Roku Express vs. Amazon Fire TV Stick: Choosing the Best Value Streaming Device

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Roku-Express-Amazon-Fire-Stick
Image Credit: Canva/Amazon/Roku

If you’re in the market for a value streaming device, there’s a good chance that the Roku Express and Amazon Fire TV Stick are among your top choices for consideration.

Thanks to low costs, access to most major streaming services, and easy setup, the introductory devices for two of the leading companies in the industry are popular choices for television watchers who are ready to say goodbye to a monthly cable bill.

How to Choose Between the Roku Express and Amazon Fire TV Stick

Making an educated decision on your streaming device is an important step in long-term savings on your monthly television entertainment bill.

In this article, we’re going to sort through some of the differences between the Roku Express and Amazon Fire Stick, including some potential pros and cons for each.

I purchased both devices to get some first-hand experience with each before writing this review. I installed both on my home television and gave them test runs as my primary streaming device.

You’re ready to watch television, so let’s decide if the Roku Express or Amazon Fire Stick is the right choice for your streaming needs.

Table of Contents

Roku Express vs. Amazon Fire TV Stick: How Much Do They Cost?

First, let’s get the money discussion out of the way.

When you go shopping for these devices, it is important to remember that there are tiered price points for the Roku and Amazon devices. Generally speaking, you can expect more bells and whistles if you’re willing to pay for an upgraded device. For the purposes of this discussion, we’re focused on the cheapest option for both streaming brands.

The Express is the low-cost introductory streaming device from Roku. It retails for $29.99, but sometimes can be found on sale for as low as $24.99. At the time this article was published, Roku.com was offering a $24.99 promotion on the Express. That is significant savings when compared to the regular price of some of Roku’s more advanced streaming device offerings:

Roku Streaming Devices

Device Regular Price as of Nov. 2019
Roku Express $29.99
Roku Premiere $39.99
Roku Streaming Stick+ $49.99
Roku Ultra $99.99

Amazon’s Fire TV Stick typically is more expensive than the Roku Express. It carries a $39.99 retail price tag as the cheapest Amazon media player, but the price can fluctuate. I enlisted the help of Team Clark writer Dallas Cox for information on when the best deal on the Amazon Fire TV Stick can be found.

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“The best time to find deals on the Amazon Fire TV Stick would be during Amazon Prime Day and the week of Black Friday,” she said. “You may be able to find a great deal during Labor Day, Memorial Day or even the Fourth of July, as well. Based on the current data at Camelcamelcamel, the price definitely fluctuates wildly throughout the rest of the year. If you’re not shopping during a holiday, be sure to watch prices for a few days and try to wait until the price drops to $35 or, better yet, $30.”

Amazon Streaming Devices

Device Regular Price as of Nov. 2019
Fire TV Stick $39.99
Fire TV Stick 4K $49.99
Fire TV Cube $119.99

The cheapest Team Clark has spotted the Amazon Fire TV Stick was $15 on Amazon Prime Day in July 2019. That deal, which was for Prime members, also included the Alexa remote and a $45 Sling TV credit.

Similarities Between Roku Express and Amazon Fire TV Stick 

The reason these two devices are often compared is actually quite simple — they’re more alike than they are different. So, before we go picking apart the differences in the devices, let’s acknowledge some of the user experiences that will be the same on each:

