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Fire Stick vs Chromecast: Which One Should I Buy?

If you’re in the market for a reliable way to stream video to your TV, Amazon’s Fire Stick and Google’s Chromecast devices are probably at the top of your list. Both pieces of hardware make it incredibly easy to watch HD movies and TV shows on your TV, all without having to subscribe to expensive cable services or install tons of crazy apps.

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Choosing the best of the two can be a real challenge, however. We compare the Fire Stick with Chromecast below, outlining all the main features you can expect from each device. Which one should you buy? Keep reading to find out!

Fire Stick vs Chromecast – Using a VPN

Regardless of which streaming device you prefer, running a VPN is always a good idea. VPNs help protect your identity and your data from things like ISP throttling and third party surveillance. Everything that leaves your device is encrypted and safe, allowing you to stream anything you want in complete privacy.

Using a VPN with either the Fire Stick or Chromecast is pretty straightforward. Some VPNs work a little better than others, however. Below we’ve selected some of the top VPN services in the market and ranked them according to their usefulness. Pick one that suits your needs, install it, and never worry about your online privacy again.

How to Run a VPN on Fire Stick

Need a hand installing a VPN on your Fire Stick or Fire TV? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! Some VPNs are extremely easy to use with any Fire device, as their custom apps are available right from the Amazon marketplace. Others require sideloading, which can be more time consuming. Either way, our guides can help you get started with minimal fuss.

Using a VPN with Chromecast

Chromecast doesn’t support native VPN installations. To take advantage of encryption and to bypass geo-restrictions, you’ll need to run the VPN on the device you’re casting from, or simply install the software to your router. We’ve provided full instructions for picking the best VPN for Chromecast with a step by step guide on how to get the VPN up and running.

1. IPVanish – Lightweight and Fast

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IPVanish is built around total online anonymity. The service provides 256-bit AES encryption on all data and a zero traffic logging privacy policy to start things off, but DNS leak protection and an automatic kill switch are what really seal the deal. With all of these features active you’ll stay completely invisible online. No more worrying about revealing your identity or stumbling into mass surveillance traps. And with the company’s 950 servers in 60 different countries, you’ll always have a fast connection, no matter what!

IPVanish is extremely easy to use on any device, but it’s especially well-suited for Fire TV and Fire Stick. All you have to do is install the app from the Amazon appstore and you’re set. You can also configure your router to use IPVanish’s servers for the same encryption and anonymity across all your home devices.

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2. ExpressVPN – Best for Speed

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ExpressVPN is one of the easiest to use VPNs around. It’s fast, secure, and incredibly lightweight, offering just the right amount of features to give you full control over your experience without making things difficult. ExpressVPN boasts a server network of hundreds of nodes in 94 different countries, each of which delivers fast downloads no matter where you’re located. The company’s custom software also comes with DNS leak protection , an automatic kill switch, and 256-bit AES encryption, all backed by a zero-logging policy on traffic, DNS requests, and IP addresses!

One advantage ExpressVPN has over other VPN services is that it’s easy to install on devices like Fire TV. You can download it directly from Amazon’s appstore for a fast install, or set your router up to encrypt and protect all traffic that passes through your home network. Either way, your connection is locked down and safe.

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3. CyberGhost – Strong Security

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CyberGhost mixes some of the best VPN features into a smart and affordable package, perfect for anyone looking for a convenient way to keep their streams safe! Strong 256-bit AES encryption locks down your information before it leaves your device, and CyberGhost’s zero-logging policy covers traffic, time stamps, and IP address for top notch privacy. DNS leak protection and an automatic kill switch form a tight barrier to keep your identity safe, no matter which of CyberGhost’s 1,320 servers in 60 countries you connect to!

CyberGhost has full support for router VPN installs. This lets you protect your entire home network without having to run apps on every device.

4. NordVPN – Fast and Secure

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NordVPN is a fast, stable, and reliable VPN service that operates one of the largest networks in the industry, currently over 3,300 servers in 59 different countries! This amazing selection gives you plenty of options for lag-free connections in tons of locations, and you can also connect to unique servers with added features like double encryption, onion routing, and DDoS protection. NordVPN even offers a strict zero-logging policy on bandwidth, traffic, time stamps, and DNS access, along with an automatic kill switch, DNS leak protection, and 256-bit AES encryption.

