Amazon Fire TV Stick

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Few devices present the same price-to-value ratio that the Amazon Fire TV Stick does. It used to be that if you wanted a smart TV, you would have to pay out good money. Now, for a few less than the cost of a few Blu-rays, anyone can have a smart TV. All they need is a spare HDMI and a device no bigger than a USB stick.

This is because the set-top box landscape is changing. Full-size goliaths such as the Roku 3, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV used to duke it out for control of your television. But then came Google’s Chromecast, it’s David – a set-top box built into a thumb drive form factor and fits entirely behind a TV. The Fire Stick is Amazon’s answer to Google’s device and what an answer it is.

The Fire TV Stick is petite and powerful. It fits flush with most TV’s HDMI ports and, unlike its main competitor Chromecast, comes with a fairly decent remote. In terms of content, you’ll find just about everything here: Netflix, YouTube and Spotify, while Amazon’s Prime Instant Video basically sits at the head of the proverbial table.

Best Amazon Prime Instant TV Shows: 25 to choose fromBest Netflix TV Shows: 25 of the best

Amazon Fire TV Stick

Almost everything feels right about the Amazon Fire TV Stick, but most of all is its £35/$40 price tag. It’s £5/$5 more than Chromecast, but £15/$10 less than the Roku Streaming Stick; it feels like a supremely good value for what you get in the box.

Where Amazon Fire TV Stick slightly stumbles, however, is its deep-rooted attachment to its mother service, Amazon Prime. Without Prime, the set-top stick feels devoid of personality.

Amazon Fire TV Stick

Yes, you can still get those great aforementioned apps, yes you’ll zip around from one section of the interface to the next thanks to its powerful components, and yes you’ll even get a 30-day trial for free just for buying the streaming stick – but, after the trial runs out or you choose not to commit to Amazon’s service, the whole experience feels sterile without Prime.

Design, setup and performance

At this point in the game, a streaming stick is nothing new. It’s a plastic, thumb drive-sized device that plugs into any HDMI port (not just MHL-equipped ports) and draws power from a USB port on the TV or from a wall outlet via the included converter. The exterior itself isn’t all that exciting – it’s 84.9 x 25.0 x 11.5mm and has the Amazon logo on one side – but it’s the lack of any distinct features that help the Fire TV Stick blend into the back of any TV. It even comes with an HDMI extender cable in case you’ve got a wall-mounted setup and no additional space to spare in the back.

Amazon Fire TV Stick

While these extras are something the Chromecast comes standard with, the more expensive Roku Streaming Stick does not. Sometimes, it’s the simple things in life that really count, and Amazon scores major points for putting the consumer first.

After you’ve got the stick firmly seated in an HDMI port you’ve got to provide a power solution. You’ll need to connect the micro-USB powered stick to either a USB port on the TV or, attach the adapter and plug it into the wall. If you choose the former, you’ll get a warning when you boot the system up for the first time. It’ll tell you that it can’t draw enough power from the USB port to provide the ideal experience. I opted for the power via a wall socket.

Amazon Fire TV Stick

It’s impressive that the Amazon Fire TV Stick requires so little energy, especially once you find out what the Fire TV Stick has going on inside the box – namely, a Broadcom dual-core processor, 1GB of memory and 8GB of storage. Comparing that to the Chromecast, which sports a single-core processor, 512MB of memory and 2GB of memory, Amazon’s miniature stick comes out the clear winner.

Apps and games

Where the full-size set-top boxes like the Nexus Player and Apple TV struggle with too little content to choose from on their platforms, Amazon Fire TV has an abundance of apps at your disposal. All of the primary suspects are here and accounted for: Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Instant, Sky News, Spotify and more. It actually feels rather strange loading up Netflix on an Amazon device – if you take Now TV as an example of a device that has its own interests at heart, you will find neither Netflix or Amazon on board. In my view, the more open the better.

Amazon Fire TV Stick

Games are also present and accounted for on Amazon’s smaller system, and for the most part the less-intensive titles play incredibly well. Disappointingly though, you won’t find many graphically demanding games here like The Walking Dead Season 1 or 2.

