The amazon fire TV stick and the roku streaming stick are very powerful streaming options. They offer a wide variety or streaming services such as netflix, hulu, and others on a device that can easily be tucked away behind your TV. Not only that, but both devices offer accessibility features out of the box, and both are a fraction of the price of the apple tv. However there are some differences and these will be broken down
The roku streaming stick costs around $69.00. It includes accessibility features out of the box, so no sighted assistance is required for setting it up. It also includes a Voice remote, and the interface was pleasant to work with, though with a few pit falls. While the stick does not have any storage space, everything is controled through an account, and the system and voice guide will walk you through creating an account and adding channels.
Practically everything on the device speaks, and navigating settings and other options was a pleasant experience.
first time setup
Here is sadly where the issues became noticeable for me. When setting up your streaming player it did just fine until you entered a wireless network. If you entered the letters or numbers of your network too quickly, the stick would freeze, and you would have to restart. I never found out if this was the remote or the actual stick, but it took several tries to get by it. It took me slowing down to a crawl in entering the characters, before I could go on to the next screen. However, after that screen, things proceeded as expected.
The setup did take longer because it does walk you through creating an account, and I found the website to be easy to navigate and to work well with JAWS and NVDA. The how-to videos explaining concepts were very helpful as well, I will give roku a tun of credit for making their content accessible. Once setup was complete it was time to dive in to the main interface.
The main interface
The main interface of the roku player consisted of a home screen, and several menus. The Voice guide made navigating these menus easy and pleasant to use, even if there was a bit too much verbage at times. Going in to settings the guide read all options, and also read the legal agreements, wich is a surprise considering that most accessibility options in the past never read the legal stuff. I could restart my stick and the voice guide would come up imediately.
Starting and stopping the voice guide was easy enough, as you pressed the Star button, wich is to the right of the arrows and down from them. You pressed this button 3 times rapidly.
accessibility of aps
While I only tried a few, the aps I tried were accessible for the most part. I tried the following:
- Amazon prime
- WWE network
The only one that did not work, was the ESPN ap, but all my other streaming services worked. The stick also had the options of streaming sling TV, wich I will admit, I have not tried on either device because of the trial period. Plus, it offered MLB at bat, and NBA TV. (have not tried either.) All in all though, for the aps I tried the accessibility in the ones I worked with was on target, and even though I had never used a roku before, the voice guide was there, walking me through the interface.
The next biggest con for me in using this device was the voice synthesizer. I’m not sure exactly what kind it was, but it was mechanical and did not have inflection. And, adding base did not help. This, along with the problems at setup is why I returned it. I get my tech at target, wich allows for a 30 day return policy, no questions asked, and also gives you technical support on electronic devices purchased, as long as you own the device. Target understood, and they allowed me to get the next device in this review.
Oh no there is a fire!
While not talking about fires in the literal sence, the fire TV stick cost less than the roku stick. While the roku stick costs $69.99, the amazon fire TV at the time costs $29.99. It also plugs directly in to the HDMI port of your TV, and includes many streaming services, with the ability to add more. Another appealing feature is the alexa voice remote, giving you access to alexa skills, and if you already own an echo, echo dot, or echo show, you can use them to control your fire TV stick.
The setup process was simple and straight forward, and amazon’s voice view screen reader walks you through the setup. Pressing and holding the back and menu buttons on the alexa remote launched the screen reader, and there is even a tutorial to show you how to navigate. Adding your wireless network, was a breeze, and the device didn’t freeze. It then asks for your amazon account, wich I just entered with the remote. You would use the ring to navigate to each letter, and press the okay button inside the ring to select a letter. Voice View was very snappy at this, and could keep up with me navigating.Once setup was complete, it was time to get my binge on.
services and aps
While the amazon prime video, music, and the main amazon aps are accessible, I can also include netflix and hulu in that list. Others like sling TV, NBA TV, at MLB TV Seem to be accessible, but as they want either a subscription or a trial, I have not tested them yet. Two aps that were not accessible with Voice view were ESPN, and sadly and surprisingly, WWE network. While the WWE network ap or channel was accessible on everything from the Iphone, to my xbox, to the roku stick, it was not accessible with the fire TV stick. Voice View just kep telling me that there were unlabeled buttons.
Alexa is in the house!
Alexa also makes her presence known on this device, and I was amazed at what I could do with the device. I could listen to my audible books, play games, and other things. Only thing I can’t do is set timers, or use my sleep sounds on the stick. But I can use pandora as well, and well, alexa is um, alexa!
You are able to also search for programming with alexa, and alexa can tell you where it it can be found. For example, If I search for rugrats, alexa will find it on amazon prime and tell me that that is where it is.
The bottom line
For me, the amazon fire TV stick won out over the roku counterpart, even though the WWE network ap is not accessible. While I did not compare an apple TV for this review, the fire TV stick is a bit more responcive when navigating, and you also get alexa. Amazon throwing in alexa is a masterful idea, considering all the things that alexa can do. Even if you don’t have a smart TV, this device turns your TV in to a smart TV, and I must say I enjoy having that capability.
The amazon fire TV stick at that time was half the over half the price of the roku stick. At $29.99 the device was a steal, and I have not looked back on it.
The apple TV, when even compared price wise to the roku stick, is just off the wall, simply because of the Apple logo on it. As consumers, we have the power to change that, and I do not intend to agree to apple’s prices by purchasing their products at this time. The fire TV stick does more than I need it to do, and I am just getting started with it. It’s pleasant voice, and alexa remote make this device a joy to use.