Apple TV 4K vs Amazon Fire TV – which should you buy?

How many Ks do we want? 4! And in what form? Black boxes!
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Apple recently unleashed its Apple TV 4K, only for Amazon to go and spoil the party by announcing a new Fire TV.

Or did it?

That’s the thing: now there are two new black boxes to plug into your telly, so you can gorge on 4K movies, endless box-sets, and the odd bit of gaming. So the party is very much unspoiled.

So which should you buy? Read on and find out…

Apple TV 4K vs Amazon Fire TV: Design

Both devices are black boxes, but Apple’s actually looks nice: it has curved edges and a little blinking light to tell you it’s doing things.

Amazon’s box, on the other hand, looks designed to be hidden. Which is kind of the point. It hangs out of your telly’s HDMI port – and at 87g is unlikely to cause problems. We’ll take ‘invisible’ over even the sleekest of curves any day. (Black mark to Amazon, though, for still requiring you plug the thing in to the mains.)

Winner: Amazon Fire TV

Apple TV 4K vs Fire TV: Specs

The Apple TV’s 2.38GHz six-core A10X chip is the same as the one in the iPad Pro, and you get 32GB of storage and an Ethernet port. That makes the Fire TV’s 1.5GHz chip and 8GB of storage look miserly. And Apple also leads when it comes to video, supporting HDR10 and Dolby Vision; the Fire TV only gets the former.

On audio, Amazon gets in a late punch, in supporting Dolby Atmos; that may later come to Apple TV, but for now you only get Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 surround. Still, Apple’s stuffed an iPad into a black box, whereas the Fire TV lacks headroom.

Winner: Apple TV 4K

Apple TV 4K vs Amazon Fire TV: Remote control

The Siri Remote is reminiscent of the original iMac’s hockey puck mouse – it looks cool, but try grabbing it and you’ve a 50:50 chance of the thing being upside down. It’s a borderline disaster for gaming, but reasonable for UI navigation, and you can always bark at Siri if you’re getting thumb cramp from all the swiping.

By contrast, Amazon goes for cheap plastic. Again, you’ve got voice control; and again, it’s awful for gaming. You won’t accidentally hold the thing upside down, but you’ll wish you never needed to hold it at all.

Winner: everyone loses. Oh, OK: Apple TV 4K, by a hair

Apple TV 4K vs Fire TV: Movies

Here’s where Apple really shines. Even though there are holdouts when it comes to 4K on iTunes (notably, Disney), Apple’s selection of 4K treats is already mightily impressive, and it’s growing by the day.

Even better, pricing’s no more than for HD (although Amazon and other rivals have now started to price-match). Even better, part two: if you already own HD movies on iTunes, Apple will upgrade them for free. Nice.

Fire TV does nothing wrong in this space, but just can’t compete.

Winner: Apple TV 4K

Apple TV 4K vs Amazon Fire TV: TV shows

Netflix 4K’s available on both boxes, but Amazon Video’s still missing from Apple TV. It’s rumoured to be arriving soon, but we’re not writing this while armed with a TARDIS.

Amazon edges further ahead in the UK when it comes to popular broadcasters. Although your eyes won’t be bathed in 4K when it comes to UK telly delights, you can at least get pretty much every major channel in some format on a Fire TV. On Apple TV, you merely get a half-baked version of BBC iPlayer that seems to have yomped on in from 2015.

Winner: Amazon Fire TV

Apple TV 4K vs Amazon Fire TV: Apps and games

In 2015, Apple announced the future of television was apps, but now appears to want to mostly streamline that to one app: its own hub-like TV. Even so, Apple TV has a strong selection of non-telly apps and surprisingly good games. In fact, if someone gave Apple a solid kick up the bum, Apple TV could give games consoles a run for their money.

By comparison, apps for Amazon’s telly kit mostly feel functional, and the games selection is… well, we’re not going to turn off the PS4 for it. Nor even a Nintendo DS, for that matter.

Winner: Apple TV 4K