By now, you're familiar with online digital streaming for TV shows and movies. About a decade ago, the only options to watch TV were channels by antenna and cable.
Companies like Netflix have helped pave the way for streaming movies and TV shows by streaming from your computer or through a game console, inspiring viewers to cut the cable cord and stream online.
But what if your TV doesn't have Wi-Fi?
To get those streaming options, you'll have to get a “streaming stick.”
What is the Amazon Fire TV Stick?
In case you haven't heard, streaming sticks such as the Amazon Fire TV Stick (also called the Amazon Firestick) allow viewers to transition their favorite shows and movies from a small screen such as a laptop to a larger device, such as a TV.
With the simple touch of a remote, the Fire TV Stick helps you quickly access Amazon's media store, which includes TV shows, music, and movies.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick is Amazon's most cost effective option for Amazon Fire TV. The Fire TV Stick lets you enjoy 1080p HD streaming in a compact HDMI stick the size of a USB flash drive. With the Fire TV Stick you get access to all of the same apps and channels available on Amazon Fire TV without the additional cost. Priced at less than forty bucks, which includes the Alexa Voice Remote, the Fire TV Stick is truly a bargain.
How It Works
The Amazon Fire TV Stick plugs into your TV's HDMI port to give you access to your favorite TV shows, movies, music, games, and subscription services. The Fire TV Stick is a portable option that conveniently stores your favorite content, so that you can enjoy your favorite media everywhere you go.
Key Features of the Fire TV Stick
Imagine being able to take your TV with you when you're on vacation or visiting family. No more fumbling through channels and looking for your favorite shows on other devices. Simply remove your device and take the Fire TV Stick with you. Plug the Fire TV Stick into any compatible TV, and now you've got access to all of your favorite movies and shows.
If you are an Amazon Prime member, your Fire TV Stick comes pre-registered to your account. This means that you will have immediate access to your Amazon Prime content once you plug your Fire TV Stick into your HDMI port. An added bonus of being an Amazon Prime member is getting access to Amazon Originals.
Your Fire TV Stick box will arrive with everything you need to get started. Amazon will send you your new Fire TV Stick, a remote, an HDMI extender, a USB cable and power adapter, a user manual, and even 2 AAA batteries so you can get started right away.
In terms of design, the Fire TV Stick is sleek and compact with an HDMI connection and the “Amazon” logo. The button configuration and the directional circle are simple and easy to navigate. The Bluetooth connection makes it easy to operate without having to aim at the stick to operate the device.
Each Fire TV Stick has the following features:
- 1 GB of memory
- 8 GB of internal storage
- Optional voice support
- Dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi
- A dedicated VideoCore4 GPU
- The Fire TV Stick plugs into your HDMI TV via USB port, connects via Wi-Fi, and comes equipped with a Bluetooth remote.
- The Fire TV Stick comes with an app that turns your phone into a remote control and includes the additional voice search feature or you can use your smartphone keyboard (faster than individually selecting letters with the Fire TV Stick remote).
- Quickly cast a video from your mobile device apps (You Tube, Netflix, etc.) to your TV in no time.
- Smooth and visually appealing interface with a remote.
- The Fire TV Stick is compatible with the Amazon Fire controller if you need additional controller for gaming (most games work with the remote and don't require an additional controller).
How the Fire TV Stick works
How does the Amazon Fire TV Stick work? Simply plug your Fire TV Stick in and you will be directed through the setup process and prompted to sign into your Amazon account.
Once logged on, you will have access to shows, music, and movies purchased through your Amazon account. You will also have access to photos uploaded to your Amazon Cloud service.
Using the Fire TV Stick, you will be able to access to thousands of apps and games. Feel like catching up with your favorite vlogger? Open up You Tube and watch their recent uploads. For an additional fee, you can also access Netflix, HBO Now, ESPN and even Hulu. While it costs extra, you get the advantage of choosing preferred services instead of being bogged down by a cable package.
Why You Might Like it
It's super user friendly. This is a great option for those who don't want to be overwhelmed with technology. Google's Chromecast has more versatility with apps and features, but the learning curve is higher for those that are not as tech savvy.
Amazon's Fire TV Stick interface is very well organized and user friendly. The content is split into sub categories like “TV”, “Movies”, and “Recent”, and the titles are displayed in large font. When you boot up the Fire TV Stick, you will see what you've already watched, and Amazon's recommendations based on preference and history.
The Fire TV Stick also divides content between Amazon's Prime Instant Video, which works as a subscription-based video-on-demand service. You can buy content directly from the Amazon store.
For each title, you get a snippet of the movie or show, including an IMDB rating. You can also watch trailers for each title before you stream. The “X-Ray” feature gives you interesting facts and trivia about the actors, including which actors are in the current scene, as well as the artist and name of the song during music tracks.
You also get cool extras like games and apps (Youtube, Netflix, and Spotify, to name a few). The Fire TV Stick also gives you access to Amazon's cloud service where you can upload your personal pictures from your smartphone and videos and view them on your TV.
Why You Might NOT Like It
The Fire TV Stick only has 8 GB of internal storage and 1 GB of memory, so even if you have a 4k television set, you will only be able to stream 1080p content. There are limits to how much content you can download, and how many apps you can store without streaming. Further, it limits your ability to play some of the more graphically demanding games offered in the app store.
To play games, you'll need a controller, as the standard remote is not compatible with most titles. Amazon offers its own Bluetooth controller, and the device is compatible with most major third-party Bluetooth game controllers, including the PS4's DualShock 4 if you already have one of those.
Design-wise, it's a little klunky because the power cable sticks out of the top of the device, which means that it will get in the way of other cables sticking out of your TV if your HDMI connections are stacked vertically, although an HDMI extension cable will take care of this issue.
Related: Best Free Online Streaming Services
Do You Need Amazon Prime?
If you want to use the Fire TV Stick to its fullest potential, then the answer is yes.
That being said, the Fire TV Stick will give you access to other services such as Netflix and Spotify. With your Amazon Prime Instant video subscription, you will get access to thousands of TV shows and movies, including some exclusives like “Mozart in the Jungle”. While this is nice, Netflix's popular shows like Orange Is The New Black or House of Cards easily overshadow Amazon's original and exclusive content. With Amazon Prime, you get movies like “I Am Dragon” and TV shows like “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
But, if you want the newer titles and bigger blockbuster films/TV shows, you'll have to pay $2.99 per episode (or a season pass for slightly less than buying all episodes separately) and $4.99 per movie. Sometimes, it's hard to tell what content is included in the subscription, and what you have to pay extra for. Be careful of overlapping content, as you don't want to buy something on Amazon only to later find that it is free on Netflix.
Is It Worth It?
While Amazon's selection of movies and TV shows is impressive, Netflix offers a wider selection of recent movies and TV shows to choose from. In the end, you have access to many films and TV shows that you can access your favorite movies and shows anytime and anywhere through a functional portal. Ultimately, the Fire TV Stick is really a way to quickly get access to Amazon's services, such as Amazon Prime Instant video.
The remote, apps, paid-for library and IMDB integration make the entire experience a worthwhile purchase if you regularly rent films from Amazon, or if you enjoy Amazon's exclusives movies and shows.
Otherwise, it may be wise to save your money and stick with free or low-cost apps and subscription services.
Have you tried the Amazon Fire TV Stick?