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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Comparing Streaming Media Players

So, which of the four major streaming media players is right for you: Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, or Roku? They all work in a similar fashion but have their own unique pros and cons. It’s likely that any one of these four devices will do the job for you, but there are things that might sway you toward one or the other.

Comparing Features

Table 6.5 compares the important features for the major streaming media players.

Table 6.5 Comparing Streaming Media Players

 

Amazon Fire TV

Apple TV

Google Chromecast

Roku

Stick format

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Set-top box

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Voice-activated remote

Yes

Yes

No

Yes (some models)

Amazon Alexa voice control

Yes

No

No

No

Google Assistant voice control

No

No

Yes

Yes

1080p HD

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

4K Ultra HD and HDR

Yes (Fire TV Stick 4K, Fire TV Cube only)

Yes (4K model only)

Yes (Chromecast Ultra only)

Yes (Premiere, Premiere+, Streaming Stick+, Ultra only)

Dolby Atmos sound

Yes (Fire TV Stick 4K, Fire TV Cube only)

Yes

No

Yes (Streaming Stick+, Premiere, Premiere+, and Ultra only)

Wi-Fi connection

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Ethernet connection

Fire TV Cube only

Yes

Chromecast Ultra only

Roku Ultra only

Smartphone app

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

App store for new apps

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Amazon Prime Video and store

Yes

Yes

No*

Yes

Hulu

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

iTunes Store

No

Yes

No

No

Netflix

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

YouTube

No*

Yes

Yes

Yes

Website

www.amazon.com/firetv

www.apple.com/tv/

store.google.com/category/connected_home

www.roku.com

Price (USD)

$39.99”$119.99

$149”$199

$35-$69

$29.99”$99.99

Making a Choice

In many ways choosing a streaming media player comes down to what services/apps are available on each—which is where we get down to the peculiarities of each streaming system. Yes, Hulu and Netflix are available on all four devices, but they’re not the only streaming services you might want to watch.

Knowing that Amazon and Google are bitter competitors, for example, you quickly realize that you won’t find apps for Google services, such as YouTube, on Amazon Fire TV devices. Nor, for that matter, will you find Amazon services, such as Amazon Prime Video, on Google Chromecast devices. It’s just not gonna happen.

This is why many users choose Roku devices. Roku doesn’t have a horse in the content race, and thus makes both Amazon and Google (YouTube) services available on all of its devices. Roku players provide access to just about everything; Amazon and Google devices, not quite so much.

Then there’s Apple. The Apple TV player is a fine device, and it provides access to content from both Amazon and Google. However, it’s much higher priced than competing devices; you can buy three or four Fire TV or Roku players for the price of one Apple TV box. If you’re heavily invested in the Apple infrastructure (that is, you have an iPhone and an iPad and maybe even a Mac computer), then Apple TV fits right in without a lot of manual configuration necessary, and you can share media among all of those devices. But if you’re not a heavy Apple user, you get similar functionality from a Fire TV or Roku player at a considerably lower cost.

Finally, consider the quality of the content you want to stream. If you have a brand-spanking-new 4K Ultra HD TV with HDR, you want a player that can stream 4K Ultra HD HDR content. That automatically shifts you into higher-end models from Amazon, Apple, and Roku; lower-cost models are regular old HD only. (The situation is similar if you want Dolby Atmos sound, which is supported only by higher-end Amazon, Apple, and Roku devices.)

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