Well, I was contemplating buying a “smart” stick for my dumb but full HD TV for a while now. Though I am not much of a couch potato, but between my dad’s repetitive requests for old movies on big screen and my mom’s constant cribbing about watching YouTube on her phone’s small screen (5″ feels small now, pfft tell that to my good’ol 2011-esque Galaxy S2). ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I knew I would have to pull the trigger soon and get than one of these HDMI-out goodies. Last week I decided to browse 2 major players in this segment here in India and was surprised to find Amazon doesn’t sell Google’s Chromecast, so much for the Prime privilege, I could see how that may tip scales for its prime users in favor of Fire TV stick(s) but it still felt a bit immature for such an e-commerce giant to pull a Microsoft here (cough exclusive windows phone apps cough). I even observed that whenever you queried Amazon for Chromecast, it presented you with this:

Chromecast not found on Amazon store

404 – Chromecast not found

Ahan! This was some intriguing stuff. So, Amazon has optimized “chromecast” search query to target Amazon Fire TV Stick as it’s Best Seller. That is some serious keyword targeting!

I googled a bit and landed on this: Google and Amazon are fighting, and consumers are paying the price.

This was the triggering moment for me, and being how I am,





I ordered em both!

That’s right, Amazon Fire TV Stick & Google Chromecast 2 were ironically bought from Amazon and Flipkart respectively. Why ironic? Well, you would know if you are an Indian. Good part is that both Google’s and Amazon’s offering is quite similar in pricing (Chromecast – ₹3,399.00 (~$53) and Fire TV Stick – ₹3,999.00 (~$62)) with former being a little cheaper but later costing the same mostly with festive promotions (of ₹500 cashback, effectively bringing Amazon’s offering down to ₹3,500.00 (~$54)).

Go figure why?

No, I didn’t consider Apple TV because…?
a. I am not a part of Apple’s ecosystem.
b. I didn’t want to burn ₹14,900.00 (~$280) for the same.
c. It’s not even fully supported in India with key features like Siri blocked for use.
d. Because Apple.

First “offline” Impressions.

I ordered both of them strategically so both of them get delivered before the Christmas weekend so I could go ahead and put both of them against each other and come up with the best-suited warrior for your television. I got a call from mom on Friday confirming the delivery of both Fire TV Stick and Chromecast 2 has been done. Just about time.

I got home on Saturday morning. Had some breakfast and it was finally time to unbox both of the shiny gadgets.

# Google Chromecast 2 – Unboxing

Now it was time to open up the big G’s offering. Being an Android fanboy user for 6 years now, I had very high expectations from it.

Google Chromecast 2 box contents

What’s in the box?

These were the box’s contents (left to right):

  • Chromecast receiver dongle.
  • USB cable (Micro USB to Type-A)
  • USB power brick

As expected, the packaging was pretty minimal like Google’s recent products. There was a start guide included, with not much to depict as box’s content pretty much explained it all – Plug the receiver, power it up, boom you are done.

> Unboxing Impressions:

I just love it how Google can make everything look super easy. Chromecast out of the box feels a ready to plug solution with no fiddling required.

Chromecast’s dongle is very well built with a minimal chrome logo on top. I really loved Google’s implementation of the flattened cable between the dongle and the HDMI-out port thus eliminating the need to use any time of extension for TV with the port’s behind the scene. For TVs having the side mounted HDMI port, you can simply plug the receiver into the port, fold the receiver part and stick it back to the port handle thanks to the magnet implementation. It helps you to hide the dangling, hence keeping the rear of your box clean. Brownie points for Google here for the UX.

# Amazon Fire TV stick – Unboxing

I first grabbed the Prime package and within a minute, Fire TV stick came into the view.

Amazon Fire TV stick box contents

What’s in the box?

These were the box’s contents (left to right):

  • Amazon Fire TV Stick
  • Voice Remote
  • USB power brick
  • USB cable (Micro USB to Type-A)
  • 2x AAA batteries
  • HDMI extension.

I was impressed with the overall packaging and the typical Amazon product finish (had a similar experience while unboxing my Kindle too). There was a quick startup guide detailing the process to plug the stick into the TV and power it via USB cable included. I was a little worried that how will I plug fire stick in my TV as both of the HDMI ports are on the backside, which is generally PITA when I have to mirror my laptop via HDMI cable, but as you can observe above, Amazon was considerate enough to include an HDMI extension cable which deserves some UX brownie points.

> Unboxing Impressions:

Despite a smaller footprint of the package, Amazon somehow manages to package everything you will ever need to ramp up your TV game.

Amazon Fire TV Stick - Alexa voice remote fits nicely in the hand

Alexa Voice Remote is lit.