Nor are you likely to spot Grand Theft Auto here anytime soon. That doesn’t seem to be due to any fault of the hardware – the system boasts the right specs for those higher-end games – the content simply isn’t there.

Amazon Fire TV Stick

The lack of games doesn’t necessarily hurt the system, however. If you want to have a streaming system that’s jam-packed with gaming goodness, consider the full-size Amazon Fire TV or Nexus Player. Both have a dedicated gamepad sold separately and have a great selection of titles.

Amazon Fire TV Stick

Speaking of separate controllers, the full-size Amazon Fire controller can also be paired with the Fire TV Stick. But many of the 200-plus games available on the console don’t necessarily need – or work better – with a controller instead of the standard remote

The launch line-up of apps is as strong as it’s going to be outside of a Roku product, and though I wish it were a little more AAA game-oriented and much more platform-agnostic (until recently, searches only return Amazon content, though now contain results from Netflix and HBO Now. Also, a shared Google Play library would more than make up for any shortcomings in selection).

Remote

One of the biggest advantages of buying the Amazon Fire TV Stick over the other guys is the remote. It weighs next to nothing and errs on the cheap side, but on it you’ll find a few sparse, but powerful, buttons: back, home, menu, rewind, play/pause and fast forward. At the top you’ll find a circular directional pad and a central button that does just about everything else.

Amazon Fire TV Stick

If you’re a Fire TV owner you’ll notice that this remote doesn’t come with the built-in mic and voice-search button. The functionality still exists if you use the accompanying Fire TV app, but it doesn’t exist on the pack-in peripheral.

Amazon Fire TV Stick

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If you really need it, though, Amazon sells the full-size remote separately or allows you to sync your old Fire TV remote to the Stick without much of a problem. It just goes to show how much this functionality costs – but we didn’t think it detracted too much from the viewing experience.

Amazon Fire TV Stick

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The remote also works over Bluetooth, which means it won’t need direct line of sight to the Stick itself – a handy feature considering 95% of users will want to keep the Fire TV out of sight behind the television. In my testing, it was in the back of my television so having Bluetooth was essential. It may not win the award for “most durable remote”, but the remote is exactly like the Stick: simple and efficient.

Interface, navigation and X-Ray

The interface is a direct replica of the full-size Amazon Fire TV’s menu – this is certainly no bad thing. It’s crowded and content-rich, making it a bustling, ever-evolving free-for-all for something to watch. It’s may not be as clean-cut or aesthetically pleasing as some of the other menus we’ve seen on rival boxes, but Amazon chose to leave well enough alone and it’s hard to argue against that reasoning.

Amazon Fire TV Stick

The users who’ll see the most benefit here are compulsive Amazon media shoppers. Anytime you buy or rent a show or movie from Amazon, it will populate automatically in the “video library” sub-menu on the home screen. By doing this, Amazon builds a positive reinforcement cycle of buying new content on its storefront then showcasing everything you own in one centralised location.

And, thankfully, zipping around from one section of the interface to the next takes no time at all. The hardware delivers responsive results in tenths of a second and, when you finally decide on what to watch, Amazon’s predictive technology takes things one step further by pre-loading the first few seconds of the Amazon Instant movies you are most likely to watch.

Amazon Fire TV Stick

Another feature, which was added with an update, is Amazon X-Ray. This is something that makes good use of IMDB, part of the Amazon family, and is trivia heaven. Every time you pause a TV show or movie, the option to get cast list information and certain bits of trivia is offered up. You can also do this by pressing the upper part of the circular button on the remote. It’s not perfect – I kept fast-forwarding the show when I tried to scroll through the cast list – but it is something that is only going to improve and could well be the USP Amazon needs to differentiate it from Netflix.

Amazon Fire TV Stick

Chromecast is still the all-around winner when it comes to streaming sticks. It’s not as fast as Amazon’s Fire TV Stick, nor is it as feature-packed as the Roku Streaming Stick, but it’s reliable, plays nicely with Android devices (as does the Fire Stick) and costs less than a night on the town.

