Well we are in a time where Smart TV’s are the norm. Most people though do not have a smart TV yet and are perfectly happy with their current TV sets. This is where these “stick” devices pick up the slack and upgrade your TV to a “smart” tv. With the exception of the Apple TV, the other 3 are in stick format, in which they look like USB flash drives that plug into your HDMI port.
I own the Fire TV stick, Chromecast (first generation) and the Roku stick. I have had experience with the Apple TV but do not own one, but have enough experience with it to give my thoughts on it.
Below is my review and order of which is the best for the money
1. Amazon Fire TV Stick
This one takes the top for me because of several points. The biggest point is it runs a customized Android operating system. This means you can hack/customize it to your liking. Kodi runs on it, Comcast xfinity app runs on it and almost any Android application can be sideloaded. The remote is also great and has a nice feel to it. A big tip is if you use the Xfinity app, download the Wukong TV app on your iOS or Android phone to control the Xfinity app because the stock remote does not work with the Xfinity app. There is also an Amazon Fire Android/iOS application which can be used to control this stick.
The huge downside is this stick is not great for people who do not have an Amazon Prime subscription. It can be used for Netflix, Xfinity etc but if you are like me (and like most people who have a fire stick), you would use the Amazon Prime video the most.
This device also supports Apple Airplay and Android/Windows casting via App store downloads.
The price is also slick at $35 while on sale to $40 retail
2. Roku Stick
The Roku stick takes a second place. While not very customizable in terms of operating system, it is very stable and well built. Also the Apps for it are great and straight forward. It doesn’t have a Comcast Xfinity app , but it does have HBO Go, local news , Fox, Netflix, Amazon Prime video, History, Discovery, HG TV etc. There is also a Roku app which can be used to contorl this stick
The weird thing about this stick is that it requires a credit card to use this device. You cannot sign up for a Roku account to login without a credit card.
This device supports casting from Windows/Android but not Apple Airplay
The price for this one varies greatly as there seem to be a lot of refurb deals for around $15. For a new one, it will range from $40-$50
3. Apple TV
This one I ranked below the other 2 because, it is a great device if you have all Apple products. Airplay works exclusively for Apple devices. It does work on Windows and Android with additional downloads, but most of those implementations take setup and most are somewhat buggy and not supported officially by Apple.
As a stand alone device though, this device is decent, the navigation is a bit cluttered compared to the Roku and Fire TV in my view. It has almost all the same channels as the Roku and fire TV.
The upside , it can be jail broken and Kodi can be installed on it. There are also a lot of games/apps.
The downside, it is big compared to the sticks above and costs more.
The price for a new one is $149 for the newest 32 gb. Or you can get the 3rd generation refurbished for $40.
4. Google Chromecast (first generation)
I must say this device is useless without a phone … it is a tethered device in that it does not function alone but plays casted videos/music from your phone. While the idea is great, I do not really like the idea of draining my phone battery to watch netflix or having to charge my phone while using this device.
I rank this device last as it really isn’t a stand alone device. For about the same cost ($30) you can get a Fire TV or Roku stick which does the casting plus can play videos by itself without having to cast it from your phone. Along with this, there is some apps which do not cast well such as the Xfinity app. If your Wifi signal is weak, it will be very slow casting from your phone as well.