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 Amazon Fire Streaming Stick    Roku Streaming Stick


There are several streaming sticks (Handheld remotes) and devices available but the Roku Streaming Stick and the Amazon Fire Stick are the two major players and, in my opinion, offer the most benefits and support. You won't go wrong with either of these two devices.


Roku is a great unit for those new to streaming media devices. The remote is durable, has a user-friendly on-screen interface, has controls for TV volume, and Roku offers a generous amount of both free and paid content. Some Roku sticks have an Ethernet plug allowing the user to plug the Roku stick directly into the router. A direct connection provides a more stable, and often faster, internet connection than using Wi-Fi.


The Amazon Fire Stick also offers excellent performance and a lot of original free programming. Amazon's library holds thousands of movies and TV program episodes.


There are some similarities between the Amazon Fire TV Stick and the Roku Streaming Stick. Both have multiple models offering various features. The older lower priced, say $30 US, sticks support standard and 1080p HD picture and audio quality, standards used by US broadcast TV today. Newer higher-priced starting at $40 US and up, support 4K Ultra HD and HDR.


Personally, I would purchase a remote, from either company, that can handle 4K programs, sports, and movies. While there are not a lot of programs shot in 4K in October 2019, this is the trend. More TV streaming will be available in 4K, as this format will likely become the new streaming standard. Only remotes and TV sets designed to handle 4K video will be able to viewer the higher quality video.


For Amazon, the product names are Fire TV and Fire TV 4K and for Roku they are Streaming Stick and Streaming Stick+. Some sticks have a voice search feature allowing the user to speak the name of the program they are looking for and may connect with some smart home systems. Speaking a title to the remote can certainly speed the location of select programs over typing in the information when searching through thousands of titles. Voice communication also reduces the need for a computer keyboard laying on the sofa with you.


The sticks plug directly into an HDMI port on your TV making them convenient for even wall-mounted TVs. Both Amazon and Roku have mobile apps for your phone that you can also use as a remote. Both devices support the most popular TV and movie internet streaming services. Both players support dual band Wi-Fi.


 Additionally, you can get an Ethernet adapter for your Fire TV Stick for a wired connection to your router. In mid-2019, a direct connection for Roku is only available on their Roku Ultra device. My opinion: Wireless Ethernet is a great convenience, but for full speed and stability, a wired Ethernet connection just cannot be beat.


The remotes that comes with the Roku Streaming Stick and Roku Streaming Stick+ have buttons for controlling your TV's power and volume.  The newer Fire TV Sticks available in mid-2019 also support this feature. There are third-party devices that can add this control to your device, but it could just be easier to use the TV remote to control the TV volume, off and on, etc.


I'm going to sneak a third possibility in on you, though for home TV viewing I still feel the Fire Stick and Roku are the best options. This third option is really for your smart phone.


If you have a TV APP or photos on your smartphone that you wish to view on a larger screen such as your TV, then look at  Google's Chromecast (3rd Generation).It works a little differently than our sticks listed above. Chromecast does not have any video programs of its own. Chromecast only provides a video and audio link between the cellphone and the TV.

Think of Chromecast as a movie projector. Your cellphone is the film and your TV is the screen. You play the video on your smartphone using Chromecast to "project" the program on to your TV screen.

That means you need to have an app running on your phone, such as Netflix, Hulu, Google Play and so on. Once that app is playing your program just tap the Chromecast button displayed in the app to switch the video and audio from your smartphone to your television.
You can also enter your photo gallery and display some or all of your smartphone photos.

A downside to streaming from your smartphone to your TV is that almost all smartphone movie downloads are transmitted in 480 or 720p rather than the 1080p and up available on your TV through Amazon Fire and Roku sticks. Personally, I would go with the Roku or Amazon Fire Stick when at home, but the Chromecast is handy device if you're traveling and perhaps in a hotel room, at a friend's house, or wish to view your smartphone photos on a large screen.


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