First take: Is Amazon Fire TV Stick the best streaming device?
The Fire TV Stick is easily the best streaming stick you can get—especially if you’re an Amazon Prime Video power user. All of its fantastic functionality is geared toward putting Amazon content first. That’s great for Prime partisans but somewhat annoying for streaming agnostics.
Did you know there’s more technology stuffed into a streaming TV stick than was on board Apollo 11 for the 1969 moon landing? One small step for man, one giant leap for couch potatoes.
Featurewise, Amazon Fire TV Stick almost makes the other streaming sticks on the market look like Apollos 1–10. It has Alexa voice control, it works with hundreds of TV and entertainment apps, and it can even do 4K for an extra $10.
Amazon Fire TV Stick vs. the competition
|Amazon Fire TV Stick||$39.99||1080p||Included|
Data effective as of 10/22/19. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
The numbers above are similar, but (cue ESPN voice-over) the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Each stick operates differently: Roku has a uniform and simple (and very purple) interface, whereas Chromecast mirrors apps from your phone or tablet.
Amazon Fire TV Stick throws a lot of content and options at you right away, but it’s not any more complicated to navigate than the others. Each brand also offers a 4K stick, FYI.
We prefer Roku’s brand-neutral approach to content search and promotion, but—even with its Amazon-heavy agenda—the Fire Stick is still serious competition.
Amazon Fire TV Stick deals and promotion
Prime Day is long gone, but we’ll be on the lookout for any other price-break deals on the Amazon Fire TV Stick. Check in with us again around the holidays—we’ll find something.
What is Amazon Fire TV Stick?
Amazon Fire TV Stick looks like a slightly fatter USB storage device, but it has the streaming functionality of an entertainment center. Since it plugs into an HDMI port on the back of your TV, it’s hidden from view, making it perfect for wall-mounted screens or cluttered TV stands. Sure, you could move those Avengers action figures—but now you don’t have to.
Amazon Fire TV Stick specs
Not only can Amazon Fire TV Stick stream video in 1080p resolution with Dolby 5.1 surround sound, but it can also hold its own with gamers better than its stick competition (more on this later). The Fire TV Stick also comes with 8 GB of internal storage and 1 GB of memory—that may not seem like much, but it’s more than double what the Roku Stick gives you.
- Price: $39.99
- Size: 3.9″
- Video: 1080p
- Audio: Dolby 5.1 surround sound; standard 2.0 stereo
- Storage: 8 GB (internal)
- Wi-Fi: Dual-band/dual-antenna 802.11
- Remote: Alexa Voice Remote (included) or Fire TV app (download)
Amazon Fire TV Stick setup
The most and only difficult part of getting a Fire TV Stick up and streaming might be finding an empty HDMI port to plug it in to. You technophiles know what we’re talking about.
It’ll also require a USB port for power, but we strongly suggest using the included AC adaptor. USB ports shut off with the TV, meaning the Fire TV Stick would have to power up again every time it’s turned back on if you don’t use the adaptor. Who has time for that?
The included HDMI extender may also come in handy because the Fire TV Stick is a bit on the chunky side—or, as Cartman would say, “big-boned”—and could crowd your TV’s ports if they’re close together. Some users have even said that the extender helps with Wi-Fi reception; we remain skeptical (as tech reviewers, it’s kind of our default position).
After you’ve navigated these minor deets, just log in to your Wi-Fi, then your Amazon Prime account (if you don’t have one, get one—Fire TV Stick is less-than-awesome without it), and you’re off.
- Fire TV Stick
- Alexa Voice Remote
- HDMI extender
- USB power cable
- AC power adaptor
- 2 AAA batteries
Equipment you’ll need
- TV with HDMI port
- Wi-Fi network
Amazon Fire TV Stick apps
Livestreaming and on-demand channels and services
All the big names in on-demand and livestreaming TV are available on Amazon Fire TV Stick—including Amazon’s Prime Video, obviously. After a brief absence, YouTube is back in the Fire TV app lineup, as is livestreaming service YouTube TV.
The Fire TV Stick app selection is mostly on par with those of Roku and Google Chromecast. The distinction here is that Fire TV Stick leans heavily toward Amazon content in searches and recommendations. If you love all things Prime, this stick is for you.
Amazon Fire TV Stick TV and video apps (partial list):
- Prime Video
- HBO NOW
- SHOWTIME Anytime
- NBC Sports
- FOX Sports
- CBS Sports
Game and music apps
Amazon Fire TV Stick has a slight edge over the other sticks when it comes to available gaming apps. Maybe it’s not something you’d be looking for in a streaming device, but it’s cool to have.