The Roku Streaming Stick is the agnostic brother to the other two. If you can’t decide which e-tailer to give your money to, and would rather give it to the services themselves, this is the streamer for you. It also has the most content than any other platform. However just be prepared to wait a bit longer for it to load, speed really isn’t Roku’s strong suit.

Regarding the contender at hand, the Fire TV Stick is best suited for those people who have really sunk their teeth into the Amazon ecosphere. When you strip everything else away, it feels like a device specifically engineered for Amazon Prime subscribers and generally compulsive Amazon shoppers.

If you’re using Amazon’s Cloud Drive to store photos, you’ll be able to display them with two clicks on the remote. And if your watchlists get longer than your shopping list.

I do wish it was a little easier to differentiate premium content with free – a few times I nearly played a movie that would have cost cold-hard cash – but Amazon does do a fantastic job of making all of the content available seamless, much like its shopping website.

We liked

The Amazon Fire Stick is dead simple to setup and, once it’s going, you’ll be impressed with just how much there is to see and do with the system. Menu screens populate in a fraction of a second and some smart on-board technology gets videos started faster than the competition.

If you’ve bought into Amazon’s tablet and media ecosystem, you’ll almost definitely want the low-cost addition to add to your collection. It’ll sync up seamlessly with these devices but, unlike Chromecast, doesn’t require them in lieu of a remote.

If you haven’t already bought into Prime you’ll find less here than on other systems but, at worst, you’ll still have access to services like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Sky News and a few other key players.

We disliked

The remote isn’t as good as the one you get with the Amazon Fire TV but it works just as well.

You also won’t find the same kind of niche content on Amazon’s storefront as you would on the Roku 3 or Roku Streaming Stick. There may not be a major clamor for that one Korean channel you’ve never heard of, but someone, somewhere will be slightly broken-hearted when they can’t find it here.

Content, as a whole, is also largely dependent on the Amazon Store. Nine times out of 10, that’s where searches take you and while it makes sense why Amazon wants to keep you piped into their service, there’s nothing worse than paying for a movie only to find out it was available on Netflix for free.

Lastly, there just isn’t a great selection of triple-A games. There’s enough casual games for a lifetime, but if you’re looking to play the highest-end games that Android has to offer, you’ll need to upgrade to a full-size box.

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Final verdict

It’s easy to dismiss the Fire TV Stick as a cash-in on the streaming stick fad, but doing so would be a real disservice to the work and innovation Amazon packed into its pint-sized product. It’s a step forward for streaming sticks and sets a new standard of what is and is not acceptable from here on out. Namely, it provides a remote, a good interface and 99% of the key services for a very reasonable price tag.

The only real faux-pas here is intentional, and that’s the stick’s almost unreasonable dependence on Amazon Prime to function in full. It’s by far the least impartial of the three major streaming sticks – the other two being Chromecast and Roku – and around every corner is trying to sell you on a movie, game or TV show you didn’t necessarily know you wanted until right then.

It’s not the best game console hybrid either. Though that’s to be forgiven as its full-size sibling, the Amazon Fire TV and optional accompanying controller, are there to pick up the slack.

The Fire TV Stick is a present from the ecommerce giant to media lovers everywhere. While it has its flaws, by and large the final product is one any TV or movie enthusiast will be happy with – as long as they have an Amazon Prime account.

Amazon Fire TV Stick

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18 thoughts on “Amazon Fire TV Stick

  1. Don’t bother Ingy a, you’ll spend more time updating either Kodi or the Add-ons than you do actually watching programs and when you do get round to watching something it’ll either buffer or won’t work at all. Then a week later when you come to use it again you’ll have to repeat the process. I really can’t see why everyone is raving about it, yes you can access free (and illegal) content but that doesn’t make it good if you half to spend half the night messing about.

  2. Kodi is software that allows you to access various online streaming services (eg ITV player, various channels around the world) on your computer for free. You can also install it on some of these streaming devices (eg Fire TV) to access channels that the device does not usually have access to. Very, very cool bit of software but might take a bit of setting up if you’re not used to the techie side!

