Apple was one of the first major manufacturers of streaming media players with the original Apple TV way back in 2007 (even before the iPhone!), and it has remained a popular choice to this day. However, with the introduction of cheaper and ever more capable devices from competitors, how does the best Apple TV device compare against the latest and greatest from Amazon? We'll lay out the facts to help you decide.
Break it down now...
So, how do these two streamers stack up on paper? Let's look at the specs below.
|Fire TV Cube (2019)||Apple TV 4K|
|Processor||Hexa-core ARM Mali G52-MP6||A10X Fusion chip with 64-bit architecture|
|Storage||16 GB||32 GB, 64 GB|
|Microphones||8 and voice remote||Voice remote only|
|Cast Capability||Display Mirroring||AirPlay|
|Picture Quality||4K, UHD, HDR 10+||4K UHD, HDR|
|Free TV Content||Yes||Yes|
|Local Voice Control||Yes||No|
|Smart Assistant Support||Yes - Alexa||Yes - Siri|
|Music Streaming through Device||Yes||Only through TV speakers|
|Pair Multiple Devices for Stereo Sound||Yes||Yes|
Why get the Fire TV Cube (2019)?
One of the key selling points of Fire TV Cube (2019) is that it combines a top-of-the-line streaming media TV box with what is essentially an Amazon Echo. Amazon upgraded the device with an improved processor, Dolby Vision and HDR 10+ video support, and the Dolby Atmos audio experience. It also improved its microphone array to enhance Alexa's ability to control the TV experience through your voice commands.
The Fire TV Cube is a top-of-the-line streaming media TV box that's also an Amazon Echo.
Since it's basically a beefed-up Amazon Echo smart speaker, you can use it even when the TV is turned off. You can also create multi-device and multi-room audio groups with other Echo devices for true home-covering sound. Amazon also added a new feature called Local Voice Control, which utilizes the updated processor and already great microphone array to perform simple or repetitive user interface tasks on-device rather than in the cloud, resulting in a snappier performance.
Another thing that Fire TV devices excel at is being a control center for your smart home. You can ask Alexa to show your Blink camera's feed of the side yard, or see who is at the door through your Ring Doorbell. You can also enable features like Alexa Guard from your Fire TV Cube, and set up routines and control groups of devices directly through the box. Your Apple TV can't do that.
As a media player, the Fire TV Cube gives you access to all of Amazon's great Prime Video content, as well as content from third-party apps like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Go. You also get you access to IMDB TV, which features tons of on-demand free content with limited commercial interruption. Disney+ and Apple TV+ are not available at the time of writing, though most expect both services to arrive on Fire TV devices shortly.
Why get the Apple TV 4k?
Even though it's two years old at this point, the Apple TV 4K packs a lot of the same high-end specs as the Fire TV Cube. It has support for 4K HDR, Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision, and HDR 10. It also has more onboard storage than the Fire TV Cube, for what that's worth.
You can control the Apple TV 4K with your voice through the included Siri Remote, and it can function as the base for your smart home thanks to its HomeKit integration. About that remote — it has been universally panned by Apple haters and enthusiasts alike because it's slippery, easy to lose, and it can be difficult to navigate the interface with its small touchpad, so take that into consideration.
Even though it's two years old at this point, the Apple TV 4K packs a lot of the same high-end specs as the Fire TV Cube.
As far as content goes, the Apple TV 4K has all of the same great apps as the Fire TV Cube, plus it will have immediate support for Disney+ and of course, Apple TV+. You also have access to Amazon Prime Video content, which will be integrated into the Apple TV app. One major drawback of the Apple TV 4K viewing experience is that you cannot actually view YouTube in 4K or HDR. The explanation is a long one, but what it boils down to is that Apple and Google can't agree on their video formats, and neither is prepared to budge. Bummer.
If you are invested in the Apple ecosystem, this is a good choice, though it's increasingly becoming less of a necessary choice than before. In its ever-growing push into services, Apple is bringing its new Apple TV+ streaming service, as well as existing iTunes content, across multiple platforms. It is already appearing on select smart TVs, and is coming to Roku and other streaming boxes this year. When we reached out to Amazon, a spokesperson for the Fire TV confirmed that the Apple TV+ service and app will be coming to the Fire TV line of products "soon."
The Apple TV app is also available on select Samsung smart TVs, and will come to Amazon Fire TV, LG, Roku, Sony and VIZIO platforms in the future.
The other major Apple service set to roll out soon is Apple Arcade, which will only be available on Apple devices such as the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV. If you are at all interested in trying this gaming service out on the big screen, this alone is a good reason to go with the Apple TV 4K. Apple already arguably had a better selection of games than is available on the Fire TV platform, and Apple Arcade looks to extend that lead.
It used to be as simple as saying "pick the box that fits within your preferred ecosystem" and leave it at that. However, with Amazon and Apple offering a range of services across multiple platforms and providers, that advice isn't so straightforward anymore.
If you are looking to save a little money, and/or if you have other Echo devices in the house, I'd go for the Fire TV Cube. It has all the latest specs and doubles up as a stand-alone smart home controller and a decent speaker. Plus, you'll soon be able to access your old iTunes content and the new Apple TV+ service on Fire TV devices, so you can have your cake and eat it too.
However, if you can't be moved out of the Apple ecosystem for reasons of convenience, security, or if you want to try out the new Apple Arcade service, the Apple TV 4K is a great choice. You will also be able to access all the Prime Video content directly through the Apple TV app interface, which is pretty great.
Smart TV and smart speaker in one
The Fire TV Cube has great internals and can serve as your smart TV hub and your smart speaker. Its built-in microphone array allows Alexa to respond promptly to your every command.
iLike it for gaming
Still great for the Apple core
If you're an Apple die-hard who has a ton of content and purchase history in iTunes, or who just feels more comfortable with Apple's ecosystem, this is still a great choice.
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