Whether Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast or Xiaomi Mi TV Stick – streaming sticks make stupid televisions smart for a few euros. We compare the most popular TV boxes.
Current televisions are getting cheaper and cheaper. Some UHD TVs are available from 250 euros (purchase advice). Even the large ones are affordable, as our guide to large TVs: from 70 inches under 700 euros shows. Almost all of them have one thing in common: they resolve at 4K and connect to the Internet, so they are smart. In doing so, they load popular streaming apps like Netflix and Amazon Prime. The media libraries of the major TV stations, TV streaming from Waipu.tv, Magine or Zattoo and simple games are usually included.
Almost every television manufacturer lures with its own operating system. These usually work very well at first. Problems only arise over time. Some are neglected. Updates are rare, and new apps such as Disney + (advice) can often no longer be installed. In other cases, the TV processor is too weak and navigating through the menus becomes a lengthy test of patience or 4K content starts to stutter. Then again, the menus sometimes seem dusty and not very modern.
All of this can be counteracted with streaming sticks. They cost a few euros, are usually plugged directly into the HDMI port and come with their own remote control, which also switches the TV on and off and regulates the volume. They are also usually very fast, receive frequent updates and offer a large selection of apps and streaming services (the best video streaming providers). For this comparison, we looked at the popular solutions from Amazon, Google and Xiaomi.
Amazon is one of the most popular providers of TV streaming solutions with its Fire TV range. There are several reasons for this. On the one hand, Fire TV sticks and boxes are usually heavily reduced for campaigns such as Black Friday Week at the end of November. They then sometimes cost less than 20 euros, and in rare cases even less than 10 euros. On the other hand, they are perfectly integrated into the Amazon cosmos and are therefore particularly interesting for Amazon Prime members. In addition, they are fast, offer a lot of apps and have Alexa integrated. There are currently four different Fire TV solutions, all of which have their advantages and disadvantages. We show who is suitable for which.
Fire TV Stick Lite
The Fire TV Stick Lite is the cheapest entry into the streaming world from Amazon. It costs 30 euros regularly and offers the same very good user interface as the premium Fire TV models. That means all apps like Prime Video, Netflix, YouTube, Disney +, ARD, ZDF, ProSieben, DAZN, Spotify and many more are included. However, we miss Sky Ticket, Sky Go and Apple TV +.
The setup works with the Amazon account within a few minutes. First you plug it into the HDMI port. Thanks to the 15 cm long intermediate cable supplied, this is possible even in tight spaces behind the television. A power supply unit is included for power supply.
The remote control offers all the important buttons to comfortably navigate through the menus. Alexa switches on via an activation button and accepts voice commands via the microphone in the remote control. However, it is not possible to switch the television on and off or to regulate the volume with it. The remote control of the TV must always be used for this. That sucks in the long run. The Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite is also only suitable for older TVs without 4K resolution or smaller televisions due to its Full HD resolution.
Fire TV Stick
The Fire TV Stick costs 40 euros and is largely similar to the Fire TV Stick Lite. The main difference is the additional buttons on the remote control. Thanks to them, the user can turn most televisions on and off and regulate the volume. This is very practical and minimizes the remote control chaos on the coffee table. You shouldn’t put the remote of the television too far away. For example, if you want to change the input channel, you need it.
In addition, in contrast to the Fire TV Stick Lite, it offers Dolby Atmos support. However, it is questionable whether someone needs it who does not have a 4K television or does not value image transmission in UHD quality. After all, you need a state-of-the-art and perfectly coordinated hardware package for Dolby Atmos. More on this in the guide to soundbars: Fat sound for flat TVs.
Fire TV Stick 4K
The Fire TV Stick 4K normally costs just under 60 euros. It is visually similar to its cheaper relatives and, like them, offers 8 GB of internal memory, one GB of RAM and a quad-core processor with 1.7 GHz. Installation is child’s play with him too. However, it differs significantly in terms of transmission quality. Because it transmits the corresponding streaming content in 4K or UHD quality and 60 frames per second to the television.
It also supports Dolby Vision, HDR and HDR10 +, which can make a significant difference, especially with modern televisions. As with the Amazon Fire TV Stick, it can do Dolby Atmos. In addition, it should have an improved WLAN antenna design and support 802.11ac Wi-Fi. All information in the test report of the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K.
Fire TV Cube
The Fire TV Cube and the Fire TV Stick 4K form the spearhead of Fire TV solutions. As the name suggests, it is not a stick that plugs directly into the HDMI port and hides behind the television. The Fire TV Cube wants to be placed in front of the television. It offers the same advantages as the Fire TV Stick 4K, but has a slightly more powerful processor and, with 16 GB, twice as much internal memory. It also comes with an ethernet port.