  3. I’m not a techie but a middle aged female who needs detailed idiots guides! Could u please tell me is kodi something I download on my laptop and is it free? Am I right in thinking that I would watch things via the hdmi cable on my tv? What sort of stuff is available, just movies? Sorry to sound very DOH! Greatful for all help I can get. Cheers : )

  4. I gave my Chromecast away after a week I found it wasn’t really a device you could expect a non-techie member of family to use, the apps and content were almost non-existant. \nThe Roku made Now TV box was equally disappointing apart from restricted content and iffy network performance it died after 2 months use.\nI currently have three streaming devices a Roku 1, Fire TV and Fire TV Stick all are excellent the Fire TV’s performance is blistering fast but in value for money terms the Fire TV Stick wins hands down. The only real flaw is the remote which in addition to lacking voice control feels cheaper and nastier than the one on its’ bigger sibling, but it is better than the Roku infra red remote which requires particularly accurate aiming to work.\nThe hazard of unintentionally buying paid for content on Amazon can be avoided by simply activating the user control password for purchases.

  5. Will it work outside the UK or is it subject to IP restrictions?

  6. I have a smart tv and wifi in spain can I use the fire stick there will it still work the same as in the uk\n

  7. Go for D. It’s a little absurd that you have all that setup and, presumably, fast Internet and wifi and an old TV with no HDMI which has been an industry standard for almost a decade. This will also enable you to enjoy HD content.

  8. I have an old television with only a scart connection. I connect my new computer via an hdmi to vga converter (\u00a36) to a vga to scart converter (previous technical upgrade) and a separate audio cable.\nI have just been given a firetv stick – my options are to buy:-\na) female to female hdmi (\u00a31) and add to the chain (Will this work?)\nb) buy a completely new direct hdmi to scart converter (\u00a335)\nc) buy a new set top box with hdmi port (also \u00a335)\nd) buy a new TV ………

  9. It’s cheap and as chips and brilliant. Originally I bought the ROKU 3 yesterday but it came apparent that the Roku doesn’t support Amazon Instant in the UK which is a deal breaker for me whereas the Amazon Fire TV stick does. No brainer got a full refund and used the monies to purchase the Amazon TV stick.\n\n\nIts quick and very easy to use though the Roku in my opinion has a swisher user interface. Though the apps between the devices are pretty much the same the Roku has the full complement of apps for UK Terrestrial TV i.e the BBC iPlayer, iTV Player, 4 on demand and 5 on demand where, strangely, the Amazon Fire TV stick omits 4 on demand.\n\n\nBoth come with Plex the multi-media streamer which allows me to stream downloaded content on my MAC to the Amazon Fire TV.\n\n\nIn my opinion if you want Netflix and Amazon Instant get the the Amazon Fire TV stick. If you’re not interested in Amazon Instant get the Roku 3.

  10. I currently use an app on my laptop on Opera that allows me to use Netflix in the USA or UK as well as watch the BBC iplayer. I live in New Zealand. I’m guessing there is no way yet to spoof my IP?

  11. From the first paragraph:\u003cblockquote>It used to be that if you wanted a smart TV, you would have to pay out good money. Now, for a few pounds, anyone can have a smart TV. All they need is a spare HDMI and a device no bigger than a USB stick.\u003c/blockquote>It doesn’t plug into a USB port; it plugs into an HDMI port. USB is for power, and you can use one from your TV if it has one, or you can use a USB power supply.

  12. Do I need any other kind of device to attach this to or can I put it directly into a USB port on my tv?

  13. Just changed from Now box to firestick, most of the movies are rent or buy, even older ones, never had that on the now box. Dont think I like it.

  14. It’s not misleading. The app works via wifi, as does the remote. The application, powered by your smartphone, has the ability to perform voice controls. A basic remote doesn’t. Simple as that.

  15. This is also misleading – are you saying if I use an android app, the voice control that doesnt exist on the remote will work??

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