Fire TV stick is quite literally a “batteries included” product. You get 2 AAA batteries in the box to power up the remote. A nice touch IMO. The hyped voice remote has a solid built to it and felt really nice in the palm. Fire TV stick itself is nicely built with a smooth rubbery/plastic finish to it. The USB cable and its adapter were of standard Amazon basics quality. No complaints.

Plug-in Time!

I planned to use both of them for a day each (Saturday- Chromecast, Sunday- Fire TV stick) so as to have an unbiased opinion to share with you folks. This way I would get enough time to assess strength and weakness of both the platforms. I started with Chromecast because it felt a bit of less overwhelming to me. So, let’s begin with my assessment.

# Google Chromecast 2 – User review:

> Setup

So, setting up Chromecast was a simple 3 step process:

  1. Plug in the Chromecast receiver dongle to the HDMI port of your TV.
  2. Plug in the USB cable in your TV and the other end in the Chromecast dongle.
  3. Power on your TV and select HDMI mode.

I was greeted with Google splash screen, and next steps were described on the screen. I had to install Google Home app and then pretty much everything was autopilot. The user onboarding process is very simple as you select a device, select a wireless network, sign in to your Google’s account and bam, you are done!

> Specs

  • Output: HDMI
  • Processor: Marvell Armada 1500 Mini Plus 88DE3006 SoC, 1.2GHz dual ARM Cortex-A7 processors
  • RAM: 512MB
  • Storage: 256MB flash
  • Max. Output Video Resolution: 1080p
  • Dimensions: 51.9 in diameter, 13.49mm (H)
  • Weight: 39.1 g
  • Connectivity: 802.11 ac (2.4GHz/5GHz)
  • Power: micro-USB (Power adapter included)

> Cast Quality / User Experience

The Google Home app does a pretty good job in helping you discover the content you can cast on the big screen. I was surprised to find a lot of localized content here thanks to Jio cinema, Wynk movies, Hotstar & Hungama Play. Here are some screenshots of the Google Home app’s recommendation(s):

Casting from existing app was quite simple too. Just open an app (ex: YouTube) and cast button should pop up on the top. Tap that button and select your chromecast device from the list and you are good to go. Casting experience was mostly good though sometimes I noticed a delay in the command and the response. Also, playing and pausing YouTube was finicky sometimes.

There is absolutely no way for you to stop anyone from playing some objectionable content on your TV if they are in same WiFi network.

I like the convenience of anyone being able to control the cast in the same WiFi network, add more media in queue with their names adjacent to the respective media. But I felt the lack of the advanced settings to disable that feature irritating. There is absolutely no way for you to stop anyone from playing some objectionable content on your TV if they are in same WiFi network. I would have preferred a control to disable that.

Quality of the cast was mostly great thanks to the speedy internet connection we have at home (50 Mbps master race!). 1080p streams looked really nice and refreshing as even your average TV’s HD set-top box only pushes 1080i (which is just interpolated 720p stream).

Google has nailed the integration of Cast with it’s own ecosystem.

One thing which I noticed was that Chromecast was pretty slow when opening a new app, it took around 15-20 seconds just to initialize YouTube or any new app from cold boot to be able to cast. Also, there is no concept of multi-tasking which led me do a quick google search about the hardware internals of the dongle. 512MB RAM seems respectable but I felt that dual core SoC kind of dragged down the whole experience with it. Not sure, could be related to my network or TV.

Let me know in the comment section below if your experience was different than mine.

# Amazon Fire TV Stick – User review:

> Setup

Setting up Fire stick was quite an overwhelming task. The basic steps were similar to as of Chrome:

  1. Plug in the Fire TV stick to the HDMI port of your TV.
  2. Plug in the USB cable in your TV and the other end in the Fire TV stick.
  3. Power on your TV and select HDMI mode.
  4. ……….??

Yeah! 4th step was a bit of a change as the initial setup required fiddling with the bundled remote. It was all easy till selecting the language and WiFi network, but entering any form of text required input via 4-way D-pad and middle button on a grid of virtual keyboard. Man, it reminded me of good’ol days of saving usernames for high scores in NES video games.

Amazon Fire TV Stick - Entering text is pain with remote

That was fast. Not!

