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Apple TV vs new Amazon Fire TV Stick: Siri vs Alexa, which streamer offers the best experience?

The Apple TV is a standalone streamer, while the Fire TV Stick relies on a separate source

Looking to stream to the big screen? These two streaming devices offer great solutions. Apple has its own streaming device, the standalone fourth-generation Apple TV with its integration with Siri, and Amazon’s new Fire TV Stick comes with the Alexa Voice Remote. But which is better?

Note: the Google Chromecast also has an honourable mention, as it provides a cheap £30 streamer for your PC, smartphone and tablet. However, in this comparison, we’ll look at what Amazon and Apple have to offer, as these have their own interfaces, remotes, ecosystems – and in our opinion are better options for consumers.

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Apple TV vs new Amazon Fire TV Stick: Price

At only £40, the Amazon Fire TV Stick is inexpensive for what it offers. It comes with 8GB of internal storage, a MediaTek quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM.

The Apple TV starts at £139 for the 32GB version, and extends to £179 for the 64GB version. Both Apple models come with an A8 processor chip, the same chip that’s used in the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, iPod touch (sixth generation) and iPad mini 4.

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Apple TV vs new Amazon Fire TV Stick: Setup and internet connectivity

The Apple TV is a small box set that measures 98 x 98 x 35mm. This means it isn’t a small dongle that you plug in at the back of your TV. Instead, you’ll have to place it by your television or in your AV rack. It’s connected to your television through a HDMI cable. To connect to the internet, you can directly plug it into your router via its 10/100 Ethernet port. Wi-Fi is also an option, with 802.11abgn/ac MIMO built in, which all means you’ll be able to stream content to it without having to wait for it to buffer. Its USB Type-C port is used for service and support purposes only, so you won’t be able to charge a new Android phone such as the OnePlus 5 through it.

By contrast, the Amazon Fire TV Stick measures just 85.9 x 30 x 2.6mm and looks like an oversized flash drive. It connects to your TV through its male HDMI port, and Amazon has included an HDMI extender in the box for those of us who can’t plug in the stick at the back of our televisions. The extender has a small flexible cable that allows you to route it into your TV. A micro-USB port can also be found on the Fire TV Stick, which is used to power the device through its bundled USB wall connection. It connects to the internet through its dual-band, dual-antenna 2×2 MIMO 802.11abgn/ac built-in adapter, which, like the Apple TV, will offer a buffer-free experience.

If you have a wireless gaming controller (such as the SteelSeries Stratus), headphone or a wireless speaker, you can connect them to both devices via a Bluetooth connection. The Apple TV comes with Bluetooth 4 and the Fire TV Stick with 4.1. Both are backwards-compatible.

Each device comes with a remote that has voice control built in. Amazon has its integration with its in-house voice assistant, Alexa. Apple has Siri, the frequently used voice assistant that works across multiple Apple products.

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Apple TV vs new Amazon Fire TV Stick: App, streaming and content

Unlike the Chromecast, which is essentially an extension of your smartphone, PC or tablet, both the Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV Stick have their own interface.

Apple TV runs on tvOS, Apple’s very own operating system, which means apps are specifically designed for it. There’s a large pool of apps to choose from. As long as you can find it on Apple’s App Store with a checkmark next to tvOS, you’ll be able to use that app on your Apple TV.

To stream or mirror content to your Apple TV, you’ll need an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or Mac (including MacBook and iMac). This means if you’ve previously bought into the Apple ecosystem, you’ll benefit from having the added functionality of streaming content directly to the big screen. Unfortunately, if you’re on Android, Windows or have an Amazon phone, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

Amazon uses its own operating system, Fire OS, which is based on Google’s Android operating system. The interface is simple to navigate and favours those who have an Amazon Prime subscription. There are other third-party apps available, such as Netflix and BBC iPlayer, but the focus is very much on Amazon’s own services. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as you’ll have quick access to rent, buy and watch films via the Amazon Fire TV Stick.

Streaming content to the Amazon Fire TV Stick is much more open. You can mirror content from a Fire phone, Fire HDX tablets and any device running Android 4.2 or higher. Due to Apple’s locked-down ecosystem, you won’t be able to stream an iOS device to the Amazon Fire TV Stick.

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Apple TV vs new Amazon Fire TV Stick: Kodi vs jailbreaking

Due to Kodi being open-source software, you can easily install it on the Amazon Fire TV Stick. The process is easy and with the internet full of how-to Kodi guides, it’s easy to get Kodi on the Amazon Fire TV Stick.

Jailbreaking an Apple TV, on the other hand, is more complicated. It requires much more technical knowledge to jailbreak Apple’s operating system and device locks. You’ll need to be running a certain version of tvOS and require a Mac with Xcode to successfully jailbreak your Apple TV. And the benefits of jailbreaking an Apple TV are somewhat limited, as there’s no Cydia-style user interface on tvOS as yet. This does, however, aid developers to test and port their iOS apps on tvOS.

Without a jailbreak, you’ll need to go through a lengthy process, including signing up for an Apple Developer account, which costs $99 (~£78) a year.

If you’re an everyday user and want to hack your device to get something like Kodi on it, the Amazon Fire TV Stick should be your clear choice.

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Apple TV vs new Amazon Fire TV Stick: Performance

Neither of the streaming devices are going to replace your gaming PC or console, but both are capable of handling mobile games. You can install these directly on the devices and play games through the bundled remote, or even connect a Bluetooth controller.

Between the two, the Apple TV is much more capable, housing the same chip as found in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, the Apple A8. This processor flies through intensive games, and will provide you with a good mobile experience on your television.

The Fire TV Stick has a quad-core MediaTek  ARM 1.3GHz processor, 1GB of RAM and a Mali-450 MP4 GPU. This means you’ll be able to play basic games on the Fire TV, but if you really love mobile gaming, the Apple TV provides a more fluid experience.

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Apple TV vs new Amazon Fire TV Stick: Siri vs Alexa

The streaming devices have their own AI voice assistants built into their bundled remotes. You can speak directly into the remote to control your television. This can be anything from ordering an Uber to pick you up, to queuing the latest episode of Game of Thrones.

Siri has the upper hand with its AI capabilities, as it isn’t specifically tailored around Amazon’s services. Therefore, its integration with the world wide web is more thorough than Alexa.

Both remotes are sleek, stylish and intuitive to use.

Apple TV vs new Amazon Fire TV Stick: Verdict

The Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV Stick serve their purposes and both make a fantastic choice for streaming content to the big screen.

The Fire TV Stick is an inexpensive device that’s popular among those who use Amazon’s services and want to install Kodi. The new and updated Fire TV Stick also brings a much-needed performance boost, and with Alexa now built into the remote, provides a more seamless experience.

However, if you already own a few Apple devices and have invested into the Apple ecosystem, the Apple TV and its integration with Siri is the obvious choice. (providing you don’t use Amazon Prime Video of course). At £139, it isn’t a cheap device, but neither are any of Apple’s devices.

It all comes down to your needs and wants. For me, I’d opt for the Amazon Fire TV Stick, as it’s compatible with a greater pool of devices and has the ability to run Kodi, which to me are two important factors.

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In-Depth | TVs