There’s nothing that will advance your esports career though; think more mobile time killers for casual gaming (it’s 2019—we distinguish “casual” gamers from “pros”). Still, a separate gaming controller would be a good idea.
Amazon Fire TV Stick entertainment apps (partial list):
- Crossy Road
- Final Fantasy VI
- Crazy Taxi
- LEGO® DC Mighty Micros
- PBA® Bowling Challenge
- Castle of Illusion
- Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
- Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
- Sega Classics
App and channel guide user experience
As we said earlier, Fire TV Stick is all about the Amazon experience—Prime Video is promoted hard here. If you’re looking for Prime Video content, you’ll find it in a flash; outside shows and movies take a bit more time to find (but not too much).
The first thing you’ll see when you log in is a screen of show and app choices, topped with tabs labeled Search, Home, Movies, TV Shows, Apps, and Settings. You can navigate with the remote or hit the microphone icon and let Alexa find it because manual remotes are hard work, right?
If you’re used to hardwired connections and are concerned about Amazon Fire TV Stick’s performance through Wi-Fi (it works just fine, BTW), you can buy an Ethernet adaptor separately. You probably won’t need it, but some tech purists like the peace of mind.
Amazon Fire TV Stick remote
The Fire TV Stick comes with a remote control that looks deceptively basic. It doesn’t have the multitude of buttons you’d find on a Roku remote, but it does have Alexa Voice Control, a remarkably accurate speech-command function.
Remote control user experience
Don’t like pushing buttons? Good news: Fire TV Stick’s streamlined remote doesn’t have many. Just a Select command button inside the navigation wheel, Back, Home, Menu, Fast-Forward, Play/Pause, Rewind, and Mute buttons, and a volume up/down rocker. That’s it.
Amazon expects you’ll prefer to use Alexa Voice Control and for good reason: it works like a champ. If you’ve had so-so voice-command experiences with other devices, Fire TV’s just might win you back. If you’re already BFFs with Alexa, you’ll find no surprises here.
Amazon Fire TV Stick models
Fire TV stick comes in two flavors: the standard 1080p resolution model we’ve been talking about up to now, and the Fire TV Stick 4K, which supports 2160p in several formats for $10 more.
|Fire TV Stick||$39.99||1080p||802.11ac dual-band MIMO Wi-Fi|
|Fire TV Stick 4K||$49.99||4K Ultra HD, HDR, HDR 10, Dolby Vision, HLG, HDR10+||802.11ac dual-band MIMO Wi-Fi|
The Fire TV Stick 4K could be worth the extra money if you want to take advantage of Prime Video’s 4K content—and there’s a lot of it. But know that while 4K looks amazing on TVs over 65 inches, the effect diminishes with screen size. If you’re rocking a 27-inch Samsung in your studio apartment, you’re probably not going to enjoy the full 4K experience.
Compatible devices with Amazon Fire TV Stick
If your TV has a spare HDMI port and USB input for power—though we still recommend using the AC adaptor for uninterrupted power—you can just plug the Fire TV Stick in and go. You could even use it with a Roku TV, but don’t blame us if the universe implodes.
Final take: Amazon diehards need the Fire TV Stick
For just $40, Amazon Fire TV Stick is a killer streaming device—but it’s not necessarily a Roku or Chromecast killer.
The Fire TV Stick is a little too biased toward Amazon content in its search and recommendations for our taste. Here at HowtoWatch.com, we want to see everything at all times on every platform (no, we don’t sleep much—but that’s our problem, not yours).
For those who love Prime Video and are symbiotically attached to their Alexa, however, Fire TV Stick is nothing short of a tiny Excalibur. In terms of sheer power and performance, it blows the other sticks out of the streaming waters—we just wish it were more brand-neutral (a problem Amazon has addressed with its pricier Fire TV Cube).
Amazon Fire TV Stick FAQ
Are Netflix and Hulu available on Amazon Fire TV Stick?
Though its searches and recommendations favor Prime Video content, Fire TV Stick is compatible with almost every subscription service out there—even major competitors like Netflix and Hulu.
Is an Amazon Prime membership required to use Fire TV Stick?
You don’t need an Amazon Prime membership to use Fire TV Stick. Like most other streaming devices, it doesn’t have a default connection to any service. But since no other device interfaces with Prime Video better than Fire TV Stick, we’d recommend signing up for Prime to get the most out of it.
Can I use Fire TV Stick without Wi-Fi?
Fire TV Stick, like all TV stick devices, is designed to be used with a wireless internet connection. But, if you’d prefer a direct, wired hookup, you can buy an Ethernet cable adaptor separately.