Updated May 2020
UPDATED With The New Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K And The Amazon Fire Cube!
As Amazon keeps releasing new products within the Amazon Fire TV collection, consumers can be forgiven for wondering what exactly the differences are between the different devices. Why is it worth paying more for one than the other?
We’ll go through the specs of each, the pros and cons, and the main things that you should consider while trying to make a decision between the two.
The Amazon Fire TV Cube is the priciest of the bunch at $120, with the Fire Stick TV 4K costing less than half as much at $50, and the traditional Amazon Fire Stick just $40.
In terms of content, all of the Amazon Fire devices offer the same content and apps. You can access all of your favorite streaming apps including YouTube, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and HBO Now, all of which require separate, usually paid, subscriptions.
Fire TV has recently included a “free” tab in its menu which gathers all the things that are available that you don’t need to pay to watch. But as you can imagine, content is relatively limited when compared to other services.
The most noticeable difference between the Cube and the Stick is the design. The stick pretty much looks like an old fashioned USB stick and measures 4 inches by 12 inches. The cube, shockingly, looks like a cube, 3.4 inches square. All need to be plugged into the HDMI port of your TV, and a power outlet – even the stick.
The Cube comes ethernet enabled, while you need to purchase an ethernet adaptor separately for the stick. This is vitally important, as while the Fire TV Stick 4K supports 4K TV, Wi-Fi usually isn’t strong enough to stream 4K, so you will need the extra adaptor, which costs $15.
The cheaper Fire Stick maxes out at 1080p, and so won’t support 4K resolutions or HDR protocols under any circumstances.
All Amazon Fire devices come with the new Alexa remote, which syncs automatically with your television, so there is no need to be juggling multiple remote controls. You can buy this remote control separately for $30, so it’s inclusion with the Fire Stick represents good value.
One of the main selling points for Amazon Fire over, for example, Google or Apple alternatives, is the way that it integrates with Alexa, Amazon’s AI. All of the Amazon Fire products do this, allowing you to manage your shopping list, check the weather, manage your playlists, and so forth, all using voice control.
But the Cube does this significantly better than the Stick, since as well as being a streaming device, it is also a proper Alexa speaker. You can speak to it and give it commands just like you would with an Alexa speaker, without the need to use the remote control.
The Cube can also be used to control any other smart gadgetry that you have in your home, such as your lights and your thermostat.
So basically, the Cube offers TV streaming and the echo speaker in one, which might be very appealing if you don’t already have a speaker.
Where we really start to see a difference between the Cube and the Stick is with performance.
As a full-fledged Alexa, the Cube executes voice commands four times faster than the Stick.
The superior core also means that you can expect streaming to be 50 percent faster with the Fire Cube than the Stick. The Stick is a good 20 seconds slower than the Cube when booting up Netflix, YouTube, or even Amazon Prime.
So Should I Get The Stick Or The Cube?
Whether you should be investing in the Cube or the Stick depends on what you are looking for. These are the main questions you should be asking yourself.
Do You Want An Alexa Speaker?
Are you just interested in the streaming service, or would you also quite fancy an Alexa speaker? The Cube is also a fully-fledged Alexa speaker, the cheapest of which costs $40 on its own.
Is 4K Streaming Your Priority?
While both the Cube and the 4K Stick enable you to stream 4K, for this to work with the Stick you will need to invest in an ethernet adaptor, which will cost another $15, closing the price gap between the two a little. This is because WiFi is not usually fast enough to stream 4K.
How Impatient Are You?
If you are impatient, and having to wait an extra 20 seconds for your content to load is likely to drive you crazy, then get the Cube. It has a faster core and better memory. It responds faster to voice commands and loads your favorite streaming services faster.
Are You Mainly Concerned About Cost?
If you are primarily looking for a way to access all your favorite entertainment apps on your television with ease, and you aren’t too worried about insanely good picture quality or speed, then the Fire Stick represents great value for money. Considering that the Alexa remote that comes with the Stick is worth $30 on its own, it is a good value bundle.
If you don’t have a 4K TV, you might even go for the cheaper standard (non-4K) Stick, as you will get access to all the same functionality.
Is Amazon Fire TV The Same As Amazon Fire Stick?
Amazon Fire TV is the brand name for Amazon’s streaming service hardware. Under this umbrella, several different products are available including the Amazon Fire TV Cube, Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, Amazon Fire TV Stick, and a variety of Fire Tablets.
All of the hardware support the same content and apps. While they offer access to some free/included content, most streaming subscriptions must be paid for separately, including to Amazon Prime.
Which Is Better, The Fire Stick Or Fire Cube?
The Cube is the best Fire TV hardware on the market in terms of functionality. It is both a fully 4K enabled streaming device, and an Alexa speaker, so it can control not only your TV, but other smart devices in your home. It also has a faster processing core and more memory than the Fire Stick.
The Fire Stick 4K also enables 4K streaming, but requires the purchase of a separate ethernet adaptor, as Wi-Fi is usually not sufficient for 4K streaming. It’s less powerful core also means that it is noticeably slower.
The traditional Fire Stick is not 4K enabled.
Is There A Monthly Fee For Fire Stick?
There is no monthly fee for the Fire Stick, it is a one-off hardware purchase. But the Fire Stick only comes with very limited free/included content. Subscriptions to popular streaming services, including Amazon’s own streaming service Prime, need to be purchased separately on a monthly subscription basis.
Can You Watch Normal TV On Amazon Fire Stick?
You can access a variety of popular TV channels using the Amazon Fire Stick by streaming their content from their apps.
It is also simple to switch between the Amazon Fire Stick and normal TV using the Alexa app that comes with the Stick. This automatically syncs with your television, so that you can control all of your entertainment from a single remote.
Do You Need The Internet For Fire Stick?
In order to make full use of your Amazon Fire Stick you will need a stable and relatively fast internet connection. Content is streamed directly from content providers. If you are not connected to the internet, you will only be able to use a very limited number of offline apps that are available on the device.
What Channels Are Free On Fire Stick?
In the menu of your Amazon Fire application, you will find a section that points you towards free content. Available content includes:
- YouTube – Google had made the app unavailable on Amazon Fire for a while, but its back!
- Pluto TV – As a supported TV network with over 100 channels, expect “b-side” content from channels such as MTV and BET.
- Sony Crackle – A streaming service similar to Netflix, though with significantly less selection, and powered by ads rather than paid subscriptions.
- Hoopla and Kanopy – public library-based apps that can be accessed with your library card.
- TED TV – educational and life-long learning content.
- PBS – local PBS programming, including PBS kids.
Do I Need A Fire Stick If I Have A Smart TV?
While an Amazon Fire Stick may bring some new functionality to a Smart TV, the most popular apps are likely to be duplicated.
Whether you should go for a Stick or a Cube depends on what you are looking for. If you are looking for the fastest connections, best picture quality, or would like an Alexa speaker as well, then invest in the cube. If you aren’t overly concerned about those things but want access to all the same content, then the more affordable Stick should more than meet your needs.