Apple TV vs. Amazon Fire TV: Which one should you get?

Apple TV vs. Amazon Fire TV: Which one should you buy?

Amazon's Fire TV is here but how does it compare to the Apple TV?

Fire TV is Amazon's answer to the Apple TV, and to other options like the Roku 3 and the Google Chromecast. Fire TV brings Amazon Instant Video, Showtime Anytime, and tons of games to your big screen TV. Of course it won't play iTunes content, which means anything you've bought on your iPhone or iPad is of no help to you. If you're not big on iTunes, or if you just want to try something new, could the Fire TV be a better choice?

Fire TV vs. Apple TV: Hardware design and initial setup

Apple TV vs. Amazon Fire TV: Which one should you buy?

When I first unboxed the Fire TV I was surprised by the small size and the sleek form factor. It's slightly larger than the Apple TV but it's thinner. There's no denying it's a nice looking streaming box. The small size also means that it won't take up very much room at all in your media cabinet. Just plug in the power cord and an HDMI cable and you're ready to go. The setup process and experience is exactly the same with the Apple TV. Plug in two cables and you're done.

Both boxes are extremely easy to set up and take up next to no space in your entertainment center.

Winner: Tie.

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Fire TV vs. Apple TV: Remote control

Apple TV vs. Amazon Fire TV: Which one should you buy?

How you navigate around a streaming box is extremely important and for most of people, that will be done with the remote control that's in the box. I personally detest the Apple TV remote as it manages to slide its way into every couch cushion or blanket it can find. The results are a living room turned upside down. At the end of the day though, it's simple to use. There are also tons of remote shortcuts to be had on the Apple TV that are useful and help you navigate around quickly. We also can't forget about the Remote app, which makes text entry and gesture navigation a breeze.

On the flip side, the Amazon Fire TV remote is thicker than the Apple TV remote, which I find to be a welcome change. Not only does it not slide into couch cushions as easily, it's a lot more comfortable to hold. The flagship feature of the Fire TV remote is no doubt the voice control feature that lets you simply speak what you're looking for. Amazon then beams your request to the cloud and returns in just seconds with relevant results. You can say the name of a show, a movie, an actor, and much more. Want to view all movies with Christian Bale in them? No problem, just say his name and everything the Fire TV can serve up populates. The only down side is that it can't currently pull up anything not within the Amazon network. That means even if you're signed into Netflix and Hulu Plus, voice search won't populate results for them, you'll still have to search for those manually within each respective app.

Both remotes are easy to learn and use, but the Fire TV remote has more options out of the box without needing an additional app, although one would be appreciated for faster text entry.

Winner: Amazon Fire TV.

Fire TV vs. Apple TV: Interface and design

Apple TV vs. Amazon Fire TV: Which one should you buy?

The Apple TV functions as a list of app icons that you can customize within settings. The top row of of icons stays static and contains quick access to iTunes rentals and purchases for both television and movies, iTunes Radio, and music and media from any networked computers in your home, through iTunes of course. Any of the other icons can be moved around to any position you'd like or hidden. Anyone familiar with iOS will be familiar with the Apple TV interface.

The Fire TV uses a vertical menu with sections of featured content off to the right. You can quickly search for things with voice control or type in queries. Scrolling up and down brings up content in each section. The interface is simple and always keeps content as your main focus. The quad-core processor really lets you fly through menus quickly. Sometimes while navigating on my Apple TV I've experienced lag. The Fire TV keeps pace nicely which is an extremely welcome change.

The Apple TV is due for an update in the software department. For me, the Fire TV was a welcome breath of fresh air.

Winner: Amazon Fire TV.

Fire TV vs. Apple TV: Movies and TV

Apple TV vs. Amazon Fire TV: Which one should you buy?

Both iTunes and Amazon have a huge selection of television and movies to choose from. Which one is best suited for you really depends on what content you watch and what ecosystem you want to commit yourself to. If you're an Amazon Prime subscriber, you may find that Amazon typically has movies available before iTunes does. I've been pleasantly surprised to find new titles available to stream for free on Amazon Instant.

On the flip side, if you've been buying content from iTunes for years, the Apple TV is the only place you're going to have access to iTunes in the Cloud. All your purchased content is right at your fingertips. If you have iPhones, iPads, and Macs in your home, everything is available everywhere.

Both systems serve up movies and tv like champs, it really just depends on what merchant you want to buy into, Amazon Prime or iTunes.

Winner: Tie.

