On the floor, Roku and Amazon Hearth TV have lots in widespread. Each provide inexpensive streaming gamers that you just that you may plug into virtually any flat-panel TV, and each will allow you to entry a variety of in style streaming providers, from Netflix and Hulu to YouTube TV and Disney+.
Digging a bit deeper reveals some huge philosophical variations between the 2 streaming platforms: Roku’s software program emphasizes simplicity over flashy options, whereas its expansive lineup tries to hit each conceivable finances. Amazon takes the other strategy, pairing a small variety of simple-yet-effective choices with a sprawling software program interface.
There isn’t any clear winner between these two approaches. As an alternative, selecting between Roku and Hearth TV as your streaming platform of alternative shall be a matter of private desire. To make the choice a bit simpler, let’s stroll via how the 2 hottest streaming platforms examine.
Ease of use
In case you’re used to the concept of launching apps in your cellphone, you’ll be fairly snug utilizing a Roku system. Its predominant menu presents a grid of icons, letting you rapidly launch streaming apps resembling Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video. And if you’re getting arrange, it’s simple to seek out the most well-liked apps via the “Channel Retailer” part of the house display screen.
The Hearth TV menu is far more cluttered. As an alternative of a single app launcher, there are separate rows for favourite and up to date apps, together with a grasp app checklist you’ll be able to entry by holding down the house button. The house display screen can also be surrounded by further menus for films, TV exhibits, and apps, every with its personal layers of beneficial movies. There’s some benefit to this strategy, which I’ll describe within the subsequent part; however in comparison with Roku, it’s tougher to navigate.
Content material discovery
The flip facet is that Amazon’s Hearth TV interface is healthier at suggesting what to look at with out making you leap out and in of various apps. Hold scrolling previous the app checklist, and also you’ll discover row upon row of advised films and exhibits to look at. Most come from Amazon’s personal Prime Video service, however you may also get suggestions from different apps, resembling Netflix or HBO Now. Whereas this strategy can really feel inscrutable—principally as a result of Amazon doesn’t allow you to customise the suggestions that seem—it’s useful for these instances if you’re feeling indecisive.
Roku’s makes an attempt at content material discovery are far more conservative. There’s a “Featured Free” part on the house display screen that spotlights free films and TV exhibits to look at, however that doesn’t assist if you wish to know what’s new on Netflix or Hulu. And whereas Roku affords editorially-curated “zones” for various genres, you must search and drill although a number of menu layers to entry them. In consequence you’ll most likely spend extra time within the apps greatest as an alternative of discovering what else is on the market.
Benefit: Hearth TV
Apps and content material choice
Each Roku and Hearth TV assist each main streaming service and an extended checklist of area of interest ones, so this shouldn’t be a serious space of concern. (The Hearth TV’s largest omission was an official YouTube app and YouTube TV assist, however each of these arrived on the platform earlier this 12 months.)
Nonetheless, Roku will get a slight edge for providing The Roku Channel, a free app with a rising collection of ad-supported films and TV exhibits. Roku not too long ago added youngsters’s movies to the apps, and it’s been increasing its lineup of free dwell “channels,” resembling ABC Information, Filmrise, WeatherNation, and MGM Sci-Fi.
There’s no contest on this one. Whereas each platforms assist you to search by voice, Hearth TV helps you to launch movies and music immediately via its voice distant in more services than Roku does, including Netflix and Amazon Prime. It also supports tuning to live channels in some streaming services, and if you have an Echo speaker, you can launch movies and shows without even touching your remote. (Roku does support hands-free controls with Echo and Google Home speakers, but the syntax is clunky and the controls are limited.) Amazon’s Alexa assistant also allows you to control smart home devices, ask general questions, or view security camera feeds using the Fire TV remote, which isn’t an option on Roku players.
Advantage: Fire TV
Hardware: Streaming players
Amazon’s Fire TV device lineup is pretty simple. If you want the cheapest streaming device and can tolerate sluggish performance, get the $40 Fire TV Stick (though I’d advise against it). For much faster performance and 4K HDR video support, you can spend a little more on the $50 Fire TV Stick 4K. If you want the best performance and hands-free Alexa voice control built-in, get the $120 Fire TV Cube.
