Within the last decade, we’ve seen streaming technologies explode and overtake traditional content delivery platforms like archaic blue and yellow colored movie rental chains and even old cable networks. There’s a lot of exciting new ways to stream data to your television now, and the best part is most of them are completely free. With exception to an upfront cost for the hardware, such as a Kodi box, Raspberry Pi, Google Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV Stick (among many others), you can easily enjoy free content by streaming it from the Internet.
Some channels like HBO still require fees, but it’s possible to stream free movies and even live television channels over the Internet. If you want to cut the cord with your cable company, then it’s time to adopt a streaming platform as your go-to source for digital media. But which platform is the best? Today, we’re going to take a look at two of the biggest brand name solutions in the streaming media industry: Google Chromecast and the Amazon Fire TV Stick.
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The prices of each competitor’s hardware are so close I would say any savings you could scrape together are negligible. We’re only talking about a very little price difference, which really isn’t much at all. Economics dictates that as price goes down, demand goes up, so I know there is some fraction of the market who will opt for Chromecast simply because of its price, without considering quality.
Nevertheless, the prices are as follows:
I also wanted to take a moment to compare these prices to other solutions. Just consider how much money could be saved by ditching your old cable and movie package and switching to a streaming platform. I would imagine most people pay more a month for quality cable packages, and the cost of the Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV Stick is only a one-time cost.
Even cheaper alternatives like SlingTV cost about $20 to $25 bucks a month for the basic packages, and even more if you want additional add-on channels and packages. If you find that you’re displeased with traditional cable networks, you could really save a lot of money by opting for almost any streaming service, since many of them provide access to completely free content.
Despite it’s small size, the Fire TV Stick (Generation 2) actually packs quite a punch. It’s capable of 1080p resolution at a maximum rate of 30 frames per second, and it’s got a pretty powerful processor as well. The processor is clocked at 1.3 Ghz, and it’s got a Mali-450 GPU in addition to the main CPU. Plus, I was pleased to see that it has a decent amount of memory, with regards to both volatile and permanent storage.
It comes with 1 GB of RAM, and a whopping 8 GB of internal storage. 8 GB of storage may not sound like much, but it’s more than other similar solutions include. No, it’s not a great medium on which to store libraries of high quality video data. In fact, 8 GB would get used up pretty quickly, but I still think it’s a lot of memory for such a little stick.
Besides, most people use a NAS for storing media libraries. Furthermore, it does have the latest and greatest WiFi technology, since it is capable of running 802.11 AC. Naturally, it’s backwards compatible with all the older wireless standards, though I would be surprised if anyone actually tried to connect to a WiFi network using anything older than 802.11N. It does have a USB port, but it’s only function is to draw power. And naturally, it plugs into your television via HDMI.
In summary, the following outlines the hardware specs of the Amazon Fire TV Stick (Generation 2):
- 1080p resolution at 30 FPS
- 1.3 Ghz quad-core ARM processor
- Mali-450 GPU
- 1 GB RAM
- 8 GB internal storage
- 802.11AC wireless capability (also compatible with A/B/G/N)
- USB 2.0 port (only used for power)
- HDMI output to television
The second generation Google Chromecast is also capable of the same resolution at 1080p, but on the whole, it has significantly weaker hardware. For instance, the processor is quite a bit slower since it is a dual-core processor instead of a quad-core. It’s clocked at 1.2 GHz, which isn’t slow for a streaming device at all.
But it seems that every other hardware feature has been downgraded when compared to the Amazon Fire TV Stick. It has half the amount of RAM, and only includes 512 MB, and the flash memory storage is absolutely terrible. It only provides 256 MB of storage space, which is 1/32 of the storage space available on the Amazon Fire TV Stick.
Fortunately, it does come with up-to-date 802.11AC WiFi adapter, and is backwards compatible with older versions. And just like the competing Amazon solution, Google Chromecast uses HDMI to connect to your television and USB for power.
In summary, the following outlines the hardware specs of Google Chromecast (Generation 2):
- 1080p resolution at 30 FPS
- 1.2 GHz dual core processor
- 512 MB RAM
- 256 MB flash memory for storage
- 802.11AC network card (backward compatible with A/B/G/N)
- MicroUSB for power
- HDMI output to television
All in all, it’s clear that the Amazon Fire TV Stick beats Google Chromecast in terms of raw processing power, storage space, and overall hardware.
The next thing we need to consider is the remotes that come with each system. The Amazon Fire TV Stick remote is really pretty bare-bones and mundane. To be pretty blunt, it has a spectacularly cheap design, yet easy to use. To give you an idea of how cheap it is, you can purchase a replacement remote on eBay plus shipping.
Google Chromecast, however, doesn’t come with a remote. It does have the ability to interpret signals from infrared remotes, however. Still, I think the fact that it doesn’t come with a remote is another point against it. At any rate, I think most people would prefer buying a third party remote for either Chromecast or Amazon Fire, since many aftermarket television remotes come with full QWERTY keyboards.
I suppose this is all a moot point for anyone who likes using voice commands or already has a keyboard that can be used with the Amazon Fire Stick. However, do note that Chromecast doesn’t support the use of third-party keyboards since it was designed to interpret IR remote controls.
Both Chromecast and the Amazon Fire TV Stick offer voice command features, which is great if you’re a lazy typist like myself or simply don’t have a great wireless keyboard for your television. Chromecast comes with the Google Voice Assistant, while Amazon Fire TV Stick comes with Alexa functionality. The voice features included with Chromecast are relatively new, too, since they were rolled out in October of 2017.
However, do note that the voice command features aren’t only for selecting a channel or content. Not only do the voice command features allow you to select music as well, it also allows you to control playback options and pause, rewind, and fast forward (among other controls) with your voice. But which is better? I think this really comes down to personal preference.
I have used both Alexa enabled devices and Google assistant commands. Personally, I don’t see a clear winner, but some people feel as strongly about digital assistants as others do about the choice between PCs and Macs.
So, which one is the best? I think this one is a no-brainer, and that the Amazon Fire TV Stick is superior to Chromecast. Why? It’s really pretty simple. I think the cost difference was negligible, but the hardware specifications were drastically different. Even though the Amazon Fire TV Stick costs a bit more, I see a tremendous increase in value with the hardware.
It’s pretty darn annoying trying to stream a video that’s choppy or doesn’t buffer or play smoothly. Having a faster processor, GPU, and more RAM will drastically increase performance, which means that the Amazon Fire TV Stick can provide a better user experience. I did think it was also a small advantage that the Amazon Fire TV Stick came with a remote, but not really that big of a deal since both models come with voice features.
That said, I don’t think the Google Chromecast (gen. 2) was a bad product. In fact, I think it’s great. But in the end, I think you get more bang for your buck by opting for the Amazon Fire TV Stick. If you wanted a drastically improved media streamer, I would also recommend considering the Amazon Fire TV box, since it has advanced hardware that improves even further upon the Amazon Fire TV Stick.