If you’re looking to stream video content directly to your TV, one of the most affordable options out there is the brand-new Amazon Fire TV Stick, which retails for about $39.99. As an update to the first Amazon Fire TV Stick that debuted in 2014, the new Amazon Fire TV Stick now boasts Alexa voice integration. Here’s a brief overview of all the pros and cons of the Amazon Fire TV Stick.
PRO #1: Lightweight, flexible and affordable
It’s hard to get past the affordable price tag of the Amazon Fire TV Stick ($39.99), which represents a significant savings from the fully-featured Amazon Fire TV ($89.99). In terms of price and design, the Fire TV Stick is most similar to the Google Chromecast. Both “sticks” enable users to plug directly into a HDTV’s HDMI slot to start streaming content within minutes.
PRO #2: Powerful new voice features
The one major upgrade between the original Amazon Fire TV Stick (circa 2014) and the new one (released at the end of 2016) involves Alexa voice integration. If you’ve experienced Amazon Echo (which uses Alexa), then you know how powerful voice features can be. You can use your voice to do things like “Play Game of Thrones” or “Launch Netflix” or even “Find me a good romantic comedy.”
And, best of all, you don’t have to hunt for a way to use the voice controls. Right on the remote device that’s provided with the Alexa Fire TV stick, there’s a prominent button at the very top. This comes in handy because Alexa also comes with certain features (what Amazon calls “skills”), like the ability to place an order for pizza delivery with your voice.
PRO #3: Unlimited access to the best streaming content
The main reason people buy the Amazon Fire TV Stick, of course, is to get access to the best streaming content. The concept is so simple that it seems like it can’t really be true, but here it is: take the Fire TV Stick, plug it into your TV, and connect to Wi-Fi. Boom, you’re done. From there, you can access any of the major streaming services, like Hulu or Netflix or (of course) Amazon Instant Video.
What’s great about the Amazon Fire TV Stick is that you’re not forced to watch only Amazon content, though, – you can watch from any streaming service. For example, say you want to watch a new movie. You could stream from Netflix. Say you want to watch a new TV show. You could stream from Hulu. Say you wanted to watch a game on ESPN. You could stream from Sling TV.
Plus, there’s a “universal search” function so that you can find all the various competing services that offer a particular title, and determine the best way to get access to it. Maybe it’s cheaper to buy on Amazon than it is to rent on Netflix. Or, maybe not. But you have a lot of flexibility here. All told, you get access to more than 300,000 TV episodes and movies ready to stream. So there’s always something on.
PRO #4: Great integration with Amazon Prime
Every major tech company wants you to play in their ecosystem, and Amazon is no different. You may not have a Kindle Fire, but chances are, you have an Amazon.com account. If you have Amazon Prime, then you get unlimited access to Amazon Prime Instant Video. That means access to thousands of movies and TV episodes.
PRO #5: Fast and furious streaming content (music, not just video!)
The new upgraded Amazon Fire TV Stick comes with streaming speeds that are 30% faster than in the previous version. A lot of this has to do with the way the Fire TV Stick connects to Wi-Fi, but the point is, you get a lot smoother streaming experience. In addition, you’re not limited to just streaming TV and film content – you can also stream music content.
Amazon refers to this in its marketing materials as “Entertain Your Way” – you can use the Fire TV Stick to stream music for guests during parties or on family night. Using Alexa voice integration, you can even do something like “play music for a dinner party,” and the Amazon Fire TV Stick will go to work, finding the right music to set the mood.
CON #1: Not as powerful as other set-top boxes
It might be obvious, but you’re not going to get the same type of functionality in a stick as you are going to get with a full set-top box like Apple TV or even the Amazon Fire TV. Thus, if you’re a hard-core gamer or a film purist, you might look at what the Amazon Fire TV delivers in terms of a higher-performance streaming experience. Moreover, the Amazon Fire TV comes with the ability to plug into the Ethernet, giving it a big leg up on the Amazon Fire TV Stick, which is still restricted to Wi-Fi access.
CON #2: No support for 4K televisions
If you’ve recently shopped for an HDTV, you know that not all TVs are created alike. There are SD (720p), HD (1080p) and 4K (nearly 4000p) pixel sizes. Well, the Amazon Fire TV Stick only supports SD and HD, so if you’re planning on buying a 4K TV anytime soon, then you need to upgrade to the Amazon Fire TV.
That being said, Amazon has done a wonderful job of listening to customers. One of the major complaints of the old Amazon Fire TV Stick was that it didn’t include voice search. Well, now it does. So if you were originally tempted to get a super-cheap Google Chromecast, it’s no longer a case of comparing two relatively similar devices. For the same price, you can get voice search and all the power of Alexa – so why wouldn’t you take it? Go with Amazon.
There’s a lot of innovation happening in the streaming video space, and it looks like Amazon is taking a lot of steps to increase its footprint in the industry. In addition to all the great original content Amazon is now producing (can someone say Manchester By the Sea?), the company is now finding clever ways – such as integrating the Alexa voice technology – to get people to switch to the Amazon ecosystem.