NordVPN’s speed and security make it a fantastic VPN to use on any device. You can sideload it to your Fire Stick without any trouble, or just configure your router to send traffic through NordVPN’s servers.

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Fire Stick vs Chromecast – Basics

It’s easy to look at the Fire Stick and Chromecast and think of them as two versions of the same thing. Each device streams video to your TV, each one is compact, lightweight, and budget friendly. When it comes down to the details, though, Chromecast and Fire Stick occupy a completely different space in the market. Below we take a look at their core functionalities.

Hardware Differences

Chromecast devices first appeared in 2013 and have had a number of refreshes since then. The most powerful device is the Chromecast Ultra, which is designed to stream 4K Ultra HD content without stuttering. Chromecast requires a separate device to navigate, meaning you’ll need an app and a smartphone to use as a remote as well as to mirror content from.

Fire TV devices first showed up in 2014. Amazon quickly split the hardware into two categories: Fire TV for dedicated streaming, and Fire Stick for a more portable solution. Both offer a dedicated Android-based interface that lets you browse content, load channels, and stream movies and TV right from the device. The included remote is all you need to get started, though there are smartphone apps you can install for added options.

Chromecast is for Screen Mirroring

When it comes down to it, Chromecast is made for one purpose: pushing content from other devices to your TV. You do this by installing Google’s Chromecast app on your PC, smartphone, or tablet, then “casting” it to your plugged-in Chromecast. It’s essentially a more efficient version of screen mirroring, though, Google made it easy to queue up content so you can just sit back and enjoy.

The main benefit of using Chromecast is you don’t have to fuss with a separate operating system. Install any apps or channels you like on one device, then simply send that content to your TV. This gives you access to all the video services you want, no hacking or sideloading required. The downside is the quality can vary depending on the other hardware you own. Chromecast isn’t a one-off solution to movie streams. If you’ve got a good companion smartphone, though, it’s an amazing pairing.

Fire Stick is for Streams

Amazon built the Fire Stick to compete with the likes of Roku, Android TV, and Apple TV. All you have to do with any Fire TV device is plug it in, log into your Amazon account, then start streaming. Movies and TV shows are available from a variety of downloadable channels, with a wide enough selection that you’ll rarely run out of good things to stream.

The downside of Fire Stick is you’re mostly locked into Amazon’s ecosystem. You can’t install any app you like, though there is a thriving community of sideloaders who beg to differ. The limitations of this become apparent when events like YouTube disappearing from Fire TV come along. Suddenly Fire Stick users had to go without the world’s largest video streaming platform, all with very little warning, too.

Movie and TV Show Availability

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What can you watch on Fire Stick and Chromecast? The short answer is easy: almost anything you want! Below we take a look at the biggest differences between the two platforms, most of which come down to simple usability.

Chromecast’s Video Offerings

Here’s the only rule you need to know for Chromecast videos: if you can stream it from your phone, you can watch it on your TV. All you need to do is install the streaming app on your smartphone or tablet, then cast it to your Chromecast. It’s pretty straightforward, and it works exactly as well as you might expect, even with 4K Ultra quality videos.

The major subscription services in the video streaming market work perfect with Chromecast: Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, HBO GO, BBC iPlayer, Google Play Movies, Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, Twitch, even Amazon Instant Video. Again, it all comes down to how well these apps work on the device you’re casting from. Once that’s squared away, Chromecast will take care of the rest.

Fire Stick’s Video Apps

The Fire TV devices work a little differently than Chromecast. Instead of just mirroring content (which Fire TV can do, by the way), they provide a dedicated environment where you can download and install apps to stream your favorite videos. No separate device is required, just a Fire Stick, a remote, and a TV.

Fire TV’s operating system is based on Android and can run just about any app compatible with that platform. Amazon has curated their own appstore to make this process extremely simple. From Fire TV you can download all the biggest streaming apps, including Netflix, Hulu, HBO GO, BBC iPlayer, Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, Twitch, and naturally, Amazon Instant Video. Notably missing from this lineup is the YouTube app, which was removed by Google in early 2018.

Sideloading and Third Party Apps

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The ability to add software that suits your streaming needs is important. It prevents you from being locked into a device’s ecosystem, sure, but it also opens the door to entertainment options you never even dreamed were possible.

