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Apple TV HD vs. Amazon Fire TV Stick
How does Apple’s pricey streaming box compare to Amazon’s affordable solution?
Streaming media devices, such as the Apple TV HD and Amazon Fire TV Stick, allow you to watch your favorite content and services on the big screen. From Netflix to Hulu to ESPN+, you can jump into the latest blockbusters, hit TV shows, or sports matches.
With Apple TV HD and Amazon Fire TV Stick representing two of the most popular options, you may wonder which is best for you. In our deep-dive, we take a look at Apple TV HD vs. Amazon Fire TV Stick to find the best option for your entertainment setup.
Which option has better video quality?
Apple TV HD
Amazon Fire TV Stick
1080p Full HD
High Dynamic Range (HDR)
The Apple TV HD and Amazon Fire TV Stick max out at 1080p Full HD resolution, which means you can binge the latest shows and movies in high definition—experience movies like TENET and Knives Out as though you’re at the cinema.
Amazon Fire TV Stick also includes support for HDR if your television or monitor is compatible; this enables a brighter, more vivid viewing experience. Unfortunately, you’ll need to upgrade to the Apple TV 4K if you want HDR from Apple.
It’s important to note that while neither of these products supports outputting 4K video for an even crisper image, they can still be used with 4K televisions but will display content in 1080p HD.
If you want to stream your content in 4K UHD and have a compatible 4K television, you’ll want to check out each product’s respective upgrade–the Apple TV 4K and Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, so that you don’t lose out on quality.
When it comes to video quality, we’re going to give the Amazon Fire TV Stick the edge due to its support for 1080p Full HD content and HDR. While 1080p HDR televisions are pretty rare, the Fire Stick technically pulls one-up over the Apple TV HD.
Remember that the video quality you receive when streaming your favorite blockbusters or binging the latest Netflix Original shows will require a stable internet connection. Check out our reviews of the top internet providers for more information.
Which option has better sound quality?
Apple TV HD
Amazon Fire TV Stick
Dolby Surround Sound (5.1)
Dolby Surround Sound+ (7.1)
We all enjoy the audio component of our movies, tv shows, and sports events in different ways. Whether you use your television’s built-in speakers, an external soundbar, or a full Dolby Surround Sound setup, Amazon Fire TV Stick and Apple TV HD are both excellent choices.
Both the Apple TV HD and Amazon Fire TV Stick offer support for Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and Dolby Digital+ 7.1 Surround, so you can hear the dinosaurs in Jurassic World stalking behind you.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick does offer one feature important to home theatre lovers that Apple TV HD leaves out—support for Dolby Atmos. If you’ve poured money into a setup with Dolby Atmos speakers, only Amazon’s Fire Stick will offer you a fully immersive sound experience.
While we don’t believe Dolby Atmos is on the top of the list for most buyers, we, again, must give the edge to Amazon’s Fire TV Stick for including it. If you want the best sound, Apple TV HD isn’t the way to go here.
Come on, Apple, why are you holding out on us with the Apple TV HD?
What about the user interface and remote?
Apple is falling behind in this battle due to its decision not to support more advanced audio and video features in the Apple TV HD. Still, it might finally have the edge regarding the user interface and the included remote.
With Apple’s latest iteration of the Apple TV HD, a new Siri remote has been included.
You can use the directional pad to either click or gently scroll your way through menus. If you need to control your TV, the Siri remote offers volume controls, a mute button, and a power button–perfect for keeping the remotes you need to a minimum.
Of course, it wouldn’t be an Apple TV if Apple didn’t include a button for Siri, which Apple has now placed on the right-hand side of the remote. Simply hold down the button and ask Siri to open Netflix, search for movies by a particular genre, enter text in a search field, etc.
Amazon Fire TV also includes a great remote with a directional click-pad for navigating the interface. Amazon has also made sure to include buttons for controlling your TV, such as a volume rocker and mute button so you don’t need a separate remote.
Much like the Siri function on Apple TV, an Alexa button is included with the Amazon Fire TV, so you can call up the assistant to help you search for a movie or quickly open apps. If you want to open a specific app or search for content, just ask Alexa–similar to how you would use an Amazon Alexa device.
Both the Apple TV HD and Amazon Fire TV include interfaces that are relatively easy to navigate. Overall Apple’s interface feels a bit more user intuitive and we believe it will feel at home to anyone who has ever used an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch due to its similar layout.
We also dislike that Amazon continues to shove advertisements in its user interface, although we know that some users are unfettered by the constant ads.
Regarding the overall experience of using Apple TV HD and the Amazon Fire TV Stick, we prefer the Apple TV HD. Apple presents an interface that is much cleaner and easier to navigate.
Additionally, Amazon’s use of advertisements in the menu systems weighs as a significant disadvantage to us.
Did we forget to mention that Apple’s TV remote is crafted from metal? There is no denying that it feels nicer and more premium in hand than Amazon’s Fire TV Stick remote.
What are the special features?
