For a few years now, I’ve relied on my Google Chromecast Ultra for all of my streaming needs. While I was initially sceptical about downloading so many apps onto my phone and casting from it as though it were a remote, it’s become second nature now.
But with more and more streaming devices hitting the market, I began to ask myself: what else is out there and how have streaming devices evolved in the few short years that I’ve had my Chromecast? To find out, I decided to play with the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max to see how the two stack up against each other in true Battlemodo fashion.
Which is better? Google Chromecast Ultra or Amazon Fire Stick 4k
Chromecast Ultra vs Amazon Fire TV Stick: Design
While they both look clean, black and slim, neither is much to look at. I’m not even really sure why the Chromecast has a circular design, nor why a streaming stick is a stick. But that’s only because you don’t really need to look at them
Both plug into the HDMI port located at the back of your TV, so unless you intend to unplug either of them often, you’ll likely forget they were there in the first place.
But what’s important is how much room either allows once plugged into the backs of your TVs. After inserting the Chromecast, it simply dangles from where it’s plugged in and doesn’t take up much room for other devices, which is important if you have a console plugged in.
On the other hand, the Fire TV Stick is surprisingly bulky for a thumb drive-like device. Plugging it in itself won’t allow much room for a second HDMI-compatible device if the ports are situated close together. Unless you use the free Wi-Fi extender that comes in the pack.
Taking advantage of the extender is recommended anyway, since it’ll improve your connection (especially if your TV is set up far away from your router). Since the HDMI cable for the extender is slimmer than the Fire Stick, it’ll fit better into your TV and allow more room for other devices.
Chromecast Ultra vs Amazon Fire TV Stick: Remotes
This one’s an easy one. Between the two, the Amazon Fire TV Stick is the only one that comes with a remote. The remote is small, slim and compact with a designated Home button, play, fast forward and volume buttons, as well as an on/off switch. It also happens to feature four direct-to-streaming platform buttons for Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Music.
But the best part? There’s a unique button that will activate Alexa’s voice control feature. If you’re well-acquainted with Amazon’s smart home range, this is a big plus. It means you can ask Alexa to turn on The Mandalorian via Disney+ using your voice. Considering how busy the interface can look, this is a convenient way to set up your shows before you even plant your butt on the couch.
If you’re wondering how the Chromecast Ultra works, it uses your smartphone or tablet as the remote instead.
To set-up any Chromecast model, you’ll need to download the Google Home app as well as all of the streaming apps you wish to stream from onto your device. Whenever you decide to watch TV, all you have to do is jump into any of the apps and hit the little TV icon to stream directly from your device.
The tricky part? This means that every member in your household will need to either download all of the apps onto their device of choice or you’ll just have to share one device. But I imagine the latter can get pretty annoying, considering how attached we all are to our phones.
If you look at it from a parental perspective, there’s some good pros and cons to consider. By choosing the Chromecast Ultra, you’ll be able to control your kid’s screen time since they’ll need to borrow your phone every time they want to use it. You’ll even be able to have more control over what they’re allowed to watch, since you’ll see it on your phone once they give it back to you.
Of course, this does mean they’ll bound up to you every so often when Netflix asks them if they’re “Still there?” or if they’ve changed their mind on what show they’d like to watch (as kids do). If you’d prefer the peace and quiet, then the Fire TV Stick will give them the freedom to choose.
You’ll also want to ask yourself: do I even have enough free space on my phone to have so many apps? If you’re the type of person with 10 streaming subscriptions (who doesn’t love the possibilities?), you might want to consider cancelling a few of them or opting for the Fire TV Stick so you don’t have to worry.
Chromecast Ultra vs Amazon Fire TV Stick: Features
Since we’ve already talked about the remote, I won’t hash over it much here. One of the major differences between the Fire TV Stick and Chromecast Ultra is the fact that the latter doesn’t have a fancy (albeit busy) interface. The beauty about the Chromecast Ultra is that you simply need to turn on your TV, switch it to the correct channel and hit “Cast” from your device. There’s no ads, unlike the Fire TV Stick, which is plagued by them.