Fire TV vs. Apple TV: Music

Apple TV vs. Amazon Fire TV: Which one should you buy?

The Apple TV offers access to iTunes Radio and all your iTunes Match content. You can also listen to hundreds of radio stations. If you own an iPhone or iPad, you can also AirPlay content right to your Apple TV from virtually any service on the planet.

The Fire TV offers integration with Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn Radio, VEVO, and more right out of the gate. Considering the Fire TV has only just launched, I can imagine more streaming services are most likely soon to follow. Until that time though, it's hard to beat iTunes integration. I'm scratching my head a little that Amazon's own music service isn't integrated right off the bat.

Due to native iTunes integration and AirPlay support, the Apple TV supports the most amount of services as a whole.

Winner: Apple TV.

Fire TV vs. Apple TV: Apps

Apple TV vs. Amazon Fire TV: Which one should you buy?

The Apple TV has what apps Apple gives you out of the box. Sporadically Apple will form new partnerships and new apps and stations appear what feels like overnight. While the list has gotten quite extensive, the Amazon Fire TV is putting up a pretty good fight. At launch there are hundreds of apps already available with Amazon promising even more in the near future. Fire TV apps are essentially Android apps that are scaled to fit your tv, but in any case, they look and work great in our experience thus far.

We also can't forget about Amazon Coins, which can earn you free content based on past purchases. Certain apps and games you purchase will earn you Amazon Coins. You can then use them towards the purchase of other apps and games. It's actually a pretty awesome way to earn legitimately free stuff. And who doesn't like that?

Apple may win the app war on mobile devices, but Amazon's currently winning it on streaming media boxes.

Winner: Amazon Fire TV.

Fire TV vs. Apple TV: Gaming

Apple TV vs. Amazon Fire TV: Which one should you buy?

The Amazon Fire TV launched alongside a dedicated gaming controller. There's quite a few games to choose from right at launch with more to come. All of them don't need the gaming controller either and can be played using the regular remote that comes with the Fire TV. I don't think Amazon is going to give Xbox a run for its money any day soon, but if you're a casual gamer, the Fire TV is a very realistic option.

The Apple TV — rumors of an app/game SDK aside — doesn't offer any games out of the box. However, if you own an iPhone or iPad, any game you want to play on the big screen is only a few AirPlay away.

If we're talking out of the box support with no additional hardware needed, the Fire TV is a better bet. However, if you own a ton of iOS games already, AirPlay lets you effortlessly take advantage of your television's screen real estate through your Apple TV.

Winner: Amazon. (But, AirPlay.)

Fire TV vs. Apple TV: Accessibility

Apple TV vs. Amazon Fire TV: Which one should you buy?

The Apple TV has great accessibility options. One of the best is VoiceOver and for the most part, it's unmatched on virtually every platform, streaming box or not. You can enable a remote shortcut so it can easily be toggled on and off in just two taps. Each menu is audibly spoken while VoiceOver is enabled. It makes the Apple TV completely useable by someone with severe visual impairments.

The Amazon Fire TV didn't have any advanced accessibility options I could find. While both boxes provide closed captioning where provided, I couldn't find anything that would cater to visually impaired individuals. If that's an issue, the Amazon Fire TV isn't currently a great choice.

Winner: Apple TV.

Who should buy an Apple TV?

Apple TV vs. Amazon Fire TV: Which one should you buy?

The Apple TV is due for an update soon but that doesn't mean it isn't still relevant in the world of streaming boxes. Anyone who is heavily tied into the Apple ecosystem will no doubt prefer many of its features over the competition. iTunes Match, iTunes Radio, and iTunes in the Cloud are readily available on the Apple TV. AirPlay fans that own iPhones and iPads will most likely prefer it as well since virtually anything can be mirrored to it. It's also the best option for anyone with visual impairments due to extensive VoiceOver support.

If you already own tons of other Apple products and regularly purchase or subscribe to iTunes services, the Apple TV will be the most welcome choice in your home.

Who should buy an Amazon Fire TV?

Apple TV vs. Amazon Fire TV: Which one should you buy?

Anyone who subscribes to Amazon Prime, owns a Kindle Fire or other Amazon handheld device will no doubt love the Amazon Fire TV. For the new kid on the block, it has a lot to offer. Amazon has managed to get a lot of content together for launch and promises more apps and games are coming soon. If you aren't hooked into the Apple ecosystem and value fresh, new content over iTunes integration, the Amazon Fire TV will be a great addition to your entertainment system.