Running Kodi on Chromecast and Fire Stick

Kodi is a massively popular media center app that’s available for most modern pieces of hardware. Kodi allows you to install add-ons and do everything from stream live TV to watch sports from around the world, check out blockbuster Hollywood movies, binge watch TV shows or anime, and so much more.

Using Kodi with Chromecast is simple. Install it on your secondary device (powerful Android tablets work best), start streaming something, then send it to Chromecast with just a few taps. No rooting or sideloading is necessary, as Kodi is available to download for free on the Google Play Store.

Kodi on Fire Sticks is a little more complicated. The device technically runs Android, but you can’t install Kodi from Amazon’s appstore. Instead, you’ll need to sideload Kodi on your Fire TV, a process that’s easier than you might think but can take a little time. If you want a no-hassle approach to Kodi streams, Chromecast is the better option.

Sideloading Content

The Chromecast doesn’t need any sideloading capabilities. Because you’re streaming content from a separate device, all you have to do is load the app and cast it over. Chromecast doesn’t care if it’s third party, official, or sideloaded.

Fire TV is an excellent sideloading platform. After switching a single configuration option on, you can use a variety of apps and PC programs to install any Android app you want, including tools, utilities, and games. Sideloaded content can be used like any other app, and you can uninstall these programs with ease, making it a completely safe procedure.

Hardware and Price

Software is important, but when it comes down to it, your movie watching experience is limited by how powerful the hardware itself is. Buying, installing, and potentially upgrading your device are all vital categories you should check into before forking over any cash.

Added Features

The best thing about both Fire Stick and Chromecast is that they come with a lot of useful added features. Streaming videos is great and all, but why not throw in some bonuses like games and voice controls? Below are a few of the more stand-out extras on both pieces of hardware.

  • Fire Stick doesn’t support Google Play Movies, but Chromecast can stream content from Amazon Instant Video.
  • Screen mirroring is available on both devices. Chromecast is much better at this than Fire TV, however.
  • Both Chromecast and Fire Stick support games, but Fire TV has a larger compatible selection.
  • You can control both devices with first and third party smartphone apps.
  • Voice control is available on both devices.

Hardware

Newer Chromecast models have adopted the pendant design. An HDMI or USB port rests at the end of a short cable, allowing you to plug the device into the back of your TV unhindered. The round hardware itself simply hangs from this cord. It’s a perfectly adequate solution, though some people dislike pendants since they can look unsightly on your entertainment center.

Fire TV devices have a similar pendant design, but Fire Stick has kept the dedicated bar shape. An extender cable lets you plug it into your TV without any problems, or you can pull this off and attach the Stick directly.

One great thing about the Chromecast is that it doesn’t require a wall outlet to function (except for Chromecast Ultra). Fire Sticks need to be plugged in for optimal power balance, but with Google’s device, all you have to do is slide it into your TV and you’re ready to stream.

Price

Chromecast devices range from $29-$69, with most models falling on the lower end of the spectrum. Fire Sticks usually retail around $39-$49. The price comparisons are extremely competitive, but if shaving every dollar off your purchases is important, you can’t beat Chromecast.

Taking other factors into consideration is important, however. Keep in mind that Chromecast requires a separate device to stream from. If you’ve already got a good PC, tablet, or phone, you’re set. Fire Stick doesn’t have this requirement, but you do need either a smartphone with a remote app or a Fire TV remote accessory, which can be an added expense if you lose the original.

Fire Stick vs Chromecast – How to Decide

Still haven’t made up your mind? Don’t worry, choosing between Fire Stick and Chromecast isn’t an easy decision! At the end of the day it all comes down to a few basic factors, however. Maybe these can help you decide?

Get a Fire Stick If…

You want a dedicated streaming device that works by itself out of the box. No separate hardware required, just plug it in and go.

Get a Chromecast If…

You need a budget-friendly price, software flexibility, and you don’t mind firing up a smartphone to cast content from.

Conclusion

Ready to take the plunge? Streaming devices like Chromecast and Fire Stick make watching movies and catching up TV shows easier than ever before. Get access to Netflix, Hulu, HBO, YouTube, and so much more, all with a single inexpensive (and portable) device. Whether you go with Chromecast or Fire TV, you’ve got a lot of quality couch potato time ahead of you.

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