Amazon Fire Stick vs. Roku Stick vs. Chromecast: Face-Off!

It's just about time to stop saying, "set top box." The devices never did fit on top of a flatscreen TV, and now the hottest devices aren't even boxes, but HDMI sticks that plug in the back of the TV (or receiver). Amazon joined the game today (Oct. 27) with its Fire TV Stick, a $39 alternative to its $99 Fire TV box. As with other sticks, the new Fire TV gives up some features to squeeze into a smaller size and price, namely processing power and the Fire TV's signature remote with voice search capability. (It includes a basic remote instead, the Voice Search-enabled remote is a $30 add-on.)

The Fire TV Stick faces some competition against the $35 Google Chromecast (a new, slightly updated version is expected soon) and the $50 Roku Streaming Stick. Depending on the features you want, any one of these could be a good deal. The Roku Stick is the most expensive, but it includes the company's intuitive remote control and offers the most channels — nearly 2,000 (though most are rather niche). Chromecast is the best deal (albeit by a mere $4) if you are happy to use your smartphone, tablet or computer at the remote. 

MORE: Best Streaming Players: Chromecast, Roku, Apple TV & More

If you want to play games in addition to video and music, the Fire TV Stick is your best bet, as it supports about 200 titles, controlled either by a remote or the optional $40 game controller. 

If you're in the market for one of these devices, check the comparison below to help with your choice.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Row 0 - Cell 0 Amazon Fire TV StickGoogle ChromecastRoku Streaming Stick
Size3.3 x 1.0 x 0.5 inches2.8 x 1.4 x 0.5 inches3.1 x 1.1 x 0.5 inches
Remote controlIncludedNoneIncluded
Voice controlYes, with $30 Voice RemoteNoneNone
Syncs media streams from mobiles/computersNetflix and YouTube onlyYesNetflix and YouTube only
Screen mirroringMiracast and Wi-Di: Newer Android and Windows Phone devices; Windows 8.1 PCsNewer Android devices, PCs via tabcasting onlyMiracast and Wi-Di: Newer Android and Windows Phone devices; Windows 8.1 PCs
Number of channels/apps600+600+2000+
Games200+Very limited80+
Headline apps (sampling)Amazon Instant VideoCrackleHulu PlusNetflixPandoraPBS KidsTwitchWatchESPNYouTubeCrackleGoogle Play TV, Movies, & MusicHBO GOHulu PlusMLB.TVNetflixPandoraPlayOnRdioVUDUYouTubeWatchESPNWatch ABCTwitchWatch DisneyPBS KidsVevoAmazon Instant VideoDisneyDisney JuniorHBO GOHulu PlusMLB.TVNetflixPandoraPBSPlexrdioShowtimeSlackerSpotifyVuduYahoo ScreenYouTubeCrackleM-GoWatchESPNVevo
Video output720p and 1080p up to 60fps720p and 1080p up to 60fps720p and 1080p up to 60fps

Senior editor Sean has run out of HDMI ports on his TV. Follow him @seancaptain. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.

Sean Captain is a freelance technology and science writer, editor and photographer. At Tom's Guide, he has reviewed cameras, including most of Sony's Alpha A6000-series mirrorless cameras, as well as other photography-related content. He has also written for Fast Company, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Wired.