I got caught up on the login page as it required me to sign in via Amazon account (duh). I was slow-typing the exact same password but it was showing an authentication error. Then by fluke I searched for Kindle Fire TV stick on Play store on my android phone and fortunately landed on the official app for Fire TV. I was then able to smoothly use my phone’s keyboard to input text and suprisingly the login worked this time. 🙌

> Specs

  • Output: HDMI
  • Processor: Mediatek 8127D, Quad-core ARM 1.3 GHz. Supports 32-bit apps.
  • GPU: Mali-450 MP4
  • RAM: 1GB
  • Storage: 8GB internal
  • Max. Output Video Resolution: 1920 x 1080 (1080p) – 60Hz
  • Dimensions: 3.4″ x 1.2″ x 0.5″ (85.9 mm x 30.0 mm x 12.6 mm)
  • Weight: 32 g
  • Connectivity: Dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi supports 2×2 MIMO 802.11a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth 4.1
  • Power: micro-USB (Power adapter included)

One key point to be noted is that Fire TV stick has an amazing support for video/audio codecs, it even supports hardware accelerated H.265 HEVC video encoding thanks to the powerful SoC with Mali-450 MP4 GPU.

> Cast Quality / User Experience

I know, you can’t help but compare specs of both the devices. There is a huge difference in both of them, we will talk about that.

While Google does all the content discovery help via it’s phone companion app, Amazon does it in a more visually pleasing way. As soon as you setup the fire stick, an immersive grid of media comes into the view. You are instantly greeted with tons of movies, TV shows, apps, games available on the platform (thanks to the Prime content).

Since Fire TV stick platform is not dependent on a smartphone for content discovery, the remote works naturally as a very powerful tool. All your apps, movies, TV shows are just a (physical) click away. It’s been close to an year since the inception of the Amazon Prime content in India and I couldn’t help myself but be impressed with their media catalogue. You can find most of the movies and popular TV shows on the platform with continuous new additions showcased daily on the big welcoming slideshow banner on each screen.

Also, as Fire TV stick is essentially a custom Android device running with much more powerful specs than Chromecast. This brings an added convenience to it as I no longer have to worry about installing apps on my personal device (i.e. smartphone) as I can directly install it on the fire stick, where it matters (as I am not going to watch full-blown movies on my phone anyway, especially not after investing on these media sticks). That helps in saving your smartphones battery/storage by decoupling it from the big screen.

Thanks to it’s powerful internals, the navigation experience on Fire TV stick is butter smooth using the bundled voice remote.

Quality of stream was top notch 1080P with surround sound thanks to Dolby audio support. I installed multiple apps like Hotstar, Jio Cinema, Wynk movies, Netflix, Ted talks and not even single time it disappointed me with bad quality or any glitch. Thanks to it’s powerful internals, the navigation experience on Fire TV stick is butter smooth using the bundled voice remote.

Before receiving the product, I saw Fire TV stick’s advert on the TV touting about it’s Alexa voice search and honestly thought it would be just a gimmick. But it proved me wrong as it worked correctly every single time even when searching for old Bollywood stars like Raj Kapoor, Rajesh Khanna etc. Though, point to be noted that voice search is only limited to search in their Prime media catalogue. It is by no means a personal voice assistant like Google Now, Alexa or Siri.

Also, X-ray integration with IMDb and Amazon prime is very powerful as you just press D-Pad UP at any moment and see the actors in the current scene, goof-ups at that instant and so on. You can drill down on each actor/character and view information, quickly jump to a scene and much more.

Fire TV Stick is also a power user’s dream as it offer ADB support to side load apps via developer options.

Update: Yes, I did notice the banner stating we won’t be able to use YouTube app from 1st January 2017 and will have to resort using the browser to access YouTube. I think it’s a bummer but I am sure Amazon/Google will work something out.

Verdict? It depends.

Ha! Na, I am not being a diplomatic nerd. Hear me out fam…

Google Chromecast and Kindle Fire TV stick are both very powerful device in their niche which explains their popularity. All the information above might get overwhelming due to the nature of complexity of the usage analysis done. So, let me make it simple for you. You should buy:

# Google Chromecast, if:

  • You are an avid Android user, a Google ecosystem advocate, and primarily need a device for your extended consumption of media via your phone. 🤖
  • Google is backing the Cast platform strongly by working with multiple developers to get their A-listed apps on board.
  • You can check the collection here yourself. The cast library is huge!
  • The selection of apps is almost similar to that on Fire TV stick with Prime content being an exception (maybe soon landing on Cast devices too).
  • Because it’s inbuilt in your phone’s OS so the interaction is pretty natural.

# Amazon Fire TV Stick, if:

  • You are a power user and want to control each and every aspect of your TV experience.
  • You can treat it as a mid-ranger android phone plugged to your TV as you can side loads APKs, stream media off your NAS, local network, download torrents etc.
  • Possibilities are endless. 🔥
  • Prime content offers some really polished titles with a great collection of old movies (if you love evergreen stuff like me).
  • You don’t want to drain your phone battery while watching TV by being able to control your experience solely with their bundled voice remote which works pretty well.
  • You have a Prime membership. DUH. 🤓

That was my experience with both of the gadgets. Let me know in the comment section below, which one do you prefer and why? Would love to engage in a discussion with you folks.

Peace. ✌️