Amazon Fire TV vs. Chromecast: what’s the better deal?

April 3, 2014

Google Chromecast vs Amazon Fire TV

With the announcement of the Fire TV, Amazon has inserted itself into the already pretty crowded media streaming device market, challenging Google, Apple, Roku, and the myriad other me-too devices. But how does it compare to what’s already available?

While there are other big players in the market, if you’re here you probably have a proclivity towards Google devices. With that in mind, lets see how Amazon’s $99 media streamer compares to the $35 Google Chromecast.

Media Services

The key to both devices is the selection of media sources available on them. Both the Chromecast and Fire TV offer access to the most popular streaming services. Netflix and Hulu Plus are present and accounted for on both. As are YouTube, Pandora, Crackle, and Vevo.

When it comes to third-party services Google can boast that the Chromecast has access to HBO Go, which the Fire TV doesn’t have. Amazon comes back with WatchESPN, Showtime Anytime, and Bloomberg TV, which aren’t on the Chomecast.

Of course, each device has access to their respective maker’s media store. The Chromecast offers access to the Play Store, while the Fire TV accesses Amazon Instant Video, including Amazon Prime Instant Video. The big difference between these two is more of a question of ecosystem, which we’ll get into below.

Ecosystem

Both Google and Amazon use their media streaming devices as a sort of extension of their ecosystems, however large or small.

For Google, the Chromecast is a relatively small extension of the Android and Play ecosystem. It lets you access the music and movies you buy from the Play Store, and can stream from Android apps, but that’s about it. The upside to this ecosystem is that Google really doesn’t care what device you have. You can use any Android smartphone or tablet to control the Chromecast with no problems. It even works with iOS apps.

Amazon, on the other hand, mostly seems to play well with its own devices. The second-screen features of the Fire TV are only available on the Kindle Fire HDX, for example. Movies you buy to watch on the Fire TV won’t work on any Android device aside from the Kindle Fire tablets (though they will work on the iPhone and iPad).

Unique Features

 
Google Chromecast
Amazon Kindle Fire TV
Price$35$99
Form FactorDongleBox
Voice CommandsNoYes
ProcessorSingle coreQuad core
Memory512MB2GB
ControlsBy app via mobile deviceGaming control, remote
Gaming AppsNone100+; "thousands" more coming
Music AppsGoogle Play, Vevo, Pandora, Rdio, SongzaVevo, Pandora, Vimeo
Sports AppsNoneWatch ESPN, NBA League Pass
Video AppsGoogle Play, HBO Go, Netflix, Hulu Plus, Crackle, YouTubeAmazon Instant Video, Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, Crackle, Showtime Anywhere, Bloomberg TV
RemoteBy app via mobile deviceVoice search, physical remote (no line of sight needed)
Display mirroring YesOnly via Kindle tablets

The unique features of the Fire TV are what set it apart from other media streamers, and what makes it so much more expensive than the Chromecast.

At $35, the low price is almost the only selling point you need for the Chromecast. The only special feature it has that others don’t have is the ability to stream Chrome tabs from your desktop to your TV. As more developers build Chromecast support into their apps the device will have more features the others don’t, but for now the Chromecast is pretty bare-bones. Not that there’s anything wrong with just serving your purpose without a bunch of added stuff.

For the Fire TV Amazon has two big features it boasts over other media streamers. The first is voice control. Simply press a button on the remote, say what you’re looking for, and it’ll find that movie or TV show across all available services. The second is gaming. Like the Ouya, the Fire TV promises to bring mobile games to your TV, though controllers cost an additional $39.99, and 2GB really isn’t much space to download many games. Amazon does have some popular games like Asphalt 8 and Badlands on the platform, but aside from the Amazon Game Studios game Sev One, most of the games on the platform you’ve probably already played before.

Is it that simple?

Ultimately, the question of which device is a better deal comes down to your personal preference. Do you want a simple device you control through your phone that does a few things and does them well? You want a Chromecast. Or do you prefer a standalone box with a unified interface and the ability to play a few games? You’ll probably prefer the Fire TV.

For my money, personally, I prefer the Chromecast because I only need my media streaming device to stream media. For those other extra features, including access to Amazon Prime Video, I already have a few game consoles connected to my TV.

Which device do you prefer? How should Google respond?

Comments

  • rmkilc

    Chromecast is a box and Amazon Fire TV is a dongle? Um…

    • http://www.AndroidAuthority.com/ Darcy Alexander LaCouvee

      Thanks for the spot. Fixed.

  • Ryu

    Chromecast for me. FireTV is too restricted.

    • Shark Bait

      I agree, Chromecast is great, and the potential is crazy!

