It almost looked too good to be accurate when Amazon first launched the Fire TV Stick in late 2014.
The thumbnail-sized device guaranteed more power than the latest Roku carton and also a better app collection than Apple TV at less than half the cost of either. It was just a little pricier than Google’s Chromecast dongle, yet it managed to include a remote control that is proper and on screen interface. Despite some early launch bugs and quirks, it was a fantastic way to make your TV on the cheap.
Cut to 2016, and the competition has gotten tougher. Roku has refreshed its entire hardware line, for instance, newest Streaming Stick, making everything much quicker. And while Chromecast has only found minor hardware advancements, the remote-free strategy has permitted it to endure the test of time in just about any living-room.
Available on Amazon and elsewhere). While many of its own first headaches have cleared up, it appears well-equipped to handle services that are streaming that are modern. It urgently requires a hardware refresh, although at best, it’s an economical path to Amazon Prime video on your own TV.
Above all else, the Fire TV Stick feels for seeing Amazon Prime videos optimized. Unlike other media streamers, Fire TV devices don’t possess a committed Amazon app. Instead, Amazon videos are right embedded on the house screen and so are usually among the most effective results in search. As a result of this—ahem—prime positioning, you’ll probably get sucked into seeing tons of Amazon content.
In comparison to the Fire TV set-top box, the Fire TV Stick intensifies this effect. Jumping into Amazon content believes easy and quick, but other apps that are accessing believes tiresome since the chip is slower. Click down to the Programs section, for instance, and you’ll probably need to wait a couple of seconds before everything loads.
Using those third-party programs can be much more frustrating. Chip-intensive programs such as for example PlayStation Vue and Sling TV can take more than 10 seconds to load, during which time the Fire TV Stick may treat you to a display that is clean. If the device has crashed in such instants, you could question. Interaction within programs could be poor as well, with bits of stutter and slowdown that add as much as discouragement over time. (Tubi.TV is a particularly egregious example, as its efforts to load cover art along with each film makes the Fire TV Stick freeze up with every tap of the directional pad.)
One performance problem that is other: The Fire TV Stick merely manages video at 30 frames per second, which implies you don’t get easy motion in sports scheduling from PlayStation Vue and MLB.TV. Roku’s Streaming Stick and Google’s Chromecast don’t have any difficulty supporting 60-frames-per-second video.
Trying to find program support
It’s an alternative worth choosing, if only because the voice remote’s contoured layout is more comfortable as opposed to typical remote and more sturdy. Voice search is also helpful for navigating Amazon’s huge catalog of films, videos, and music.
When you’re not consuming Amazon content as using the key interface, however, the usefulness of voice search quickly tapers off. Amazon’s merchandise page for the Fire TV Stick lists Vevo, Hulu, HBO Now, HGTV, and Showtime as working with voice search; I’ve also had chance with Showtime Anytime, HBO Go, and Crackle. Still, there’s no support from Netflix, the vast majority of TV Everywhere apps, or lesser-known programs like SnagFilms. Other devices for example Roku and Apple TV have jumped forward in getting third-parties on board.
Even when voice search does support a third party program, this fact is frequently concealed behind a “More Ways to Watch” button, while rental and purchase choices are advertised up-front. It looks Amazon is more interested in peddling its own on-demand sales and subscriptions than advising users about alternatives that are potentially free.
Through Alexa, questions can be asked by you, control your smart-home devices, play with music from streaming sources like Pandora, and order information from Amazon. It doesn’t feel quite as magical as the Echo with no hands free component, but it’s fine having the ability find out the entire box score of a baseball game on the big screen and to affirm a Prime order.
Taking stock of the sticks
Should anyone purchase the Fire TV Stick? Perhaps, if you’re looking to spend as very little as feasible to find the best experience with Amazon Prime Video. Just keep in mind that the Fire TV set-top box is a much more capable and substantially faster device. It’ll cost more upfront, but won’t be crying for replacement any moment soon.
On the cheaper side, the newest Roku Streaming Stick (version 3600R) is a better all-around choice. Not all of its programs are as pretty as their Fire TV counterparts, but they’re less prone to performance hangups. Google’s Chromecast is a fine choice as well, provided you’re happy to utilize tablet computer, your mobile, or laptop as the remote control. Because all the app navigation happens on a display that is secondary, functionality is likely be a non issue, plus it just gets better as you upgrade to newer and more rapid cellphones.
Amazon will probably release a new variation of the Fire TV Stick later this year. The present merchandise is approaching two years old—the same age at which its $100 Fire TV set refreshed -top box last year. The Fire TV Stick was an admirable merchandise in 2014, but now it seems ill-equipped for the increasingly sophisticated state of streaming video.