It's just about time to stop saying, "set top box." The devices never did fit on top of a flatscreen TV, and now the hottest devices aren't even boxes, but HDMI sticks that plug in the back of the TV (or receiver). Amazon joined the game today (Oct. 27) with its Fire TV Stick, a $39 alternative to its $99 Fire TV box. As with other sticks, the new Fire TV gives up some features to squeeze into a smaller size and price, namely processing power and the Fire TV's signature remote with voice search capability. (It includes a basic remote instead, the Voice Search-enabled remote is a $30 add-on.)

The Fire TV Stick faces some competition against the $35 Google Chromecast (a new, slightly updated version is expected soon) and the $50 Roku Streaming Stick. Depending on the features you want, any one of these could be a good deal. The Roku Stick is the most expensive, but it includes the company's intuitive remote control and offers the most channels — nearly 2,000 (though most are rather niche). Chromecast is the best deal (albeit by a mere $4) if you are happy to use your smartphone, tablet or computer at the remote. 

MORE: Best Streaming Players: Chromecast, Roku, Apple TV & More

If you want to play games in addition to video and music, the Fire TV Stick is your best bet, as it supports about 200 titles, controlled either by a remote or the optional $40 game controller. 

If you're in the market for one of these devices, check the comparison below to help with your choice.

  • Expand your viewing with the best Fire Stick VPN

Amazon Fire TV Stick Google Chromecast Roku Streaming Stick
Price $39 $35 $50
Size 3.3 x 1.0 x 0.5 inches
2.8 x 1.4 x 0.5 inches 3.1 x 1.1 x 0.5 inches
Remote control Included None Included
Voice control Yes, with $30
Voice Remote
None None
Syncs media
streams from
mobiles/
computers
Netflix and YouTube only Yes Netflix and YouTube only
Screen mirroring Miracast and Wi-Di:
Newer Android and
Windows Phone devices;
Windows 8.1 PCs
Newer Android
devices, PCs via
tabcasting only
Miracast and Wi-Di:
Newer Android and
Windows Phone devices;
Windows 8.1 PCs
Number of
channels/apps
600+ 600+ 2000+
Games 200+ Very limited 80+
Headline apps
(sampling)
Amazon
Instant
Video
Crackle
Hulu Plus
Netflix
Pandora
PBS Kids
Twitch
WatchESPN
YouTube
Crackle
Google Play
TV, Movies,
& Music
HBO GO
Hulu Plus
MLB.TV
Netflix
Pandora
PlayOn
Rdio
VUDU
YouTube
WatchESPN
Watch ABC
Twitch
Watch
Disney
PBS Kids
Vevo
Amazon
Instant
Video
Disney
Disney
Junior
HBO GO
Hulu Plus
MLB.TV
Netflix
Pandora
PBS
Plex
rdio
Showtime
Slacker
Spotify
Vudu
Yahoo
Screen
YouTube
Crackle
M-Go
WatchESPN
Vevo
Video output 720p and 1080p
up to 60fps
720p and 1080p
up to 60fps
720p and 1080p
up to 60fps
  • How to Stream Video to a TV from a Mobile Device or Computer
  • How to Buy a Set Top Box or Streaming Media Player
  • Best Roku Channels

Senior editor Sean has run out of HDMI ports on his TV. Follow him @seancaptain. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.

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