October 27, 2014 — Amazon has taken its Fire TV set-top steaming media box and compressed it down into the brand new Fire TV Stick. Basically, it includes most of the functionality of Amazon’s Fire TV at a streaming stick-competitive price — about $39. It will stream from Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Instant Video, covering the three core streaming media subscription services.
Better still, today and tomorrow only (October 27-28, 2014), Amazon is offering the Fire TV Stick to existing (or new) Prime members for a jaw-dropping $19.
I own and use both an Apple TV as well as a Fire TV, and at $19, I just ordered a Fire TV Stick. Why?
As an Amazon Prime customer, in order to watch a TV show as part of my Amazon Prime subscription via my Apple TV, which is connected to my HDTV in the living room, I have to start the video on my iPhone via the Amazon Instant Video app then use AirPlay to stream the show from my iPhone to the Apple TV. That means my iPhone is draining the battery or I have to plug it in. It works surprisingly well, but by no means is it a fantastic customer experience for doing something as simple as watching an Amazon Prime Video. (Consumers are caught in the middle of Amazon and Apple being competitors here.)
So, for Amazon Prime customers especially, the Fire TV Stick a compelling option — even for generally happy Apple TV owners like me. The popular Roku Streaming Stick, by the way, is about $50.
In terms of hardware specs, the Fire TV Stick boasts 1GB of memory and 8GB of storage and runs a dual-core processor. Google Chromecast has 512MB of memory, 2GB of storage, and a single-core processor. The Roku Streaming Stick is similar with 512MB of memory and 256MB of storage.
As for games, the Fire TV Stick will play more than 200 while the Roku will play less than 100 and the Chromecast less than 30. Games are a minor point of owning a streaming media player right now, but they can be a nice diversion now and then.
The Fire TV Stick remote is a smaller version of the Fire TV voice remote, offering similar abilities with the notable exception of voice-based search. To use voice-based search, you’ll need to buy the better remote or use a free smartphone app for Fire devices, Android devices, or iOS devices (iOS app coming soon).
The Fire TV Stick will stream movies up to 1080p HD with Dolby Digital Plus surround sound up to 7.1.
Here’s one last feature that is pretty cool — the Fire TV Stick arrives pre-registered to your Amazon account and sets up quickly because of it. Nice.
All-in-all, if you’re an Amazon Prime customer, the Fire TV Stick is a no-brainer. Definitely handy to have for the HDTV in your living room, a second TV in the house, or even something to take when you travel.