Amazon and Roku are the current kings of streaming TV services and devices. Both offer a range of streaming sticks, boxes, and smart TVs with their operating systems built-in. So which one should you choose for your viewing pleasure? We'll lay out the facts to help you decide.
What's great about the All-New Fire TV Cube (2019)?
The All-New Fire TV Cube (2019) remains the only real set-top streaming box in Amazon's arsenal, but it's not any ordinary streamer. One of the key selling points of this product is that it combines a top-of-the-line media TV box with what is essentially an Amazon Echo for a sort of two-in-one powerhouse device.
This latest edition features some significant internal upgrades over the previous version, including an enhanced processor with six cores as opposed to four, Dolby Vision and HDR 10+ video support, and Dolby Atmos audio experience. It has multi-directional infrared and beamforming technology that enables you to control your smart TV experience with Alexa better.
Plus, it can even be used as an Amazon Echo smart speaker when the TV is turned off. Alexa is also enhanced by a new featured called Local Voice Control. Local Voice Control leverages the better processor and microphone array to perform simple or repetitive user interface tasks on-device rather than in the cloud, resulting in a snappier experience.
Amazon's Fire TV devices also excel when it comes to smart home integration. With the All-New Fire TV Cube, you can easily 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 All-New Fire TV Cube, and set up routines and control groups of devices directly through the box.
All Amazon Fire TV devices come with access to a vast library of Prime Video content, as well as access to third-party apps like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Go. Fire TV devices also get you access to IMDB TV, which features tons of on-demand free content with limited commercial interruption.
What's great about the Roku Ultra?
The Roku Ultra is the top-of-the-line Roku set-top box. Like Amazon, Roku offers several streaming sticks, boxes, and integrated TV platforms for consumers to choose from.
Because it's a slightly older device, the Roku Ultra may not have the high-end specs that the All-New Fire TV Cube has, but it's not really that far behind either. Sure, you don't get HDR 10+, but you still get 4K UHD HDR. Can you tell the difference? I'm betting probably not. The Roku Ultra does have some nice usability features absent on the Fire TV Cube, like the ability to press a button on the device to locate that remote that fell between the seat cushions. Users can also plug the included headphones into the remote and listen to your program without disturbing others.
Roku remains a fan favorite because of its no-fuss approach to streaming. They offer a ton of great content, much of it free, in a relatively easy-to-navigate and straightforward interface. In addition to the standard third-party apps that everyone has like Netflix and Hulu, you can also watch AND purchase Amazon Prime Video content on Roku. Roku also offers a bunch of free and ad-supported content on its Roku Channel, and unlike the Fire TV, Roku will carry the new Disney + service when that launches in November (though we expect Amazon to reach a deal with Disney very soon).
Last, but definitely not least, the price. The Roku Ultra comes in at nearly $20 cheaper than the Fire TV Cube. That's money that can stay in your pocket, or be used for a couple of movie rentals this weekend!
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)||Roku Ultra|
|Microphones||8 and voice remote||Voice remote only|
|Picture Quality||4K, UHD, HDR 10+||4K UHD, HDR|
|Free TV Content||Yes||Yes|
|Local Voice Control||Yes||No|
|Music Streaming through Device||Yes||Only through TV speakers|
|Pair Multiple for Stereo Sound||Yes||No|
|Lost Remote Finder||No||Yes|
|Headphone Jack on Remote||No||Yes|
Both boxes have great specs, and both platforms have extensive proprietary and shared content catalogs. Both also offer the option to purchase additional "channels" such as HBO, Cinemax, and Starz. As with Android and iOS, the choice here mainly comes down to which ecosystem you are most comfortable in.
If you are heavily invested in the Amazon media ecosystem, or if you take advantage of the Fire TV smart home integrations with products like Ring and Blink, the Fire TV Cube is the best choice. If you are more platform agnostic and don't really care as much about where you get your media from (and you want to save a few bucks), reach for the Roku. Either way, you'll be set up for a great streaming experience.
Does it all
Smart TV and smart speaker in one
The All-New Fire TV Cube has great internals and can serve as your smart TV hub and your smart speaker. Its microphone array allows Alexa to respond promptly to your every command.
Jack of most trades
Great value in a slim streamer
The Roku Ultra may be the best value in streaming TV boxes. It offers high-end performance with extra features that are sure to make TV watching more pleasurable.
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