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Amazon Fire TV Stick review

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Amazon Fire TV Stick
  • Amazon Fire TV Stick
  • Amazon Fire TV Stick 2017
  • Amazon Fire TV Stick
  • Amazon Fire TV Stick 2017
  • Fire TV Stick with Alexa
  • Amazon Fire TV stick interface
  • Amazon Fire TV stick with Alexa

Summary

Our Score:

9

Pros

  • Faster and more stable
  • Alexa voice commands work well
  • Much-improved interface
  • Well priced

Cons

  • Aimed heavily at Prime users
  • Some Alexa results could be better

Key Features

  • Alexa voice control (remote included)
  • Upgraded 802.11ac Wi-fi
  • Quad-core CPU
  • Updated user interface
  • 1080p
  • Manufacturer: Amazon
  • Review Price: £40.00

What is the Fire TV Stick (2017)?

The new Amazon Fire TV Stick is the service’s second generation of its cheapest video streaming device. It aims itself squarely at rivals such as Google Chromecast Ultra and Roku Streaming Stick, squeezing all of its streaming know-how into a dongle-sized device.

You can stream full HD video from Amazon Prime, as well as Netflix and the full roster of the UK’s catch up services. There are plenty more apps besides, including Prime Music and Spotify, plus access to Amazon’s growing games library.

So, what’s new? For a start, the interface has had a complete overhaul to make it look a lot prettier and easier to use. This will filter down to older devices over time though, as will the Alexa voice control, so the real benefits of the new Stick are its faster processor and improved Wi-Fi.

Related: Amazon Echo review

Amazon Fire TV Stick (2017) – Design and build

The Amazon Fire TV Stick looks a bit like a memory stick on steroids and is designed to plug straight into an HDMI port on your TV. It’s a neat all-in-one design housed in plastic. It will creak a little if squeezed, but feels tough enough for purpose.

At 9cm long and around 3cm deep, it will need a bit of room on your TV back panel though, particularly when you consider making room for its micro USB cable power supply. Thankfully if this is too much of a squeeze, Amazon includes an HDMI extender in the box to free up some space.

The accompanying remote is the same one that you’ll find included with the pricier Fire TV box. It’s pretty simple, offering a D-pad for navigation, a handful of playback controls and the all-important voice input key. It’s nice that this is included now, although the iOS and Android app does an equally good job and can activate the same Alexa commands.

Amazon Fire TV Stick (2017) – Set up and interface

Setting up your Fire TV Stick is really simple. Just plug it into a spare HDMI slot on your TV, and its USB cable into a power source. Some on-screen instructions will get your Alexa remote paired and the Fire TV Stick hooked up to your home network. Once you’re signed into your Amazon account, you’re ready to go.

If you’re familiar with the previous Fire TV Stick, you’ll notice immediately that the interface has been redesigned. The main navigation menu has moved from the side to along the top, and a new picture-led carousel with suggested content dominates the top half of the screen. The idea is that the Fire TV Stick will learn your viewing habits over time and tailor this to you, with video teasers to draw you in. During a week’s testing, the selection it surfaced improved to include programmes and films I’d be more likely to choose, including content from other providers like Netflix.

Detail pages have been improved too, with a large picture backdrop and more in-depth programme information. Once you start to watch a show, clicking upwards on the remote will open up Amazon’s X-Ray IMDb feature, for finding about more about the cast.

Besides downloading apps, I found the homepage was the only place I needed to be. In a side-scrolling menu beneath the carousel, you’ll find your recent shows and apps for quick access. Beneath that, you can browse and organise your downloaded apps, scroll through several menus of Prime suggested content, and even one for Netflix (subscription dependent).

Amazon Fire TV stick interface

That’s what’s particularly refreshing about this version of the Fire TV Stick. While Amazon Prime content is still its bread and butter (and dominates its menus) it's not as difficult to find content from other providers as it was before.

For example, Amazon Prime offers Breaking Bad as a paid-for box set, whereas it’s free to watch on Netflix. If you search for it, Fire TV will suggest you watch it on Netflix first, with the option to buy it in a “More Ways To Watch” menu. It feels more like it’s working for the user, and not for itself, which is how it should be.

It’s still very much a device aimed at Prime subscribers though, and I’d certainly recommend signing up for the service to get the most out of it. With its new monthly subscription option (£7.99/$8.99 per month), it’s much more accessible now too. If you’re not interested in Prime, you may well find you’re better serviced by a Chromecast or similar streaming stick.

Related: Nvidia Shield review

Amazon Fire TV Stick (2017) – Features

Alongside its new interface, the Amazon Fire TV Stick has seen some hardware upgrades too, including a new quad-core processor and improved Wi-Fi.

The new chipset promises to be 30% quicker, while the 802.11ac Wi-Fi ensures more stable streaming, quicker downloads and faster buffering. You’ll really notice this improvement if your Fire TV Stick is a little further away from your router too, thanks to a better performance range.

There’s still 8GB of on-board storage for apps and games and the same 1GB RAM as its predecessor, which is enough.

Amazon Fire TV Stick (2017) – Performance

Scrolling through the menus, it’s clear that the new quad-core processor has given the Fire TV Stick a welcome boost of power. It certainly feels slicker to browse and faster to load, as you flick in and out of menus and search for content.

