WHAT ON EARTH IS A FIRE STICK TV?
The Amazon Fire Stick (or Amazon Fire TV Stick) is the company’s second generation of its cheapest video streaming device. You can stream from Amazon Video, as well as Netflix and the full roster of the UK’s catch-up services. There are plenty more apps besides, including Prime Music and Spotify, plus access to Amazon’s growing games library.
SO, WHAT’S NEW ABOUT IT?
For a start, the interface has had an overhaul to make it look a lot prettier and easier to use. This will filter down to older devices over time, though, as will the Alexa voice control, so the real benefits of the new Stick are its faster processor and improved Wi-Fi. The Amazon Fire Stick only goes up to Full HD 1080p resolution, and goes up against the aging (but still excellent) Chromecast, or the platform-agnostic Roku Express.
AMAZON FIRE STICK – DESIGN AND BUILD
The Amazon Fire Stick looks a bit like a memory stick on steroids and is designed to plug straight into an HDMI port on your TV. It’s a neat all-in-one design housed in plastic. It will creak a little if squeezed, but feels tough enough for purpose. At 9cm long and around 3cm deep, it will need a bit of room on your TV back panel, though, particularly when you consider making room for its Micro USB cable power supply. Thankfully, if this is too much of a squeeze, Amazon includes an HDMI extender in the box to free up some space. The accompanying remote is the same one that you’ll find included with the pricier Amazon Fire TV box. It’s pretty simple, offering a D-pad for navigation, a handful of playback controls and the all-important voice input key. It’s nice that this is included now, although the iOS and Android app does an equally good job and can activate the same Alexa commands.
AMAZON FIRE STICK – SET UP AND INTERFACE
Setting up your Fire Stick is really simple. Just plug it into a spare HDMI slot on your TV, and its USB cable into a power source. Some on-screen instructions will get your Alexa remote paired and the Fire TV Stick hooked up to your home network. Once you’re signed into your Amazon account, you’re ready to go. If you’re familiar with the previous Fire TV Stick, you’ll notice immediately that the interface has been redesigned. The main navigation menu has moved from the side to along the top, and a new picture-led carousel with suggested content dominates the top half of the screen. The idea is that the Fire TV Stick will learn your viewing habits over time and tailor this to you, with video teasers to draw you in. During a week’s testing, the selection it surfaced improved to include programmes and films I’d be more likely to choose, including content from other providers like Netflix. Detail pages have been improved too, with a large picture backdrop and more in-depth programme information. Once you start to watch a show, clicking upwards on the remote will open up Amazon’s X-Ray IMDb feature, for finding about more about the cast. Besides downloading apps, I found the homepage was the only place I needed to be. In a side-scrolling menu beneath the carousel, you’ll find your recent shows and apps for quick access. Beneath that, you can browse and organise your downloaded apps, scroll through several menus of Prime suggested content, and even one for Netflix (subscription dependent).
BENEFITS YOU GET FROM GETTING A FIRE TV STICK
1. A FIRE STICK TV CONNECTS YOU TO THE WORLD AT LARGE
A Fire TV Stick connects your HDTV to a world of online entertainment. With it, you get to stream a massive selection of movies and TV episodes from Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, and more, and easily find and control content with the Alexa Voice Remote. In addition, you also get universal search results across top apps, and enjoy live sports, music, photos, games, and more.
2. WHAT ALEXA VOICE REMOTE CAN DO
Your Alexa Voice Remote can easily find, launch, and control content. For example, you could easily say, “Alexa, find suspense thrillers” and Alexa will show you results. Alexa is the brain behind Amazon Echo, and it doesn’t stop there. You can press the microphone button and ask to play music from Pandora, order a pizza from Domino’s, shop for popcorn and snacks, and more. Plus, Alexa on Fire TV is always getting smarter. With newly expanded voice control in apps like Bravo, CBS All Access, Hulu, NBC, PlayStation Vue, and SHOWTIME, Alexa can help you do even more. Use your voice to search, control playback, and even change the channel within supported apps. You can also pair Fire TV and Echo devices, allowing you to control your Fire TV with Alexa. Just ask Alexa to play and search for movies and TV shows, launch apps, and control playback from over 190 apps and channels on your Fire TV.
3. WHAT DO YOU DO IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A CABLE?
Watch live TV with subscriptions to Hulu, PlayStation Vue, Sling TV, and others, or use an indoor HD antenna connected directly to your TV to get broadcast networks like NBC and PBS for free.
4. A FIRE STICK TV IS MUCH BETTER WITH PRIME
Prime membership unlocks thousands more movies and TV episodes through Prime Video, including Thursday Night Football and Amazon Original Series like The Tick, The Grand Tour, Mozart in the Jungle, and Just Add Magic. Prime members can also add premium channels like HBO, SHOWTIME, and STARZ-no cable or satellite subscription necessary. Only pay for the channels you want to watch, with prices starting as low as $2.99 a month-and you can cancel anytime. Each channel starts with a free trial, so it’s easy to discover new favorites.
5. TAKE YOUR TV ALONG WITH YOU WHEREVER YOU GO
Never miss an episode when you’re away from home. Fire TV Stick works with any HDTV so you can take it over to a friend’s house or bring it along to hotels and dorm rooms. Just plug and play anywhere – all you need is a Wi-Fi connection. Some content are not available in all countries.
6. YOU GET TO BE ENTERTAINED ALL THE WAY
Millions of songs are available to stream on Fire TV Stick through Pandora, Amazon Music, and iHeartRadio. Just press the microphone button on the Alexa Voice Remote and say what you’d like to hear next. Plus, watch videos from Facebook, Vevo, and Vimeo.
The new Amazon Fire Stick does make a good product even better. And at $29.99 as at the time of this article. The Alexa voice commands are a great way to navigate, and the extra speed from the new processor and improved Wi-Fi makes using it a breeze. With the new interface set to come to older devices later down the line, and Alexa support too, owners of the original Fire TV Stick might not find the upgrade immediately necessary. However, any Prime subscriber that hasn’t made the jump as yet may find themselves very tempted now. Get yours at amazon.com.
content and image credits: Amazon.com