Amazon, in its infinite wealth and power, managed to change the definition of “day” this year. Its annual Prime Day sales event will last a full 48 hours, and its Fire TV streaming devices have been heavily discounted.
So, should you choose a Fire TV Stick over a Google Chromecast, or even a Roku device?
Don’t worry, we’re here to help. While the three major streaming device brands all offer very similar experiences, there are some key differences to know before you take the plunge during Prime Day.
What do they normally cost?
It might not be the most prudent move to buy a streaming device based purely on price, since they all have meaningfully different features, but it’s worth knowing what they cost going into Prime Day.
A regular Fire TV Stick will run you $40 before any discounts. It’s reasonable to expect Amazon to cut that price in half (if not more) on Prime Day, especially because the basic model will arguably be obsolete in the next few years. More on that later.
Meanwhile, a Fire TV Stick 4K is only slightly more expensive at $50. Again, expect that to be reduced significantly on Prime Day.
Things are slightly more expensive on the Roku side. The Roku Streaming Stick, which is most comparable with the regular Fire TV Stick, is $50 by default. The Roku Streaming Stick+ is $60, making it $10 more expensive than its counterpart in the Fire TV Stick 4K.
Finally, we come to Google, where things are a little more silly. The lower-end Chromecast will run you $35, cheaper than either of the other lower-end streaming sticks. But the Chromecast Ultra is $70 by default, making it the most expensive high-end streaming stick in this comparison.
The Chromecast looks like a fun little circular pod, which is a bonus.
Image: Matt binder/mashable
What do I actually get for the price?
First things first: Every one of these streaming sticks will get you access to just about all of the streaming channels you probably use on a daily basis. By and large, major apps are supported across the board. Google and Amazon even ended their silly streaming spat, so YouTube is on Fire TV and Prime Video is on Chromecast now.
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Of course, you need subscriptions to actually watch most of those channels, but that’s your business.
As for the hardware, these are all pretty similar offerings. The Fire TV Stick and Roku Stick both ship with the sticks themselves as well as dedicated remote controls. The Chromecast is a little more interesting in that it doesn’t have a remote at all; you control it using a phone or other smart device that you sync up with it.
There are advantages and disadvantages to that, of course. Nobody likes having more remotes than they need, but tying your streaming needs to your phone can be annoying and inconvenient. It’s a matter of personal preference. At the very least, the lack of a remote could explain why the low-end Chromecast is cheaper than the others.
Is it worth shelling out for higher-end versions?
As we mentioned earlier, each of these streaming sticks has a more expensive counterpart that you might want to consider when making your decision. What exactly are the differences and are said differences worth the price hike?
The Chromecast Ultra, Fire TV Stick 4K and Roku Stick+ all have one major leg up over their cheaper alternatives: 4K and HDR support. If you have a TV that supports 4K and HDR displays, you should probably seriously think about getting one of these instead of the cheaper, 1080p-only models.
It’s probably worth it even if you don’t currently have a 4K TV, but plan on getting one in the near future. Of course, you need to make sure your internet connection speed is up to snuff, or else you can’t stream in 4K at all. You probably need at least 25Mbps down to safely stream in 4K.
In this respect, the Chromecast Ultra is a clear winner. It’s the only one of these devices that comes with an ethernet port just in case your wi-fi isn’t strong enough. The others require separate adapters.
Verdict: Pay attention to deals
Whether you’re specifically checking for deals on Prime Day or in general, these three devices are similar enough in what they offer that you should probably hop on the best deal you see. If Amazon’s Fire TV Stick 4K is super cheap, for example, you can safely get that without feeling like you’re missing out on significant content or features.
If you really value a device having a dedicated remote and its own user interface, go for a Roku or Fire Stick. If a Chromecast is cheap and you don’t mind using your phone, tablet, or PC, go for that.
At the end of the day, you’ll still be able to see your shows and movies just fine.