If you want to watch content from your favorite streaming media service, both the Apple TV HD and Amazon Fire TV Stick have you covered. However, each device offers a few of its own exclusive special features.
With Apple TV HD, the company has packed it full of services you won't find anywhere else. Apple Fitness+ is one such feature that provides you with premium world-class workouts.
Another feature is Apple Arcade, which supplies unlimited ad-free access to a large selection of video games, including Oceanhorn 2, Chu Chu Rocket Universe, and Sayonara Wild Hearts.
You can also find other Apple services on the Apple TV HD, including Apple Music.
You can even broadcast video and audio content from your iPad, iPhone, or Mac to the television using Apple’s AirPlay standard—perfect for sharing family photos and videos.
Apple TV HD stands out in homes dominated by Apple products. One such example is the box’s support for HomeKit, Apple’s smart home standard. If you have HomeKit devices in your house, you can control them using the Siri remote.
The Apple TV HD can even act as a smart home hub, allowing you to control your home smart devices even when you are away from home. This feature is perfect for when you want to turn on the lights or adjust the thermostat before arriving home.
Please note that some Apple services, including Apple Music, Apple Fitness+, and Apple Arcade do require a paid subscription.
When it comes to Amazon Fire TV Stick, there are fewer features included that you can’t find elsewhere. The immediate standout is the ability to use the Alexa voice assistant to control any Alexa-enabled smart home devices in your home.
Apple TV HD wins when it comes to special features. Apple has strengthened its product by designing services, such as Apple Fitness+, Apple Arcade, Apple Music, and HomeKit, to operate perfectly on the device.
What about apps and games?
Apple tends to win whenever it comes to its App Stores; after all, the company has spent years assembling some of the greatest apps and games for their platforms, including the Apple TV, iPhone, and iPad.
However, we are pleasantly surprised with the selection available within Amazon’s own App Store. We found that both stores include a healthy selection of streaming service apps, as well as video games to play, so you’ll have lots to do no matter which media streaming box you select.
Even better, Apple TV HD and Amazon Fire TV Stick both offer support for Bluetooth controllers, including PlayStation and Xbox controllers, so you can game in comfort with controllers you are already familiar with using.
While we previously mentioned Apple Arcade, a great option for those who love to play games on Apple TV, Amazon also has a service known as Luna.
Amazon Luna is a cloud gaming platform that allows you to play some of the latest AAA video-game titles, including Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and Immortals Fenyx Rising.
As of now, Amazon Luna is in early access, and only available to select subscribers within the United States. Luna does involve a monthly paid subscription.
We’re going to call this round a draw because we are confident in saying that most apps you require can be found in both stores, or healthy alternatives are available. For games, both platforms offer their own library of stand-alone games, as well as options for subscription services.
Which option is more eco-friendly?
Reviews.org has been keeping a close eye on how ecofriendly the products we review are produced and packaged.
Amazon proudly announces that the Fire TV Stick is composed of 50% post-consumer recycled plastics, and the remote is composed of 20% post-consumer recycled plastics. In addition, 97% of the Fire TV Stick’s packaging is made of wood fiber-based materials from responsibly managed forests or recycled sources.
Apple notes that Apple TV HD is BFR, PVC, and beryllium free. However, the Apple TV 4K product page notes that the Siri Remote, logic board, and plastic construction use recycled materials.
How much do Apple TV and Fire TV Stick cost?
Apple TV is expensive, so we’ll need to address that fact head-on. If you plan on grabbing an Apple TV HD, you’ll be shelling out $149 for a 32GB model.
Apple does not produce a larger size Apple TV HD, so if you find yourself running out of space, you’ll need to upgrade to the Apple TV 4K, which offers up to 64GB of storage.
Amazon Fire TV Stick is much more affordable, coming in at $39.99, but with a tiny 8GB of internal storage—not great for downloading tons of games and apps. If you need more storage, you can check out the Amazon Fire TV Cube, which includes 16GB.
Amazon also allows you to trade in an older Fire TV or competing product, such as a Roku, Chromecast, or Apple TV device, to save an additional 20% on the purchase price.
There is little competition here. The Amazon Fire TV Stick comes in at over $100 cheaper than the Apple TV and is the clear winner if you are making a budget-conscious decision.
Which is the better device?
When it comes to Apple TV vs. Amazon Fire Stick, which is the best media streaming box for your living room or entertainment setup?
Like most things in this world, we believe that the answer is not entirely black and white.
Suppose you’re simply looking to enjoy streaming video content on your 1080p HD television. In that case, you will likely want to pick up an Amazon Fire TV Stick due to its lower price yet ability to perform well while offering a vast library of content.
However, suppose you don’t mind spending a bit of extra money and live within the Apple ecosystem. In that case, Apple TV HD can give you access to Apple services, such as Apple Arcade, Apple Fitness+, Apple Music, and HomeKit with the push of a button.
On the flipside, we believe Apple TV may also be the better choice if you intend on downloading an extensive collection of games, due to its increased internal storage capacity.