The battle for your television’s HDMI ports has never been more heated than now and that’s a very good thing indeed. With so many cheap ways to turn your telly into a smart TV, it means pretty much anyone can load their gogglebox with the latest features and apps and enjoy streaming movies and shows from services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Even a basic telly from Tesco can be converted into an entertainment hub for just a fistful of tenners.
The big names in this streaming stick round-up are Amazon with its All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote, Roku with its own Streaming Stick and Google with the latest Chromecast. Sure, the Chromecast is less stick-shaped than the others here, but it’s still in the same class and offers many identical features for an affordable price.
So, which streaming stick is best for you in 2017? Check out our guide to find the perfect fit for your TV’s HDMI port.
Read next: How can I watch Amazon Prime Video on my TV?
Amazon All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote vs Roku Streaming Stick vs Google Chromecast: Remote control and voice search
One stand-out difference between these streaming sticks is the remote control that comes bundled – or that doesn’t come bundled, in Google’s case. Both the Roku Streaming Stick and All-new Amazon Fire TV Stick come with dedicated remotes in the box but the Chromecast does without. Of course, since Google’s Chromecast connects straight to your phone, you can just use your mobile to control everything that happens on your TV. In fact, some users might prefer to use their mobile rather than searching for yet another RC every time they want to relax with a show.
Read next: Twelve must-have Chromecast apps
For those that prefer a remote control, this battle comes down to the Roku Streaming Stick or Amazon’s Fire TV Stick. While both devices offer voice search, only the Fire TV Stick lets you issue voice commands via the remote. With support for Alexa built in, you can search for any kind of content and even perform web searches or ask about upcoming calendar entries and the rest. With the Roku Streaming Stick, you need to use the downloadable app to search with your voice. And this is a lot more basic than Alexa’s smarts.
All that said, Roku’s remote offers dedicated buttons for commonly-used apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video, which is handy for fans of those streaming services. But it’s the Roku app which really shines by allowing you to listen to shows via headphones plugged into your phone, as you watch on the big screen.
Amazon also offers an app remote control, which does a solid job of replacing the plastic remote. You can fast-load your apps, call Alexa into action and get a virtual keyboard on-screen, although the functionality is basic beyond that.
Amazon All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote vs Roku Streaming Stick vs Google Chromecast: Compatibility
Depending on what video streaming apps you use most regularly, one of these sticks may appeal more than another. Google’s Chromecast, for example, is quite limited; you get access to things like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Spotify and YouTube, but not to Amazon Prime Instant Video.
Read next: Best shows to watch on Amazon Prime Video
While the Amazon Fire TV Stick does offer more services than the Chromecast, it’s the Roku Streaming Stick that wins for support with thousands of apps available on the platform. You can even side-load a bunch of ‘private channels’, which aren’t officially approved – check out our complete Roku private channels guide for more info and our pick of the best.
On the point of compatibility, it’s also worth noting that the Chromecast and Amazon’s All-new Fire TV Stick feature a flexible cable which allows them to attach to all HDMI ports. Some televisions could be shaped or positioned in a way that makes plugging in the Roku Streaming Stick difficult or impossible. For instance, if there’s very little space behind your telly, the jutting stick might be hindered.
Amazon All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote vs Roku Streaming Stick vs Google Chromecast: Visual and audio quality
This round has to be a draw for now. All three sticks stream in 1080p Full HD video quality and offer up to 7.1 channel surround sound. There’s no support for 4K media streaming to be found here. If that’s a deal breaker, check out our best 4K streamers guide.
One possible factor to consider here that could set the three sticks apart is their abilities to connect to Wi-Fi. Both the Chromecast and Amazon sticks offer 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac compatibility, but the Roku only offers a/b/g/n.
Speed isn’t massively varied across devices, but could also be a factor. The Amazon Fire TV Stick offers Amazon’s ASAP service, which effectively understands what you watch and will pre-buffer so when you hit play on something else it should start immediately. That said, it can still be a bit laggy at times thanks to the basic Mediatek chipset. Meanwhile the Roku Streaming Stick can also be quite slow when flicking around the menus.
However, Google’s Chromecast can be rather nippy as it works from the connected phone or tablet. So basically, it’s as fast as your mobile device is.
Amazon All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote vs Roku Streaming Stick vs Google Chromecast: Mirroring
Outside of streaming video, it’s Google that offers the easiest casting style use. Sharing personal photos or videos from a phone or tablet via Chromecast is super easy, since it can be done within a third party app, at the tap of the cast icon. The other platforms require dedicated apps to do the same.
For mirroring, all three devices work well when it comes to sharing from Android smartphones and tablets.
Amazon All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote vs Roku Streaming Stick vs Google Chromecast: Value
While prices do vary between the sticks, they’re all very affordable for what they offer, so the difference isn’t great.
The cheapest of the bunch is the Google Chromecast for £30. Next up is the Roku Streaming Stick at £38, followed by the £40 All-new Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote.