When trying to find the best streaming device for your TV, two voice-controlled streamers should be high on your list—the Chromecast with Google TV and the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max.
Both work as typical streaming players with the added feature of acting as a voice assistant to control your home with the same capabilities as a Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa speaker. We’ll take a closer look at both options.
Chromecast vs. Fire TV Stick 4K Max: Price and Design
Chromecast with Google TV retails for $49.99 while the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max is usually $54.99. But thanks to sales and price breaks, you can often find both for less than that.
Not only are they feature-full and powerful players, but they are also among the least expensive 4K HDR-capable devices available.
Both are dongles. They connect directly to an HDMI port on your TV and are hidden behind the screen. The Chromecast is a flat oval and slightly larger than the Fire TV Stick, and it has an attached ribbon cable with an HDMI connector.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick Max resembles a large flash drive that can connect directly to an HDMI port. It comes with an HDMI extender to use in the (likely) case that it blocks another of the TV’s HDMI ports you need to use. Both also connect to a power adapter that must plug into the wall to power the units.
Google Assistant vs. Amazon Alexa
Voice assistants are built into each of the streamers. Google Assistant is available on the Chromecast with Google TV, and Amazon Alexa is on the Amazon Fire TV Stick. Both require pressing a button on the remote to activate the microphone.
The voice assistants control playback, search, launch apps, and more on the streaming player.
They are also fully functioning assistants that accept voice commands to control smart home lights, smart thermostats, door locks, and more in your home. Both can create reminders, alarms and display your calendar or shopping list.
While both assistants handle smart home control in much the same way with similar results, there is a difference in how each answers resource questions. When asking “What is Mt. Vesuvius?” or “How long do I cook cauliflower in an Instapot?” the Amazon Fire TV will display the text of a Wikipedia page or a quick answer (ie “cook the cauliflower for 10 minutes”).
In contrast, Google will display a choice of cauliflower Instapot recipes from TV shows, food apps, and videos on YouTube. Likewise, asking about Mt. Vesuvius brought up informational videos, but it did not display the response. This adds another step toward getting to your answer as you have to watch the videos.
Regarding voice control, a slight advantage goes to the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max, which displays the answers rather than making you look through videos to find them.
Chromecast vs. Fire TV Stick 4K Max: Remote Controls
Adding Google TV to Chromecast means a remote control is included. The remote is an elongated oval making it comfortable to hold. It’s small and minimalist. Google stepped out of the norm in the remote design as it did not include a play/pause button.
While the center button of the navigation wheel acts to play or pause while watching a video, it also works as the OK or Enter button on other menu screens. It’s counter-intuitive to how any other remote works and requires practice to remember. Another anomaly is that the power button is at the bottom of the remote. There are only two direct access buttons—for YouTube and Netflix— and the audio controls are on the side (similar to a Roku remote).
On the other hand, the Alexa remote is slender and relatively comfortable with a typical button setup. The blue Alexa button stands out at the top of the black remote control. Direct access buttons on the bottom launch Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+, and Hulu. A TV button brings up the Live TV schedule grid.
Chromecast vs. Fire TV Stick 4K Max: Specs and Performance
The specifications on both Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max and the Chromecast with Google TV are almost identical. Quad-core 1.8 GHz processors and 2 GB of RAM are more than adequate to navigate menus smoothly and launch apps quickly. Find out more about the Chromecast with Google TV in our review.
The Amazon Fire TV 4K Max has two advantages because it is newer than the Chromecast. It is equipped with 8 GB of storage, making it a better candidate for downloading large apps and games. Also, it has Wi-Fi 6 for smoother and faster downloads and to ensure the best quality video will always play.
Both support up to 4K video at 60Hz with Dolby Vision HDR 10, HDR 10+ for excellent video quality, and Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital, and Dolby Digital Plus.
The addition of Wi-Fi 6 and the larger 8 GB of storage gives the Amazon Fire TV 4K Max the advantage. Still, it’s not likely you’ll be able to tell the difference.
While the speed of navigating and opening apps and loading smooth video loading is important, we notice the menus every time we use the streaming player. When we sit down to stream videos, we want to quickly get to the video we want to watch or get good suggestions to discover new titles.
So far, there has been little difference between the two devices. Still, when it comes to using the streaming sticks, Chromecast with Google TV’s menus are better than any other streaming player currently available.
What makes the Chromecast stand out is the Google TV OS. A well-designed home screen combined with a robust algorithm makes it easy to find what you want to watch next. If you want the suggestions to better reflect your entertainment preferences, you can take a quiz and indicate the movies and TV shows you like/dislike. Also, you can add thumbs up/down in the detail pages of individual titles.
Google TV’s For You screen is agnostic as it displays recommendations from all the apps you watch. In the settings, you can specify which apps to include in recommendations. The bottom line is that it is effortless to find new titles to watch that are similar to the types of shows you like to watch.
Of course, it’s also a Chromecast which means that you can easily cast or mirror from a smartphone, device, or from Chrome on a computer. It’s as easy as tapping the cast icon. The Amazon Fire TV can mirror a device. Still, it’s a much more involved process and an added benefit rather than a native feature like Chromecast.
The Amazon Fire TV home screen keeps improving, but it is a bit more confusing than most menus that display a grid of installed apps. At the top is a banner of suggested new or trending titles along with quick access to tips and tricks on using the Amazon Fire TV. While it favors Prime Video and Prime Video channels, it occasionally displays a popular title from other apps, including the Apple TV app.
Amazon Fire TV’s Live TV schedule grid is excellent. It can be customized to include several sources in one grid—Freevee, Pluto TV, Plex, tubi, and Xumo, as well as paid service like YouTube TV, Philo TV, Prime Video Channels, and Discovery+ live channels. Once you choose your favorite channels, the grid becomes useful as you can see all the channels you like to watch in one schedule grid.
Chromecast has a Live tab in the menu. The grid shows channels from your installed apps, including PhiloTV YouTube TV, Sling TV, and 300 free Live TV Channels on Pluto TV. The services are in one grid, changing to the next service as you scroll down. You can quickly set up which are your favorite channels and switch back and forth between displaying all channels or favorite channels in the grid.
Which Is the Best Streaming Device?
You can’t go wrong with either device in the battle between the Chromecast with Google TV and the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max. Still, despite all the similarities, at the end of the day, it’s the everyday experience that is most important. When we sit down to stream movies or TV shows, it’s essential that we can easily get to the videos we want to stream or discover new titles that would be interesting for us to watch.
If you have Wi-Fi internet issues inside your home and a Wi-Fi 6 router, the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max might be the way to go. It may also be the best choice for those who watch a lot of live TV and want to see the schedule from all live apps at a glance.