Who should buy both?

Apple TV vs. Amazon Fire TV: Which one should you buy?

At only $99, buying both boxes isn't out of the question for a lot of households. If you can afford it, having the best of both worlds is always the best option. Perhaps you buy content in iTunes but also subscribe to Amazon Prime for deals on shipping. That means you've already got access to Amazon Instant Video. If you're a bargain shopper and want to pay the lowest prices on movies and tv shows, having both enables you to always do just that.

What did you choose? Apple TV, Fire TV, or something else?

Apple TV vs. Amazon Fire TV: Which one should you buy?

The Apple TV and Fire TV are certainly not alone in the world of streaming boxes. We can't forget about the Google Chromecast, Roku 3, and many others. If you've picked up a streaming box, which one did you go with and why? Let me know in the comments!

Allyson Kazmucha

Help and how to editor for iMore. I can take apart an iPhone in less than 6 minutes. I also like coffee and Harry Potter more than anyone really should.

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Reader comments

Apple TV vs. Amazon Fire TV: Which one should you get?

50 Comments

Chose the Apple TV and it's one of my favorite apple items so far. I think it's Amazing even if it is missing content. Airplay kinda takes care of most of it

Love my Apple TV. I'm sure if I wasn't engulfed in the Apple Universe the Amazon would be more appealing, but as of right now it's not. I'm sure there are people out there that will love it.

Chromecast. Backside of tv. You don't see it. It's great for streaming. And I can use my ipad or my nexus to watch anything I need. I left apple services years ago.

Amazon missed the boat.

802.11n Wifi in 2014?? Head Scratcher (should be 802.11ac).
No input pass-thru/Input Zero (gobbles up anther HDMI input
No screaming from Desktop?Laptop computers

Hardware Design and Initial Setup should have gone to Apple.

The Apple TV can be setup easier. Connect to Bluetooth on iOS and your Wifi settings, iTunes account and Region/Format preferences are transferred to the new Apple TV and configured.

The Apple TV also has an internal power supply. The Fire TV has a wall wart which is awkward and hampers replacement of the cable should your pet or you destroy the cable. Apple's cable is industry standard.

While I despise wallwarts, if your pet chews the cord, you will likely need to replace it. If your pet chews the cord on a apple tv you will likely need to replace your dead pet.

Waiting on the Apple TV Refresh. The only thing I would consider the Amazon Fire TV for is Prime, as I am sure it is a better experience (faster) that using my Xbox. I haven't been holding my breath for an Amazon Instant Apple TV app, but this just proves it will be a while longer yet.

I've had an Apple TV for about a year and a half, and love it. The Amazon Fire TV seems pretty cool, but it seems like you really need to purchase Amazon Prime to make it worthwhile. (Netflix is on both, so that's a wash.)

But for me, the biggest draw of Apple TV is AirPlay. I acquire media from multiple sources, and the ability to open VLC, play a movie or TV show on my iMac, and have it stream right to the Apple TV is an amazing and essential feature.

Yes, I can't imagine anyone buying a Fire TV if they didn't already have Amazon Prime. I think in general, if you pay for Prime already, Fire TV is probably a better buy. If you don't already have Prime and wouldn't take advantage of its non-online benefits, then go with Apple TV.

I'm kind of surprised that Amazon didn't offer a few months of complimentary Prime service with a purchase of the Fire TV, just to get people sucked into the ecosystem.

Great article Ally,

I think you hit the nail on the head about ecosystem. There are always going to be different hardware solutions, but by now we belong to an ecosystem and tend to stick with what is best for that ecosystem.

I cant wait to see an Apple refresh. Way overdue.

Very helpful article thanks Ally. I have Prime so I like the thought of Fire. But I'm in the UK so will have to wait. By then Apple TV will be updated so I guess I'll wait and see.

Excellent, except I think you really underplayed the importance of AirPlay. Absolutely everything at my house works over AirPlay and my entire media experience would be crap without it.

The fact that the Fire doesn't support AirPlay is going to be a deal-killer for many people. AFAIK it also cannot access an iTunes library which is where the majority of your readers will have all their content.

It's stunning that Amazon would release a product like that and have it not be compatible with their music service.

Nice write up.

I have both the Apple TV and the Roku which I hardly ever use. I was about to order the Fire TV but I could not really justify the need as the Apple TV does almost everything I need it to. I only use the Roku for Amazon Prime which I hardly watch anyway. If you are in the Apple eco system buy the Apple TV if not buy it anyway.

