What is Amazon Fire TV Stick?
The Amazon Fire TV Stick is the second generation of its most economical video transmission device.
You can stream from Amazon Video, as well as to Netflix and the full list of UK updating services. There are many more applications besides, including Prime Music and Spotify, as well as access to Amazon's growing library of games.
So, what's new? To begin with, the interface has been revised to make it look much more beautiful and easy to use. However, this will leak to older devices over time, just like Alexa's voice control, so the real benefits of the new Stick are its faster processor and improved Wi-Fi.
The Amazon Fire Stick only uploads to Full HD Resolution 1080p, and goes against aging (but still excellent) Chromecast, or the Roku Express agnostic platform.
If you want 4K Ultra HD or HDR video, check out the full-sized Amazon Fire TV, the Apple TV 4K, Google Chromecast Ultra or Roku Streaming Stick Plus.
Amazon Fire TV Stick: design and construction
The Amazon Fire Stick looks like a steroid memory device and is designed to connect directly to an HDMI port on your TV. It is a clean all-in-one design housed in plastic. It will crack a little if it is squeezed, but feels strong enough for its purpose.
With 9 cm in length and about 3 cm in depth, you will need a little space on the back panel of your TV, especially when you consider making room for your Micro USB cable power supply. Fortunately, if this is too complicated, Amazon includes an HDMI extender in the box to free up space.
The remote control that accompanies it is the same that you will find included with the most expensive Amazon Fire TV box. It's quite simple, it offers a D-pad for navigation, a handful of playback controls and the most important voice entry key. It is good that this is included now, although the iOS and Android application does an equally good job and can activate the same Alexa commands.
Amazon Fire TV Stick: configuration and interface
The configuration of your Fire Stick is really simple. Simply connect it to a spare HDMI slot on your TV, and your USB cable to a power source. Some on-screen instructions will make your Alexa remote control synchronized and the Fire TV Stick connected to your home network. Once you have logged in to your Amazon account, you will be ready.
If you are familiar with the previous Fire TV Stick, you will immediately notice that the interface has been redesigned. The main navigation menu has been moved from one side to the other at the top, and a new carousel with images and suggested content dominates the top half of the screen. The idea is that the Fire TV Stick learns your viewing habits over time and adapts it to you, with video advances to attract it. During the week-long tests, the selection that surfaced to include programs and movies would be more likely. to choose, including content from other providers such as Netflix.
The detail pages have also been improved, with a large screen background and more detailed program information. Once you start watching a program, clicking up on the remote control will open the Amazon X-Ray IMDb feature to find more about the cast.
In addition to downloading applications, I found that the page was the only place I needed to be. . In a side-scrolling menu below the carousel, you'll find your recent programs and applications for quick access. Below that, you can browse and organize your downloaded applications, navigate through several content menus suggested by Prime and even one for Netflix (dependent on the subscription).
That's what is particularly refreshing about this version of Amazon Fire Stick. While the content of Amazon Prime remains its bread and butter (and it dominates their menus) it is not as difficult to find content from other suppliers as it was before.
For example, Amazon Prime offers Breaking Bad as a paid cash set, while it's free to watch on Netflix. If you look for it, Fire TV will suggest that you see it first on Netflix, with the option to buy it in the "More ways to look" menu. It seems more like it works for the user, and not for himself, that's the way it should be.
It is still a device aimed at Prime subscribers, and I would certainly recommend subscribing to receive the service. the more possible. With its new monthly subscription option (£ 7.99 / $ 8.99 per month), it is now much more accessible. If you are not interested in Prime, you may find a better service with a Chromecast or similar device.
Amazon Fire TV Stick – Functions
Along with its new interface, Amazon Fire Stick has seen some hardware updates as well, including a new quad-core processor and improved Wi-Fi.
The new chipset promises to be 30% faster, while the Wi-Fi 802.11ac guarantees a more stable transmission, faster downloads and faster buffering. You will really notice this improvement if your Fire TV Stick is a little further away from your router, thanks to a better performance range.
There is still 8GB of onboard storage for applications and games and the same 1GB RAM as its predecessor, which is enough.
Amazon Fire TV Stick – Performance
When navigating the menus, it is clear that the new quad-core processor has given the Fire TV Stick a welcome boost of power. Certainly, it is easier to navigate and faster to load, as you enter and exit the menus and search for content.
Voice commands work very well for this too. Instead of using the Alexa Wake command as you would in Amazon Echo, press a button on the remote control, hold it and talk.
Whereas previously I had seen remote controls of voice, like Fire TV Box, this is the first time that Alexa is integrated in a Fire TV product. She is much smarter than her standard voice command system, so now there is much more she can do.
The results are fast and for the most part accurate. You can search by actor, genre or movie name, and during my tests, Alexa has not misunderstood a single command.
Even better is the fact that Alexa's features are very similar to Amazon's Echo devices, do not they? so you can control the elements of your smart home too. We have written extensively on the full list of functions of Alexa, our practical Amazon Alexa guide.
That said, some of the suggestions returned are not always as useful as they could be. A search of Brad Pitt offers up to five television shows and movies that do not include the actor at all, before showing films like Seven and Inglourious Basterds. Similarly, a search by Jeremy Clarkson suggests a series of disconnected movies and shows before the Amazon's own The Grand Tour series emerges.
Specific movies or searches of television shows have better results, and offer similar titles and direct matches. The search for The Grand Tour in this way shows Top Gear as it was suggested to look, which makes much more sense.
However, Alexa's talents do not stop there. You can also ask about weather, sports scores, check the news or have it set up a timer. The new functionality also means you can ask it to fast forward or rewind during Amazon shows, which work perfectly. The language you can use to control it is also quite flexible. She will respond to "advance five minutes" in the same way as "jump five minutes", which makes using it much more natural than previous voice control systems.
And, Alexa also allows you to control all your smart home devices, too, in the same way you would use an Echo device.
When controlling smart home devices, it is not necessary to have the TV on either. Simply take the remote control, hold the microphone and place your order, how to turn on the lights, and Alexa handles everything else. This can be a practical way to control your devices if you do not have an Amazon Echo speaker in the same room as your Fire TV.
Related: Which Amazon Echo speaker should I buy?
What happens if you have an Echo in the same room? Well, Amazon has another trick, since you can use the Alexa application to link your Echo to your Fire TV. This allows you to activate the voice search on Fire TV Stick through its smart speaker. In addition, you get pause / playback control, so you can say "Alexa, Pause" and the action on the screen stops. It is true that using the remote control is easier, but if you receive a phone call and can not find the remote control, for example, being able to use your voice is a useful trick.
No matter what you are watching, the playback is stable and buffering is fast; you will only have to settle for a blurry image for one or two seconds before the full resolution is activated and the images look sharp. In comparison, Chromecast takes a little longer to match your image and is not fast enough to load content.
Amazon Related Guide Alexa
Why buy the Fire TV Stick?
The new Amazon Fire Stick does not do anything revolutionary, but it makes a good product even better. And at £ 40, it's only £ 5 more than the original.
Alexa voice commands are an excellent way to navigate, and the extra speed of the new processor and the improved Wi-Fi makes using it very easy.
With the new interface configured to reach older devices later on the line, and with Alexa support too, the owners of the original Fire TV Stick might not find the update immediately needed. However, any Prime subscriber who has not yet made the jump can be very tempted now.
May be subtle improvements, but the new Amazon Fire Stick is much better to have them.