The Fire Stick also works well with other Amazon smart home products and sports a designated Alexa voice control button on its remote so you can easily launch content on the fly. You can also connect it to your Echo Dot to make commands. In comparison, the Chromecast is compatible with Google Assistant, but it requires a lot of specific directions in order to open up the show of your choosing.
Here’s the part where the Google Chromecast Ultra trumps the Fire TV Stick 4K Max easily. While the Fire TV Stick has a plethora of apps to choose from, Australian consumers will note the absence of both Binge and Kayo. Binge is an Australian-exclusive streaming service, while Kayo is a streaming subscription that caters to sport-lovers, offering live and on-demand sports from providers such as ESPN, Fox Sports and Racing.com.
Seeing as the Amazon Fire TV Stick is an American-owned product, that’s likely why we don’t have access to Binge or Kayo through the streaming stick yet. Or perhaps it never will. While the Fire Stick snubs our homegrown Aussie streaming platforms, Google Chromecast doesn’t discriminate. The best thing about the Chromecast is that so long as you have the app downloaded on your device, you can stream anything. Even Amazon Video or Amazon Music.
However, if you don’t care for Binge or Kayo, then great you won’t miss it. But in a world with so many options available, it’s nice to have the choice. Who knows if you’ll ever be the host of a footy grand finals night?
The last, but most important feature, is both device’s capacity to access 4K streaming quality. While 4K Ultra High Definition streaming is common between the two, it turns out that the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max has the advantage since it also offers high dynamic range (HDR) media in HDR10 or Dolby Vision. HDR is important in a TV since it expands the range of colour and brightness significantly – ultimately, it’s just better image quality and well worth it.
Chromecast Ultra vs Amazon Fire TV Stick: Price and value
If you look at it objectively, the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K is the cheaper option at just $99. Meanwhile, the Chromecast Ultra sits at $135. In this scenario, if you’re hoping to save a dime, then it’s obvious that your streaming stick of choice is the Fire TV Stick.
Taking into consideration that you also get a remote with your Fire TV Stick, it almost feels like an affordable little bundle. In terms of image quality, as we’ve covered they’re both extremely similar and offer 4K UHD streaming. If you were choosing between the Chromecast Ultra and the Fire Stick Lite for example, and you wanted better streaming quality, then the Chromecast would be worth the extra money (so long as you own a TV that supports 4K).
But as I stated before, if you’re keen on watching Binge or Kayo with your device, then it doesn’t matter how cheap the Fire Stick is because it won’t let you stream those platforms on the big screen.
So, which streaming device is right for you?
Well, if you only own a 1080p TV, then the answer is neither. That doesn’t mean your streaming device of choice won’t work, but you’ll have paid the extra bucks for a feature you won’t even be able to use.
But if you do have a TV that can support either option, then my pick is the Chromecast Ultra. While I was initially hesitant at the idea of casting from my phone all the time, it’s something I do naturally and with ease. I personally hate that the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K is plagued with ads in its interface, and that’s a problem that you’ll have to suffer through regardless of which Amazon streaming device you choose.
But if you want to look at it objectively, if you live in an Amazon-dominated household that’s decked out with various Echo devices, then it only makes sense that you opt for the Fire Stick since you’ll have a greater use for the Alexa voice control button on its remote. As mentioned, families will have an easier time navigating from platform to platform in pursuit of the right movie to watch. No need to share a device or worry about pesky storage woes.
On another note, there’s been a lot of talk that the Chromecast Ultra is “dead”, following the release of the Chromecast with Google TV. The new Chromecast closes all of the gaps that the Ultra lacks in comparison to the Fire TV Stick. It adds a similar interface to Amazon’s Fire Stick and a bonus remote that also features voice control. Thankfully, it still comes with 4K UHD resolution at the same price point as the Fire Stick 4K Max making for some serious competition.
Where to buy
If you want to upgrade from your Chromecast Ultra like me to another Google-owned streaming device, you can grab the new Chromecast with Google TV from one of the options below: