Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote review: A peppier central processing unit makes this streamer rewarding
Before Amazon’s second-generation Fire TV Stick showed up for review, I thought it could be the affordable streaming device to overcome. Amazon has claimed a 30 percent performance increase over the original Fire TV Stick, whose biggest problem was sluggishness. Programs were prone to bouts of stuttering and freezing, and took a long time to load. The device didn’t look built to last in an age of increasingly sophisticated streaming apps such as PlayStation Vue and Sling TV.
The 2016 Fire TV Stick—still priced at $40—eases those dilemmas, but it does they are completely solved by n’t. And while interface and Amazon’s apps are forward-thinking, they lack a number of Google’s Chromecast worth contemplating and or the nice touches that make competing devices including the latest Roku Streaming Stick.
A mild upgrade
In comparison with the first-generation Fire TV Stick, the 2016 variation is somewhat larger, not that the size issues substantially.
There’s a new 1.3GHz quad-core processor inside, a step up from 1.0GHz dual-core in the first Fire TV Stick. The hardware upgrade is enough to keep dwelling display animations running easily, and also to prevent the more egregious performance hang ups that made particular programs borderline unusable using the prior Fire TV Stick.
An HDMI extension cable is included in case any ports that are nearby are blocked by the stick.
Where the new stick struggles that said, you might see times. HBO Go, for example, appears particularly stutter-inclined, and app loading times all together can border on annoying. PlayStation Vue is one of the offenders that are bigger, taking around 20 seconds to get up and running.
On the other hand, the Vue program on Fire TV is much superior to the Roku variant complete.
Amazon has additionally upgraded the Wifi to 802.11ac. It’s possible this feature isn’t whole yet.
The other big improvement is in the remote: You get a voice-enabled “Alexa” remote by default. (Amazon was selling this as a $10 upgrade with the old Fire TV Stick.) The newest remote is comfier and has a more premium feel than the prior default remote, also it empowers some powerful software features that I’ll dive into after. On the downside, it still doesn’t have any kind of built in volume control, so you’ll should keep the TV remote (or a Sideclick) easy.
At this time, there’s not much point in critiquing the Fire TV Stick user interface, because it’s about to get a significant facelift. But even from then on occurs, the typical thought isn’t going to change: Amazon is more interested in pulling film and TV recommendations onto the home screen than pushing you out to heaps of siloed apps.
This used to mean that Amazon would simply bombard you with recommendations from its Prime video service, scattering thumbnails over the great majority of the principal menu. While promising more streaming services to come last month, nevertheless, Amazon added HBO and Netflix Go recommendations to the dwelling display. This emphasis on content over apps is how streaming video should operate, and Amazon has traveled further down that road than anyone else.
Its recommendations are no longer limited by the Fire TV home screen to Amazon Video.
Amazon has also bulked up its voice managements, adding new content sources (including Netflix) and an ever-expanding list of skills via its Alexa virtual helper. You can use the voice remote control light bulbs and your smart thermostat, call an Uber, to play music, or order more diapers, among other things.
Regrettably, some old criticisms of Amazon’s voice search haven’t gone away: Amazon still hides alternative content sources behind a “more ways to see” button, and there’s no way to get a quick look at which seasons of a show are available on which flowing service. And while Alexa is great at hunting down movies shows, celebrities, directors and apps, it’s lacking the advanced genre search powers of Apple TV. Failure to integrate with other Alexa devices additionally may seem like a missed opportunity, with no method to synchronize music or tell Amazon Echo to start playing a video.
Playing music on the Fire TV Stick is nice, but whole-home sound via Amazon Echos would be finer.
Elevating the stick game
Amazon’s first Fire TV Stick got a middling review the past time we checked in on it, as competing devices had raised the bar for media streamers that were affordable.
The most recent Roku Streaming Stick, as an example, is a superb value at $50. Even though it lacks Amazon’s high quality programs and forward-thinking interface, and it does n’t incorporate a voice remote, it feels a lot faster than even the new Fire TV Stick. It also has some smart flourishes including private headphone listening through your smartphone, of its own, and a committed “rewind 10 seconds with closed captions” button.
And then there is Google’s Chromecast that is $35. It doesn’t want to, although it hasn’t changed a whole lot. By offloading navigation to the apps on your own phone or tablet, low-cost hardware is enabled by Chromecast without compromise. In addition, it incorporates with Google’s new smart- home device, Google Dwelling, much more efficiently than the Fire TV incorporates with Amazon’s Echo. (We’ll have a hands on review of the new 4K Chromecast Ultra shortly.)
The second-generation Amazon Fire TV Stick doesn’t mop the floor with its adversaries, but its hardware has improved enough—and its user interface has advanced enough—to nudge the marketplace ahead while at the same time making your purchasing decision a bit more agonizing.