Apple TV v Fire TV

Apple TV v Chromecast v Roku v Fire TV: Which would you choose?

We're lucky to be blessed with so many good options when it comes to streaming online media. The space recently got a little more crowded with Amazon introducing its first effort, the Fire TV. And, while we're naturally fans of the Apple TV in these parts, the fact we're spoiled for choice is nothing but good. More choice also means that we're more likely to find one that meets our own specific needs. So which would you choose? And why?

None of the four we're looking at here are particularly expensive, but in a straight up cost fight Chromecast has the edge over the other options. The Fire TV has gaming on its side, but the Chromecast has an open SDK for Android and iOS developers to hook their mobile apps into to get content on the TV. Roku has a massive selection of content available and the Apple TV has AirPlay which is potentially important for iPhone and iPad owners.

So while there's a bundle of choice, there's also the difficulty in making it. It's not so easy just to go into a store and pick one up on impulse, there's real thought to be put into it. So, which would you choose, and why? Maybe something else entirely? Drop a vote in the poll up and sound off in the comments below!

Richard Devine

Senior Editor at iMore, part time racing driver, full time British guy

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Apple TV v Chromecast v Roku v Fire TV: Which would you choose?

12 Comments

This was not even a contest for me because I am trapped in the Apple Ecosystem it has a present and After Effect on me (did you see what I did there) which I love. But Joe has a point I wonder what the iMore counter parts would choose if given the choice.

I have 2 ATV's and love them. When Chromecast was announced last summer at $35 I figured why not try it out. Now I use both Chromecast and ATV almost equally. I like that Chromecast lets me use my iphone interface for things like Netflix and Pandora, but I like ATV for ESPN and HBO and a poor mans Sonos system. I say whatever you settle on (ATV, Roku, Fire TV) add Chromecast to it because Chromecast is too good of a value to not have it.

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That makes a lot of sense. I have my Chromecast plugged into the back of my Xbox One (the TV input) for the same effect.

Roku 3. No contest in terms of content. Roku just offers more. Lots more. Amazon Video is important to me also and not available on Apple TV. Being that I don't use iTunes, that integration doesn't matter much to me. I do love airplay though and sometimes think of getting an Apple TV for that function alone. I'll wait and see what the next box will be like and maybe get one. I'd still use my Roku in addition to Apple TV.

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My real answer is "I’d wait and see."

If a gun was to my head i'd buy in this order:
1. WDTV Live
2. Amazon TV or Roku
3. Apple TV
4. Chromecast.

My number one priority is playing my own content. I have roughly 1.7 TBs of ripped my favorite ripped movies, TV shows, comedy specials, home movies, soccer games, and my lifelong built music collection ((150 GBs) ripped as mp3s. Many of my movies were ripped into xvids pre mp4 mkv era. Plus in the newer ones the audio is all over the place. Some aac, some ac3 some dts, some 6 channel, some 2 channel, some with subs in the file thus, not having to deal with getting no audio or video in my collection is a high priority. At some time I may convert the avis to mp4 but I’m on an old computer that crashes when it overheats & long encoding overheats my computer. So until I buy a new laptop one that’s not getting done.

I don't Netflix, Hulu, iTunes radio, air play. I have very few songs (like 5 out of 20k) purchased from iTunes. I don’t have HBO or Showtime either. I do have a Google play account with 18k songs that I rarely use.

WDTV Live http://www.wdc.com/en/products/products.aspx?id=330 : it plays my content without ever having to transcode. It's the best at what's most important to me. It will natively play MKV, MP4, XVID, AVI, ISO/VOB, MOV, TS, AC3, AAC, M4A, DTS, and more I can’t think of. And it has an app for YouTube, Netflix, hulu, spotify, Pandora and other stuff should I ever use those services. 2 USB ports! And I do currently use 2 usb drives. streams from a usb drive or networked drive. A nice feature is an attached usb drive shows up as a networked drive and i can save directly to it from any laptop on my network. Has the big apps but not the selection of but Roku and probably Amazon Fire. problem is wdtv live is an older device do for a refresh.

Amazon TV like: plex, xbmc, the speed of interface and the possibilities. Don't have a ton to say but it looks really promising if in practice it plays local files well. Gaming holds almost zero appeal. I got a 360 and after that likely a future PS4.

Roku like: apps but can't play many of my local files without adding some other software and then it has to transcode.

Apple TV: like: Airplay but i wouldn't use it much. I don't need to cast from a phone. poor file support, fewer apps than Roku. Interface feels a bit dated. I have hope a refresh makes it a power device but i doubt it. That's not apple. I don’t expect to see xbmc or plex, maybe with the hassle of a jailbreak but what a pain. I don’t jailbreak my iPhone anymore. I'm not stuck in the apple ecosystem so Appletv isn't a big appeal to me.

Chromecast: fails because, like airplay, I don’t have much desire to cast from my phone. I don’t think it easily plays local content. No remote. I like a remote over using a phone. I do have hopes that a dedicated box will be the perfect device but I have little faith Google can deliver as most Google products I find unfinished and/or with peculiar interface choices.

So for now the answer is "wait and see." if a gun was to my head, wdtv, but Amazon Fire has potential, and Roku is a powerhouse. Plus I have a 360 to pick up slack so I have time to wait and see how what comes out and how products evolve

I've been using Plex quite successfully to stream content off my Mac to the Roku...other than iTunes store videos, that is.

Yes that's a plus. The negative is plex has to transcode, many formats because roku can't play certain contianers and codecs. I'm not positive on exactly which ones and it doesn't matter but it think it has to transcode, xvid, divx, ac3 audio, DTS.

Plus i currently i have all my media on 2 external drives through the usb ports and plex may need a computer. Using USB you don't have to leave a computer on a network. But there are trade offs with the Roku and Amazon. Better if they just functioned out of the box without needing third party software.

WDTV Live...... hands down is the best streaming box!! It has everything u need plus it streams every file you throw at it from your own personal network library!