Amazon Fire TV Stick review: TV control is good, but Roku (and Lite) are better sticks


Streaming TV continues to develop in reputation, with new services and options every single day, and to maintain up many of the main gadget makers launched new merchandise previously 12 months you possibly can hook to any TV. Roku has the new Streambar and the Roku Express 4K Plus, Google has the Chromecast with Google TV and Amazon has its least expensive streamer but: the $30 Fire Stick TV Lite. Amazon additionally sells the $40 Fire TV Stick, the topic of this review. 

Like

  • Inexpensive
  • Remote gives Alexa voice and TV control
  • Wide vary of streaming apps
  • Integrates effectively with Echo audio system

Don’t Like

  • The cheaper Lite is a better worth
  • The step-up 4K stick is better for 4K TVs
  • More advanced menus than Roku

Like a few of its opponents the $40 Fire Stick’s distant has buttons for quantity, mute and energy, permitting you to control these features in your TV — and perhaps ditch your TV distant. Those distant buttons are the one actual distinction between the $30 Stick Lite and the $40 Stick, so that you’re mainly paying $10 for TV control.

The $40 Stick (2020) is the HD-only center baby between the cheaper Lite and the extra succesful Fire TV Stick 4K , and each of these are better selections total. Yes, that TV control is good, and the Fire Stick does gives quite a bit in your $40, together with integration with current Echo units; a positive number of apps (it now has each HBO Max and Peacock); and a slick interface. But Fire TV nonetheless pushes its Prime Video retailer in search outcomes, and the house display screen generally is a little too busy for individuals who know what they need to watch. At the identical worth the Roku Express 4K Plus gives better options and worth, and for $10 much less the Lite is an unbeatable deal.

What is it?


Sarah Tew/CNET

Fire TV Sticks are USB stick-sized units that plug right into a spare HDMI port in your TV. They stream audio and video content material from dozens of various apps over your Wi-Fi connection. While anybody can use certainly one of these units, being an Amazon Prime subscriber lets you watch added programming.

The distant itself hasn’t bodily modified a lot for the reason that first Fire TV was launched, and it lacks the premium really feel of the Roku distant or Google’s new distant. The new Fire Stick distant does add the flexibility to control your TV quantity, although it lacks the shortcuts to Netflix or different often-used providers. Setting the distant up with a TV takes about 30 seconds and it may well even control a receiver (I used it with a Sony TV and an Onkyo receiver with out challenge).

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Alongside the Fire TV Lite, these are the primary units we have seen to supply HDR but not 4K resolution, and it raises the query of what sort of TV it is designed for. There are a whole lot of 4K HDR TVs on the market but I attempted doing a seek for 1080p TVs that may do HDR on Best Buy’s website and located solely 4. For most individuals with 4K HDR TVs, we would advocate getting a streamer that may truly do 4K as a substitute of a 1080p streamer just like the Stick.

The stick comes with an influence adapter and Amazon strongly recommends you utilize this. While you might use the USB ports in your TV to energy the gadget, it means the unit might behave unusually. For instance, Dolby Atmos content material would not work in any respect when the unit was plugged right into a TV USB port, regardless of the gadget declaring it was outputting “Dolby Atmos” — the sound got here out as 5.1. 

Lots of streaming apps

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The Fire TV sports activities (get it?) dozens of streaming apps.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Like different streaming units 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, Netflix, Hulu, Sling TV, Crackle, Pluto TV, Tubi TV, Amazon Music, Pandora, Spotify and lots of, many extra. The Fire TV platform now offers both HBO Max and Peacock bringing it consistent with Roku and Chromecast with Google TV.  

What it is like to make use of

With solely a few tiny options to separate them — and the sticks even have the identical S3L46N mannequin quantity — the Fire TV and Fire TV Lite behaved virtually identically in my checks. Both provide a wholesome complement of options, tightly built-in voice instructions and relative speedy response instances. 

Using the Fire TV Stick distant is simple, and Alexa searches with the microphone button have been extra responsive and related than utilizing the Echo as a go-between. In distinction, Roku could not have the identical strong voice capabilities, but textual content searches through the Roku distant are typically extra focused towards free or included packages fairly than merely “buy now” hyperlinks.  

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Sarah Tew/CNET

When it involves consumer interfaces there are two completely different colleges of thought: App-centric menus just like the Roku and Apple TV ones simply present you a grid of apps, so you possibly can’t truly browse for one thing to look at with out clicking by to every app. Amazon Fire TV and Google TV take a extra content-focused strategy, surfacing a number of titles on the house web page itself. 

If you wish to graze for content material, the Fire TV is perhaps extra interesting, If you recognize what you need already, or at the very least what app you need to watch, a Roku is in all probability a better alternative, partly as a result of Amazon’s search outcomes skews closely towards its personal (typically user-pays-extra) content material. 

Picture and sound high quality have been very related between the Lite and the Fire Stick, and picture high quality was pretty much as good as I’d count on. On paper there is a distinction in Atmos audio assist: The Stick gives Dolby Atmos audio decoding whereas the Lite has Dolby Atmos pass-through. The sensible distinction between them is negligible, nonetheless, as a result of an Atmos-capable receiver or soundbar is wanted in each instances to listen to Atmos audio. Whether the stick or the receiver does the decoding does not actually matter. 

Also, in my testing I’ve discovered many providers — together with Prime Video and Disney Plus — require a 4K TV for Atmos to work anyway. In quick, I do not contemplate this characteristic distinction a giant deal as a result of most individuals with respectable Atmos setups ought to (as soon as once more) be utilizing a bona fide 4K streamer.

Should you buy it?

If you are available in the market for a brand new $30 or $40 streamer it comes all the way down to a alternative between Fire TV’s content-first strategy versus Roku app-first one. If you are conversant in Roku’s easy menu design the variety of tiles and choices on the Fire TV Stick’s dwelling web page could be overwhelming.

If you have already got a Fire Stick, there’s completely no cause so that you can buy the 2020 model. Dolby Atmos and HDR are bizarre add-ons for 1080p units, and if Amazon needed to supply one thing distinctive on the worth it ought to have included full 4K assist. As it is, when you have an honest 4K TV then you need to get an actual 4K streamer just like the Roku Express 4K Plus. And if you wish to get monetary savings, go along with the Fire TV Lite.

First printed Oct. 8 2020, up to date June 2021 with addition of Peacock.



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