Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K
Tried and true
The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K has been around for a minute, and with its top-notch HDR support, big app library, and convenient Alexa integrations, it’s no wonder Amazon hasn’t bothered to replace its championed, mid-tier streaming device.Pros
- Great price
- Excellent HDR support
- Hands-free Alexa controls
- Only 8GB of storage
- User interface is a little busy
- No Wi-Fi 6 support
Google Chromecast with Google TV (4K)
An exceptional foe
The Chromecast with Google TV (4K) is your one-stop shop for all your streaming needs. And while the hardware is a little more expensive than the Fire TV Stick 4K, Google’s algorithmic approach to recommending movies and TV shows is hard to beat.Pros
- Terrific user interface
- Curates content based on your viewing history
- Lets you cast apps from a Chromecast-enabled device
- Limited internal storage
- Slightly more expensive than the Fire TV Stick 4K
Streaming devices are an excellent and inexpensive way to enjoy your favorite movie and TV show apps, and both Amazon and Google are top dogs in the mighty world of web-connected entertainment. Since its 2018 release, Amazon’s Fire TV Stick 4K has developed quite the following, with many users championing the device’s impressive HDR capabilities, Alexa controls, and immense app library.
But in terms of competition, the 2020 release of the Chromecast with Google TV (4K) sounded a trumpet of battle. Bringing the renowned Android and Google TV interfaces from smart TVs to plug-and-play peripherals, the puck-shaped Chromecast has been hailed for its personalized content recommendations, Google Assistant support, and arresting picture quality.
When shopping for a new streaming device, you’ll be in good hands with Amazon or Google. Still, between the Fire TV Stick 4K and Chromecast with Google TV (4K) (herein referred to as Chromecast 4K), you may be wondering which of the two titans will check more boxes for your streaming wants and needs. Fortunately, we’ve tested and reviewed both products and created this side-by-side comparison to help you choose the best streaming device for you and yours.
Price, specs, and availability
The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K has been around for a few years now, and you can find it just about anywhere. While the official retail price is $50, buying directly through Amazon will typically save you a few bucks. Pricing at retailers like Best Buy, Walmart, and Target are often lower than MSRP, too.
Then there’s the Chromecast with Google TV (4K), which typically sells for around $50, but purchasing through Google and Amazon could save you a few bucks. This streaming device can be found at brick-and-mortar outlets like Best Buy and Walmart.
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Google Chromecast with Google TV (4K) Operating System Fire OS 6 Android 12 Resolution 4K 4K Ports HDMI output, micro USB for power only HDMI, USB-C RAM/storage 1.5GB/8GB 2GB/8GB Connectivity Wi-Fi 5 (2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz dual band), Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth, Wi-Fi Price $50 $50 Display Dolby Vision, HDR10, HDR10+ HDR 10, HDR 10+, Dolby Vision Audio Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Atmos Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Atmos
Two set-it-and-forget-it designs
Both the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K and Chromecast with Google TV (4K) are about as minimalist as it gets for physical hardware. The Fire TV Stick 4K is designed for quick connectivity and may best be compared to a USB dongle. Instead of a separate HDMI cable, an HDMI connector is fastened right to the Fire Stick, and the only wire to worry about is a micro-USB power lead. Once everything is plugged in, you’ll walk through a quick setup wizard that will get you linked up to your Amazon account (or allow you to create one if you don’t), allow you to choose a few apps to populate your home screen, and then you’re off and running.
The Chromecast with Google TV (4K) opts for the same ergonomic approach to plug-and-play operation as the Fire TV Stick 4K, but with a slightly friendlier-looking silicone chassis. Puck-shaped devices are inexplicably cute to look at, and it doesn’t hurt that you’ll be able to get the Chromecast in three different colors: snow white, sunrise pink, and sky blue. You’ll be ready to start streaming once you’ve connected to HDMI, powered the Chromecast (a USB lead to a wall outlet adapter), and walked through the initial setup.
As far as remotes go, the Fire TV Stick 4K and Chromecast with Google TV (4K) come with well-made controllers that prioritize quick navigation and voice assistance (Alexa for Fire TV, Google Assistant for Chromecast). Google’s remote is slightly smaller than Amazon’s, but some may prefer the tinier footprint for handheld comfort. Each remote also features a few shortcut buttons for popular apps like Netflix and Prime Video.
