Roku Streaming Stick vs. Amazon Fire Stick: Which Is Better?

An editor puts both to the test

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Image by Dasha Burobina

In the past, we approached TV watching with a “get what you get” mentality. We’d turn it on and scroll through channel after channel before eventually settling on a show or movie were weren’t even that excited about after what felt like hours of channel surfing. Nowadays, however, we expect a lot more from our TV-watching experience. Not only do we want access to cable and sports channels, but we also want to browse every streaming service under the sun. Naturally, newer televisions (like the Samsung frame TV) have these capabilities built into their designs. But if you have an older TV—or one that’s under $300—you’re probably doing most of your streaming from a phone or laptop. And if you fall into the latter camp, I have two words for you: streaming stick. ICYMI, these are devices you can plug into your TV to access every streaming platform under the sun. We’re talking Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Apple TV+ and more—all in one place.   

So, since we’re approaching the season of gifting, and you probably don’t have the budget to buy Mom a new flatscreen, I decided to test two of the most popular streaming devices on the market: the Roku streaming stick and Amazon fire stick

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How I Tested the Roku Streaming Stick vs the Amazon Fire Stick

First, it’s worth mentioning that these two streaming sticks are very similar in design. They both have a slim build, much like a memory stick, that plugs right into the back of your TV. With that in mind, I wanted to see which device was easier to operate, offered more versatility (streaming services and apps) and was most wallet-friendly.

  • Value: 19/20
  • Functionality: 20/20
  • Versatility: 20/20
  • Quality: 19/20
  • Aesthetics: 17/20
  • Total: 95/100

If you’re anything like me, you hate ugly black cords that stick out of your TV. So right of the bat, Roku’s setup guide earned brownie points for mentioning how you can plug the USB port (what powers the streaming stick) right into your TV. There’s no need to plug it into an outlet, though it comes with an adapter if you need to, and everything is hidden behind the screen. It took no more than five minutes to set everything up on my TV—plus the hour I spent logging into all of my streaming accounts (sigh, but not the device’s fault). 

I love how simple the interface is. All of my favorite apps are neatly organized on the home screen and it doesn’t bombard you with ads or movie trailers. Plus, if you’re looking for something specific, you can use the voice command on the remote or search it right from the home screen. When I said, Burnt (great movie, FWIW) into the remote, it immediately popped up with Bradley Cooper’s gorgeous face. What’s more, it shows every service the movie is streaming on, plus how much it costs to rent. 


Add to that the fact that there are literally hundreds of streaming options. While the home screen is already fit with the OG’s, including Netflix, Prime Video, Max, Hulu, you name it, it has plenty more in the app store. You simply search or speak what you’re looking for into the remote, like “ESPN,” and it immediately brings you to the log-in screen of the app. No muss, no fuss. 

To that end, I think the main selling point for this Roku stick is its simplicity. It’s straightforward and easy to use right out of the box—and it doesn’t bombard you with too many graphics when you power on your TV. That said, if you’re someone who likes to casually browse movie trailers or TV shows, you might find the design to be a bit primitive. I have to admit, when I first turned this thing on, I was surprised how no-frills it was. It almost felt counterintuitive to decide what I want to watch (instead of having a TV tell me what to watch). Nevertheless, I found its minimalism to be virtue instead of a vice. 

  • Value: 18/20
  • Functionality: 17/20
  • Versatility: 18/20
  • Quality: 19/20
  • Aesthetics: 19/20
  • Total: 91/100

Just like Roku’s, Amazon’s streaming stick was fairly simple to set up. While the process was admittedly more technical—I’d definitely have to help my Grandma if I gifted it—this Zillenial didn’t mind jumping through a few extra hoops. There’s a QR code you can scan with your phone, which brings you to the Fire TV app, which then allows you to set the whole thing up via your phone (you can control the remote from there, too). It also required me to sign in with my Amazon account, and one screen asked if I wanted subscribe to product news with the email on my account (no thank you). The one thing I liked about this was the fact that it had separate profiles built into the device. While mine was already set up with my associated Amazon account, my roommate could add hers, which will be great for rentals I don’t want to pay for. 

Unlike Roku’s home screen, this one is packed with graphics. The top half of has a sliding image of popular shows and new movie releases, while the bottom features even more titles to choose from. These seemed to be curated to users' tastes, since Fleabag and Café Society—my most recent Prime watches—were highlighted on my screen. The streaming apps are then sandwiched between the rows of titles with six to choose from on the initial page. While you can rearrange the apps you want to display at first glance, you’ll need to navigate to the “Your Apps & Channels” page to access everything in one place. 


After an hour of scrolling, I realized that the format is designed with indecisive viewers in mind. It sort of makes the ‘what to watch’ decision for you—and it even plays previews when you hover over popular titles, like The Bourne Supremacy or The Incredible Rise of Taylor Swift. Yet, while the remote is also voice compatible and easy to use, the results are far more Amazon-centric. When you search for something specific, it defaults to Prime Video as the main streaming platform. The problem with this? If a movie is available on Netflix for free, it’ll still prompt you to pay $3.99 to watch on Amazon. 

To that end, the main difference between this and the Roku is that Amazon is constantly prompting you to utilize their apps and services. Example: When the TV idled, there was a screensaver that asked me to connect to Amazon photos, where I could have ‘memories on display’ when I’m not watching anything. Again, this could be a good or bad thing, depending on how much of an Amazon fanatic you are. I found it to be too biased for my taste (but I guess that’s an occupational hazard for a journalist). Either way, there’s something to be said for this device’s emphasis on content. It’s a fabulous option for anyone who doesn’t want to think too much about what to watch.

Roku Streaming Stick vs. Amazon Fire Stick: Which One Is Better?

While I wouldn’t call the Roku stick better, per se, it was definitely more straightforward. I appreciate how streamlined and easy to navigate the home screen is—and most of all, that it didn’t rely too heavily on specific titles or streaming platforms. Amazon’s Fire Stick, on the other hand, is much more geared towards casual viewers (aka anyone who wants to scroll on their phone with something playing in the background). It’s designed with popular titles in mind and it doesn’t make you hop from app to app before settling on a movie or show. Plus, if you’re an Amazon Prime-everything type of person, the brand has integrated all of its site features into the streaming device. Either way, the sticks have a $5 price difference (Amazon’s is cheaper), so the deciding factor comes down to what kind of watcher you are.  

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Associate Editor

Sydney Meister is PureWow's Associate Editor, covering everything from dating trends and relationship advice (here's looking at you, 'soonicorns') to interior design, beauty...

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