Amazon’s Fire TV Stick is a top-of-the-line streamer and at the same time the cheapest stick around. The Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote interface is incredibly fast and snappy, and it also gives access to most of the apps you would need on a regular basis.
Although the foundation is solid here for a solid streaming device, it is a bit inconsistent to be a perfect budget streamer. Yes, it’s got an enormous amount of apps, but has no major streaming service Now TV. While its voice search is also excellent, it can’t search across every app out there.
The device can be frustrating; when it is working it works perfectly, but the nagging inconsistency can spoil the show.
Amazon Fire TV Stick Design
If you have ever used an Amazon Fire TV Stick before then you should know what to expect from this device.
The stick measures 85.9 x 30.0 x 12.6mm, and it is designed to plug directly into the HDMI port on the back of your TV.
Amazon’s Fire TV Stick is a bit wider than the standard HDMI cable, so it is likely that it is too bulky to plug straight into the HDMI port, but Amazon includes a short male-to-female HDMI cable to make it fit nicely.
There is a micro USB port on the side of the Amazon Fire TV Stick for powering the device. If your TV is new then there is a great chance it will have a USB port on the back to power such device, but if not Amazon also provides a power adaptor in the box, and the USB cable that comes along with it should be more than enough to reach your TV’s power strip.
There has been an upgrade to Amazon Fire TV Stick internally. Its Wi-Fi has received an upgrade from 802.11n to a faster 802.11ac standard. The upgrade should allow content to buffer quickly. Its CPU has also jumped from a dual-core to the quad-core. Dolby support has also jumped to 5.1, and its Bluetooth version has been upgraded from 3.0 to 4.1.
Unfortunately, there has been no change to its resolution, which we believe you care the most about i.e., there is no change between the previous Amazon Fire TV Stick and this one.
The remote of this new version of Amazon Fire TV Stick received the biggest change. The six buttons at the bottom are exactly the same as on the previous remote, as well as the four-way nav pad which allows the user to navigate the menu of the device.
But the change is the addition of a voice control button, which user hold down to summon Alexa, which simply allows you to search for the exact show you like without having to use the on-screen keyboard.
You can also use the Fire TV remote on a smart device, which offers an on-screen keyboard that is much faster than typing with the remote. The annoying part is that the keyboard is limited to apps that use Amazon’s own keyboard.
It means that it has its own keyboard built into the software and you won’t be able to use the on-screen keyboards of the apps – instead you will be forced to use the remote to navigate the keyboard on your television screen.
Amazon Fire TV Stick Performance
The Amazon Fire TV Stick has a fast hardware. It is easy and delightfully quick to scroll through menus, and once you click something you want to watch, it loads very fast (depending on your internet connection speed though).
The interface of Amazon Fire TV Stick is straightforward. You can find recently accessed shows and apps on the home screen, and you can scroll up or across to find different apps and content.
Annoyingly, you can’t access the content of some apps from the home screen; you will have to navigate the app first before you can find the content within the app.
Depending on the platform, finding what you want to watch may take a little longer, especially if you are using the Fire TV Stick’s search functionality.
It works well on the platforms supported by Amazon universal search like Netflix and Amazon Prime. You have the options of heading up and left on the main menu to get to the search box and enter film name or TV show on the on-screen keyboard, or simply hold down the voice search button on your remote and mention the name of the content you would like to watch.
If you have used Alexa on the Amazon Echo in the past, you will know it is very accurate voice recognition software. It can understand the show you are looking for almost all the time.
But unfortunately, a lot of streaming services on the Amazon Fire TV Stick are not covered by this universal functionality, making their content harder to find.
Less expensive at $40
Alexa voice commands work well
Can stream video from Amazon, Netflix, Sling TV, HBO, Hulu and other online services
Responsive and charges less for an included voice remote
Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice remote is just $40 on Amazon.
Alexa is less useful than with always-on devices
Aimed heavily at Prime user
The Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote looks like a missed opportunity. The device has so much functionality that should make it easier to use, but only ends up being of immense benefit for Amazon’s video content alone.
If you are watching Netflix or Amazon content, the interface is a dream. It is fast, its voice search works fine, and it is easy to find what you want to watch.
This device is a solid streaming hardware, but it is not the step forward we expect Alexa might have enabled it to be.