RE­VIEW: Ama­zon Fire TV Stick

This £35 me­dia-stream­ing don­gle from Ama­zon is a ri­val to Chrome­cast and the Roku Stream­ing Stick

Android Advisor - - Adroid Advisor -

The Fire TV Stick me­dia-stream­ing don­gle is a cheaper al­ter­na­tive to the Fire TV set-top box for those who can make do with­out the mi­cro­phone built into the re­mote con­trol and can plug di­rectly into an HDMI port on their TV, so it may be a bet­ter choice for any­one who doesn’t want a

Un­like the slightly cheaper Chrome­cast, you get a

plug into your TV’s HDMI port with no prob­lems, but a short ex­ten­sion ca­ble is in­cluded for sit­u­a­tions where a di­rect con­nec­tion isn’t pos­si­ble. On our Pana­sonic TV, other HDMI ca­bles blocked ac­cess to the Stick’s mi­croUSB power in­put, and its rear end pro­truded from the TV’s bezel.

A USB ca­ble and power sup­ply is in­cluded too – you’ll prob­a­bly have to use both since most TV USB ports won’t pro­vide enough power for the Fire TV Stick. You’ll get a warn­ing to tell you if that’s the case as the Stick can boot up even from an un­der­pow­ered port.

The re­mote is sim­i­lar to the one bun­dled with its big brother, but has no mi­cro­phone. It com­mu­ni­cates via Blue­tooth, so you don’t need line of sight to the Stick for it to work: handy since it will be tucked away be­hind your screen.

You can buy the Voice Re­mote separately if you want to (it’s £25), or in­stall the free app on your phone. As well as en­abling voice search, the app lets you en­ter search terms via your phone’s key­board: much quicker and eas­ier than faffing around with the di­rec­tional pad on the re­mote con­trol.

It will come as no sur­prise that Ama­zon’s own Prime In­stant Video takes cen­tre stage, which is fair enough. But the Stick gives you ac­cess to a va­ri­ety of other ser­vices as well, in­clud­ing main ri­val Net­flix.

There’s also YouTube, BBC iPlayer and De­mand 5 (apps which are free to down­load and in­stall to the 8GB of in­ter­nal stor­age). Be­yond this, though, there’s not much of in­ter­est un­less you have a big col­lec­tion of your own videos that you want to stream us­ing the Plex app. Some might ap­pre­ci­ate Vimeo, Vevo, Dai­lymo­tion and STV Player, but it’s a shame there’s not yet All 4 or ITV Player apps.

If, for some rea­son, you feel the need to lis­ten to mu­sic on your TV, you can get Spo­tify, Ama­zon Mu­sic, Min­istry of Sound Ra­dio, Muzu.TV and Musix­match apps.

If you didn’t know, it would be im­pos­si­ble to tell whether you were con­trol­ling a Fire TV or Fire TV Stick since their in­ter­faces are ba­si­cally iden­ti­cal. Down the left-hand side is the main menu, and the

con­tent you see on the right-hand side re­lates to the sec­tion cur­rently se­lected in the main menu.

At the top of the list – be­low Search and Home – is Prime Video. Your re­cent list is promi­nently dis­played along with ‘re­cently added’ shows and movies, plus fea­tured shows.

Our big­gest com­plaint con­cerns not the con­tent it­self, but the fact you can’t fil­ter out payper-view shows. This means you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled for the lit­tle ‘Prime’ logo on a video’s thumb­nail to see if it’s in­cluded in your sub­scrip­tion. A fair chunk is, but some movies and TV pro­grammes have to be bought or rented. When you do pay for some­thing like this, it ap­pears in its own Video Li­brary sec­tion.

Con­sid­er­ing that you can fil­ter out paid-for con­tent in the Prime In­stant Video iOS app, it’s mad­den­ing you can’t on Ama­zon’s own hard­ware.

The good news is that the beefy hard­ware in­side the Fire TV Stick – a dual-core CPU, 1GB RAM and dual-band 802.11n MIMO Wi-Fi – means it’s very re­spon­sive and can al­ways keep up with even the most fer­vent of but­ton push­ers. On top of this, the soft­ware pre­dicts (or tries to) what you’re go­ing to watch so play­back is al­most in­stan­ta­neous.

The Stick also sup­ports Dolby Dig­i­tal Plus (and passthrough up to 7.1 chan­nels) so if you have a suit­ably equipped sur­round-sound sys­tem, you’ll get de­cent au­dio where the con­tent has it. Just bear in

mind that there are no other con­nec­tors on the Stick: if you want to route au­dio out of it, you’ll ei­ther need a TV with the ap­pro­pri­ate au­dio out­puts for HDMI de­vices, or to plug it di­rectly into an AV re­ceiver which passes the video sig­nal to your tele­vi­sion.

If you own a com­pat­i­ble tablet (or a Fire Phone) you can use it as a sec­ond screen while you watch Prime videos to get ‘X-ray’ in­for­ma­tion such as which ac­tors are in a par­tic­u­lar scene, other films or TV shows they’ve been in and more.

Like the Ap­ple TV, the Fire TV Stick will pro­vide an eye-catch­ing slideshow of your per­sonal pho­tos: Ama­zon of­fers 5GB of free stor­age and an app to au­to­mat­i­cally back up your phone’s cam­era roll, so pho­tos will ap­pear on your TV with­out you lift­ing a fin­ger. It’s a nice touch, and cer­tainly worth hav­ing the ex­tra app if you do buy a Fire TV.

TV and movies aren’t enough for me­dia stream­ers th­ese days, and the Fire TV Stick lets you play ca­sual games just like its big brother, the Fire TV. You can play most with the re­mote con­trol, and it also works with Ama­zon’s £35 Blue­tooth Gamepad if you want more of a con­sole ex­pe­ri­ence.

The games avail­able aren’t block­busters, but the abil­ity to down­load Hill Climb Rac­ing, Tetris and Sonic cer­tainly add an ex­tra di­men­sion.

Ver­dict

Thanks to its in­ter­nals and nice in­ter­face, the Fire TV Stick is a great gad­get for watch­ing Prime In­stant Video, Net­flix, iPlayer and De­mand 5.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.