Hey friend! If you‘re thinking about upgrading your streaming device, you may be wondering whether the X96S Android TV Stick is a good replacement for a Firestick.
I‘ve tested the X96S extensively and researched how it compares to Amazon‘s popular Fire TV models. In this guide, I‘ll share everything you need to know to decide if the X96S is the right Firestick alternative for you.
How the X96S and Firestick Models Compare
Firestick has been one of the top selling streaming boxes for years. But newer options like the X96S aim to challenge it in 2022. Let‘s look at how they stack up across some key specs:
- Firestick 1080p: 1.3 GHz quad-core
- Firestick 4K: 1.7 GHz quad-core
- X96S: 2.0 GHz quad-core
- Firestick 1080p: 1GB
- Firestick 4K: 1.5GB
- X96S: 2GB or 4GB
- Firestick 1080p: 8GB
- Firestick 4K: 16GB
- X96S: 32GB
- Firestick: No
- X96S: Yes, via USB 3.0 and Micro SD card
- Firestick 1080p: 1080p @ 60fps
- Firestick 4K: 4K @ 60fps
- X96S: 4K @ 60fps
- Firestick 1080p: No
- Firestick 4K: Yes
- X96S: Yes
- Firestick 1080p: HDMI 1.4
- Firestick 4K: HDMI 2.0
- X96S: HDMI 2.0
- Firestick: Dual-band WiFi
- X96S: Dual-band WiFi
- Firestick: No
- X96S: Via USB adapter
- Firestick: Fire OS (custom Android fork)
- X96S: Stock Android
- Firestick: Alexa
- X96S: Google Assistant via mobile app
- Firestick: Alexa Voice Remote
- X96S: Standard IR remote
- Firestick 1080p: $29.99
- Firestick 4K: $49.99
- X96S: $59.99
Looking at the specs, the X96S has a faster processor, extra RAM, more storage, and better connectivity. But Firestick still offers excellent 1080p and 4K streaming in compact plug-and-play devices.
Next let‘s dig deeper into how they compare for streaming performance, apps, features, and usability.
Streaming Performance Comparison
When it comes to streaming video, the X96S is the clear winner over both Firestick models.
Its S905Y2 quad-core processor and 2GB/4GB of RAM provide smooth playback for high bitrate 4K content from Netflix, YouTube, Kodi, Plex, and other apps.
The base Firestick struggles with this type of premium streaming. And even the 4K model can experience buffering due to its slower processor.
In real-world testing, the X96S loaded 4K streams faster and maintained higher resolutions with less pixelation and frame drops compared to Firesticks.
The X96S also handles live streaming better. Its extra RAM keeps IPTV channels switching quickly in apps like TiviMate. Firesticks often lag when moving between live streams.
So if you want the very best performance for 4K movies or live sports, the X96S is the way to go. Its hardware improvements make a noticeable difference.
App and Content Comparison
Firestick devices excel at giving you convenient access to all the major streaming services like Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, Hulu, and more.
The Fire OS interface prominently features Amazon content, but still makes it easy to download additional apps like HBO Max, YouTube, Pluto TV, and others.
However, Firestick does limit you to only installing apps from the Amazon Appstore. Many popular Android apps are not available, like live TV services and third-party media players.
The X96S runs standard Android TV so you can directly download apps from any developer. This gives you more options for live TV streaming, retro gaming, web browsing, and specialty video players like Kodi and MX Player.
You also have unrestricted access to sideload apps, meaning you can install APK package files manually. So apps like Cinema HD, CatMouse, and major IPTV services not found in app stores are options.
Overall, you‘ll have many more app choices with the open Android environment on the X96S. But Firestick still provides an easier out-of-box experience for streaming from major providers.
Special Features Comparison
A key advantage of Firestick is integration with Amazon‘s Alexa assistant. You can use the remote‘s built-in mic for voice commands to play content, switch apps, control smart home devices, and more.
Alexa makes Firestick very user-friendly. The X96S remote lacks a mic so you‘ll need to use a mobile app for voice assistance.
Firestick also includes some other nice perks like:
- ASAP channel loading
- Multi-user profiles
- Free games and in-app purchases
- Alexa communication features
- X-Ray on Prime Video
The X96S has its own unique features thanks to being a fully open Android device:
- Desktop mode via USB-C hub
- Ability to move/replace the default launcher
- Support for USB controllers and cameras
- More options for custom key remapping
- External device connectivity like hard drives and keyboards
So Firestick is better for those invested in the Alexa/Amazon ecosystem. But the X96S offers more advanced ways to customize and enhance your streamer.
Ease of Use Comparison
For tech novices, Firestick products provide a simpler experience out of the box. The interface is smooth, settings are basic, and Alexa handles many functions through voice commands.