The main difference is the full Alexa support. So it not only works in a comparable way to a smart speaker like the Amazon Echo 4 2020 (test report) or the small Amazon Echo Dot 4 2020 (test report). The user can also use it to control the television using voice commands. Verbally, he then changes the HDMI port or navigates through the menus if desired. All information in the test report of the Amazon Fire TV Cube.
So far, Google’s Chromcast was not actually a streaming stick, but mainly reflected the content of Android devices on the big screen. In 2020 the time had come: Google attacked the streaming stick pioneer Amazon with its current Chromecast for just under 70 euros. The newly developed Google TV user interface will initially run exclusively on it. Later it will also find its way onto Android TV devices.
We like the hardware very much. The oval and fairly flat stick dangles invisibly from the TV’s HDMI port. A power supply unit supplies it with power. The included remote control positions its buttons logically, everything is easy to feel. As with most Fire TV sticks, the Chromecast recognizes the television and the soundbar and controls them directly via the remote. Unusual but useful: The volume buttons are on the side of the remote control. It also has a microphone for Google Assistant voice commands. However, we miss buttons for rewinding and a pause button.
We like the user interface. It looks just as tidy as that of Amazon, but binds a rating of as an indication of the quality of the content Rotten Tomatoes one. Noticeable: the menu reacts much more slowly to the user’s inputs than all the Fire TV sticks we tested. A clear point for Amazon. Still, Google TV doesn’t seem fully developed in some places. It is a bit annoying to have to re-rate all films and series or mark them as already seen. There are also no profiles. One of the biggest problems surprised us: The Chromecast has difficulty understanding the verbal search or shows nonsensical results. There is also no automatic text completion when typing manually. We would have expected that from the search specialist Google better.
One of the biggest advantages of Chromecast over Fire TV is its ability to easily cast content from smartphone to TV. If all devices are in the same WLAN, you can mirror the entire screen content with the push of a button. In addition, almost all moving content on the smartphone shows the Chromecast button, which then allows the video to continue running seamlessly on the TV. Despite the missing app, it is then also possible to bring Sky Ticket or Sky Go to the large TV.
Xiaomi Mi TV Stick
Xiaomi is developing into a universal manufacturer of devices from all areas. This includes smartphones, activity trackers (Xiaomi Mi Band 5 in the test) and much more, televisions (Xiaomi Mi TV 4S in the test) and streaming sticks. The Xiaomi Mi TV Stick costs around 35 euros and relies fully on Android, comparable to the television. The user interface of TV and TV Stick are also similar.
For installation, the buyer first plugs the stick directly into the TV’s HDMI port. Unsightly: The Xiaomi Mi TV Stick does not come with an extension cable. So it sticks out eight centimeters from the HDMI port. In addition, it is quite wide and could block the neighboring HDMI port. A power supply is included. In contrast to the Chromecast and the Fire TV Sticks, the Mi TV Stick also works when the power is supplied via a USB port on the TV.
Xiaomi uses Android TV as the operating system, not to be confused with the new Chromecast operating system Google TV. It looks tidy and offers a large selection of apps. Unfortunately, Apple TV + and Sky Ticket are also missing here. However, like Google’s Chromecast, the Xiaomi Mi TV Stick offers the option of playing back content such as Sky Ticket via WiFi on the TV.
In terms of hardware and image quality, the Xiaomi Mi Stick is in a league with the inexpensive Fire TV Stick Lite and Fire TV Stick. It offers one GB of RAM and eight GB of storage. That’s enough for its maximum resolution of Full HD and a few simple games. Overall, the Mi TV Stick is significantly slower than the Fire TV Sticks.
Amazon rightly occupies a dominant position in the market for streaming solutions. Even their cheapest streaming stick Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite, which is available for less than 20 euros, is significantly faster and more flexible than everyone else in the price segment. The biggest advantage of the Xiaomi Mi TV Stick is its Chromecast capability. For example, users can cast Sky Ticket content or the pictures of their last (non-) vacation wirelessly on the television via their home WLAN.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K (test report) is one of the cheapest streaming sticks that support the high UHD resolution and many image enhancers at 60 euros. The Google Chromecast is hardly more expensive at just under 70 euros, but a bit slower and with a less sophisticated operating system. To do this, he can throw content from the Android device onto the TV. The Amazon Fire TV Cube (test report), which costs a good 100 euros, could be of interest to anyone who wants to control their television completely by voice. If desired, it can also replace a smart speaker such as the Amazon Echo 4 2020 (test report).
If you are still looking for the right TV to go with the streaming stick, you should take a look at our UHD TV purchase advice from 250 euros. Even the large ones are affordable, as our guide to large TVs shows: from 70 inches under 700 euros.