If, like an increasing number of viewers, you’re tired of cable television and have recently joined the ranks of cord-cutters, welcome! It sure feels freeing, doesn’t it? But what now? Where do you get all your favorite shows from?
A lot of viewers opted for Amazon Fire Sticks, as they were a very popular alternative a few years ago, when not a lot of options were available. But while what Amazon Fire has to offer is great, it’s worth seeing what other companies are putting out, as well. How do they hold up against Amazon? Should you just get that one, and be done with it? How do you choose the best option? Let’s take a look at what the market has to offer right now.
Amazon Fire TV – what is it, and what does it have to offer?
First thing’s first – let’s dissect Amazon’s offering and see what everyone else is up against.
What it is: Amazon Fire TV is a media player that enables you to stream television, instead of getting it through traditional means, like cable or satellite. You simply stream your favorites online and enjoy them on your own TV, whether that’s Netflix, video apps, music apps, or game apps. There are three models to choose from: the Fire TV Stick, the Fire TV Stick 4K, and the Fire TV Cube.
How it works: It’s super easy to set up, no matter what model you opt for. All you have to do is plug your chosen device into the HDMI port on the side at the back of your TV. From there, the remote should come in handy to help you make the connection, access the app, and start streaming.
Advantages: You can do a lot via this device, so it’s not just streaming TV shows. You can listen to music, watch videos, or play games. That’s a lot of bang for your buck, since Amazon devices tend to be really affordable, hence their popularity.
Disadvantages: Early versions of these devices tend to be bug-y and have kinks that need to be resolved and upgraded, so if you have a first-generation Fire device, you may be looking to upgrade.
What are the best Amazon Fire TV alternatives?
Okay, so let’s say you’re looking to upgrade your Amazon Fire TV device, or just looking for something better. What are your options, and how do they compare to Amazon’s offerings?
- Chromecast Ultra
What it is: Unlike other options on this list, the Chromecast isn’t technically a media streamer. It’s simply a way to cast content from other devices on your very own TV. It can be an incredibly convenient device, especially if you tend to consume a lot of online media on small devices.
How it works: You just need to connect the Chromecast to your TV, and that will enable you to essentially cast anything you’re watching on your computer or phone on your TV. So, for example, if you’re watching a YouTube video and struggling with the tiny screen, or watching a movie on Netflix on your laptop, you can hook it up to a bigger screen. Easy-peasy.
Advantages: There is built-in support for 4K content, so if 1080p is simply unacceptable to you, you can cast all your highest quality content and enjoy a super crisp image.
Disadvantages: As we mentioned, it’s not a full media streamer, so if you were looking for the specific features offered by more traditional streamers, you may be disappointed by how limited this is.
What it is: Apple TV is probably one of the most popular – if not the most popular contender on this list. Most people who already have Apple devices and are used to their interface and UX tend to remain brand loyal and expand into their streaming devices.
How it works: It fits right in with iTunes, where you can buy or rent a lot of TV shows and movies, some of which are online exclusive, so you’re getting a preview of sorts. You also get access to your favorite streaming apps, from Amazon Prime Video to Hulu and Netflix.
Advantages: It supports 4K video, which is important for a lot of viewers, because it enables a higher quality experience than other devices.
Disadvantages: Since this is an Apple product, the price tag attached is quite hefty, as expected, and whether it’s worth it or just vanity pricing is up to you to decide.
What it is: Your typical set-top box, the Nvidia Shield TV is among the best you can get in this device category. The tech specs are impressive, the storage space is generous, and it supports 4K HDR playback. What more could you want?
How it works: This works pretty much just like any other IPTV set-top box, and it also supports Android. That means that you can download any streaming app of your choice.
Advantages: In addition to all the Android apps, it also doubles up as a Plex server, Chromecast, or gaming console. In fact, you can even use it as a search engine in a pinch, if your phone isn’t on hand.
Disadvantages: As you would expect from a device of this quality, the price isn’t the most affordable on the market. It lives up to the hype, but it may still be a bit too much for some viewers.
What it is: The Roku is another streaming device, but it’s a bit different from others, because, in addition to giving you access and the ability to download a lot of channels and apps, it also enables access to its very own content – The Roku Channel, where you can either buy or rent shows and movies.
How it works: Like most other similar devices, Roku is super easy to set up – just make sure you’ve got a steady internet connection and plug the device into your TV. Now you can create your account and begin streaming, just like that.
Advantages: The price is certainly right, and some may even say downright cheap, especially considering the fact that it supports 4K. You get a lot of bang for your buck, so you won’t end up feeling shafted. Plus, you get a lot of variety and flexibility, and nothing is left out, whether that’s traditional TV broadcast or online only streaming.
Disadvantages: On paper, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with Roku devices, but a quick Google may reveal otherwise. Users report all kinds of issues, from errors to lagging, to features that simply do not work.
What it is: Contrary to what it may seem, the Cube is not the same as the Stick. It’s kind of like a device combining Amazon Fire TV with an Echo device – it allows you to manage your streaming experience hands-free, only using your voice.
How it works: It’s pretty straight-forward: you make Alexa do your bidding as usual. No remote necessary, no fiddling with your phone; just instructing her in a commanding voice, which is half the fun. The setup is super easy, as all you really need to do is plug it in and then sign in to your already existing Amazon account. From there, it’s all down to what you want to have Alexa show you.
Advantages: Obviously, the hands-free feature is convenient and ideal for the truly lazy. But even cooler than that, Alexa can carry out additional commands, like turning down lights, as long as you connect it with other smart devices.
Disadvantages: It’s certainly not the most inexpensive device out there, and the size of it means that it’s not as easy to lug around as the Fire Stick, but the added features surely make it worth the hassle.
Amazon Fire TV is certainly a big contender on the market, and a good choice, even. However, it’s far from being the only option, or even the best option. Over the last few years, several alternatives have popped up, each with numerous iterations and upgrades.
They are all pretty similar, in a sense, but they all come with their own unique twist or selling point that might make them a better fit for you, personally. If nothing else, price can be a way to differentiate between them; devices are available at all price points, both for the cord-cutter on a budget and the one who wants to splurge.