Heidi asked: “I want to get rid of cable TV and I’m not sure which one to go to… Fire Stick… Roku… So I was hoping to get some information from you about the different options available.”
Heidi, the best choice of platform will probably depend on the rest of your gadgets and services as much as it will depend on the capabilities of each device.
If you’re comparing just the devices, Roku is the one that’s probably going to have just about every media source you can think of. Roku has options ranging from $30 for an HD-only Roku Express to the $100 Roku Ultra with 4K HDR picture, a remote with a headphone jack for private listening, voice search, and search across channels.
Amazon has similar offerings from the HD Fire TV Stick for around $40, to the Fire TV with 4K for around $70. Fire TV devices are known to have a bias towards Amazon services, so you’ll probably be more satisfied with it if you’re a Prime member. That’s not to say that you won’t have access to non-Amazon sources, Netflix, HBO, Hulu, and all the usual streaming giants will be there, Amazon just seems to get their services front and center on searches.
Chris shares his personal experience:
If you have Google Home instead, you can look at Chromecast. The regular HD Chromecast will cost you $35, while the 4K Chromecast Ultra goes for $70. Both can be controlled with Google Home, but they’re phone-centric devices. With Amazon or Roku you get a remote that you can use if you don’t want to use an app, with Chromecast you need to have your phone handy to cast compatible media to the TV. That is not a huge problem for most people, but it may bother you if you, for example, want to give small children a way to watch cartoons without handing over your phone.
Apple TV also has 4K and HD versions, but you’d have to go to a more limited 3rd generation version to approach the 4K price of the other competitors. 4th generation Apple TVs will cost you closer to $140 and up.
Let’s make this as easy as possible for you, Heidi: Unless you’re an Apple user deep in their ecosystem, or an Amazon Prime subscriber, we’d recommend you get the Roku box that fits your budget. There are reasons it’s the top streaming platform in the US and growing — the interface is uncluttered and intuitive, kinda like an Apple product; it has the greatest number of program sources; if you want live TV, all major live streaming services are available; the hardware is very well built; and the remote control even has a headphone jack in case you want to listen to a program without disturbing those around you. Dollar for dollar, the Roku platform is probably your best bet.