Amazon Fire TV

Amazon Fire TV StickThe Android Stick market was changed forever when Amazon entered the scene in 2014. The Amazon Fire TV Stick set a new bar for price, performance and functionality. It also set a new standard for ease of use and setup. For the first time, purchasers with limited technical ability could easily and cheaply and join the rapidly widening world of cord cutters.

Within minutes of unboxing, a Fire TV owner can be watching Movies and TV shows from Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu Youtube and a bevy of others, or listen to music from Pandora, Spotify and IHeartRadio. In addition, with its connection to Amazon Services, users can install and play popular Android games such as Crossy Road, You Don’t Know Jack, The Game of Life, and Flappy Birds.

While the Fire TV components don’t blaze any trails in performance, they are more than competent and in some cases exceed those used by competing sticks. At its heart is a Broadcom implementation of the 1GHz Dual Core ARM A9 and a VideoCore IV GPU (the same chip used in the Raspberry Pi) supporting many popular compressions, including H.264 and outputs to 1080p. The Dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi (MIMO) supports 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi networks. Audio support features Dolby Audio, 5.1 surround sound, 2ch stereo, and HDMI audio pass through up to 7.1. Rounding out the technical details is 1GB of memory and 8GB of internal storage. Ports include HDMI and USB 3.0. All cables, power cord and remote w/batteries are included.

There is now an updated version of the Fire TV Stick on Amazon.

What I like about the Amazon Fire TV

The Out-of-box experience is one of the best I’ve had. Plugging the Fire TV into the HDMI port on my television and turning it on lead me immediately to the Network Settings page where I could configure the Wifi network. After the network is setup, the Fire TV goes automatically into the new user video, explaining many of the features and services of the device. After going through the tutorial, one feels ready to use all the features of the stick.

Fire TV Stick is designed from the start to be a TV device. While there are installed versions of music services and easily installable Android Games, the star here is it’s place as a video streamer. Netflix, Amazon Video, HBO NOW, Sling TV, Hulu and many others come pre-installed and ready for sign-in. Clicking on Netflix with the included remote brought up my user sign-in and within seconds I was able to begin watching the latest episode of my favorite series.

One thing that was quickly apparent on video playback was the ability to playback high quality video with intelligent buffering and limited stuttering, even on my slower Internet connection. I’ve noticed a tendency for Youtube and other video services to pause and buffer frequently on my other devices, but the Fire TV handled streaming much more intelligently, moving in and out of high definition without interruption.

Because the device is made for and sold by Amazon, it includes integrated connection to all of Amazon services including the App store and Amazon Prime, making it easy to add new content from a variety of sources.

Overall I would give the Fire TV Stick 4.5 out of 5 stars and the half point deduction is only due to a few minor details I’ve listed in the Pros and Cons below. For price, performance and ease of use the Fire TV Stick is certainly among todays top choices.

Company Product Information

Amazon.com, was founded in 1994. They are one of the world’s leading electronics retailers. Their products are manufactured and sold around the world. They have a reputation for high quality products and superior service.

In the summer of 2014 they began production of the dual core Android Mini PC known as the Fire TV Stick and their line of Android Mini PC’s has grown to several addition models including a gaming-specific version.

What’s in the Box

  • Fire TV Stick
  • Amazon Fire TV Remote
  • 5′ USB cable and power adapter
  • HDMI extender cable
  • 2 AAA batteries
  • Quick Start Guide

Here’s a nice and introduction video to give you an idea of what it looks like and how it looks when it’s connected to your tv and operating.

Unbox

Features, Specs and Tech Details

  • Broadcom, Dual-core 2xARM A9 up to 1 GHz
  • Broadcom/VideoCore4 GPU for high quality video playback and 3D gaming
  • 1GB RAM, 8GB Internal Flash Storage
  • Built in Dual Band, Dual Antenna 802.11 b/g/n/a WiFi wireless network access
  • HDMI and Micro USB
  • Wireless Remote
Screen Resolution 1080p
Max Screen Resolution 1080P
RAM 1 GB SDRAM DDR3
Disk 8GB
Graphics VideoCore IV GPU
Wireless 802.11a,b,g,n
Bluetooth 4.0
Number of USB Ports 1 (Mini USB 3.0)
Dimensions 3.3 x 1 x .5 Inches
Weight ~ 50 grams
Color Black
Power 5V 2A (via Micro USB port)

Pros

  • Simple to setup
  • Easy-to-use interface for access to content and settings
  • High Definition (1080p) streaming video from Youtube, Netflix, and HBO Go
  • Intelligent buffering
  • Amazon Prime integration

Cons

  • Some users have complained about WiFi reception
  • Single USB port
  • Limited Expansion possibilities.
  • Google Play not available for install

 

Comparison

Compared to other offerings by competitors, the Fire TV Stick is a leap forward in ease of use and accessibility. It isn’t the most powerful unit on the market, but excellent performance at an entry level price make it a great choice.

Tips/FAQ

Controls
Playing games on the Fire TV stick is limited by the included controller. I found it difficult to play anything but the simplest of games with the remote. If you want to play games, buy the gaming controller or upgrade to the Amazon Fire TV box.

Infrared remote controls do not work with the Fire TV Stick. However, Logitech’s Harmony Hub and Harmony Home products are compatible with both Fire TV and Fire TV Stick. For more details, google “Harmony experience with Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick”.

Content
You must have an existing Netflix subscription in order to view Netflix content on your Fire TV Stick. In general, if you normally have to pay a subscription to access a streaming service, that subscription is required in order for you to stream content via the Fire TV Stick. The same goes for Amazon Prime.

Power
This device uses a USB power connector. The Fire TV requires an amount of power usually not provided in standard USB ports. It will probably not work when connected to a TV or Monitor USB port and requires a wall outlet.

Who is the product for?

The Amazon Fire TV Stick is first and foremost a streaming video player suitable for inexperienced users. For those who are looking for an inexpensive and simple Android TV device, it can serve as the center of a powerful media hub in your living room, or provide a secondary media device for a game or child’s room. Connected to a suitable sound system it can also provide an excellent home audio experience.

Some customer reviews:

Set up was easy and straight forward. I find that the interface is quick and easy to use. The interface and streaming on the Stick is much faster than the Amazon app built into my HDTV. This fact alone made this a great purchase.

I want to pretend that my life doesn’t sorta revolve around this thing, but let’s be real… It’s inexpensive, it’s highly portable, it gets all the channels I want & then some. Definitely recommend.

It makes me want to downgrade my cable service and use the fire stick more often.

This is the end all be all of unlimited entertainment!! On top of all the normal features and apps it has, it has open developer’s options!!

Review

Verdict (conclusion)

In conclusion, I’d recommend the Fire TV Stick as an inexpensive and easy-to-use solution for those who want a straightforward way to connect to their favorite streaming media from Amazon and other major providers.

There is a new version of the Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote.