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Christmas Gift Guide
Media Streamers

Fire TV Stick vs. Chromecast vs. Roku Streaming Stick: Measuring the sticks

Ready for more comparisons than you can shake a stick at? Ranging in price from $35 to $50, these three HDMI streaming sticks all offer Netflix...and diverge from there. Stick with this roundup for all the details.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Streaming sticks won't break the bank.

At $39, Amazon's new Fire TV stick is priced squarely between the the $35 Google Chromecast and $49 Roku Streaming Stick .

Each device has its pluses and minuses. In our reviews, we gave the Roku stick the highest score (8.4/10, or 4 stars), then the Fire TV stick (8.1/10, 4 stars) and finally the Chromecast (7.3/10, 3.5 stars).

The Roku was our favorite by virtue of its excellent app selection, best-in-class search and agnostic interface. The Fire TV, if you can find one, is almost as good as long as you don't mind its Amazon-centric interface. The Chromecast is perhaps the most innovative device of the three, but its dependence on your smartphone or tablet makes it significantly less-convenient to use.

If HBO Go is a must-have channel for you, note that it's currently supported by the Chromecast and Roku (although Comcast subscribers still can't use HBO Go or Showtime Anytime via Roku). Amazon is pledging to add HBO Go to the Fire TV by end of year, and in the meantime many older titles are available to Prime members, such as The Sopranos, Deadwood and Six Feet Under (sorry, no Game of Thrones).

For more information check out the full reviews linked above. And if you'd like to do the deciding on your own, here are a couple of charts comparing features and app support.

Stick features comparison

Google Chromecast Roku Streaming Stick Amazon Fire TV Stick
Price $35 $49 $39
Physical remote control No Yes Yes
Phone/tablet app remote control "Cast" apps only iOS/Android Android (iOS "coming soon")
Gaming support Yes Limited Yes (optional $40 controller)
Voice search Via select "cast" apps Via remote app Via remote app, optional physical remote ($30)
Screen mirroring via Chrome browser or Android via Android, Windows 8.1 via Kindle or Android (coming soon)
Wi-Fi antenna Single-band Dual-band/Dual antenna (MIMO) Dual-band/Dual antenna (MIMO)
Works with "captive portal" Wi-Fi sign-in* No No "Coming Soon"

Sticks app comparison

Google Chromecast Roku Streaming Stick Amazon Fire TV Stick
Netflix Yes Yes Yes
Amazon Instant No Yes Yes
YouTube Yes Yes Yes
Hulu Plus Yes Yes Yes
HBO Go Yes Yes No
Showtime Anytime Yes Yes Yes
Vudu Yes Yes No
Flixster Yes Yes Yes
Crackle Yes Yes Yes
PBS TabCast Yes Yes
PBS Kids Yes Yes Yes
Disney Channels TabCast Yes Yes
Time Warner Cable TV No Yes No
SlingPlayer Yes Yes No
Starz Play Yes No No
Watch ESPN Yes Yes Yes
MLB.TV Yes Yes Yes
NFL Now No Yes Yes
NBA Game Time No Yes Yes
Pandora Yes Yes Yes
Spotify TabCast Yes Yes
Rdio Yes Yes No
Rhapsody Yes No No
Vevo Yes Yes Yes
TuneIn TabCast Yes Yes
iHeartRadio Yes Yes Yes
Amazon Music No Yes Yes
Google Music Yes No No
Google Play Movies and TV Yes Yes No
Plex Yes Yes Yes

Chart Notes: *"Captive portal" refers toWi-Fi authentication systems, common in hotels and college dorms, that force the device to see a special Web page to sign in before using the Internet normally. Apps were selected based on editorial discretion. All of these devices support additional apps beyond those listed here. "Yes" means the device supports the app natively; "TabCast" means the device supports the app using Chrome browser mirroring in our tests; "No" means the device does not currently have the app or did not fully support it via mirroring in our tests. The list applies only to the US market; app selection varies in other countries worldwide. App selection is current as of November 26, 2014.

This article was updated November 26 with additional detail and links to reviews.