I have to disagree with three of your points about the Fire TV

(I bought mine yesterday and received my Fire TV today and have spent most of the day playing with it)

First: The Apple TV has been around for along time, so it was easy for Amazon to pick a part what they liked and didn't or what they could improve. You left that fact out during your comparison and with the Apple TV refresh rumored to come, Apple may just wipe the floor with the Fire TV.

Second: The biggest trump card the Apple TV have over the Fire TV is the ability to download your iTunes content and watch it later with or WITHOUT an internet connection. This is something the Fire TV can not do. Apple TV is still the winner in this case.

Third: The built in microphone on the remote, I got to say is awesome and the feel of it is nice......but the buttons are to small, the wheel is also too small. Anyone with big hands will get a bit irritated trying to hit the right button especially in the dark. The Apple TV remote is nice and thin and the buttons were made so the finger tips fit inside the button so you can press down and know which one your hitting.
The Apple TV remote also eliminates the need for a separate pause/play, FF, and rewind buttons. It's simplistic like a good remote should be. For design sake the Apple TV wins but the Voice Search with Fire TV still edges it out overall.

Now, what the Apple TV doesn't have, streaming programming so you can count this as a win for the Fire TV. Should Apple decide to do so with their vast library, Amazon could be scrambling to find something to add to equalize the playing field. Also if the rumors of gaming with the Apple TV is true, game is over. Apple has great titles already through iOS and Amazon will have along time before the build up a catalog that comes close.

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This article misses one extremely important point. The remote is Bluetooth not IR. Which means if you use a universal remote like a Logitech Harmony it won't work with it. This is frustrating since every remote on the planet uses IR. I'm sure they needed to do this because of the voice control but they should have allowed for dual support and give the user the option.

It's also worth noting that while the Roku remote is bluetooth or something else that doesn't require line of sight, it has an IR-receiver as well, so it does work with the Harmony.

I'm seriously thinking of investing in an Apple TV within the next few days (since I own an iMac & an iPhone 5s) & I was wondering if I should buy now or wait for the 4th generation Apple TV? Does anybody know when that will be released?

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Until a 4th gen. AppleTV is announced by Apple, it's nothing more than "vaporware".... get a 3rd gen. now - and when a 4th gen. comes out, see what it has to offer... if you want that, get it and use the 3rd gen. on another TV in the house...

Both. At $99 why not? Though I'm perplexed that Amazon's own device doesn't have access to Amazon's own cloud player service. Hopefully that will be rectified?

I download all of my content to a NAS connected to my Mac and the stream it back through my Apple TV.

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Part Two: You could say I'm splitting hairs, however when my internet is down, my NAS acts as an iTunes connection and all of my downloaded content is available to stream through the Apple TV. So I still get the same functionality.

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Part Two: You could say I'm splitting hairs, however when my internet is down, my NAS acts as an iTunes connection and all of my downloaded content is available to stream through the Apple TV. So I still get the same functionality.

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I do not like Amazon prime because I pay a subscription fee and then I still have to pay for movies and TV shows with any high-definition quality. With Apple there is no subscription, which I personally very much appreciate, and then if I want to buy something I can. For me, no thanks to the Amazon fire TV.

I watch/stream plenty of shows in HD from Amazon Prime. Plus for that subscription fee I also get two-day shipping of everything (people tend to forget that part) and free Kindle books.

I'm waiting for the next Apple TV in the hopes that some of the expected features (802.11AC, built-in router, etc.) are included. That said, I think Rene's point in the contest is the most true, in that outside of the US, Amazon products are limited and still force you to seek content elsewhere. If you were only consuming books, the Kindle app is fine, but if you want media, you're hooped.

I'm surprised the Roku 3 has hardly been mentioned. It already has an Amazon Instant Video channel, so you can get all the benefits of a Prime membership through that. It also has an Amazon cloud player channel, so you can listen to your Amazon music purchases/uploads through that. It has the most up-to-date Netflix UI (not a huge deal, but nice), and also has all the "usuals" - Hulu Plus, Pandora, etc. If you're an Aereo user (which I realize not many are), it's the only platform with a dedicated Aereo channel as well. Unless I'm wrong, the only thing Roku doesn't have is iTunes content - but neither does Fire TV obviously.

Besides the voice controlled remote and updated specs (though the Roku 3 is solid), I really don't see why someone would by Fire TV over Roku 3, unless I'm missing something?