Roku, in the meantime, at the moment affords six streaming gamers. I’d recommend staying away from the $30 Roku Specific and $40 Roku Premiere, as they each use infrared remotes that may really feel unresponsive and don’t have TV quantity or energy controls built-in. The Walmart-exclusive Roku Express+ is a greater possibility for 1080p playback, whereas the $50 Roku Streaming Stick+ hits the candy spot for 4K HDR. Finest Purchase additionally sells a variant of the Streaming Stick+ with a headphone jack on its distant for $60, and in order for you USB and ethernet ports together with programmable distant buttons, the Roku Extremely will set you again $100.
Regardless of all these choices, Roku doesn’t provide a single mannequin with Dolby Imaginative and prescient, HDR10+, or Dolby Atmos decode (which is required to get Atmos assist in Netflix). Amazon’s Hearth TV Stick 4K and Hearth TV Dice assist all off these issues. Hearth TV units are additionally higher at remembering your house in current apps, whereas apps on Roku all the time restart after you exit them. So long as you keep away from the finances Hearth TV Stick, Amazon’s platform delivers a greater worth.
Benefit: Hearth TV
Hardware: Sensible TVs
In case you’d relatively purchase a TV with built-in streaming options as an alternative of a separate participant, Roku positive factors the benefit. You’ll discover Roku TVs with a variety of options, sizes, and costs from an extended checklist of distributors, together with TCL, Sharp, Hisense, RCA, and Walmart’s Onn model. And in contrast to with Roku’s standalone gamers, a few of these TVs do assist Dolby Imaginative and prescient HDR.
By comparability, TVs that run Amazon’s Hearth TV software program solely come from Finest Purchase’s Insignia model and Toshiba in america, with a narrower vary of display screen sizes and options. Need a 75-inch TV with 4K HDR and quantum dots? You may get one with Roku software program, however not with Amazon’s Hearth TV working system on board.
In case you’re the kind of one that likes to tinker with their tech, you’ll discover extra to understand within the Hearth TV platform. As a result of it’s primarily based on Android, you’ll be able to sideload apps that aren’t accessible in Amazon’s retailer, resembling Kodi, and you may hook up a Bluetooth controller for gaming. Roku is extra of a closed system, and whilst you can set up private channels that come from outdoors Roku’s personal retailer, the choices are far more restricted.
Hearth TV additionally affords extra choices for integrating with an over-the-air antenna: Amazon’s Hearth TV Recast , as an example, whereas a Channels DVR setup can play dwell or recorded channels at native broadcast high quality. Neither of these choices can be found on Roku gamers, although you’ll be able to nonetheless use Tablo, Emby, or Plex DVR as an alternative.
Verdict: Hearth TV
Over time, Roku has established a robust monitor document for supporting older , as streaming gamers and good TVs from 2014 onward proceed to obtain new apps and options. Amazon’s Hearth TV platform hasn’t been round for as lengthy, however it’s already left a slew of streaming units behind on older versions of Android. Whereas this hasn’t made a serious distinction by way of options, it doesn’t bode as nicely for long-term app assist.
In each circumstances, nonetheless, app makers may nonetheless decide to not assist older , no matter Roku’s or Amazon’s personal assist. YouTube TV, as an example, doesn’t work with the unique Hearth TV or Hearth TV Stick, nor does it assist sure older Roku models.
As a result of Roku is simpler to make use of, it tends to be my default advice for anybody who’s new to the streaming area, doesn’t have any current affinity for Amazon merchandise, and simply desires a stable streaming participant for reasonable. In case you don’t thoughts extra of a studying curve, nonetheless, you’ll be able to accomplish much more with a Hearth TV system, and the Hearth TV Stick 4K specifically stays the most effective worth within the streaming participant enterprise.
Simply don’t overthink it an excessive amount of, as you’ll most likely be pleased slicing the cable TV twine with both one.