Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite review: Capable streamer, cheap price


Roku is the most important title in streaming {hardware}, with multiple different streamers out there proper now, and much more TVs and soundbars. Amazon has been gunning for Roku’s slice of the pie ever because the first Fire TV appeared. The $30 Amazon Fire TV Lite is the corporate’s most cost-effective streamer, a solution to the $30 Roku Express and as you’d count on its largest benefit over Roku is the Alexa voice assistant.

Like

  • Dirt-cheap
  • Includes Alexa voice distant
  • Wide vary of streaming apps, together with HBO Max
  • Integrates nicely with Echo audio system

Don’t Like

  • Voice instructions do not work with each app
  • More complicated menus than Roku
  • HDR with out 4K is kinda pointless

Amazon additionally has a $40 Fire Stick however I might argue that the Fire Stick TV Lite is the higher deal. The important distinction is that the costlier Stick has a distinct distant with energy, quantity and mute buttons to manage your TV. If you are solely utilizing this streamer on a cheap TV anyway, it is value saving the cash, except you really need TV management.

So is the $30 Fire TV Lite higher than the $30 Roku Express? They principally have the identical collection of apps, now that Fire TV has Peacock, so the essential variations are within the menu programs and voice assist. The Lite’s built-in entry to Alexa is an enormous benefit when you like talking as a substitute of typing whenever you seek for reveals and launch apps. In the tip, I appreciated the Fire TV Lite a bit higher, though the Roku Express continues to be a wonderful selection too. If your TV has an HDMI port, the Fire TV Stick Lite is an effective way to equip it with a wealth of streaming for not a lot cash.

What is it?


Sarah Tew/CNET

The Fire TV Lite is a USB stick-sized machine which plugs right into a spare HDMI port in your TV. For 30 bucks it presents numerous options, together with that devoted voice distant that permits integration with the Alexa voice assistant. There’s additionally dozens of supported streaming services amongst its 1000’s of obtainable apps.

The distant hasn’t bodily modified a lot because the first Fire TV and I did not like the texture as a lot because the Roku distant or the new Google TV distant. Amazon’s clicker additionally lacks the shortcuts to Netflix or different often-used providers, but it surely does embrace a brand new reside TV button. 

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The Lite distant ought to look acquainted to Fire TV customers.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Pressing that new backside button brings up a grid-style reside TV information populated by default with “channels” of free reveals from Pluto TV and Starz. Strangely Amazon’s personal IMDb TV is just not a part of the reside TV grid, though it has its personal program grid when you open the app. If you occur to subscribe to YouTube TV, you may additionally see reveals and channels from that service within the information, though it did not work with Sling TV (subscribers must use the Sling app as traditional).

The stick itself comes with an influence adapter which Amazon strongly recommends you employ. While you may use the USB ports in your machine to energy it I discovered it may trigger the unit may behave unusually. For instance, Dolby Atmos content material would not work in any respect when plugged right into a TV USB port, regardless of the machine declaring “Dolby Atmos” — the sound got here out as 5.1.

One function on the Lite’s function checklist appears slightly misplaced: HDR compatibility. This is the primary machine we have seen to supply HDR however not 4K resolution, and it raises the query of what sort of TV it is designed for. There are tons of of 4K HDR TVs on the market however, based mostly on a search of the Best Buy website, there are solely four 1080p TVs that can do HDR. For most individuals with 4K HDR TVs, we might advocate getting a streamer that may really do 4K as a substitute of a 1080p streamer just like the Lite.

Lots of streaming apps

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The Fire TV Lite helps a variety of apps.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Like different streaming gadgets the variety of providers that Amazon Fire TV helps is enhancing on a regular basis. It can entry virtually the entire main streaming apps, together with Amazon Prime Video ($9 at Amazon), Peacock, HBO Max, Netflix, Hulu, Sling TV, Crackle, Pluto TV, Tubi TV, Amazon Music, Pandora, Spotify and plenty of, many extra. 

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The new Live button on the distant summons a grid-style program information.


Ty Pendlebury/CNET

What it is like to make use of

The wholesome complement of options, tightly built-in voice instructions and its relative velocity makes for a profitable mixture. In normal opening apps was speedy, and solely navigating the house web page tiles may give a really occasional slow-down, however nothing that spoiled the expertise. 

Using the Fire TV Stick Lite distant is straightforward, and Alexa searches with the microphone button had been extra responsive and related than utilizing the Echo as a go-between. Only every now and then did I want for a mute button, and that was normally throughout the autoplay movies that accompany the tiles on the house web page.

I appreciated with the ability to use both the distant or an Alexa speaker for voice instructions, however utilizing an Echo speaker did not work with each app I attempted. Asking for “Umbrella Academy” on Netflix failed, for instance, and I simply bought a “check your skills” message (there’s no official Netflix skill within the Alexa app). 

Using the distant as a substitute of a speaker was extra profitable, however even that wasn’t infallible. Given that YouTube TV is now tightly built-in I hoped that voice search would work higher than it does. For occasion I requested for “Battle Bots on YouTube TV” and all I bought had been YouTube and Amazon “buy” hyperlinks. Amazon Prime video labored nicely with Alexa voice, nevertheless.

In distinction, Roku could not have the identical sturdy voice capabilities, however textual content and voice searches through the Roku distant are typically extra focused towards the free/included packages moderately than merely pointing to “buy now” hyperlinks.  

Picture and sound high quality had been additionally excellent, however the lack of an audio format management past “Best Available” may result in some odd issues. For instance, The Legend of Korra on Netflix utilizing the Lite solely gave me stereo sound (although it ought to be able to 5.1), whereas the brand new Fire Stick did give me the anticipated 5.1. Other packages, together with Jack Ryan on Amazon, had been performed in Atmos on the Lite so it wasn’t seemingly a {hardware} functionality subject. More seemingly a Netflix one, and once I reached out to Amazon for clarification, a spokesperson confirmed the machine helps each 5.1 and seven.1. 

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Sarah Tew/CNET

There are two completely different faculties of thought with regards to how streaming gadgets manage their content material. App-centric menus like Roku and Apple TV simply present you a grid of apps, so you possibly can’t really browse for one thing to observe with out clicking by to every app. Amazon Fire TV and Google TV take a extra content-focused method, surfacing a lot of titles on the house web page itself. 

If you wish to graze for content material, the Fire TV may be extra interesting, though the “live tiles” autoplay video may be jarring. If you already know what you need already, or at the least what app you wish to watch, Roku might be a more sensible choice, partially as a result of Amazon’s search outcomes skew closely towards its personal content material (typically at further price). 


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Should you buy it?

If you want an ultracheap, capable streamer and are embedded with Alexa and the Amazon universe, this product makes a lot of sense. You may or may not miss the TV control functions but the Live TV Guide button is a real bonus for cord-cutters in particular. At $30 it’s a worthy streamer and a great stocking filler.

If, on the other hand, you have the 2019 Fire Stick, there’s absolutely no reason for you to buy either of the 2020 versions. Dolby Atmos and/or Dolby Vision are weird add-ons for 1080p devices, and if you have a decent 4K TV then you should get a real 4K streamer — it’s just another $20.

First published Oct. 8 2020, updated June 2021 with addition of Peacock.



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