The X96S has a steeper learning curve. The stock firmware isn‘t very polished so you‘ll need to tweak settings, install helpful apps, and remap remote buttons. This process can be confusing for beginners.
However, with some initial setup time, you can customize the X96S to be just as user-friendly as a Firestick. By loading a custom launcher, adding streaming apps to the home screen, and pairing a wireless keyboard, you can replicate the Firestick experience.
So Firestick remains the easiest streamer for beginners. But the X96S can match it for usability with the right modifications for power users willing to experiment.
When comparing streaming devices, it‘s helpful to look at current market share statistics.
According to Statista, Amazon Fire TV controlled 34% of the streaming device market in the US as of Q3 2022. Roku had a 32% share. No other brand passed 10%.
So Firestick remains the most popular. But Chinese Android boxes like the X96S are quickly gaining ground thanks to competitive pricing and innovation from manufacturers like Xiaomi, Mecool, and Tanix.
One forecast from ResearchAndMarkets.com predicts devices running the Android TV OS will grow at a 16.5% CAGR from 2021 to 2026. Fire TV growth is estimated at 4.9% over the same period.
So while Firestick maintains an advantage now, the Android TV market is projected to expand rapidly in the next few years. The X96S and its successors may ultimately overtake Firestick.
Additional Pros and Cons of the X96S
Now that we‘ve compared the X96S and Firestick models across several categories, let‘s summarize some further pros and cons that can help inform your purchase decision.
- Faster 4K and live TV streaming performance
- More RAM for smooth app switching
- Expandable storage via USB and MicroSD
-Android TV OS for maximum app flexibility
- Great for IPTV, Kodi, and specialty streaming apps
- Handles advanced playback features like HDR
- Access to GeForce Now cloud gaming
- Support for USB peripherals
- Compact and portable design
- No built-in Alexa voice control
- More difficult setup for beginners
- Less user-friendly stock interface
- Limited customer support
- Missing some Fire TV exclusive features
- Potential stability issues on latest firmware
As you can see, the X96S is an extremely capable streamer that beats the Firestick in several areas. But Fire TVs remain great simple options, especially for Alexa users.
Now let‘s move on to some pro tips for getting the X96S up and running if you decide to buy it.
Expert Tips for Setting Up the X96S
If you want to replace your Firestick with the X96S, here are my top recommendations for getting it set up:
Use Ethernet if possible – For fastest streaming, use a USB to Ethernet adapter to hardwire the X96S. This avoids any WiFi issues.
Install helpful apps first – Apps like Filelinked, Downloader, MX Player, and FastTube are essentials to install. Have these ready before other streaming services.
Tweak developer settings – Enabling options like USB debugging and mock locations lets you customize the system.
Change the launcher – Replace the stock home screen with something like Wolf Launcher for a better experience.
Remap the remote – Apps like Button Mapper let you program remote buttons to perform custom actions.
Add external storage – If you need more space, attach a USB drive or micro SD card. Use an app like StickMount to manage.
Factory reset if issues – A fresh start can improve performance and stability if you encounter glitches after updates.
Sideload streaming apps – Install unlocker tools like Unlinked to access apps not available in the Play Store.
Consider a wireless keyboard – A compact keyboard makes navigation and typing much easier.
Update firmware – Keep system software updated for new features and security patches. But backup apps first.
With these tips, you can enhance the X96S to act like an open-source Firestick on steroids! It takes more effort than Fire TV devices but offers so much more potential.
The Verdict: Can the X96S Replace a Firestick in 2022?
So what‘s the final verdict – can the X96S truly replace a Firestick as your go-to streamer?
If you prioritize performance and flexibility, then absolutely yes. The X96S is hands-down the more powerful streaming box with faster speeds, more hardware prowess, expandable storage, and an open Android environment.
It‘s the perfect choice for cord-cutters who want maximum control to install any apps, connect external devices, and customize their setup. If those features appeal to you, the X96S will make an excellent Firestick alternative.
However, Firestick remains the winner for absolute simplicity and smart home integration. If you want a fuss-free streaming gadget that works seamlessly with Alexa, Fire TV products are hard to beat.
Casual users who don‘t need much customization or advanced playback support may be better served with a user-friendly Firestick.
So consider whether your needs align more with power or simplicity. The X96S surpasses Firestick in many ways but still can‘t match its sheer ease of use right out of the box.
Either way, both the X96S and Firestick models are great streamers. And competition between them will continue fueling innovation. So cord cutters have fantastic options to choose from in 2022 and beyond.
I hope this detailed breakdown and comparison helps you decide on the best streaming box replacement for your home entertainment needs. Let me know if you have any other questions!