Amazon’s Fire TV Stick and Google’s Chromecast Ultra are both digital media players. Both devices are stuck to the HDMI ports of television screens or any other device that can support audio and video. With these devices, users can play just about any media on a bigger screen. Both devices offer the same basic functionality, but is one better than the other?
Design & Build
The Fire TV Stick is as its name suggests in the shape of a stick while Chromecast sports a round shape. The Google product is covered in glossy black plastic which means it’s a dust and scratch attractor. Then again, the size of the Fire TV Stick may make it a bit of an inconvenience since it may require a bit more space (seeing as it needs to be stuck at the back of the TV).
The Chromecast Ultra is Google’s third Chromecast device and it’s an improvement in the sense that it caters to the demands for more pixels and color. In short, the Ultra is retains much of what users loved about the previous models but now supports 4K and HDR content.
However, the sources for 4K content aren’t really that vast (as of the moment anyway). Netflix does offer HD content as does YouTube but you’ll mostly find outdoorsy scenes for the latter.
Amazon Video is not supported on Chromecast given the animosity between their parent companies. In short, that leaves users purchasing a rather expensive device to view media content they could very well “cast” using the less expensive predecessors.
Also, the Chromecast Ultra is highly dependent on your smartphone as a remote control. This may seem fine but the Fire TV Stick retails at a cheaper price and comes with a remote. Plus, it sucks to have to get your phone to wake up just so you could pause a video.
If you’ve read this far, you’d think the Fire TV Stick was better. Not so fast. Amazon’s product is only better in terms of having its own remote and actually having a menu interface to deal with. What’s sad about the Fire TV Stick is that it seems geared for content from Amazon Prime whereas Chromecast looks to support more (besides Amazon though).
You can use the remote to browse and load content but voice commands – care off Alexa – can also be used on the Fire TV Stick. Alexa is pretty accurate and understands commands really well but there might be some error when it comes to the returned results. For instance, a search for Brad Pitt might yield films and TV shows that he wasn’t a part of.
Video playback on the Fire TV Stick is stable and the images look crisp once fully buffered (which doesn’t take long). The same thing goes with Chromecast Ultra.
Google’s Chromecast Ultra looks to be the better option between the two but the price just doesn’t do it justice. How many 4K and HDR content providers are there at the moment? Plus, it’s a hassle not being to operate with a remote. Then again, Fire TV Stick doesn’t help either with its being focused on Prime. So it looks like the Chromecast Ultra wins this battle. And since you can “cast” whatever media you open in Chrome to Chromecast, it makes sense to always keep Chrome updated.