Apple TV vs Firestick: Amazon battles it out with Apple for the streaming crown

Not sure whether Apple TV or Amazon's Firesticks are the answer to your streaming woes? We have the answer

Amazon Fire TV Stick (3rd Gen)
(Image credit: Amazon)

Apple and Amazon are two towering giants in entertainment, and so it makes sense that both companies have their own streaming solutions pitched as the ultimate way for film buffs and TV fans to consume their favorites. But those looking in from the outside might struggle to see the difference between Apple TV and Amazon's Firestick devices and which one might be best for them.

In this guide, we will break down the key ways to make your decision, from how the devices physically look on the TV stand to how easy they make it to navigate and access all of the major streaming services. Keep reading to see what we thought, and head over to our guide to the best streaming devices for more.

Apple TV vs Firestick: Pricing

Apple TV is very much the premium choice between the two, priced between $130 and $150 for its streaming device. This comes with advanced features like 4K HDR streaming, Dolby Atmos audio support, and more, and those with large iTunes libraries will be able to access these titles.

Amazon's Fire TV range, meanwhile, has a wider range of price points and is more budget-friendly overall. Right now, you can grab the Firestick Lite for less than $30, or you can spend $140 on the Fire TV Cube (3rd Gen), but there are also a lot of choices in between depending on what features you want and/or need.

Amazon's own VOD and streaming platform - Amazon Prime Video - is a great feature but isn't unique to the Firestick, and can also be accessed via Apple TV.

  • Verdict: While Apple's offerings will always be at the higher end of the price scale, Amazon gives you more choice with its budget streaming dongles. However, while you can easily access payed-for and rented titles from Prime Video on Apple TV, the same can't be said for iTunes purchased on Fire TV.

Apple TV 4K

(Image credit: Apple TV 4K)

Apple TV vs Firestick: Design

Apple TV, like pretty much everything else from the brand, has a sleek, compact design that is minimal while remaining glossy and aesthetically pleasing. It's also compact and easy to either have on display or hide in a TV unit or behind the TV. The Siri-enabled remote is similarly sleek and minimalistic, with a touchpad on top that makes it easy and pleasant to browse.

The Firestick is less fancy in the traditional sense. However, the small size of a streaming dongle vs. a box (Amazon offers both) does have its advantages for those who have a mounted TV or can't abide by any extraneous wires hanging around. The Firestick remote has Alexa in place of Siri, allowing you to use your voice for things like searching for content or even controlling the rest of your home while you're on the sofa.

The dongle design also makes the Firestick much easier to transport and means you can take it on vacation or just switch it between rooms of the house more easily.

  • Verdict: Apple TV is very much the choice for those who want their tech to be sleek and attractive, while Fire TV streaming sticks are mostly designed to be kept out of sight.

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max remote control resting on sofa

(Image credit: Amazon)

Apple TV vs Firestick: Performance and streaming experience

Apple TV has a lot of tech under the hood to ensure a smooth streaming experience, and you can expect fast load times, smooth navigation through menus, and seamless voice search for your favorite movies and TV shows. This comes courtesy of the A12 Bionic chop, which also makes it great for gaming. You get 4K HDR playback and Dolby Atmos sound where applicable.

Fire TV is less powerful, so it won't give you the futuristic speed of Apple, but most streamers won't notice the difference. We would actually go for the Amazon device over Apple if you struggle with your internet connection and speeds, as it's very adaptive to spotty Wi-Fi and allows you to keep watching even when things are less than super-speed.

Both Amazon and Apple have their own streaming services to push, and you can tell. While we were impressed with the relative lack of pushing that the Chromecast with Google TV did (though Google doesn't have the same incentive to advertise), both Apple TV and any Firestick will make it known what can be enjoyed via Apple TV+ and Prime Video, respectively.

This isn't a problem at all, providing you subscribe to one or the other, and you can also access all the major apps like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Max. The same can also be said for Siri and Alexa - we would recommend choosing the streaming device that fits in best with your smart home setup if you already have one.

  • Verdict: Apple TV will give you a smoother, faster streaming experience due to its premium tech, but Fire TV might be better for homes that don't have the very best internet connection. Meanwhile, Prime Video, Apple TV+ and smart assistant integration means it might be easiest to opt for the device that fits into your current home set-up and subscriptions. 

Apple TV 4K

(Image credit: Apple TV 4K)

Apple TV vs Firestick: Our verdict

For Apple households that already include a HomePod Mini smart speaker, an iPhone or iPad, or even just an Apple TV+ subscription, Apple TV is a great add-on for complete control over your viewing. Siri integration allows you to control other devices around the home via HomeKit, and the advanced specs of the device account for the higher price tag.

Meanwhile, Fire TV does have its own advantages, and the same can be said for it and Alexa households that rely on the smart assistant for smart home control. Firestick devices are also cheaper and offer access to the same streaming services and VOD titles through Prime Video (a subscription to which also gets you free delivery on other Amazon purchases). 

All in all, if you're struggling to decide, we would recommend going for the device that best fits into the smart home you already have or the one that you're looking to build.

Caroline Preece
Smart Homes Ecommerce Editor

Caroline is the smart home ecommerce editor for Livingetc, covering everything tech for the home, from smart speakers to air purifiers and everything in between. She is passionate about the role that technology and smart devices can play in daily life, enhancing the home without sacrificing personal style and carefully chosen interiors. In her spare time, she can be found tinkering with bulbs, soundbars, and video doorbells in an effort to automate every part of her small home. Previously, she lent her expertise to the likes of Expert Reviews, IT Pro, Coach, The Week, and more.