Prime vs. Play
No two streaming media devices have exactly the same selection of apps, but Chromecast and the Fire TV Stick have one major difference: Chromecast lets you stream videos and music from Google Play, but not from Amazon Prime. The opposite is true with the Fire TV Stick, which is focused mainly toward streaming Prime content and doesn't include any of Google's media offerings.
As I mentioned above, the Fire TV Stick pushes you to watch more Amazon videos than anything else by putting them front-and-center in the interface. Chromecast is inherently more ambivalent, since there's no interface to begin with. In the future, it seems more likely that Amazon's videos will come to Google's hardware than vice versa — especially with the recent launch of an official Amazon video viewer for Android phones. But for now, picking your device means pledging allegiance to one video service over another.
There are some other key app differences to note as well: Amazon has apps for Spotify, NFL Now, Vimeo, A&E, and PBS, none of which are available on Google's stick. Chromecast has apps for Songza, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Vudu, and HBO Go (at least until it lands on Amazon's Stick in the near future). You can view the full Chromecast app library here. Amazon's library is a bit harder to parse from the Web, as there's no way to filter out games, but you can peruse the full Fire TV catalog here .
Two sticks in a pod
Originally, I thought I'd compare these two devices and hand down a firm recommendation for one or the other. But given the differences in apps and viewing experience, I could easily see myself switching back and forth.
If I wanted to watch something from Amazon Prime, I'd turn on the Fire TV Stick and pick one of the recommended shows — probably straight from the home screen. But if I was just lounging around with my phone and wanted to throw something on, I'd just pick an app, hit the cast button and get back to what I was doing.
In a perfect world, there'd be one device that handled everything. While Google's Nexus Player with Android TV aims to do just that, it's more expensive than a Fire TV Stick and Chromecast combined, and it's not where it needs to be just yet. We in the tech world love to pit companies against one another, but with cheap streaming dongles like the Fire TV Stick and Chromecast, the living room is one place where they can live in harmony.
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