Roku vs. Amazon Fire TV: which wins in 2020


roku stick amazon fire tv stick

Looking for a cheap, easy way to get streaming video from Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, YouTube, Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus, HBO and everything else on to your TV? You have two excellent choices: Roku and Amazon Fire TV. Roku has long been the most popular name in streaming devices, but recently Amazon's Fire TV system has been gaining ground. We've spent countess hours testing devices from both platforms and in general both work great. Most of the Roku and Fire TV devices we've reviewed have received an 8.0 (excellent) rating or higher.

So how to you choose? To start, realize they have more similarities than differences.

  • Both are super-affordable, starting at $30 for Roku and $40 for Fire TV.
  • Both have access to approximately umpteen zillion TV apps, including all of the major ones. Most apps look and behave basically the same on both.
  • The latest models of Roku and Fire TV are pretty much equally quick, responsive and reliable as long as you have a solid internet connection.
  • Both (except for the cheapest Rokus) offer remotes with TV volume and power buttons to control most TVs, so you can ditch the remote that came with your TV.
  • Both have multiple models, starting with basic streamers up to 4K-compatible versions with voice, device control and headphone jacks built into the remote.
So which one's better?


Best overall: Roku
My go-to recommendation is Roku over Fire TV. There are really just two major reasons.

Better menus. Roku's no-nonsense menu system places the apps themselves front-and-center and lets you arrange them however you please, just like on your phone. It gets me to the apps and shows I want quickly, without filling the screen with other junk.


Using a Fire TV device means wading through a bunch of TV shows and movies in addition to the apps themselves. That would be fine if they were the TV shows and movies I'm in the middle of watching, or might actually want to watch -- something Netflix's menus do well. But more often than not, I don't care about the TV shows and movies on Fire TV's screen. They just seem like stuff Amazon or its partners want me to watch.


Better search. Search results on Roku are straightforward and price-centric. You're shown how much a movie or TV show costs and can click through to watch or buy it -- and if it's free because you're a subscriber, you'll see that, too. Fire TV's results are much more confusing, with multiple options and false positives. And once you find what you want, you're shown just one primary service, and you have to click through to see "more ways to watch."

Cheapest: Roku Express (unless Fire TV is on sale)

The cheapest Roku player is the $30 Roku Express, a fine choice for a bare-bones streamer. It brings all of the advantages of Roku I mentioned above, and performs perfectly well, but lacks any of the extras discussed below.

The cheapest Fire TV is the $40 Fire TV Stick. It has more features than the Roku Express, including a voice remote and TV control, and often goes on sale for $30.