Apple TV vs. Fire TV: Streaming Media Player Smackdown

Product Comparisons, Shopping, Utilities
Apple TV vs. Fire TV: Streaming Media Player Smackdown

At an event in San Francisco this month, Apple announced an update to its set-top streaming box, the Apple TV. Not to be outdone, online marketplace Amazon fired back with an announcement about its own set-top box, the Fire TV.

But which new set-top-box will be the ultimate companion for your TV-viewing needs?

Apple announced more than just a new Apple TV. Find out what else the company debuted at the event.

The streaming devices: At a glance

Apple TV Fire TV
Price Starting at $149 from Apple Starting at $99.99 from Amazon
Voice activation Yes Yes
Remote included Yes Yes
Resolution 1080p 2160p (30fps); 720p and 1080p (60fps)

The streaming devices: Up close and personal

Appearance

Let’s start at the surface level. Appearance-wise, both of these products look like nothing more than a little black box.

The Amazon Fire TV measures 4.5 inches by 4.5 inches. It’s 0.7 inch tall and weighs 9.5 ounces. The Apple TV measures 3.9 inches by 3.9 inches by 1.4 inch. It weighs 15 ounces.

Each product includes an accompanying remote. Apple’s communicates with your Apple TV via Bluetooth 4.0 and contains a rechargeable battery that can last for months on a single charge; Amazon’s is powered by traditional batteries.

Voice-activated features

Both the Apple TV and Fire TV give users access to movies, TV shows, games and a whole lot more.

Arguably the most groundbreaking feature of each of these is their voice-activated TV viewing component. Amazon’s Fire TV Voice Remote allows consumers to say what they want to watch. The product is compatible with Alexa, a cloud-based voice service, that makes it possible to search for shows via voice commands. That means there’s no need to scroll through channels or flip through the TV guide manually.

Apple TV uses Siri Remote, which lets users ask Siri to find the program they’d like to watch. Taking it a step further, the Siri Remote incorporates touch as well. The remote’s glass touch surface recognizes finger movements and mimics them on the TV screen to further improve search functionality.

Games, apps and more

But what would a streaming media device be without media?

Fire TV gives users access to over 250,000 episodes and films from Netflix, Amazon Video, HBO Now, Hulu and more. Plus, the device supports 4K Ultra HD, providing superior video clarity. Users can access free games or pay for games that start at just 99 cents.

Apple TV

Apple TV

Fire TV is even better for Amazon Prime members: They can enjoy thousands of movies and TV episodes via Prime Video, listen ad-free to more than a million songs via Prime Music and view photos on their TV that they’ve saved in their free storage Amazon Cloud Drive account.

The new Apple TV now allows access to the App Store, and this developer ecosystem could be Apple TV’s strongest asset, according to Forbes. Developers can create games that Apple TV owners can then download and play on their TV screen. Compatible apps include Manticore Rising, Guitar Hero and lots more.

Apple TV can also play music and support photo viewing, and provides access to apps such as Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, HBO Now, Showtime and more for days full of TV and movie binge watching.

More interested in a smartphone than a streaming device? Check out our comparison of the iPhone 6S and the iPhone 6.

Versions and prices

Once you’ve weighed the features and settled on either Apple or Amazon, your purchase decision still isn’t over, as both of these devices will be sold in multiple formats.

Amazon Fire TV

 

Amazon Fire TV

 

For instance, the 32GB Apple TV is $149, and the 64GB model will cost you $199. If you’re an avid gamer, you might want to spring for the 64GB model. Apple doesn’t allow added external storage.

The Fire TV is $99.99, but you can get the Amazon Fire TV Gaming Edition for $139.99. This souped-up version — perfect for gamers — includes two games (Shovel Knight and Disney DuckTales: Remastered) as well as a Fire TV Game Controller. The Game Controller on its own is $39.99.

If your biggest concern is price, it’s clear that the Fire TV will always be more affordable, regardless of which version you select. But be careful; each version of the Amazon Fire TV only includes 8BGB of internal storage. The traditional version can support an optional microSD card of up to 128GB (if you want extra storage), but this will have to be purchased separately. The gaming version also comes with a 32GB microSD card.

Extras

Besides the Apple TV itself, Apple’s set-top box comes with the Siri Remote, power cord and Ligntning-to-USB Cable. For gaming on Apple TV, users can purchase MFi-based controllers separately.

The Amazon Fire TV includes the device itself, the Amazon Fire TV Voice Remote, a power adapter and two AAA batteries. If you opt for the gaming version, you’ll receive the Amazon Fire TV Game Controller, power adapter, two AA batteries and a 32GB microSD card.

But which one should you get?

Which device should you nestle in your entertainment center? It all depends on you.

We recommend that Amazon Prime members spring for the Fire TV, as it’ll allow you to best maximize your existing Prime member benefits. But, for those who have a current Apple TV and want an update, or for consumers entering the media-streaming device space for the first time, we recommend the Apple TV, as its combination of voice, touch and apps will provide an unparalleled, cutting-edge viewing experience.

But keep in mind that the new Apple TV won’t hit stores until late October (exact date has yet to be officially announced). If you need your streaming device ASAP, the new Fire TV will be released Oct. 5.

 

Put more of your favorite products head-to-head:

Courtney Jespersen is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: courtney@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @courtneynerd.


Top image via iStock.