UPDATED with the new Amazon Fire TV 2018!
One of the questions I get asked most is that’s the difference between Amazon’s Fire Stick and Fire TV. Both are extremely popular streaming devices with millions of units sold.
But since Amazon is usually tight-lipped about what actually goes inside their little black boxes, it’s hard to get a good idea of the real differences. It’s fairly easy to see that the Fire TV is better, but is it worth paying almost double?
More importantly, do you really need to spring for the better model?
It’s time to take a look at the Amazon Fire Stick vs Fire TV. I’ll be looking at what’s different between the two devices, the overall performance, and picture quality. Finally, I’ll give my recommendations for who should be looking at each device.
Amazon Fire TV vs Fire Stick: What’s missing
At half the cost of the Fire TV box, you’d expect the Amazon Fire Stick to be missing a few things. Until this new 2017 version of the Fire TV, the differences were even more noticeable. Both the Fire Stick and new Fire TV lack the micro-SD card slot and Ethernet ports of the older version of the Fire TV box.
The key differences now are going to be that the Fire Stick has half the memory of it’s bigger brother, a slower processor and (this is the big one) no 4K Ultra HD support, not to mention no HDR support.
But that’s just the things you can find easily in their official comparison. Amazon doesn’t promote their tech specs like most other streaming devices, but they do have a breakdown on the developer section of their website.
Here’s the main difference that’s a little harder to find: Everything about the Fire Stick is slightly older technology, even though it came out in October 2016.
It’s got a 32-bit CPU that is closely related to TV boxes from three years ago. It’s running an outdated version of HDCP, meaning that 4K support is more than a software update. It would require a whole new device.
Fire TV vs Fire Stick: Performance
Where you’ll see the biggest difference is in the performance of the Amazon Fire TV vs Fire Stick. The Fire TV box is just so much faster.
Expect to be waiting about 50% longer with the Fire Stick as you would with a Fire TV box.
StikeTech did a great comparison video for the last generation of Fire TV devices where he ran both devices through the same “real world” tests.
Unfortunately, his channel closed down so there’s no updated version for the 2017 version of the Fire TV. I’ve taken some cues from his tests and run those same tests, with a couple of new additions.
The Fire Stick is almost twenty seconds slower to boot up, and over twice as slow to open Netflix, YouTube or even a video from Amazon Prime!
The only reasons why you should buy a Fire Stick vs Fire TV
You’re brand new to streaming and you want a cheap way to try it out
This one is pretty straightforward. If you’re new to streaming, I’d recommend limiting your initial purchase costs until you’re sure that it’s right for you.
It’s fairly easy to justify a $39 investment for something that could save you hundreds per month. That’s about the cost of dinner for two at a casual restaurant. It’s harder to justify $69 for something that you may not like.
You don’t have a 4K TV
One of the biggest differences between the two Amazon streaming devices is that the Fire Stick can’t support 4K while the Fire TV box can.
Between Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, there is actually a decent amount of 4K streaming content. You might as well take advantage of it.
You don’t mind waiting…and waiting
It’s easy to see there’s a huge speed difference between the Fire Stick and Fire TV box. Just know before you purchase that you’re going to be spending a lot of time waiting.
It’s not going to be on your primary TV
If you’re only going to be using it on rare occasions, why spend the extra money? Or, if it’s going to be used mostly by your kids watching cartoons in the morning, then you’re probably more interested in cheap and simple than fast and pretty.
I think it’s easy to tell which side of the fence I’m on. I’ve got a new Fire TV that’s hooked up to one of the TV’s in my house.
I like the versatility and the quality. I wouldn’t even think of getting a Fire Stick, but then I’m not really Amazon’s target market for it.
Personally, unless one of those reasons above fit your needs, you’re much better off buying the Fire TV box vs the Fire Stick.
What do you think? Do you have a Fire Stick or Fire TV box? Do you love it? Hate it? Let me know in the comments below.