. It can also receive power through the TV, or be optionally plugged into an outlet for better performance.
The Alexa-enabled voice remote allows you to search for content with only your voice, and also contains four shortcut buttons: Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+. While the Fire Stick 4K is designed with Prime Video in mind, it excels at streaming other types of content.
If you have other Alexa devices in your home, the Fire Stick is a great addition. You can control it via the Alexa app on your phone, or you can control it through any Echo device. The slim profile of the Fire Stick makes it perfect for people that don’t have a lot of space near their TV – like if it’s mounted high up on a wall.
Winner Features: Apple TV
Both Amazon Fire Stick and Apple TV offer the majority of streaming services you could ask for. Both platforms can stream Spotify, Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming apps.
Fire Stick didn’t support HBO Max for a long time, but it does now. The biggest difference between the two is that Apple TV supports both AirPlay and streaming from iTunes, something that the Fire Stick does not.
According to the app research firm 42matters, there are a total of 17,122 apps on the Apple TV App Store, versus only 14,798 apps on the Fire TV.
Outside of video streaming, there are a lot of music streaming services on both platforms like Apple Music.
Winner Streaming: Apple TV
Sure, both of these devices are aimed more at home theater setups and streaming TV shows than gaming, but there is a definite portion of the population that streams games to their devices.
Apple TV has access to Apple Arcade, a curated list of some of the best games available on iOS. These games go far beyond the typical mobile games and include genuine, multi-hour RPGs and other experiences.
You can stream Amazon Luna through Fire TV. The streaming service is similar to Google Stadia, with a rotating list of games available to Amazon Prime subscribers each month. The performance might not be perfect depending on your Wi-Fi, but Luna is full of console games you can play without the need for a PC or console.
Winner Gaming: Tie
Smart Home Performance
Both platform’s TV remotes offer something that neither Chromecast, the Roku streaming stick, or any of their other competitors offer: control over smart devices.
You can use HomePods to control the Apple TV and other Apple devices. HomeKit has a limited number of compatible devices versus Alexa, but the benefit of the Apple ecosystem is that you have remote control through iPad and other devices since the Apple TV acts as a HomeKit hub.
Alexa is one of the most popular smart home platforms on the web, and any Fire TV devices give you full control of your smart home. You can use the remote to give voice commands to Alexa and turn your lights on or off, change the volume on the Fire TV, and more.
Winner: Fire TV
Overall Winner: Apple TV
In the end, the Apple TV is the best streamer for most people. Though it’s more expensive, the Apple TV is chock-full of features the Fire TV just can’t stand up to. For example, you can even connect headphones to your Apple TV through Bluetooth. You can’t do that with Fire TV.