  • Bizzwell

    Amazon’s refusal to release an Instant Video app for Android has turned me against them as a content provider. I am a Prime Member (mostly for free shipping) but have two gaming devices and a Smart TV for streaming Prime content. I used to purchase movies and music from Amazon, but Play Music’s 20,000 song cloud is what sealed the deal. Amazon didn’t offer enough cloud storage for music and wouldn’t allow me an easy way to purchase content and use it on my Nexus 4 and Nexus 7. Oh yeah, I can still Cast AIV to my Chromecast from my Chromebook, or use Dolphin Browser through a Slimport. You’re only hurting yourself Amazon! Never bought a Kindle. Won’t buy a Fire TV. Sucks because they both look impressive…except I doubt Fire TV will ever rival any gaming system.

    • fredphoesh

      Exactly. Amazon are being spiteful, anti Google… there is NO technical reason, and they have enabled IOS???

  • Timmy

    I’ll stick to my Roku. PLEX is awesome (although playable on Chromecast) but the Roku remote is much easier to use and has access to more content (for now). Plus, the earphone jack on the remote is a nice added touch.

  • http://www.you-read-it-here-first.com/ John Bailo

    Corrections for Chromecast:

    Voice Search:

    You say no voice search, but every Android app has voice and since android is the remote.

    Games:

    There are a few games (I bought one, a package of classics like Pong) and more coming. They only released the gaming SDK a month ago.

    Cloud:

    Fundamentally, the Google Cloud is the real engine behind Chromecast. The Chromecast is simply an HDMI end point. It’s like the Android device is your keyboard and mouse, and the cord goes all the way out to Google and then the video cable comes all the way back to the display.

    It’s not clear if Amazon is the same, or just another box. The cloud is eating up boxes as well speak.

    • Bizzwell

      I agree about voice search. I find myself using it more and more on my Android devices and Chrome book, and it works pretty well.

      I like not having the inconvenience of another remote as I lose them daily, but I keep pretty good tabs on where my phone is.

      If nothing else, the ability to swipe on an Android keyboard cuts the time needed to input a search by about 90%. Trust me. For someone who spends a good time of my workday with Apple TVs, this ability is priceless!

      • Mike

        My first thought was that cc was at a disadvantage with no remote. Now I’ve got two, I’ve realised that the smart remote I’ve always got in my pocket is the way forward. Browse content/touch screen is the way to go. No looking up and down as with remotes for my other kit twixt TV and button. OK, there’s universal remotes, but the best cost many times the price of a chromecast, and still only control a device, not browse content.

    • Mike

      Good points. I’m pondering Google Drive since the price cuts. Why not a further discount for chromecast buyers, upload your stuff, add a cast icon to Drive, then stream your stuff over the internet via chromecast just like the other services. No messing about local casting, mirroring etc, with variable results. Sorted!

  • Poopik Shmill

    I want to stream movies I have on my PC (1080P movies)
    I want to connect a memory stick to watch stuff I upload on it
    so which one I need?

  • AfrodanJ

    I’m sure I read the Fire TV has 8gb memory and 2gb ram.

    I don’t wish to play mobile games on my TV, I barely play them on my phone. Chromecast ftw in my eyes. It’s just so much easier using your phone to get the media.. Plus me having a Kindle tablet is just never gonna happen

  • Iran Matias-Elias

    Cost benefit analysis, I’ll take the Chromecast anyday. Now with the release of the SDK, apps are just flowing in. The only downside is Google has done a poor job making those apps easy to find. There are many Chromecast compatible apps that are mixed in the regular app market, not in the Chromecast section. If you want to find this apps easy you can download the app “cast store” which does a pretty good job organizing these. However, Google should be the ones doing this so it makes it easy for the consumer. Regardless, Chromecast anyday. BTW, I had a Roku and Apple TV, however, they have been replaced by Chromecasts. To the extent now all of my tvs have a Chromecast. The beauty is I now have a perfect ecosystem in house and I can jump from TV to TV watching anything and it can be controlled by any my Android devices or even better, Chrome in my PC. Also many forget yo can cast your browser if you use the Chrome browser, I use that feature a lot.

  • Mystery Man

    If it runs XBMC then fire tv. Much better than the other boxes available on amazon which cost 99.

  • Divis

    You forgot to mention that chromecast has a lot of apps like:
    video:dailymotion,plex,redbull tv,Viki Tv,1fm,pocket casts,twitch2tv…there are games too and a lot of other apps from different categories ,example like Stocks chromecast and by the way you can use the browser and can open anything you want! cheers so for me Chromecast is much more useful,cheaper and flexible cause you can carry it in your pocket ,)

  • Shark Bait

    Clearly chrome cast is the better deal. Your buying the fire to play games I guess, which so far have been proved to be crap from the like of ouya. Maybe Amazon will be the ones to fix this !

