Amazon is going head-to-head this holiday season with Roku and Chromecast with it's new streaming device, the Amazon Fire TV Stick. But does the Fire TV Stick have what it takes to beat the competition?
The Fire TV stick is basically a lower-end and less expensive version of Amazon Fire TV. It's a little bar that plugs into your television's HDMI port that is charged via a micro USB cable. Most impressively is the Fire TV's price. At $39.99, it's easily the best value for streaming TV.
The Fire TV stick comes with accessories, too, including a micro USB cable, as well as an HDMI extender cable, if you need it. There's also a remote, which is small and simple, although you can get a voice search upgrade for the stick for just $29.99. But if you have an Android or iOS device, you can use voice search through an additional app for free.
Setting up the Fire TV stick is simple with steps that walk you through the process that connects your stick to your existing Amazon account. There's also a mandatory tutorial video that shows you how to use the interface, although it's hardly needed. The user interface is a series of tiles in orderly rows that shows you your apps and media. Obviously, the focus is on Amazon Prime, with recommendations, but Amazon Instant Video is also well-represented on the home screen.
Obviously, the Fire TV stick would be useless without third-party apps, such as Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Showtime Anytime, Pandora, Twitch and many others. There are also games that work well with the remote, although you can also get the Fire Game Controller for $39.99.
It's interesting, though, that the one thing that other streamers have that the Amazon Fire TV Stick doesn't is the HBO GO App. It's especially odd considering that Amazon is the only streaming service that has a good relationship with HBO. One can only hope that Amazon adds this app later on.
Obviously, the Fire TV Stick isn't quite the device that Fire TV is. It's not quite as fast, but most users will find that it's fast enough, especially considering its price. YouTube and Netflix load slower than expected, but Amazon Instant Video loads quickly, as does Hulu Plus. Games also run a little slower than on Fire TV, too.
What the Amazon Fire TV stick does best, though, is offer great value at a low price. At $39.99, it's about the same price as Google's Chromecast, but still cheaper than Roku's stick. And with set-top boxes running around $100, the stick is virtually a steal.
The hardware itself also beats the competition. The Fire TV stick offers a dual-core processor with 1 GB of RAM, a lot more power than Google and Roku's sticks, which only have single-core processors and 512 MB of RAM. Fire TV Stick also comes with 8 GB of storage.
So should you buy the Amazon Fire TV stick? If you're a heavy Amazon Prime or Amazon Instant Video user, the answer is definitely yes. If you're looking for an affordable way to stream content from services such as Netflix and Hulu, the answer is still yes. However, if you're a fan of HBO GO, you might want to hold off until that service is available.
The Amazon Fire TV stick packs a lot into a small package for a great price, though. So it's definitely a contender in the streaming market.