|At a Glance|
|Product||Amazon Fire Stick [Website]|
|Summary||Compact version of Amazon Fire TV media streamer|
|Pros||• Dual band wireless (N600)
• Supports voice search
• Arrives pre-registered to your Amazon account for simple setup
|Cons||• Voice search only works for Amazon Prime and Hulu Plus & requires app or optional remote
• No support for DLNA media servers
• No iOS remote app (yet)
• Popular channels like HBOGo, TED, Picasa and VUDU currently not available
This April, with the introduction of the Fire TV, Amazon jumped into the media streaming hardware market with both feet. It seemed like for weeks that you couldn't turn on your TV without seeing an Amazon ad featuring Gary Busey demonstrating, in his own inimitable style, the Fire TV's voice search feature. I reviewed the Fire TV and concluded the voice search feature worked well, but the streamer definitely pushed Amazon products.
On October 27, Amazon announced its second media streamer - the Amazon Fire TV Stick. I ordered one on the day it was announced, but finally received it on November 30th. Still, that was an improvement over the originally scheduled delivery date of December 11th. (The Stick is sold out through the Holidays this year.)
The Amazon Fire TV is a high end streamer designed to compete with the Roku 3 and Apple TV. The Fire TV Stick has a dongle form factor and is designed to compete with the Roku Streaming Stick, and, to a lesser extent, Google's Chromecast. Amazon's web site provides a comparison of how they feel the Stick stacks up against the competition. Bear in mind that the chart is Amazon's marketing material, but the top level data contained within the chart appears to be correct.
Amazon's comparison of its Fire TV Stick to the competition
The Fire TV Stick is a plain, black rectangular stick with a matte finish that has an HDMI connector on one end. On the top side, there's a micro USB port for power. I'm not sure that the is the best location for the power connector, as, depending on the layout of the HDMI ports on your HDTV, the power cable might block adjacent HDMI ports, or, at a minimum, might cause you to re-arrange the inputs for multiple devices. By comparison, the micro-USB ports on the Chromecast and Roku Streaming Stick are located on the end where they won't interfere with adjacent HDMI ports.
The Fire TV Stick is devoid of LED indicators to provide status and connection information. Since it is in a stick format, you also give up the Optical audio, wired Ethernet and USB ports (currently not used) found on the rear panel of the Fire TV.
Amazon Fire TV Stick dimensions
The included remote is very similar to the remote included with the Fire TV. The only difference is the Stick's remote lacks a microphone and "push to talk" button. But the Fire TV Stick is fully compatible with the Fire TV's remote and supports the voice search feature. Amazon sells the voice remote for $29.99, but that drives the total cost of the package up to ~ $70.
Some of the consumer reviews on the Amazon site felt that Amazon should have a separate SKU which packages the Fire TV Stick with a voice remote. I agree. It doesn't really make too much sense to purchase a $39 device only to spend $30 more for a single feature and end up with a useless spare remote.
The remote for the Fire TV Stick, like the remote for the Fire TV, uses Bluetooth to communicate, so direct line of sight, needed by IR controllers isn't necessary. This makes the Fire TV, as well as the Roku Streaming Stick, which uses Wi-Fi Direct wireless technology, ideal for squirreling away in an equipment rack. As noted in the Fire TV review, I found the ring navigation with the center select button easier to use than the remote for the Roku 3 which has four directional buttons with the "OK" key located below the navigation keys.