A war of Fire TV and Google software
When it comes to the brains of the operation, the Fire TV Stick 4K runs the show with its Fire TV UI, which also features numerous Alexa integrations. In fact, the five-letter friend is built right into the remote, allowing you to search for your favorite movies and run your Alexa-powered smart home right from the living room couch. On paper, this all sounds good, but how does the Fire TV Stick 4K stack up in terms of actual layout and apps? Pretty nicely.
Fire TV is robust and packed with content, and as far as popular apps go, everything from Netflix to Disney+ and Apple TV+ is represented. Amazon Luna’s gaming library is pretty decent, too. That being said, in terms of “recommended content,” Amazon does tend to hitch its wagon to its own IP. Scrolling through genres, new arrivals, and other categories, one can start to feel that Amazon’s UI is a not-so-cleverly disguised (and seemingly never-ending) commercial for Amazon Prime Video and related Amazon services. This observation isn’t a deal breaker; individual user profiles help divvy the curation. Still, in terms of pure algorithmic wonder, the Chromecast with Google TV (4K) is the true software champ.
Google TV looks and feels good, and so does Google Assistant. Better yet, the home screen (billed as For You) is a real savant when recommending movies and shows you may be interested in. Google TV monitors the kind of content you’ve been consuming to deliver these user-generated watch lists. And because every family member can create their own profile, Dad’s love of ’60s biker flicks won’t impact Junior’s love of modern horror.
Regarding apps, the Chromecast with Google TV (4K) won’t let you down here either. All the big guns of streaming have a spot in the Google TV library, and Stadia support gets you access to a Pandora’s box of stream-box gaming. We’re also big fans of Google Assistant’s responsiveness: Not only does the digital companion pull up relevant movies, actors, and genres in seconds flat, but the Chromecast’s onboard compatibility with Google Home and Nest products makes the Chromecast (4K) an excellent smart home hub, too.
Oh, and let’s not forget the actual “casting” you’ll be able to do. Whether you want to mirror your phone screen to the TV or send a YouTube video from your tablet to your streaming device, the Chromecast with Google TV (4K) is the O.G. when it comes to wirelessly beaming content from point A to point B. The speed at which your media gets to where it needs to go is faster than ever. Plus, it’s nice to know that if an app you like isn’t available through Google TV, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to cast the app to your Chromecast from your mobile device.
Powerful performance across the board
Neither the Fire TV Stick 4K nor the Chromecast with Google TV (4K) is a straggler regarding overall performance. For those of us devoted to getting the absolute best picture and sound possible, both devices support some of the mightiest audio and video codecs across the A/V spectrum. You’ll get HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision, HLG, and Dolby Atmos support, so whether you’re planning on streaming a ’50s noir or the latest $200 million superhero epic, colors, contrast, brightness, and immersive sound-staging is not going to be an issue whatsoever.
We also live in an age where speed is of the utmost importance. Fortunately, both the Fire TV Stick 4K and Chromecast (4K) also deliver the goods when it comes to web connectivity and UI actions. Engaging the voice assistant, navigating a heavy-duty app like Netflix, and playing a movie in 4K HDR are tell-tale scenarios for error… if an error is going to occur. This just isn’t the case, though, with either streaming device. As long as your Wi-Fi network provides enough bandwidth, you’ll experience little navigation and playback issues from both the Fire TV Stick 4K and Chromecast with Google TV (4K).
Which streaming device is best?
Pitting two stalwart brands against each other is never an easy feat, but we’re going to have to declare a winner, and today’s trophy goes to the Chromecast with Google TV (4K). It’s hard to beat the intuitive UI and brilliant recommendations that the Google TV OS can develop. And while it’s a few dollars more than the Fire TV Stick 4K (unless you decide to go for the Chromecast with Google TV (HD) instead), the ability to cast certain apps from your mobile or desktop is what made the Chromecast so popular in the first place. It’s still an awesome feature today.
Google Chromecast with Google TV (4K)
The Chromecast with Google TV (4K) is one of the most immersive and robust streaming devices you can buy. With its 4K HDR capabilities and Dolby Atmos support, stream-able movies and TV shows have never looked and sounded as good. Not to mention that the integrated Google Assistant makes it quick and easy to search for content and navigate the Google TV interface.
This isn’t to say that the Fire TV Stick 4K isn’t a worthy second-best. If money is a big concern, the Fire TV Stick 4K is still one of the cheapest streaming devices on the market and is often on sale, too. We also appreciate how smoothly Alexa runs regarding UI navigation and smart automations.
Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K
The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K may not match the Chromecast with Google TV (4K) when it comes to recommended content, but this Alexa-powered streaming device is still a solid buy. And for those shopping on a budget, the Fire TV Stick 4K is often on sale.