Dave Smith/Business Insider
Amazon on Tuesday announced a new Fire TV set-top streaming device with support for the high-quality 4K and HDR formats.
It competes directly with the new Apple TV, also announced this month, which also supports 4K and HDR for the first time.
The key differentiator here is price: The new Amazon Fire TV with 4K costs $69, while the new Apple TV 4K costs $179 for 32GB of storage, and $199 for 64GB of storage.
That said, there are some notable technical differences between these streaming devices that will help you decide which one is best for you — we’ll even help you keep score. Take a look:
First, let’s talk about the similarities.
The Apple TV 4K and the new Amazon Fire TV with 4K share some similar features. Both devices support:
• Up to 2160p resolution
• Dual-band 802.11 WiFi
• The latest HDMI standard
• Hundreds of thousands of apps from services like Netflix, HBO, and others
• Their own remote controls, which let you navigate the on-screen experience using buttons or your voice — leveraging Siri on the Apple TV, and Alexa on the Fire TV
For the sake of argument, let’s just say both TV set-tops are equal in these respects.
SCORE: Apple 1, Amazon 1
That said, there are some notable differences between these two devices:
The Apple TV supports sound systems up to Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 surround. The more affordable Amazon Fire TV with 4K actually goes a step further and supports Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 surround, as well as Dolby Atmos, which Dolby pushes as its most immersive audio system. The Apple TV 4K will get Dolby Atmos support at some point in the future, but it won’t be available at launch.
SCORE: Apple 1, Amazon 2
This might be a deciding factor for many people, especially those who already own HDR-capable TVs. The Apple TV 4K supports both HDR 10 and Dolby Vision HDR standards, whereas the Amazon Fire TV with 4K only supports the HDR 10 standard.
Here’s the difference: Most current HDR-capable TVs support HDR 10, but on paper, Dolby Vision supports a brighter and more color-rich experience. LG and Vizio most notably support Dolby Vision, so if you have one of those TVs, the Apple TV 4K might be your only option to get the best experience possible.
SCORE: Apple 2, Amazon 2
Gigabit Ethernet support
If you’re lucky enough to have Gigabit Ethernet in your home, the Apple TV 4K supports those speeds right out of the box. The Amazon Fire TV with 4K, on the other hand, only supports Gigabit Ethernet with an Ethernet adapter; Amazon is selling a $15 adapter that comes out the same day as the new Fire TV with 4K.
SCORE: Apple 3, Amazon 2
The Apple TV 4K comes with more onboard storage (32GB or 64GB) compared to the new Fire TV with 4K, which only has 8GB of space.
That said, most people will find it pretty hard to actually use all of this space, since most services, including Netflix and movies from iTunes, require streaming. The only things you’d be downloading are apps, iTunes movie rentals, and podcasts — if you do a lot of those things, though, the Apple TV might be the way to go. Otherwise, 8GB on the Fire TV should be just fine.
SCORE: Apple 4, Amazon 2
Living room impact
The Apple TV is one of the larger set-top devices, and needs to sit on a surface. The Fire TV is comparatively small, lightweight, and unobtrusive; it can hang behind your TV set.
SCORE: Apple 4, Amazon 3
Free cloud storage
Even though the Fire TV only comes with a small amount of onboard storage, Amazon more than makes up for it by offering free cloud storage for any Amazon content. Apple doesn’t have a similar offering here.
SCORE: Apple 4, Amazon 4
Which one should you buy?
Both the Apple TV 4K and the new Fire TV with 4K come with their fair share of positive and negative attributes. The Apple TV supports more HDR standards and Gigabit Ethernet out of the box, but doesn’t support Dolby Atmos like the Fire TV, and isn’t nearly as affordable.
It all boils down to how much you’re willing to spend, and whether or not these devices would best complement your current TV setup and your audio setup.
If you own a TV that supports Dolby Vision, and you really want to enjoy that particular experience, it might be worth shelling out for the Apple TV. If you just want a capable device to stream 4K and HDR content to your TV, though, or you’re really invested in Dolby Atmos, the Fire TV with 4K might be your best bet.
The ecosystems could also be a selling point for you as well. While Apple and Amazon have similar music services, the Apple TV has the iTunes Store and it will soon get the Prime Video app; the Fire TV will never have the iTunes Store. This might be a consideration for you if you’re a long-time iTunes user, or have an affinity to the Apple ecosystem.
Keep in mind: You can always try these devices and return them if you don’t like them, or want to try the rival device. Apple has a 15-day return policy for its stores, while Amazon lets you return any item within 30 days of its delivery to get a full refund.