If you're looking for a device to stream content to your TV from services like Netflix, Amazon Video, or Hulu, then you should really take a look at Amazon's Fire TV or Fire TV Stick. These devices plug into an HDMI port on your TV and connect to your WiFi network to stream all of the content you can handle, and are comparable to other streaming devices like Apple TV and Roku.
If you're uncertain whether the Fire TV or Fire TV Stick is best for you, read on to learn about the different benefits of each.
The most obvious difference between the Fire TV Stick and the Fire TV is size. The Fire TV Stick is a small, unobtrusive device, around 3" long, whereas the Fire TV is a set-top box that measures 4.5" x 4.5" and less than an inch tall.
Since the Fire TV is bigger, it has more connections and better technology packed inside. The Fire TV is perfect for your main TV in the living room, whereas the Fire TV Stick may be enough for a second TV in the bedroom.
Before we dig into the specs in more detail, also consider what kind of space you have. The Fire TV Stick might work best if your TV is wall-mounted because it plugs directly into the HDMI port. However, both devices also need to be plugged into a wall outlet.
Get the Specs
If we look under the hood of the Fire TV Stick, we find a dual-core processor backed up by 1GB of RAM. The Fire TV boasts a quad-core processor with 2GB of RAM. In simple terms, the Fire TV is going to be faster and more responsive.
Both devices support dual-band WiFi, but the Fire TV goes up to the 802.11ac standard, whereas the Fire TV Stick only goes up to 802.11n. The Fire TV is capable of faster download and upload speeds, assuming you have a router that supports the 802.11ac standard and a really fast connection.
You'll find 8GB of storage on both devices, though it's worth noting that the storage in the Fire TV can be expanded thanks to the available ports.
The Importance of Ports
There's no room for extra ports on the Fire TV Stick; you just have the HDMI connector and the USB for the power connection. The Fire TV has a microSD card slot, an Ethernet port, and a USB 2.0 port. If your router is nearby, you can plug it directly into the Fire TV with an Ethernet cable for a fast, stable connection. The microSD and USB ports allow you to plug in cards and flash drives to expand your storage space for offline content. The Fire TV can accommodate microSD cards up to 200GB in size.
The Fire TV and Fire TV Stick support Bluetooth for the remote controls. That means you don't need a direct line of sight to use the remote. The cheapest Fire TV Stick comes with a basic remote, but you can pay an extra $10 to get the voice remote that ships with the Fire TV. The remote control is very easy to use, with six buttons and a navigation ring.
The voice remote adds a microphone button that allows you to search for content with your voice, so you can say the title, actor, director, or category and get a page of results showing you relevant content. It's much faster than typing with your remote, though it sadly doesn't search all content providers.
Note that there's also a free Fire TV Remote App for Android or iOS devices that allows you to use your phone or tablet as a remote control. The app also supports voice search.
How Much HD Do You Need?
The Fire TV Stick supports up to 1080p, which is Full HD. The Fire TV supports up to 4K Ultra HD, around four times the resolution of 1080p. That's also part of the reason that the Fire TV supports the faster WiFi standard, but you will also need a really fast and reliable internet connection to stream 4K content.
You won't be able to stream everything in 4K, but both Netflix and Amazon Video already offer a selection of TV shows and movies in 4K, and more 4K content is rolling out all the time. If you've taken the plunge and invested in a 4K TV, or you plan to soon, then you'll definitely want to opt for the Fire TV over the Stick.
The Gamer's Choice
If you consider yourself a gamer, then you may be tempted by the 1,200-plus titles available on the Fire TV. There's no doubt that a combination of the extra power, potential storage space, and faster WiFi makes the Fire TV a better choice for gaming. However, casual gamers can still engage their habit on the Fire TV Stick; it just can't handle the more demanding games.
For an extra $50, Amazon offers a game controller with voice search that works with both devices. You can also buy third-party controllers, but they may not work as well as the official one.
Let's Talk Price
The Fire TV costs $100 and comes with the voice search remote. The basic Fire TV Stick will set you back $40, and comes with the basic remote. You can splurge and get the voice remote for an extra $10 if you want it.
For gamers, there's also the Amazon Fire TV Gaming Edition at $140, which comes with the official game controller with voice support, two games, and a 32GB microSD card. However, you don't get the normal remote with it.
Which One Should I Buy?
If you just want something to stream movies and TV shows and you only have a 1080p TV, then the Fire Stick is perfectly adequate. Plus, it's $60 cheaper.
The Fire TV is the only option if you want 4K content, would like to play the latest games, or want to future-proof a little bit. The Fire TV also makes more sense if you have the option to plug into your router, or if you want to have a library of offline content.
Both devices work beautifully and they're competitively priced, so it all comes down to your needs.
Readers, do you own the Amazon Fire TV or Fire TV Stick? How did you decide which one to buy — or did you buy both? Let us know in the comments below!