Voice commands work really well for this too. Rather than using the Alexa wake command as you would on the Amazon Echo, you press a button on the remote, hold it in and speak.

While I’ve seen voice remotes before, with the likes of the Fire TV Box, this is the first time that Alexa has been built into a Fire TV product. She’s a lot cleverer than your standard voice command system, so there’s now much more you can do.

The results are fast and for the most part accurate. You can search by actor, genre or film name, and during my tests, Alexa hasn’t misunderstood a single command.

Amazon Fire TV stick with Alexa

That said, some of the returned suggestions aren’t always as helpful as they could be. A search for Brad Pitt offers up five TV shows and movies that don’t feature the actor at all, before bringing up movies like Seven and Inglourious Basterds. Similarly, a search for Jeremy Clarkson suggests a number of unconnected films and shows before it surfaces Amazon’s own The Grand Tour series.

Specific movie or TV show searches fare much better though, and offer up similar titles as well direct matches. Searching for The Grand Tour this way brings up Top Gear as suggested watching, which makes much more sense.

Alexa’s talents don’t stop there though. You can also ask her about the weather, sports scores, check in on the news or get her to set a timer. New functionality also means you can ask her to fast forward or rewind during Amazon shows, which works seamlessly.

The language you can use to control her is also pretty flexible. She’ll respond to “fast forward five minutes” in the same way she does “skip ahead five minutes”, which makes using it feel much more natural than previous voice control systems.

No matter what you’re watching, playback is stable and buffering is fast – you’ll only have to make do with a fuzzy picture for a second or two before the full resolution kicks in and pictures look crisp. By comparison, Chromecast takes a little longer to even out its picture and isn’t quite as fast to load content.

Related: Best TV round up

Fire TV Stick with Alexa

Should I buy the Fire TV Stick (2017)?

The new Fire TV Stick doesn’t do anything revolutionary, but it does make a good product even better. And at £40, it’s only £5 more than the original, and that's bound to drop once Black Friday comes around.

The Alexa voice commands are a great way to navigate, and the extra speed from the new processor and improved Wi-Fi makes using it a breeze.

With the new interface set to come to older devices later down the line, and Alexa support too, owners of the original Fire TV Stick might not find the upgrade immediately necessary. However, any Prime subscriber that hasn’t made the jump as yet may find themselves very tempted now.

View now at Amazon

Verdict

They might be subtle improvements, but the new Fire TV Stick is all the better for having them.

Overall Score

9

BogBeast

May 21, 2015, 3:03 pm

and now its £25

Matthew Bunton

May 22, 2015, 7:45 pm

I haven't seen Flat Eric in quite some time :)

torjs99

May 24, 2015, 8:29 am

rehab

Amit Aggarwal

May 26, 2015, 8:02 am

Cons: Needs to be plugged in all the time - what on earth does that mean?!

MP

March 28, 2016, 9:15 pm

Sideload Kodi and there's enough to occupy your time than the apps in the Amazon app store. I use it with a Smart DNS to access Zattoo Switzerland live tv and recordings.

Phil

October 29, 2016, 5:05 pm

It means it's powered via a plug rather than USB meaning it's not as sleek looking as you'd maybe like

Vera Walters

November 21, 2016, 2:47 pm

Can it be used in Spain

Ladybird

December 1, 2016, 8:38 am

Changed our router and also lost the firestick remote so using firestick remote App on iPhone and iPad won't work because they are on the network of the new router and the Firestick thinks it's on the old one. A new firestick on the way. 2 Questions: (1) can I use the 'new' remote with the old firestick to change the network settings and (2) After that, can I somehow clone the old one using PC to copy the files onto the new one?

notfookingtaken

December 2, 2016, 6:03 pm

Crap review I have no idea what this is.

Pat Olsen

January 29, 2017, 5:37 pm

I love my Amazon Fire Stick and use it mainly for Netflix. I use it frequently but now I have a problem. I have to remove the Fire Stick from the back of my T.V. when I want to just watch T.V. I have been doing this for over a year with in problem, but now I cannot get sound on my T.V. Always have sound when watching Netflix but can't get it when I just want to watch T.V. What can I do????

I love Chickn n Waddymelon

February 7, 2017, 5:08 pm

Women belong in the Kitchen https://uploads.disquscdn.c...

Observer

March 31, 2017, 6:25 am

Fairly simple. I bought mine from ebay "jailbroken". It is plug and play yet I am somewhat disheartened that much of the content is offered for sale as I was originally lead to believe it was free. Still a good value, but I have been hoping for better. I will continue to research other comparables and if I find one but it.

jimmy

April 12, 2017, 8:32 am

more rehashed articles with completely irrelevant out of date comments? SORT IT OUT. stop being lazy and publish new articles!!

Gareth Burleigh

April 12, 2017, 9:50 am

I think they are past caring. It all about the ad clicks from unsubstantiated Apple rumours now sadly

SLOrat

April 23, 2017, 12:38 am

Sorry, but Amazon's remote with rechargeable batteries didn't last more than two months. And there are no buttons on your TV to get Amazon's home screen to show up. It was great while it lasted. Do we need to buy a new remote every two months?

Michael Cooper

April 24, 2017, 4:15 pm

Now the menu on the side has gone where do I find SEARCH?

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