Whenever the question of Roku vs Fire TV comes up someone will always say “get the Fire TV because it is faster”. So we decided to see for the average user which device has a faster user experience. Now to be clear, yes the Fire TV has a faster processor but the question here is- in everyday use which one gives a faster experience?
So lets just break down the results.
For Netflix the Roku 3 is faster hands down. There is a considerable speed advantage for the Roku 3; both in loading the app and playing videos. The Fire TV requires you to fully reboot the app every time you start it. The Roku will remember the last TV show you where watching and bring you back to that shows menu. Both apps have similar user interfaces, but some of the menus are in a different order.
The Hulu app on the Fire TV is slightly faster but auto loads videos sometimes at random at the startup. While the app loads quicker on Fire TV, having to back out of whatever the promoted video is negates most of the speed advantage. Comparing loading the same video side by side, the Fire TV is faster but only by a second or two. Overall, the user experience with the Hulu app on the Roku is better.
WatchESPN is overall faster on the Roku. The Roku 3 loads videos faster and has better menus. WatchESPN on the Fire TV has the same glitch as Hulu; it will load the last video at startup. I rarely want to go back to the same video I watched last time I was in the app. The menus on the Fire TV add several additional clicks. Often less than half of the videos listed on the Roku app appear on the start screen on the Fire TV version, making you dig through menus to find the videos you want. Overall the faster video loading and better menus make the Roku 3 the best option for watchESPN.
Fire TV as expected is the fastest option when loading Amazon Instant videos. From testing, it appears that the Fire TV starts to load the video as soon as you hover over it on your Fire TV. The Roku 3 has a better menu system for the Amazon Instant app. The main example of this is the my library section. On the Fire TV there is just one long list of movies and videos. On the Roku version the movies and TV shows are broken out into two different lists making it easier to find what you want.
The search feature is a 50/50 split. Roku has better search over a larger number of apps. Fire TV voice search is a very handy feature, but has a limited number of apps it works for. The down side is older users can sometimes struggle to be understood by the voice search option. The Roku does have voice search built into their app.
The user interface may be a personal decision on which one is better. For us, the Roku 3 is the winner especially if you are looking at someone who is not very good with technology. The quick launch buttons on newer Roku 3s make it easy to use. The standard menus on the screen are also easier to use on the Roku. If a app is not in your recently used on the Fire TV it takes a considerable amount of additional clicks to get the app you want.
Android and iPhone Apps:
Roku is the clear winner on the Android and iPhone apps. They both allow you to control your device but the Roku app allows you to cast videos and photos from your tablet or phone to your Roku. The Fire TV app does not have that feature. The Fire TV will show photos that are already uploaded to your Fire TV account but you must be logged into your account. The Roku will allow you to cast photos and videos to any Roku on the same network.
The Roku 3 is the clear winner. Better user interface, faster Netflix, better apps, and more content makes it the best option on the market today. The Fire TV also charges for some apps that are free on the Roku.
In short there is more content on the Roku and a better user experience. The Fire TV is still very new, less than a year old without the time Roku has had to polish its user experience. There is a lot of time for the Fire TV to grow and hopefully will continue to compete. Competition is always great for the end user.