  • Wi-Fi required: If you’re planning on streaming anything from these devices, you’ll want to make sure you have active Wi-Fi in your household. Each of these devices will help you connect to the internet as part of the setup process.
  • Remote included: Both the Roku Express and the Amazon Fire TV Stick come with a remote included in the package. They even include a fresh set of batteries that you can insert and go. This may seem like a layup, but it’s worth noting that the competing Google Chromecast does not include a remote.
  • HDMI cord included: Again, it’s a nice perk to open the box and have all the essentials you need to make the device work on your television. Simply plug the device into an outlet and connect it to your television via the provided HDMI cord.
  • Access to popular streaming services: If you’re buying a streaming device, it’s likely that you may be trying to connect to a paid streaming service. Both of these devices offer access to popular services like Netflix, YouTube TV, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Sling TV, Disney+, Apple TV+ and more.
  • Parental controls: Both devices allow you to set a PIN code that is required for making purchases and downloading apps onto the device. It also can be used to guard against content intended for mature audiences. These are nice features for streamers with children in the household.
  • 4K capabilities not included: Both Amazon and Roku require you to upgrade from their basic devices if you want to get 4K. Upgrading to a Roku Premiere or Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K is likely to cost you an additional $10. Of course, if you don’t have a 4K television, there is no need to spend the extra money.

Areas Amazon Fire TV Stick Is Better Than Roku Express

Here are a couple of areas where the Amazon Fire TV Stick is superior to the Roku Express:

1. Voice Command Capability

Thanks to Alexa technology, the latest version of the Amazon Fire TV Stick allows for voice commands. All you have to do is hold down a button on the remote and speak a command into it. I really enjoyed using this feature when I was ready to change content feeds in the middle of a viewing. It was much easier to say: “Watch Jack Ryan” than to back out of a viewing of another show and then search for the show on the Amazon Prime menu, for example.

The Roku Express remote does not offer this as an option.

2. Amazon Prime Video Integration

This one was probably to be expected given that both products are under the Amazon umbrella, but the integration between the Fire TV Stick and Amazon’s Prime subscription is nearly flawless.

When I went to set up the Fire TV Stick device, the first thing it did was prompt me to connect my Prime account to the device. From there, I’m able to access the full library of content that I have purchased through Prime, as well as all of the Prime Video content that is included with the subscription.

This is the same Prime subscription that many purchase to receive free expedited shipping on Amazon purchases. If you’ve been paying for the shipping and didn’t know, there’s a treasure trove of streaming content also available to you through Prime Video that’s included in the price.

You can also watch Prime Video via the Roku Express. It is available as a free app download.

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Areas Roku Express Is Better Than Amazon Fire TV Stick

Here are a couple of areas in which the Roku Express is superior to the Amazon Fire TV Stick:

1. User Friendly Interface

The first difference I noticed between the Roku Express and the Amazon Fire TV Stick was the stark contrast in user interface. Roku offers what I consider to be a more user-friendly experience with easy customization. You’re able to easily sort clickable tiles on your home page for your most frequently used apps on the device.

Amazon, meanwhile, leans heavily on its integration with Prime Video to funnel users to its own product. Prime Video is prominently featured on the home screen even if it’s not your preferred streaming service.

When searching for content, I found that results from Roku turned up more reliably than Amazon Fire TV Stick searches. And, because it’s Amazon, the Fire TV Stick seemed to direct results toward Prime offerings first when applicable.

2. Easy Access to Free Content

Both devices have literally thousands of apps from which to choose, but Roku gets extra credit for making it extremely easy to find free stuff. A quick click on Roku’s “Featured Free” section from the home screen gives you access to some of the most popular free apps available for download.

I was able to easily assemble a menu of quality free options via the Roku. I had a harder time replicating those results with the Fire Stick, which required more searching for its free content.

Final Thoughts on Roku Express vs. Amazon Fire TV Stick

As you’re considering which streaming device to purchase, here’s a quick look at some of the pros and cons I observed for each:

Roku Express: Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
Lower base price No remote voice commands
Easy to find free content Limited remote capabilities
User-friendly interface No 4K streaming

Amazon Fire TV Stick: Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
Voice command remote Higher base price
Amazon Prime integration Cluttered user interface
Remote syncs to TV volume No 4K streaming

Bottom Line: Both of these devices are worthy of consideration and receive my recommendation for an entry-level streaming experience. If you are looking for the best price and an easy-to-use device, the Roku Express may be the choice for you.

However, if you are already in the Amazon ecosystem with a Prime subscription, it may make sense to take advantage of the integration offered by the Amazon Fire TV Stick.

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