Shouldn't be. It's an apple site with apple-centric POV. For example i've read threads on verge, engadet and other sites and you don't see nearly the mentions of airplay or itunes integration being a deal breaker because all those people aren't buying all their content from itunes and they all aren't using iphones so they don't have airplay anyways. Its to be expected. Almost all discussions i see these days outside of apple sites say basically, "the only reason to buy an apple tv is if you're invested in the apple ecosystem." For everyone else they say Roku. So you're gonna get different opinions by audience.

Seriously, no mirroring section?
I mean, since i own my ATV3 i used only airplay mirroring for ever occasion.
I can also stream my mkv files using software like Beamer, to avoid the non Dolby passthru on native Apple mirroring. l also have plextor wich can manage all my NAS-side collection of mkv.
There are plenty of things you can do with mirroring and is obviously the future.
Why don't talk about the new beta feature of the chromecast screen mirroring? I can't find info on the net. Would I be able to watch a film using vlc and mirroring feature? or it lags a lot? fps? Because if you can mirror your device and use app such Netflix or FLIXTOR, i think there's no way you spend $99 for a box that can do 1/5 of an 35$ device.

I'll wait till the next Apple TV comes out. Specially cause this comparison is using a device that is a year old and way due for an update which rumors are saying is going to bring apps, games and a lot if other features.

Don't buy nothing for now!

I've had the past two versions of the AppleTV and I have spent thousands so far into iTunes so I'm pretty much set into Apple.

Has the author of thus article forgotten that android users have allcast? Allcast allows for media streaming and screen mirroring to the chromecast, Xbox one, roku, fire TV, AND apple TV! Air play is much less versatile.

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I'm still missing the major part of the comparison, which I what I use my current Apple TV for about 90% of the time, local content?
I have all my content locally saved in a iTunes library, some from iTunes but much of it is from other sources such as DVDs and what not. Can Fire even play local content? This is the deal-breaker for me in that case. Is the Amazon Fire able to stand on its own legs and play local content without any additional apps or devices needed? This comparison only looks at cloud-content?

Apple TV for me. Unfortunately all the other options are not available in my country so no choice... Wish chromecast/fire tv/ roku etc.. could expand their reach to more countries. It would be nice to have the options available.

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I believe Apple Tv is the best for me because I have a lot of apple products and they work better together. Especially when you have an iPhone and iPad, you can mirror on the apple tv so easily.

Personally I think there are more options out there beside Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Google chromecast, when it comes to home entertainment. For instance, I know one brand that makes awesome smart tv box that offers what all 4 being compared here can do and going beyond. It has the same price point of $99 or can go even less. It has the capability to browse web, streaming video, music, and video chat with distance family or friends in the comfort of your living room. It has the capability to let you expand the storage space by connecting to an external hard drive or via Micro SD card or hooking up any wireless remote, keyboard, mouse, or web cam via USB ports.

Here is Sungale’s Smart TV Box product comparable link with Roku, Apply TV, Google Chromecast, and Amazon’s latest releases Fire TV box: http://cloudtvbox.com/en/index.php

I have Apple TV. But I also have amazon prime. Amazon just emailed me with the offer of buy the tv and they will debit $20 a month for 4 months. Seeing how I already have prime & do most of my shopping on there, it was a no brainier. Plus wife watches lots of TV in the bedroom. So Apple TV is in living room. Will put amazon tv in bedroom. Hopefully this will give us the best of both worlds. Main thing is Apple TV is very laggy & always seems to search for wifi forever. There has been nights it never connected to iTunes to watch a movie. Very frustrating. Wifi router is 50 FT away and ipad, MacBook Pro & iPhone all get great wifi in living room. But Apple TV struggles. Kind of sux

I wish I still had my Apple TV now that I've moved back to iOS. Currently using chrome cast which I actually like a lot and can still use with my iPhone but I'll most likely get the new Apple TV once it's released.

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I wish I didn't get rid of my Apple TV since I've switched back to iOS. I currently have a chrome cast and actually like it quite well. It works with iPhone for most things and the rest of the house is android users. But getting the new Apple TV defiantly because of all the content I do still have on iTunes that I can't do anything with on chrome cast.

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You are all more into this then I am. I don't understand half of what you are saying, but I have Apple TV & bought it to use with my amazon prime. I am trying to stream using my iPad, but it shuts off every 2 minutes. Should I spend the money to buy the one for amazon or is there a fix. I'm really frustrated.