The battle for your television’s HDMI ports has never been more heated than here in 2016 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.
The big names in this streaming stick round-up are Amazon with its Fire TV Stick, Roku with its Streaming Stick and Google with its 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.
So, which streaming stick is best for you in 2016? 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 Fire TV Stick vs Roku Streaming Stick vs Google Chromecast: Remote control and search
One stand-out difference between these streaming sticks is the remote control that comes bundled, or that doesn't come bundled. Both the Roku Streaming Stick and Amazon Fire TV come with dedicated remotes but the Chromecast does without. Of course, since Google’s Chromecast connects to your phone, this might not bother some - and 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 Fire TV Stick. While both devices offer voice search, only the Fire TV Stick lets you issue commands via the remote - with the Roku, you need the app open for voice search to work.
All that said, Roku’s remote offers dedicated buttons for commonly-used apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video. But it’s the Roku app which really shines by allowing you to listen via headphones plugged into the phone, as you watch on the big screen. Also, the Roku app works on most platforms - and yes, that even includes Windows and BB10.
Amazon Fire TV Stick 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 over 2,000 apps available on the platform. Also, many of the apps which are free on Roku will cost you cash on Amazon's Fire Stick, like using Plex for example.
On the point of compatibility, it’s also worth noting that the Chromecast features a flexible cable which allows it to attach to all HDMI ports. Some televisions could be shaped or positioned in a way that makes plugging in the Amazon Fire TV Stick or Roku Streaming Stick difficult or impossible. For instance, if there's very little space behind your telly, the jutting sticks might be hindered.
Amazon Fire TV Stick 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.
One possible factor to consider here that could set the three sticks apart is their abilities to connect to Wi-Fi. Both the Roku and Amazon sticks have 802.11 a/b/g/n but it’s only the Chromecast which also offers 802.11ac Wi-Fi connectivity.
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. Chromecast is nippy too as it works from the connected phone or tablet. However, the Roku Streaming Stick can be a little laggy at times when flicking around the menu.
Amazon Fire TV Stick 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 a 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 and Fire smartphones and tablets. Only iOS suffers here as Miacast isn’t so compatible at the moment.
Amazon Fire TV Stick 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 Amazon Fire TV Stick at £35, or £45 with the voice control remote. Finally the Roku Streaming Stick, as a base model, is the most expensive stick here at £38.