I bought the Amazon Fire TV and reviewed it back in April. The Fire TV has a lot going for it – powerful hardware, quality build, and an easy-to-navigate interface. Amazon takes all of the great features of their Fire TV and strips it all down in order to produce them as cheaply as possible. Unfortunately, the quality suffers as does the experience.
The Fire TV Stick must still be plugged into a wall outlet using the provided AC adapter and an included USB-to-microUSB cable to provide power. It also comes with an HDMI extension in case the stick won’t fit in the space allotted the HDMI slot on your television.
The Fire TV and Fire TV Stick make any TV into a Smart TV – allowing you to stream the Amazon Prime video, photos, and music library, Netflix, Hulu Plus, and other services. Where the Fire TV blew its competition besides full HTPCs out of the water when it came to the hardware components, the Stick slumps into mediocrity. The game playing capability is diminished to “casual games” even though it has more RAM and processing power compared to the Google Chromecast and the Roku Streaming Stick. The Wi-Fi on the device has also complained about the connection quality where nothing else has, leading to buffering during playback or even dumping you back to the menu to navigate to your show again.
The benefits of the Fire TV Stick can be summarized with two points: no HDMI cable needed and its price of $39. For all other reasons, you should get the Fire TV for $69 more. The Fire TV Stick is most noticeably cheaper in the build of the remote. While the Fire TV remote is solid and comfortably curved, the Fire TV Stick remote lacks the voice support and feels like cheap plastic as it flexes in your hand. If you prefer, you can buy a full Fire TV remote for $30 to gain voice support. Alternatively, you may use your smartphone with the Fire TV Remote app for a keyboard and voice searching.
If the Fire TV Stick could draw enough power from the HDMI port, I could see it winning some points for portability. Instead, it aimed solely to become as cheap as possible. The hardware is lesser, the remote is cheap and forgettable, it has no Ethernet option, nor optical audio output. The price difference between the Fire TV and the Fire TV Stick comes to $60 or 7.5 months of subscribing to Netflix, so I understand it could be worth treating the price as an anchor. It’s just very unfortunate that the responsiveness of the interface and the network quality suffers in the new form factor for Amazon’s entertainment device.
I managed to pick up the Fire TV Stick on the day it was announced and Amazon had a discounted price for Prime members at $19. It was a hard to resist price point. All said and done, I would have not bought the Fire TV Stick and instead would have picked up the Fire TV when it was $69 on Cyber Monday. Given Prime shipping and the delay to receiving the Fire TV Stick, I actually would have received the Fire TV only the day after the Stick arrived.
If you have Amazon Prime and are interested in the content available for Prime Instant Streaming, you should check out the Fire TV for $99. If you want to save the money, you can pick up the more limited Fire TV Stick for $39 typically. Like the Fire TV, the Fire TV stick is still for those in the Amazon ecosystem but if you can afford it, you would appreciate the greater capabilities of the Fire TV.