  • Timothy Anderson

    One point I would like to bring up is that Chromecast is cheap enough to put on every TV in your home. You can then access your movies and music. Make no mistake these companies don’t make as much on the device, they care about the long term ecosystem… selling movies, music, and any other media. I went with chromecast already and love it.

  • fredphoesh

    I hate how Amazon have used Android and killed compatibility with Andriod, and enabling iOS integration… it seems like an ANTI google thing to me… spiteful…. So I would never buy an Amazon device.

    • adamhs

      This…+1000…

    • Shark Bait

      They haven’t killed compatibility with android , it is android and apps are compatable

      • Mike

        Indeed. But I can’t watch Amazon Video on our N4 and GS4 phones, or N7 tablet. No problem with Netflix.

        • Shark Bait

          Yes. I see what you mean their, Amazon are just being dicks

          • tygrstyle

            Google has always been open and wants to help move the entire industry forward, they want to change the world for the better. Yes, they do collect tons of information, and I would be ignorant to think that they have never used it for “nefarious” purposes, but I truly do believe that it is collected to make their services what they are today.. and continually improving.. for FREE.

            Google makes it’s money from advertising, this is common knowledge. Now let’s think about that, they are collecting money from businesses and corporations.. generally not the average user. Many of us are using all these Google services for free, which were funded by the advertising revenue from businesses and corporations.

            Point is, Google to me is like Robin Hood, taking from the rich to give to the poor and every once in a while spies on you :P I think MS is making some nice changes, still need to do a lot more.. but giving their Win8 license away for free for to manufacturers is a good start.. we’ll have to see if manufacturers will pass those saving on now.

          • Shark Bait

            I completely agree with you, which is why I use Google so much. We exchange data instead of money, which they are open about and I’m completely OK with that.

            And most of all I think Larry truely wants to make the world a better place with the money they have collected, not just hording it like many companies.

            I would never use apple because of their company ethics and that is the sole reason.

  • adamhs

    What’s going to kill this device is that a lot of the compatibility and media streaming services is restricted to Amazon and/or their craptastic tablets. Amazon is making a mistake by not allowing other Android tablets access to their Prime video streaming app, they’re losing revenue from people like me who are currently buying media from Google Play instead.

  • hackingarena

    Chromecast now also allows to cast your entire screen and not just chrome tab, it is in beta, and I somehow stumbled upon it. I am not sure if everyone has it. I can use my xbmc wirelessly now. Just click on small dropdown arrow on top right corner when you open chromecast extension to cast a tab.

    • googleguy

      shows what chromecast can achieve.

    • timothy

      it can cast entire screen now. WOW

  • hackignarena

    Chromecast now also allows to cast your entire screen and not just chrome tab, it is in beta, and I somehow stumbled upon it. I am not sure if everyone has it. I can use my xbmc wirelessly now. Just click on small dropdown arrow on top right corner when you open chromecast extension to cast a tab. So I feel Chromecast can acheive more in few months

  • takpro

    If I were Google, the YouTube app on any Amazon product would produce a black screen until a castable Instant Video app from Amazon hits the play store.

  • Mike

    In the UK, Amazon bolloxed up the move from LoveFilm streaming to Amazon Video (Instant = ppv, Prime = free with Prime) and broke the app on Samsung TV’s. They had to pay compo. As a result many customers have moved to Netflix which we watch via chromecast. Love it.

    We don’t game, the kids are grown up, we don’t want another box, wires, and remote, we don’t want Amazon’s walled garden, we don’t need a button so we can ask them what day it is, and above all, we don’t want to spend 3 x the price. So, all in all, on balance, with regret, I probably won’t buy Fire TV.

    Just bought a second chromecast for the kitchen TV.Discrete, effective, pocket money, uses the remote you have in your pocket all the time. Brilliant solution.

  • Lakh Jhajj

    I don’t know what’s wrong with theses companies. Why they wanna make their devices not compatible with other platforms or OEMs. Like in case of fire Tv if it has Miracast built in then why restrict it to only mirror from Kindles. I mean if I don’t own a kindle I won’t buy this either now bec it won’t mirror from my HTC One M8. Right there Amazon lost a customer bec amazon wants me to buy a Kindle first to make full use of this streaming Box. Ridiculous !!

    • Mike

      I don’t think they are alone in wanting customers to watch their stuff on their kit. Apple do the same. But many of us want a choice. Google give you an app for Google Play but it’s not shoved down your throat.

      Interesting how the Kindle fire reviews are going on Amazon US. So far, chromecast is rated higher.