When trying to find the best streaming device for your TV, two voice-controlled streaming devices should be high on your list -- the Chromecast with Google TV andAmazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max.
Both products are typical streaming media players with the added functionality of being voice assistants that can control your home with the same functionality as a Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa speaker.Let's take a look at these two options together.
Chromecast vs. Fire TV Stick 4K Max: Price and Design
The Chromecast with Google TV retails for $49.99, while the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max normally costs $54.99.But thanks to great sales and prices, you can usually find both for less than that.
Not only are they full-featured and capable players, but they're also one of the cheapest 4K HDR-capable devices.
Both are dongles.They connect directly to the HDMI port on the TV and are hidden behind the screen. The Chromecast is a flat oval, slightly larger than the Fire TV Stick, and comes with a ribbon cable with an HDMI connector.
Amazon Fire TV Stick The Max resembles a large flash drive that can be connected directly to the HDMI port.It comes with an HDMI extender that can be used in situations that (potentially) block another TV HDMI port you need to use.Both also connect to a power adapter, which must be plugged into the wall to power the device.
Google Assistant vs. Amazon-Alexa
Every streamer has a voice assistant built into it.Google Assistant works with Google TV on Chromecast and Amazon Alexa on Amazon Fire TV Stick.Both require pressing a button on the remote to activate the microphone.
The voice assistant controls playback, searches, launching apps, and more on streaming media players.
They're also full-featured assistants, accepting 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 the two assistants handle smart home controls in much the same way, and with similar results, there are differences in the way they each answer resource questions.When asked "What is Vesuvius?" or "How long will I cook cauliflower in an Instapot pot?", Amazon Fire TV will display the text of the Wikipedia page or a quick answer.
Instead, Google will display cauliflower Instapot recipes selected from TV shows, food apps, and videos on YouTube.Likewise, ask a question about Vesuvius and an informational video appears, but it doesn't show the answer.This is one more step to get the answer because you have to watch the video.
When it comes to voice control, the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max has the slight advantage of showing the answer instead of letting you find it through a video.
Chromecast vs. Fire TV Stick 4K Max: Remote Control
Adding Google TV to a Chromecast means including a remote.The remote is an elongated oval that's comfortable to hold.It's small and simple.Google went out of spec in the remote design because it didn't include a play/pause button.
While the center button of the navigation wheel can play or pause while watching a video, it can also be used as an OK or Enter button on other menu screens.This is counterintuitive to how any other remote works and takes practice to remember.Another anomaly is that the power button is on the bottom of the remote. YouTube and Netflix only have two direct access buttons, and audio controls are on the side (similar to a Roku remote).
The Alexa remote, on the other hand, is slim and relatively comfortable, with a typical button setup.The blue Alexa button is on top of the black remote.Direct access buttons at the bottom launch Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+ and Hulu.The TV button opens the Live TV schedule grid.
Chromecast vs Fire TV Stick 4K Max: Specs and Performance
The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max and the Chromecast with Google TV have nearly identical specs.The quad-core 1.8 GHz processor and 2 GB of RAM are enough to smoothly navigate menus and launch applications quickly.
The Amazon Fire TV 4K Max has two advantages because it's newer than the Chromecast.It comes with 8 GB of storage, making it a better choice for downloading large apps and games.Plus, it features Wi-Fi 6 for smoother, faster downloads and ensures the best quality video is always playing.
Both support 60K video up to 4Hz with Dolby Vision HDR 10, HDR 10+ for superb video quality, and Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital Plus.
The addition of Wi-Fi 6 and a larger 8 GB storage gives the Amazon Fire TV 4K Max an edge.However, the difference is not obvious.
Chromecast vs Fire TV Stick 4K Max: UI/Menu
While speed of navigating and opening apps and smooth video loading are important, we noticed the menu every time we used the streaming player.When we sit down to play a video, we want to quickly get to the video we want to watch, or get good advice to discover new titles.
So far, there is no difference between the two devices.Still, when it comes to using the streaming stick, the Chromecast and Google TV have better menus than any other streaming player out there.
What makes the Chromecast stand out is the Google TV operating system.A well-designed home screen combined with a powerful algorithm makes it easy to find what you want to see next.If you want the suggestions to better reflect your entertainment preferences, you can take a quiz and indicate which movies and TV shows you like/dislike.Also, you can add thumbs up on the detail pages of individual titles.
Google TV's For You screen is agnostic as it shows recommendations from all the apps you watch.In settings, you can specify which apps to include in recommendations.The bottom line is to have no trouble finding new shows that are similar to the types of shows you love to watch.
Of course, it's also a Chromecast, which means you can easily cast or mirror from Chrome on your smartphone, device, or computer.It's as easy as clicking the cast icon. Amazon Fire TV can mirror a device.It's a more complicated process, though, an added benefit rather than a native feature like the Chromecast.
Amazon Fire TV's home screen keeps improving, but it's more confusing than most menus that show a grid of installed apps.At the top is a banner suggesting new or trending titles, as well as quick access to tips and tricks for using Amazon Fire TV.While it favors Prime Video and Prime Video channels, it occasionally displays popular titles from other apps, including the Apple TV app.
The live TV listing grid for Amazon Fire TV is great.It's customizable and includes several sources in a grid -- Freevee, Pluto TV, Plex, tubi, and Xumo, as well as premium services like YouTube TV, Philo TV, Prime Video Channels, and Discovery+ Live Channels.This grid becomes useful once you've selected your favorite channels, as you can see all your favorite channels in one schedule grid.
Chromecast has a Live tab in the menu.The grid displays channels from your installed apps, including 300 free live channels from PhiloTV YouTube TV, Sling TV, and Pluto TV.The services are all in a grid that changes to the next service as you scroll down.You can quickly set which channels are your favorites, and toggle back and forth between showing all channels or favorites in a grid.
Which is the best streaming device?
In the battle between the Chromecast with Google TV and the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max, there isn't quite a side that has the upper hand.But despite all the similarities, at the end of the day, it's the everyday experience that counts.When we sit down to stream a movie or TV show, we must be able to easily go into the video we want to play, or discover a new title that's interesting to us.
If you have Wi-Fi network issues and a Wi-Fi 6 router at home, the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max might be a good choice.It may also be a better option for those who watch a lot of live TV and want to see the schedule of all the live apps at a glance.
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