It seems that everything has to be smart nowadays. Smartphones, SmartWatches, Smartcars, Smart TV’s… Technology is taking over every aspect of our life from communications, entertainment, commuting and even telling the time. Personally, being techno-geeks, the staff at PocketDroid love it! So when the opportunity to try a new Smart TV device presented itself, I leapt at the chance and pre-ordered it. Today, my Amazon Fire TV Stick arrived, and this is my review.
Amazon Fire TV Stick Review:
We never got the original Amazon Fire TV device for two reasons: One, I didn’t need it because of two; I had an Apple TV which did almost the exact same thing, other than being locked into the Apple ecosystem rather than Amazon’s. I’ve been a Mac-head for many years now and it’s only till I got a Nexus 7 tablet that I partly converted to Android. My Apple TV is of the second generation, the one without a hard drive. It’s served us very well for the last five years, but of late, it’s been playing up. Rumours are full of a new Apple TV coming our way in the not too distant future, possibly built-in to an actual TV. So when I heard that Amazon were selling their new Amazon Fire TV Stick for a poultry £35 ($52/€48), which is a third of the cost of the Apple TV when we purchased it, it seemed like a good time to upgrade.
To say that Amazon Fire TV Stick is a rival of Google’s own Chromecast is a falsehood. Whilst the Chromecast will stream anything from your computer, phone or tablet, the Amazon Fire TV Stick is a device that has apps to stream from services such as Netflix, Plex, BBC iPlayer and, of course, Amazon’s own Amazon Prime TV. It can also play any music, films or TV you may have purchased through Amazon, and allows you to play certain games available from the Amazon App Store.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick is a very small device, comparable in size to Google’s Chromecast and not much bigger than a USB flash drive (the exact dimensions are: 84.9mm x 25.0mm x 11.5mm) and weighs only 25 grams. On the outside, there is nothing but a Micro USB port for power and a male HDMI connector on the end (just like the Chromecast).
On the inside, however, is where all the difference. The Amazon Fire TV Stick is powered by a Broadcom Capri 28155, dual-core 2xARM A9 processor and has a 1 GB RAM. The GPU is a VideoCore4 which gives excellent HD quality performance. Next to this is a Dual-band, dual-antenna WiFi chip which gives excellent reception to your wireless router. Amazon will tell you this is much better than the Chromecast, and on paper, they’re right. But the Chromecast wasn’t designed to power apps and play games, only stream from your phone to the TV.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick is advertised as having 8 GB of storage. When Fire OS is loaded, however, you get closer to 5 GB, which is still a lot of room for apps and games to be loaded and used on the device.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick is powered by Fire OS, which all of its Fire devices run. Fire OS is a port of Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, meaning it’s easy for developers to port their app from Android to Fire OS.
Onscreen, the Fire OS is very basic and works well with the Amazon Fire TV Stick’s remote. On the left hand side is a scrolling menu of options such as Home, Search, TV, Movies etc. Selecting one of these will bring up the relevant page with further options available by clicking right on the remote. When paired with the Amazon Fire TV app (available for iOS and Android) or a Fire OS device such as a Fire Tablet of Fire Phone, you can use the much-advertised voice recognition feature to search for movies, TV or music.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick comes boxed with a Bluetooth remote control, meaning you don’t need line of sight to use it. The boxed control has few buttons with a circular pad for the directional buttons and select in the middle, with Back, Home and Menu buttons on the row bellow, and Rewind, Play/Pause and Fast forward on the bottom row. The remote is powered by two AAA batteries, which Amazon kindly supplies in the box so you can get started straight away.
Also in the box is a USB cable and power adaptor to power the Amazon Fire TV Stick and a HDMI extender cable should it get a bit of a tight squeeze behind your TV.
Also available (at extra cost) is another remote control with a microphone (priced at £24.99), allowing you to perform voice searches without the Amazon Fire TV App and a Games controller (priced at £35.99) which will allow you to play the games available on the Amazon Fire TV Stick.
When you first plug the Amazon Fire TV Stick in to your TV, it will start to search for the boxed remote. Once the AAA Batteries are inserted, the Amazon Fire TV Stick should automatically find and connect to your remote. Once that is done, you will be prompted to connect to your wireless router. Once connected, you’re all set up. If purchased from Amazon, you will be asked to confirm you want to use the Amazon Fire TV Stick with the same Amazon account you purchased it with. If it was bought as a gift, you simply need to fill in you Amazon details to get set up.
Once the setup is complete, The Amazon Fire TV Stick will automatically play an introduction video to explain the features. Then, you can start playing around with it.
The Amazon Fire TV Stick is a great option if it’s bigger brother, the Amazon Fire TV, isn’t for you. It’s half the price, but also half as powered, so high-end gaming won’t be possible, although simple games such as you would play on your Android phone or tablet are possible. For streaming TV, it’s perfect. It’s small, cheap and portable, yet still has access to loads of TV, music and game apps as well as your photo’s and videos stored in the Amazon Cloud. For £35, you can’t go wrong.
You can buy the Amazon Fire TV Stick direct from Amazon here.